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Miles and I had a pretty extensive trip to California last month, which ended up lasting nearly two weeks. After about 10 days in Los Angeles, we headed down to San Diego for a night to stay at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad, and then we decided to visit Laguna Beach for the first time to check out the St. Regis Monarch Beach.
The St. Regis Monarch Beach is one of several luxury properties on that stretch of coast, which also include the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and the Montage Laguna Beach, and its layout is pretty similar to those, with a main building that descends a hillside to the pool area, though the resort is known for its world-class golf course which separates it from the ocean – it’s also across the PCH from the Pacific, so it’s a bit of a trek to get down to the beach from the hotel.
The St. Regis has 325 guest rooms and 75 suites. There are three swimming pools at the resort which include the ocean pool, a family pool and a 25-yard lap pool. It has a massive 30,000-square-foot Spa Gaucin, which specializes in vinotherapie treatments, with 24 treatment rooms, sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi where treatments incorporate; a full-service fitness center, eight lighted tennis courts, and a golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. at the Monarch Beach Golf Links. The hotel’s dining options include Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern, a causal cafe called Crust, Motif, which is the hotel’s Mediterranean-inspired fine-dining outlet, as well as the Poolside Bar & Grill and Club 19 at the golf club and the Monarch Bay Club down on the beach.
This is a Starwood Category 6 property where free nights are normally 20,000-25,000 SPG points per night. Since I was only here for one night, I decided to opt for Cash & Points instead and used 8,000 SPG points + $150 rather than paying $545 for a room, so I got about 4.9 cents per point in value from my Starpoints.
I tried to use the Your24 check-in benefit I have as a Starwood 100-night Platinum elite, but my request was denied since the hotel claimed they were fully booked the previous night. I also applied one of my Suite Night Awards, which was processed in advance and I was upgraded into an Executive Suite, which is listed as “King Bed, 720 sq ft / 67 m², Resort view with balcony, Preferred view.”
I refuse to call the room a Suite, because it was just a large room. Maybe a Junior Suite, but Executive Suite is just misleading. Since I had Miles with me, I was automatically placed in a ground floor room with a view of the side parking lot. This ended up being annoying for several reasons, but mainly because the patio wasn’t enclosed and there was a row of hedges, so I had to have Miles on the leash at all times. I would have much preferred an enclosed balcony with a view, like we had at the Park Hyatt Aviara.
The room also had a minibar and a large flatscreen television plus a little entry foyer, which was a nice touch to separate the main room from the front door.
The hotel was very dog-friendly and provided Miles with a doggy bed where he could relax while he was here, along with some bottled water and bones. While this was a nice touch, the hotel charged a whopping $150 as a pet fee, so I expected some perks for Miles.
The fee is good for whatever the length of your stay – so while for my one night it ended up doubling the out-of-pocket expense and it was twice what the Park Hyatt Aviara charged! I may have to switch all of my hotel stays with Miles to Kimpton because they are extremely pet-friendly and don’t charge any pet fees.
While my Starwood Ambassador wasn’t able to get my Your24 check in approved, she did send me a bottle of wine.
As mentioned, my room ended up being on the ground floor and had the “garden” view was of a little stretch of lawn and a parking lot, which I was not too happy about.
However, it was a gorgeous SoCal day, so Miles and I decided to get out and about. The grounds of the property were very nice, but as I mentioned, one thing to note is that this hotel is perched up in the hills on the east side of the PCH, so it’s not right on the beach, and most guests seem to hang out at the pool instead.
However, that didn’t stop me and Miles from heading up to Laguna Beach to check out the 9th Street Beach which I liked a lot and highly recommend for dogs.
I like celebrity chef Michael Mina’s restaurants, so for dinner I decided to eat at his Stonehill Tavern restaurant at the resort. The food is upscale American with a great seafood selection. I tried the signature OC salad with poached Maine lobster, farmers market citrus and avocado and the miso-glazed black cod for dessert. Both were good, but nothing out-of-this-world extraordinary.
While the resort grounds are nice, I didn’t stay in the area to have a view of the parking lot, nor did I use one of my final Suite Upgrade Awards to get a regular (albeit spacious) room, so I was pretty unhappy with the overall stay and probably won’t be back at the property again. I’ll probably come back to Laguna because I fell in love with the surrounding area and stunning beaches, but next time I’m there I’m going to try out the Montage Laguna Beach, which is right on a cliff on the beach and gets rave reviews – not to mention being a member of Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, so I can book using my new Mercedes-Benz Platinum card for extra perks like food, beverage and spa credits, early check-in and late check-out and, yes, potentially an upgrade. There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.
There’s no telling how much longer these cards will be around and available for new applications because of the Marriott takeover, so now might just be the perfect time to apply. Apart from hotel redemptions, you can transfer Starpoints to over 30 airline partners, and now also transfer points from Starwood to Marriott Rewards at a 1:3 ratio, opening up even more redemption options.