Background + Resort Details:

I decided to book a staycation trip at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel for a Christmas and late birthday celebration with my family. I was excited as this would complete the California Ritz-Carlton Coastal Collection as I’ve stayed at Half Moon Bay and Santa Barbara already. To foreshadow how this review is going to go, I rank Half Moon Bay the best of the three California coast Ritz’s, followed by Santa Barbara, with Laguna Niguel last.

The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is actually in the neighboring city of Dana Point, California. It is located about 60 miles south of Los Angeles and 70 miles north of San Diego. It opened in 1984 as the first resort in the Ritz-Carlton brand, and is the first luxury beach resort along coastal Orange County. The resort features 396 rooms, and is perched upon a 150 foot oceanfront bluff. Also, it is less than a mile away from another luxury property that I’ve stayed at, the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Booking:

I used 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for a one night stay at the property. I booked my stay early in the year before the Marriott Bonvoy program transitioned to flexible point redemption rates. Cash rates for my Christmas stay were starting at $899 per night (before taxes and fees). Looking at future dates, the lowest rates seem to start at about $600 per night, or 71,500 Marriott Bonvoy Points per night.

There is also a pretty hefty resort fee at $60 per night. It comes with outdoor Yoga and Pilates daily, Shuttle service to and from Salt Creek Beach, access to resort’s Beach Butler Service and use of beach recreation equipment including towel service, umbrellas, and beach chairs, unlimited use of the Tennis Courts including rackets, courtesy transportation within 3 miles of the resort, complimentary 45 minute private photography session and one digital image, a special Garden Tour experience where you discover Birds, Bees, and Butterflies local to Dana Point in the Eco-Adventure Garden. Honestly, it’s annoying and should just be included in the room rate.

Takeoff Points:

Date of Stay: December 2022
Room Type: Fireside Garden View Room
Pros: Spectacular setting on a hilltop with amazing views, and great service.
Cons: In dire need of a renovation for guest rooms, and common area furnishings.

Fora Travel Benefits:

I work with a travel agency, Fora Travel, and can assist in booking hotel stays. Fora is partnered with Virtuoso. With this, you can get special perks when booking with us. This specific property features:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast for up to two guests per bedroom
  • $100 USD Resort credit
  • Early check-in / Late check-out, subject to availability

If you are interested in getting these perks and staying at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel and want to stay at this resort, feel free to email me at takeofftotravel@gmail.com.

Pre-Arrival:

I was emailed by the resort a week before departure, where they helped me with securing dining reservations and asked when I planned to arrive and if I was celebrating any special occasions. They were prompt to respond on email, and so everything was off to a good start.

A couple days before my arrival, I also noticed that my Marriott App updated my room type from the standard “Garden View” room I had originally booked, to a “Fireside Garden View”. Sounded great to me. With my lowly Marriott Gold status, I don’t expect much with upgrades, so this was a nice touch.

Arrival + Check-In:

I arrived at the resort a bit before the standard check-in time which is 4pm. Valet is the only parking type available, for $70 per night, which I found quite high. The line for the valet was kind of long, but it moved relatively quickly. I’ve noticed other reviews highlight the valet line as well. Given that it was Christmas Day, I’m sure there were a lot of locals visiting the hotel as well.

Arriving at the resort

Once I walked in, the hotel was quite packed. Luckily, there wasn’t much of a line at the check-in desk, and I was quickly offered water or champagne while I waited. Soon, a free check-in agent opened up, and I was quickly checked in to my room. I also got 2pm late checkout, which I appreciated.

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It’s kind of cool that they have a live “beach cam” at the front desk, so you can see the conditions outside.

Heading to the Room:

There are two wings at the hotel, the Dana Wing and the Monarch Wing. Our room was in the Dana Wing on the first floor, so we had to take an elevator down from the third floor lobby.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Map

The Room: Fireside Garden View

Upon entering the room, I was pleasantly surprised with a Happy Birthday balloon and gift of a hotel branded reusable bottle. That was a nice touch, and much appreciated.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Nice Birthday Gesture!

1 King Bed

Overall, the decor seemed fine, but didn’t necessarily exude a Ritz-Carlton vibe to me. It seemed more suited for a higher end Marriott.

In terms of bed comfort, the King bed was comfortable and linens were of high quality. But, the top sheet/comforter was quite thin.

Rollaway Bed

Since there was three of us, they sent up a rollaway bed. For a five star hotel, it was not the best rollaway, but it served its function and was still relatively comfortable. It was way better than the horrible rollaway I had from the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove, Miami.

Desk Area

There was a large desk area next to the bed.

TV + Chair

The TV area had another large chair, and the new countertop under the TV had USB charging as well as power ports.

A cute touch was the S’mores Kit provided since it was a Fireside room.

S’mores Kit

The S’mores Kit came with sticks, 2 Hershey’s Chocolate Bars, 4 Marshmallows and Graham Crackers. Additional S’mores kits would cost $25 each, which is quite exorbitant if you ask me.

A Nespresso Machine was provided, and there was a mini fridge.

Nespresso

Needs replacing

A previous guest spilled coffee on the teabags which was kind of annoying. Also is it just me or does this Igloo fridge look nasty? Definitely needs a new fridge here. You can also see the bottom of the cabinet with dirt and paint chipping off.

As I discovered the room a bit more, I was quite disappointed at the condition of it. From online reports, it seems the hotel renovated the rooms in 2021. I’m not sure about their definition of “renovation”, as most of the room seemed to not be touched in decades.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Needs fixing

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Carpet Stains

On the bright side, the walk in closet was nice.

Walk-in Closet

Fireside Outdoor Area:

Well, the fireside area was my favorite part of the room. Even though it was a “Garden Room”, we had a nice coastline view. There are only two types of Fireside Rooms, Garden and Ocean Front. So if you’re in a Garden Room, you may still be able to see the ocean which is nice!

Outdoor Fireside Patio

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Fireside at Night

There were 2 chairs outside, and the fire pit was quite easy to get working. I really enjoyed the view! Just sometimes, since it is a common area lawn, noise levels are elevated as kids would be running on the lawn or pets playing as well.

New paint needed

While I did enjoy the fireside patio, some touch-ups to the patio would be appreciated.

Our building (Fireside rooms on the ground floor)

Bathroom:

The bathroom was my least favorite part of the room as it felt so dated. Don’t get me wrong, I believe old things can still be nice and luxurious if kept up. But this bathroom was screaming for a renovation. It also felt eerily cold in here, different from the temperature in the room itself.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Bathroom

Old Doorknob

The bathroom featured 2 awkward sinks that were divided by a full mirror wall, a stand-up shower and separate W/C. The shower was okay in wand mode. If you were using the showerhead itself, it took too long to get warm and the water pressure was low.

The toilet needed replacing and it reeked of mildew in the W/C. Also, what is that stain on the wall?

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

What is that stain? 🙁

On a toiletry note, I was surprised to not see the Ritz staple Asprey Purple Rain. The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel provided hand soap from Diptyque, and the refillable bottles of shampoo + lotion were from Geneva Guild and made in Italy. I didn’t mind these instead of Asprey to be honest.

Toiletries

Overall, the room was the low part of my stay. The carpet needs a redo, as well as the furniture. And, they need to totally renovate the bathroom.

Grounds:

The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel has beautiful grounds, with its gorgeous cliffside location. The ocean views are quite good, and you’re just a few steps from the beach.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Views from the Resort

Part of the Resort

Beach:

Once you climb down from the hilltop, you’re right at Salt Creek Beach. There are also golf carts from the hotel that can shuttle you up and down if you don’t want to walk, and they operate from 9am to sunset. The location and proximity to the beach is the key selling point of this resort.

Beach

Since I was staying through Christmas and it’s not quite beach swimming season, I didn’t see any beach service from the hotel. But, I believe I saw where they operate out of at the bottom of the hotel, but it was closed.

Beach Cart

Common Area Wear and Tear:

This sign from the beach back to the resort could use some maintenance, the chair I sat on at breakfast was ripped, and the guest room elevators look like they are from a LAX parking garage, not a five star resort.

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Dining:

The resort’s main restaurant is called Raya, and it serves a Pan-Latin coastal cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Connected, there is also Bar Raya which is open from 11:30am to midnight. There is also the steakhouse called enoSTEAK which is open for dinner on Thursdays-Saturdays (and some holidays). And, 180blu is an outdoor venue that serves light bites & cocktails daily. 180blu was very crowded during the evening I was there, as it has nice views and first come first served seating. The Market Place is the grab and go/coffee shop option that serves breakfast, lunch and light snacks. Lastly, the Dana Pool Cafe serves light bites from 11:30am to 5pm.

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For Christmas dinner, the concierge helped us reserve a time at enoSTEAK. It’s actually quite a compact restaurant.

enoSTEAK

My mom got the Seabass and my dad and I shared a large Porterhouse. The Seabass was not bad but too heavy with the sauce/stew. The porterhouse was quite good. We got mashed potatoes and truffle mac and cheese as sides, and both of the sides were great and the highlight of the meal. Also, we had Wedge salads which were not bad. Overall, we enjoyed the meal at enoSTEAK.

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And, for breakfast in the morning, we decided to try the main restaurant, Raya. We got a great seat with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Probably one of the best views I’ve had from a restaurant.

Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

RAYA Restaurant View

But, that’s where the lust ended. The food was quite mediocre for a Ritz-Carlton (The Conservatory at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay was much better). Plus, it had a pretty hefty price tag. And as mentioned before, my chair was ripped and needs an update.

I got the All American ($34) which came with two eggs, choice of breakfast meat, toast, tea and juice. On the one hand, I did enjoy the Guava Juice! Also, the fruit plate I ordered on the side wasn’t great, as most of the fruits weren’t sweet.

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Fitness Center, Spa and Pools:

The fitness center is located on the first floor in the Dana Wing. It looks nice, and has great views of the ocean. Across from the Fitness Center is the Ritz Carlton Spa.

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There are 2 pools, one in the Dana Wing and one in the Monarch Wing. The Dana Wing pool looked bigger, but to be honest both pools were quite underwhelming.

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Service:

From the pre-arrival assistance, to the birthday recognition, the service was quite up to the Ritz level. Additionally, when I messaged on the Bonvoy App for assistance in finding the menu for the main restaurant, within seconds I got a call to the room where the associate offered to send me an email immediately.

The Verdict:

Overall, the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel excels with its gorgeous cliffside location and stellar service. However, the furnishings and hotel rooms are in dire need of a renovation. For those reasons, I would probably not return to the property at its current state. If you value service and the grounds more than a luxurious and renovated room, then the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel might be for you. But for me, I rank the room over service levels. With this experience, this adds to my growing list of sub-par stays with the Ritz-Carlton brand. If you want to stay in the area, perhaps check out the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach, or the Resort at Pelican Hill. I’ve stayed at both of them and had good experiences.

 

Have you stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel before? What were your thoughts? Comment below!

 

Cheers,

Ty


Have any questions? Comment below or email me at takeofftotravel@gmail.com. I’ve also started working with a travel agency, Fora Travel, and can assist in booking hotel stays or planning trips. You can also view all my other posts here! Thanks for stopping by!