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Southland's Best Boutique Hotels: Surf and Sand Resort

Guests who choose to stay at Surf and Sand are there to enjoy the view, the beach, the pool and the town more than they're there to go home with stories of the decadent rooms and marble tubs.

Its name says it all. The Surf and Sand Resort in Laguna Beach is surf-surreal close with the sand at hand, literally just steps away. The hotel is pure SoCal without the over-the-top need to impress. It is quite luxe, but in a boutique beach/chic way. There's no dress code, it's very comfortable and it seems anything goes.

The original hotel was born in 1948—starting with just 13 rooms. Since then, Surf and Sand has been renovated many times and added 2 additional buildings (for a total of 167 rooms now), but luckily the bones of a former beach motel are still evident at the Four Diamond rated resort. You'll see its carefree '50s style in details such as its simplistic lobby and hallways that are exposed to the outside. It all seems to work quite well: with the lack of closed-in common space, etc., comes the absence of uptight airs and hotel superiority one can encounter at such properties. The guests are friendly; opening the doors for one another and chatting it up at night by the fire pits. Perhaps it's the more intimate space and lack of mile-long walks to an elevator/one's room that adds to the neighborly ways. The close proximity certainly works for the staff responsiveness; they're quick to cater.

Another surprising slant of Surf and Sand is its family-friendly ways. Kids are greeted with tents and sleeping bags in their rooms and a tasty smore kit is delivered to them at night. You'll see kids cruising through the upscale Splashes Restaurant in wetsuits and boogie boards because that's a way to get to the beach—and nobody cares. You often don't find this family-friendliness and the magnitude of rooms in smaller bed and breakfast boutique competitors.

The rooms have an airy design feel with a current, cool color palette of pale off-whites, taupes and blue-green accents. Ocean elements accessorize the space in stone wall hangings and oversized seashells. And crisp crown moldings paired with the cottage-like rolling plantation shutter window doors add charm.

And back to what's outside the windows: the waves. You'd be hard-pressed to get closer. At night, it really feels like you may fall in. It's almost ominous with the white waters rushing toward your room. From upper floors, it's as though you're on a boat with the waves rushing under you, as you can't see where the waves break. They even offer earplugs in the room (but how fun is that?), because the roar of the Pacific is so near. (Note to self: close your sliding doors, as the beach birds and seagulls really do enter to dine on your cheese trays and food du jour.)

The hotel also houses an intimate spa with wonderful, seasonal treatments a close coffee stop for your daily java, muffin or sandwich and a quaint gift shop, as well as a stylish ocean-view lounge and the swank Splashes Restaurant.

Finally, the posh pool area is sleek and urban with cabanas for anyone and ample chaise, cushioned seating. Poolside bar service lets you chill with your cocktail of choice. And the steamy jacuzzi is a treat to run to after the waves.

Overall, out-of-towners will die for the PCH-proximity, and even those in LA and OC will be in disbelief at how close you are to the waves. The laid-back, yet upscale boutique nature of the luxurious Surf and Sand is relaxing—and those with families will embrace its fun ways to play.

Debbie Lavdas is a Southern California freelance writer who doesn't surf but loves to hit the sand. You can keep up with her and her many writings at Debbie in the OC.

To find out more about luxury experiences in coastal Orange County, check out the always-resourceful coastal alliance of The Oceanfront, CA.

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