Life’s a (Laguna) Beach
For a beach party, birthday, or special event, consider booking one or two of the oceanfront Bungalows on Laguna Beach, custom designed by such companies as Billabong, Hobie & Tuvalu. Located at the Pacific Edge Hotel in downtown Laguna Beach, the five bungalows are available for day use from 11am to 8pm, each with its own living room, restroom and shower, and a wooden deck with wicker furniture and umbrellas. Designers decorated the bungalows in unique styles, from a surfer theme, with surfboards on the ceiling and a distressed coffee table topped with driftwood, to a sexy black-and-white “man cave” outfitted with a black leather couch, photos of motorcyclists, old gas tanks, and tires. The bungalows have access to the beach, where you can pull up a chair or take a dip in the sea. Catering is provided next door at the newly renovated Deck, the open-air beachside restaurant that serves casual fare for lunch and dinner.
While the Pacific Edge Hotel isn’t fancy, it is certainly beachy fun, and you can’t beat the location. Be sure to book an updated oceanfront room, just steps from the sand, for an unobstructed view of the surf. There’s nothing like falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing just outside your door. (949.281.5720, www.pacificedgehotel.com) ANDREA NAVERSEN
Relax or Rev Up on Catalina Island
Speaking of kicking back on the sand, The Santa Catalina Island Company boasts three new luxurious presidential cabanas on the waterfront that are now available for daily rentals at the Descanso Beach Club as part of an ongoing $6 million renovation project. Each presidential cabana accommodates up to six guests and is furnished with teak tables and chairs, chaise lounges, refreshing oshibori towels, bath robes, a refrigerator, TV and use of an iPad with complimentary Wi-Fi. A personal concierge fulfills guests’ needs from Descanso’s beach bar and delivers refreshing amenities throughout the day. For night-life-seekers, guests can cap their sun-filled Saturdays on the beach with a private cabana dinner or dance as a live band ignites the stage and glowing fire rings light up the beach.
For the adventurous, the new Catalina Heli Expeditions pair aerial sightseeing of the island’s natural environment and dramatic coastlines with opportunities for outdoor recreation and relaxation. The tours, which include any combination of heli-hiking, heli-biking, and heli-picnics, are exclusive to guests of the Pavilion Hotel in Avalon. Further customize your hiking or biking experience by adding a picnic, provided in a backpack-style picnic basket containing delectable snacks. (www.visitcatalinaisland.com) JANE SHIOMI
Uncork Baja’s Largest Wine Cellar
A quick drive South of San Diego (and approximately two hours by speedboat and six by sailboat), Hotel Coral and Marina in Ensenada is perched on the Bay of Todos Santos, at the gateway to Baja California’s Napa-like wine country. This nautical destination blends the best of land and sea experiences, with 147 elegantly appointed oceanview suites and 350 dock slips for vessels up to 110’. On-sote amenities includes the gourmet restaurant Bistro & Cava, the full-service Spa Cirse, three pools, a playground, outdoor sports courts, and transportation to the more than 70 wineries in the region.
Featuring dishes by executive chef Juan Jose Gomez, Bistro & Cava’s wine cellar boasts the largest wine cellar in Baja, with 160 labels from Baja’s bountiful Valle de Guadalupe. Over the past year, Gomez has developed a sustainable menu, incorporating local Baja produce, all-natural meats, and local seafood from the Sea of Cortez. Gomez’s vision led to additional restaurant upgrades including the expanded Mexican wine list and an enhanced level of service. Expect tantalizing Mexican dishes such as Coral style Tampiqueño, Todos Santos Bay soup, and a fresh take on a regional favorite — caramelized and grilled quail. (www.hotelcoral.com) MIA STEFANKO
Golden Door’s Napa Valley Wine Week
Those with a full week to spare should consider the inaugural Napa Valley Wine Week, July 14-21, taking place at the Golden Door. Executive chef Joshua Korn has partnered with some of California’s most prominent vintners for seven days of tastings, pairings, and the sharing of wine history and wine-making lore. Participating vintners include: Honig Vineyard & Winery, a family-owned winery in the heart of Napa that focuses on hand-crafted Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon; Pavi Wines, a husband and wife duo dedicated to growing and producing classic Italian varietals in California; Lail Vineyards, where fifth generation winemakers Robin and John Lail tend to each of their small vineyards as if it were a garden; and Shafer Vineyards, a restoration of a 1920s hillside vineyard by former publishing executive John Shafer and his son Doug. (800.424.0777, www.goldendoor.com) MIA STEFANKO