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When money is no object, where would you stay in Orange County?
The hospitality business in Orange County is back. Hotel occupancy and revenues are up. Spending is soaring. Industry watchers say 2015 is shaping up as the best year on record for hotels – better even than the boom year of 2000.
That’s good news for local resorts, which have been on a spending spree lately in pursuit of that ever-changing concept of ... luxury. That made us ask the question: When money is no object, where would you stay in Orange County?
Splurge: Catalina presidential suite runs $10,000 a night.
The Montage is all about service. It’s the kind of place where the executive chef opens up after hours to personally make VIP guests … hot wings.
Traveling solo? Expect framed family photos to decorate your bedroom walls. Attending a performance of “The Lion King”? Its soundtrack may be playing in your room when you return. Prefer the down of white geese over gray geese? A white goose down pillow may cradle your head. Want a drink after fighting traffic to get there? The staff may greet you in the driveway with freshly made mojitos.
Montage Laguna Beach: 250 rooms; Horizon king, $795; Surf king premier view suite $2,048; Catalina presidential suite (2,000 sq. ft.): $10,000.
Splurge: Presidential suite, $7,895 per night.
Larger than life, the St. Regis is where some guests fly in by private helicopter and where the concierge can help you buy a pony or jet-flying lessons. Each day at sundown, head butler Nicholas Langan pulls on a pair of formal white gloves and carries a chilled Champagne bottle through the lobby lounge. After a short explanation of a 17th-century ritual begun by Napoleon, Langan lifts a ceremonial saber and sheers off the bottle top cleanly. After the oohs and ahhs quiet down, he pours the bubbly.
The butlers still unpack your bag, pour your drink and order your meal – they can find a skywriting plane to propose to your girlfriend. Guests have access to a 9,000-bottle wine cellar and a presidential suite that features a baby grand piano.
But sometimes, it’s the small things that matter most. A couple recently returned for the first time after marrying here 12 years ago. In their room, they found their wedding photograph hanging on the wall and their song playing on the stereo.
St. Regis Monarch Beach, Dana Point: 400 rooms, including 31 suites with butlers; garden view, $445; ocean view, $775; presidential suite (3,100 sq. ft.), $7,895.
Splurge: El Capitan Suite runs $5,515 a night.
While other Orange County resorts give ocean vistas, the presidential suite at the Grand Californian, large enough to entertain 75 people, overlooks a roller coaster. “We’ve hosted royalty and heads of state,” General Manager Dan Coleman says. “But no matter who they are, they all are coming to spend family time together.”
Top suites here feature exposed beams, natural wood and open fireplaces, a storybook oasis amid the jostling of 24 million visitors to the two theme parks.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Anaheim,: 948 rooms, including 44 suites; standard view: $379; club-level (premium view): $733; El Capitan one-bedroom suite (2,219 sq. ft.), $5,515.
Splurge: Ocean-view villa up to $5,000 a night.
The understated elegance of the Resort at Pelican Hill delivers “wow.” The four-bedroom villas feature their own garage, a butler and patio with sweeping ocean views. Guests here – and they include Saudi princes, CEOs and celebrities like Kobe Bryant – can expect privacy and customized attention. One guest wanted a Lamborghini parked in the garage – just to look at it. Another asked for a yacht to be anchored in Newport Harbor in case he had a whim to sail.
The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Beach: 332 rooms, including 128 gated villas with butlers; garden-view bungalow, $495; ocean-view bungalow, $695; ocean-view, four-bedroom villa (3,581 sq. ft.), up to $5,000.
Splurge: Ritz-Cartlon suite runs $3,800 a night.
The first thing you notice outside the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is a gold-plated fire hydrant. And the first thing you notice inside is a wall of high-definition TV monitors showing a live feed of the surf right outside your door. These two images represent the old and new here.
When the Ritz opened in 1984, its heavy drapes and dark woods represented old luxury. It helped establish south Orange County as a luxury destination. Now it’s undergoing a $70 million transformation to give it a more beachy, surf vibe. The halls still feature elegant glass vases of yellow roses, but surfboards decorate some of the walls behind them.
Luxury has changed over the years, and so has the Ritz. “If you see a guest walking through the lobby with a briefcase and a surfboard,” said spokeswoman Deanne French, “he could be the president of a major international company.” One thing hasn’t changed: The Ritz still boasts one of the most pristine views of any resort in the county, overlooking the ocean all the way to Catalina Island.
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel: 396 rooms; garden view, $729; ocean view, $1,099; ocean view, one-bedroom suite $2,499; the Ritz-Carlton suite (1,550 sq. ft.), $3,800.