There is more to Orange County than what is seen on television. Pop culture has painted a picture of Southern California that is teeming with blondes, Bentleys, Botox, and brats. In reality, what welcomes visitors is a stylish and sophisticated seaside paradise that lends itself to lavish getaways.
Perched high on a bluff that spills into the ocean, the St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach (Dana Point, CA) is a mission-style oasis that is built into the hill and invites guests to enjoy supreme relaxation in a beautiful setting. When not hitting the links or lounging poolside, guests flock to the property's Spa Gaucin, another one of the spoils of California's only five-star, five-diamond resort.
Named after a mountaintop village in Southern Spain that is known for its breathtaking views of Gibraltar and Morocco, the spa honors its namesake by offering a Mediterranean-inspired menu. Launched in February, the revamped menu features indulging treatments such as the nourishing Olive Stone Scrub ($175, 60 minutes), which incorporates lavender, juniper, olive leaf, and rosemary; and the detoxifying Devine Grape Seed Mud Wrap ($175, 60 minutes), which uses clay mixed with grapeseeds to absorb impurities. Couples can enjoy the Wine Escape ($635, 2 hours), which invites them to enjoy a fruit and cheese plate with California white wine while soaking in an Anti-Oxidant Wine Bath par deux. A 90-minute Couple's Therapeutic Massage with natural grapeseed oil ends the treatment on a sweet note.
The mission-style property is the only five-star, five-diamond resort in California.
These services, in addition to a host of others, are part of the updated menu. Spa director Valory Reed chose to overhaul the offerings in order to maintain a superior level of service for her discerning clientele. "Our typical clients are quite spa savvy, so they are looking for an experience they can't get elsewhere," she says. To complement the menu's makeover, the spa also introduced several product lines, including Being TRUE, Innovative Body Science, Kate Somerville, Le Vin, and Olavie. "I wanted to ensure that our menu choices were fresh and rewarding for our guests," says Reed.
The partnership between the spa and esthetician-to-the-stars Kate Somerville has led to many glowing reviews and complexions. One of the spa's most popular treatments is the Customized Kate Facial ($175, 60 minutes; $260, 90 minutes), which provides guests with the personal touch needed to achieve flawless skin. Along with using Kate Somerville signature products, estheticians employ a Clarisonic Skin Care Brush for deep cleaning and end the facial with an application of Being TRUE's mineral makeup.
The spa's revamped treatment menu gives guests a taste of the Mediterranean.
The decision to add Kate Somerville to the roster was a personal one for Reed, who had been following the skincare regime herself before introducing the line to the spa. "My skin weathered my second pregnancy beautifully, and I owe that to Kate," she says. "I truly fell in love with the products and wanted to share this success with our St. Regis guests." It is this type of quality control that keeps the 30,000-square-foot spa buzzing with almost 300 guests per day.
The warm and welcoming ambience is another reason the treatment rooms regularly reach capacity. To set the tone for ultimate relaxation, guests are asked to leave their worries at the door, literally, by tossing a coin into The Well of Desires. They are then led to the well-stocked men's or women's changing areas, both featuring whirlpools and herbal saunas. The spa's 25 treatment rooms include two deluxe hydrotherapy rooms featuring private lanais and three couples' suites set up with a whirlpool, a couples' steam shower, and a marble fireplace. Many rooms are also outfitted with windows that are perfectly draped to allow just the right amount of natural light to trickle in, reminding guests of their surroundings.
A host of seaside fitness classes make the most of the resort's setting.
The pampering does not end when the treatments do, as guests are encouraged to bask in their post-service glow in the spa's Tranquility Lounge with a complimentary glass of organic wine or champagne. Decked out with plush Kashwére furnishings, a marble fireplace, and chapel windows, the lounge is set up so that guests never want to leave. "Guests do 'ooo' and 'ahhh' when entering the lounge," says Reed. "Some say it is the living or reading room they'd like to have in their home." To tantalize even more of the senses, fountains are positioned throughout the spa allowing the soothing sound of cascading water to wash over guests. According to Reed, clients definitely notice this touch and comment on its calming effect.
If guests are interested in listening to the ocean itself post-treatment, they can lounge by the spa's three-lane lap pool or take a dip to enjoy the sounds of underwater music. After satisfying their cravings for relaxation, spa-goers can also sate their appetites with healthy and flavorful dishes at the adjacent Spa Gaucin Café, which opened this summer.
Many of the cozy treatment rooms offer a fireplace, a steam shower, and a view of the outdoors.
"The Café was developed because we want to focus on total wellness and have our clients feel great from the inside out," says Reed. Overseen by the resort's executive chef Frederic Castan, the café offers a Mediterranean-inspired menu featuring healthy cuisine with a decidedly California flair. The menu was developed after months of "test driving" spa cuisine on in-room dining menus. "We were rewarded with thankful guest comments about enjoying fresh, tasty fare that is good for you and provides energy for a Southern California day," says Reed.
It's not all about kicking back at Spa Gaucin, where spa-goers are given plenty of options for expending their energy. Guests are encouraged to visit the fitness center and to participate in the daily activities offered through the spa. While there are options such as Yoga-Lates Remix and Belly Jam that keep guests indoors, there are plenty of classes that get sand beneath their toes. The revolving program, which features the Pacific Ocean as its backdrop, regularly offers classes such as 6:30 A.M. Sunrise Beach Walks, Cardio Beach Boot Camp, and Shoreline Abs.
Both the men's and women's locker rooms feature a whirlpool, a steam room, and a sauna.
This focus on fitness is just another component in the spa's mission to help guests achieve overall wellness. To amplify this approach to healthy living, the spa recently introduced the Vitale Health and Wellness Center, which allows Spa Gaucin to nurture every aspect of a person's health—physical, emotional, and mental. According to Reed, this new addition addresses the fact that spas are no longer just a pampering choice, but are also an integrated part of people's lives.
Headed by Ali Rafatjoo, M.D., Vitale offers a holistic wellness program focused on maintaining and improving health through preventative medicine and modern technology. Rafatjoo's engaging and energetic personality puts guests at ease as he takes an old-fashioned family doctor approach during his consultation. As of now, Vitale functions within Spa Gaucin each Monday, taking up two to three treatment rooms, and the number of doctors varies as each visit is customized to the guest's needs. For $2,990, guests are subject to a battery of head-to-toe tests, which include a full physical, a psycho-social assessment, a genetic disease risk assessment, a hearing evaluation, a full skin evaluation, and even complete blood tests. This one-day Comprehensive Examination and Testing Package also allows clients to meet with a registered dietician, receive personalized vitamins and supplements, and enjoy a catered breakfast and lunch prepared by the executive chef. To complement the program, the hotel offers a Health & Wellness package (starting at $600 per night) that provides a healthy breakfast, two 75-minute Intuitive Massages at Spa Gaucin, and a $250 discount per person on the Vitale testing package.
Guests begin their spa experience by tossing a coin into The Well of Desires, which signifies leaving their worries at the door.
Forward-thinking programs such as this attract visitors, who make up 70 percent of the clientele, and locals alike to Spa Gaucin. Area residents are offered resort memberships, which give them access to the fitness center and discounts throughout the hotel. Due to the loyal clientele, the spa is regularly filled with familiar faces. "We have families that enjoy the summertime or the holidays at the St. Regis and many that spa daily during their stay," says Reed. "One special family enjoys four days of spa-ing around Christmas, and the guests range in age from 13 to 92."
Reed has complete trust in her staff of 65—whom she describes as talented, passionate, and fun—because they go above and beyond to nurture guests' experiences. "We operate as a family. We deeply care for one another and take care of each other," she says. "Part of the spa's mission statement is to celebrate our associates, who in turn share that joy with our guests." The result of this trickle-down method of achieving customer satisfaction is positive feedback. "Daily, I receive a note of appreciation because an associate exceeded a guest's expectations," says Reed.
Another aspect of the spa that receives rave reviews is the Spa Boutique. Reed places much importance on selecting the stock because she believes that retail provides the at-home connection with Spa Gaucin. While skincare products fly off of the shelves, resort wear is also a big seller. "We want a guest to have a hard time choosing what they want because they love so many items," says Reed. "Our selection covers a spectrum of culture and interests and ranges from Badgley Mischka sunglasses to organic lip balm to coffee table books about wine."
Although Spa Gaucin has many recent additions, Reed doesn't foresee any slowing down. "We want to continue growing with our clients as their needs and lives change, and we want to be their resource to celebrate love, life, and wellness," she says. While Reed works tirelessly to ensure that clients are raving about the spa, she is having a good time doing so. "I love all of it," she says. "I get the best of all worlds in one–cream of the crop associates; fun and engaging clients; a five-star, five-diamond resort; and all in beautiful Southern California." With such a satisfied staff in place, it is no wonder that this beauty by the sea continues to be a welcoming haven for guests to kick back and enjoy the SoCal sunshine.