When it comes to choosing a getaway destination, “LA” always tops my list. I feel the need to put that in quotations because as a general rule, the only LA I get on my trips there is at the airport, and possibly a short day trip into Beverly Hills for some retail therapy and a cone of frites at the bar at Bouchon. I simply cannot reconcile staying in the city when there’s an ocean around, and so home base for me is always in Santa Monica, where I can get my fill of shopping and west-coast eating but still fall asleep listening to the waves crashing. It is my true happy place, one that I am fortunate enough to visit fairly often. Each trip there looks pretty much the same as the time before, and that’s the way I like it, thank you very much.

That said, my most recent trip to Cali found me craving something even beachier. So rather than the same-old, I headed down the coast to Laguna for some real beach-town R & R. There, there is no semblance of city at all. A former artist’s colony, Laguna is all about the ocean, the sand and time spent wandering about the myriad of local shops, open air restaurants and tiny galleries. It is the very personification of “chilling out”; a pastime, if I’m honest, that I’m not particularly good at at all.

Any concern of “not enough to do” was alleviated the moment I stepped foot into the lobby of my resort. Just a few miles south of town is the real star of the Laguna Beach show. Perched on a 150-foot bluff overlooking the Pacific is the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. Impossibly, the hotel décor manages to echo the stunning beauty of it’s environs. Finishes are luxe, flowers defy gravity in glass vases along the halls, art and antiques abound and floor to ceiling French windows offer panoramic ocean views.

The rooms are charming and comfortable. I could have been content to spend the trip just sitting on the balcony of my suite looking out over the water and watching the surfers ride the waves. But the ocean called, so after a morning workout in the well appointed fitness centre and breakfast at one of the hotel’s 5 restaurants, my time was spent walking in the surf, admiring the multi-million dollar homes that dot the coastline and exploring the trails that surround the well manicured property. Evenings were reserved for tapas, martinis and viewing jaw- dropping sunsets 150 feet over Salt Creek Beach. Enough to do, indeed.

I have no doubt that on my next trip to the California coast I will lapse back to the familiar routine of city life on the ocean. But It’s nice to know that when I really need to unwind, there’s a little bit of paradise just an hour and a half drive down the beach.

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