The history of doctors prescribing seaside getaways as a cure for a variety of ailments, including simple cases of the winter blues, dates back to at least the 18th century. There’s an increasingly large body of data that ocean breezes and sunshine have curative effects, but perhaps the most indisputable evidence is simply how most of us feel after a few days by the seashore. If you’re feeling like your fitness and wellness routines could use a kick-start, or if you’re experiencing the first symptoms of cabin fever as temperatures start to fall, it’s time for a health and wellness trip to Orange County’s southern coast. There are few parts of the world better suited to a healthy getaway than the beachside towns of Dana Point and Laguna Beach.
A number of area resorts place wellness at the center of all they do, with healthy menu options, world-class spas, and crowded calendars of activities. Kayaking, hiking, biking, and a variety of different kinds of yoga—including stand-up paddleboard, aerial, boga, and Yacht Yoga—are among the many ways you can focus on physical health—and push yourself to new goals. Meditation classes and chakra readings can also help you achieve a spiritual and mental balance that may feel elusive at home, but on your visit to Orange County you’ll have the time to decompress and reconnect with yourself. However you choose to fill your days, you’ll be enjoying them under the warm California sun and cooled by ocean breezes.
This itinerary includes stops at many of the area’s best restaurants that are focused on local, organic, and sustainable cuisine. Eating healthy never feels like a sacrifice when it incorporates the best produce from California’s farms and orchards.
Itinerary / 5 Days
DAY 1Arrive in Dana Point
There’s no shortage of opportunities to focus on fitness and wellness here—the resort offers more than 40 different yoga, meditation, and other classes each week. Among the Monarch Beach Resort’s many amenities is its Miraval Life in Balance Spa, and its fitness center. This afternoon, ease into your wellness weekend by signing up for one of the afternoon classes: perhaps dance, yoga, HIIT weights, or a TRX circuit class with a trainer ready to introduce novices to the program that simultaneously focuses on strength, endurance, and flexibility.
Afterwards, choose from one of the spa’s long list of massages. With ones incorporating elements of everything from Ayurvedic medicine to reflexology principles, there’s a massage that will focus exactly on whatever ails you.
Another option for your base in Dana Point is the nearby Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. In a very Dana Point way, the resort embraces a certain casual elegance. Rooms draw inspiration from the colors of the seaside setting; two swimming pools, a fitness center, and tennis courts await when you’re ready for some exercise. Or you can choose to take a stroll along Salt Creek Beach—the setting of the 1966 surf classic, The Endless Summer. Then try out the spa’s Wellness Experience, a treatment that draws inspiration from the Pacific Ocean, with a seaweed wrap and collagen mask followed by a massage.
Dine tonight at one of the restaurants at the Monarch Beach Resort. Many of the resort’s restaurants feature Miraval-approved Mindful Eating options; at AVEO Table + Bar, which specializes in Mediterranean favorites, these include a tangerine arugula salad and the local catch of the day served with seasonal vegetables and a Meyer lemon hummus puree. At Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak, you can choose from steakhouse specialties (including wagyu and dry-aged beef) as well as a selection of fish and shellfish dishes. Following the belief that everything in moderation is acceptable, don’t hesitate to order a martini from the restaurant’s famous Martini Cart. Also, the Monarch Bay Beach Club recently reopened after extensive renovations and offers several dining options exclusive to Monarch Beach Resort guests.
Finally, you may want to check out what is sure to be one of Orange County’s most popular new dining additions once it opens its doors later this year. Outer Reef at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa will be helmed by Chef John Tesar, famous both for his turns on Top Chef and his restaurants in Dallas that helped put that city on the culinary map.
DAY 2Stretch to Reach New Goals
Later in the morning, head to the Part & Parcel Market at the Monarch Beach Resort and shop for some gourmet picnic essentials—local cheeses, homemade deli sandwiches, perhaps a bottle of wine. Then head out on an electric bike to explore the headlands and bluffs of this part of Dana Point. While you might think an electric bike is a little bit of cheating when it comes to exercise, it will come in handy when you want just a little boost to get over some of the more challenging hills.
In the afternoon, enjoy a nap by the pool before or after joining a mindful meditation class. Wellness isn’t only about strength exercises and flexibility. If you don’t meditate regularly at home, a session at Miraval can provide an introduction to the calm and sharpened focus that meditation provides. If you’re already committed to regular meditation practice, a guided session often reinforces one’s level of commitment.
Having enjoyed one of the restaurants at Monarch Beach on your first night, dine tonight at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. At 180blũ, you can sip a handcrafted cocktail, or mocktail, and snack on small plates and desserts from Raya, Chef Richard Sandoval’s pan-Latin restaurant. The resort’s most indulgent option is Enosteak, which serves classic steakhouse cuts using organic, pasture-raised beef.
DAY 3Laguna Beach
Your home here, The Ranch at Laguna Beach, also embraces wellness. Their Laguna Beach Wellness Package includes a waived resort fee, a day pass to the spa and/or an extra 30 minutes added to any treatment, and a welcome bag of wellness products from local companies, curated by Visit Laguna Beach.
You may be tempted to settle into your room—all have a comfortable rustic style following a property-wide renovation completed in 2017. Don’t worry, there will be time to enjoy the resort’s amenities and your room later; for now, head out for a walk along one of the 30 coves or beaches that makes up Laguna Beach’s seven miles of coastline. Afterwards, pick from a few different restaurants that focus on healthy, local, and sustainable cuisine for lunch.
The Stand Natural Foods has been introducing diners to 100 percent vegan dishes since 1975. Whether you order tamales, a burrito, or one of their fresh juices or smoothies, you won’t miss having meat at this meal. Another natural foods favorite, Active Culture serves acai bowls, wraps, and smoothies, though it may be best known for its soft-serve yogurt (it’s been named Orange County’s best yogurt shop by OC Weekly) and kombucha on tap. Wherever you eat, if you need a caffeine boost, stop at Urth Caffé, which sells only organic, fair trade coffee.
After lunch, head back to The Ranch at Laguna Beach for a treatment at the Sycamore Spa by Hudson. The spa is located in a bungalow in the ranch’s canyon—an inviting retreat from the world. White-sand-and-sea-salt scrubs, massages using heated and chilled coastal stones, and a soothing aloe treatment all pay nods to the spa’s oceanside setting.
You’ll dine tonight at the resort’s celebrated Harvest restaurant. Executive Chef Kyle St. John has created a menu that showcases the best of California’s cuisine—many of the ingredients are grown at the restaurant’s own organic farm. All of the dishes, from salads to entrees—with options for vegetarians, pescatarians, and carnivores—let the straightforward flavors of the very best locally sourced ingredients shine. Chef St. John even works with a local fisherman to ensure the quality and sustainability of all seafood served.
DAY 4Healthy Laughs
Then head to the nearby Chakra Spa and Gallery. A tarot card chakra reading can help you on the path to assuring your fields of energy are properly balanced, producing a feeling of well-being. You may also want to stop at Roots The Beauty Underground, where the store’s consultants can help you remove all the toxic cosmetics from your makeup routine and replace them with healthier options.
Grab a bite in town, and then drive up the hills of Laguna Beach to Alta Laguna Park. The Top of the World hike will take you to one of the area’s most spectacular vistas, with the town of Laguna Beach below you and the Pacific Ocean stretching out to the horizon. It’s a perfect place to take a few deep breaths and look back on the last few days. You may have discovered some new routes to wellness on your trip to Orange County, and if you make a commitment to do it, you can take these new practices home—a much better souvenir than a T-shirt.
Return to The Ranch at Laguna Beach in time for an early dinner at the Lost Pier Café open until 8 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday). The ahi poke, fish tacos, and fisherman’s ceviche are all healthy options, though if you want to watch the sunset with a burger and beer, and your toes dipped in the sand, you’ve earned it—it is your vacation, after all.