Surf’s Up

Though Orange County, CA, has gotten its fair share of questionable press in recent years due to the popularity of such reality shows as Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and MTV’s “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County,” aficionados of the charming region will attest to the fact that there is much more to it than crazy catfights and spoiled teenagers. In fact, for those looking for the perfect surf-and-sand escape, the most dramatic things about the OC are the crashing waves and beautiful beaches. One of the most popular area beaches is Salt Creek in Dana Point, and among the hottest area retreats for well-heeled guests is The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, which is located atop a 150-foot bluff overlooking the beach. 


The 27-year-old hotel is a haven for active vacationers. Surfing and standup paddling gear is available, and guests can sign up for private lessons and surf tours from acclaimed surf operator Billabong. The resort offers access to multiple award-winning golf courses, and the entire family can get in on a number of eco-adventures, courtesy of the Ambassadors of the Environment program, which involves excursions like snorkeling, whale watching, and more. Needless to say, sun-filled days often end with the need for relaxation, which is where The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Laguna Niguel comes in.


Though the resort has been offering spa services since it opened in 1984, the current spa debuted in 2005.
Visually, the spa is an ideal spot for ocean lovers to soak up some soothing due to its ocean-inspired design. “The spa features chandeliers with crystals reflecting the shape of water droplets, fountains with water flowing into beds of pebbles, and carpets and marble mosaic with circular patterns to denote ripples in the water,” says spa manager Kristin Pellerin. “The soft browns and creams of the carpets bring in the colors of the sand, our natural marble countertops reflect natural stone elements, and original seascape art brings images of the sea indoors.”


The menu also has a few locally inspired options, such as the California Citrus Body Polish ($230, 60 minutes) and the Ocean Spray and Beach Stone Treatment ($265, 60 minutes). Additionally, Naturopathica, one of the lines used in treatments, contains ingredients that are found in the property’s on-site Ambassadors of the Environment Garden, such as chamomile, lavender, orange blossom, and rosemary. Still, the most popular services are the massages, which is not all that surprising considering the myriad high-impact activities in which guests tend to participate. “Our spa-goers look for two things—either overall relaxation or results, so guests gravitate toward anti-aging treatments or massage,” says Pellerin.


As such, The Ritz-Carlton Signature Massage ($115, 30 minutes; $195, 60 minutes; $265, 90 minutes) is a popular service. More adventurous massage lovers flock to Ultimate Ashiatsu ($390, 60 minutes). This session, which takes place in a special treatment room with bamboo flooring, is a deep-muscle massage performed by two therapists suspended by wooden bars above the treatment table. As for skincare, The Ritz-Carlton Signature Facial ($115, 30 minutes without extractions; $196, 60 minutes; $265, 90 minutes), a purifying treatment based on traditional European deep-cleansing techniques, remains a top pick.

No matter which service guests select, Pellerin says they are in for a treat, thanks to the expertise of her team, which typically perform about 70 treatments a day and up to 150 daily in high season. “Our exceptional staff brings their extensive knowledge and experience to each treatment,” she says. “Some of our therapists have been with the spa since the resort opened in 1984.”


In addition to the therapists’ reputations, which keep guests coming back to the spa, Pellerin and her team work hard to market the spa to both resort guests and locals. “We market using our website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email, and internal channels,” she says. “We offer seasonal promotions throughout the year, and all resort guests can utilize the spa facilities during their stay.” Local clients receive a 15 percent discount, as well as a card that provides them with 15 percent off in all of the hotel outlets and complimentary day-use valet parking. So no matter from where guests hail, they’re sure to discover that life’s a beach at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Laguna Niguel.


Owner: Strategic Hotels and Resorts


Spa Manager: Kristin Pellerin


Opened: 2005




75% female

25% male




9,000 square feet; 

12 treatment rooms




aromatherapy, body treatments, couples’ treatments, energy work, brow tinting, eyelash extensions, facials, fitness, guided meditation, hair and scalp treatments, hand and foot treatments, makeup application, massage, nailcare, nutrition consultation, outdoor treatments, Pilates, prenatal services, reflexology, salon services, sunless tanning, tai chi, waxing, yoga



The Ritz-Carlton Signature Massage ($195, 60 minutes)



Four Hands Massage ($390, 60 minutes) and Ultimate Ashiatsu (Four Feet Ashiatsu) ($390, 60 minutes)




Clarisonic, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, Epicuren, Jack Black, Me! Bath, Laboratory of Flowers Naturopathica, NuFace, SkinCeuticals



Chadsworth & Haig, Comphy Co., PreCor, Ready Care, SpaSoft



Anderson Miller (Chicago)