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Hotel Review: Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach, Calif.
By Geraldine Fabrikant

March 16, 2012
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A beachfront getaway with rates starting at $425.

BASICS

The biggest complaint from guests at the Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach is the noise. No, it is not the traffic along the nearby Pacific Coast Highway or the din from Splashes, the hotel’s popular surfside restaurant. It is the sound of waves roaring onto the luminous half-moon beach on which the hotel sits. The 167 rooms and 16 suites, virtually all facing the sea, were expanded and elegantly updated in 2011. Public spaces — largely outdoors — offer plush sofas gathered around circular fire pits and a pool that sits overlooking the water. “The star of the setting is the view,” said Kimberley Miller, a partner at Duncan Miller Ullmann, a decorating firm based in Dallas that recently redid the rooms. “Everything is a reflection of that.”

LOCATION

The Surf & Sand, formerly a motel, is just on the edge of Laguna Beach, a town minutes south of Newport Beach that sprawls along the Pacific. Though you may want to rent a car, once you’re at the hotel, it is easy enough to stroll into town. The beach is a popular spot for surfers; at dawn it’s hard to tell whether they outnumber the sea gulls or vice versa. For golf aficionados, there are plenty of courses nearby.

THE ROOM

My 400-square-foot room was done in pale beiges with a mix of upholstered, wicker and whitewashed California wood furniture. There were two large wall mirrors to catch the light and a bed set cater corner for the best view. A desk was large enough so I could work at my computer, albeit while peeking at the sea. One nice touch was lighting under the bed that gives the room a glow in the evening. The terraces attract their own guests: sea gulls are likely to land on the railing. So in every room the hotel has left a printed form that says of the gulls: “If they leave their mark, dial 0 and we will refresh your balcony.”

THE BATHROOM

The bathroom was small but pleasant and had a tub with a Jacuzzi and a robust shower. There were the requisite amenities: lotions and shampoos from Philosophy and a good hair dryer.

ROOM SERVICE

When I ordered breakfast (eggs, toast, grapefruit juice and coffee), the kitchen told me it would come in 25 minutes. Mistake. It came in 20 minutes and was hot and tasty. The tray was filled with a plethora of jams, ketchup, Tabasco sauce and a Gerbera daisy. Breakfast was $31.94.

AMENITIES

Though there is not a lot of indoor public space, the hotel has transformed the outdoors into sitting areas with open fireplaces and ample sofas, which serve as part of the lounge. It has also added a spa with steam, sauna, Jacuzzi, exercise and massage rooms, though the ocean views make it very difficult to stay inside. Splashes, the hotel’s bar and two-level restaurant, serves California coastal cuisine in a casual atmosphere that becomes more dramatic at night when the sky is dark and the surf is strong.

BOTTOM LINE

The hotel is a wonderfully romantic escape if you treasure being close to the ocean. And because it is so near town, you don’t feel trapped there for meals. Indeed, locals who love the sea say they sometimes stay at the Surf & Sand to get away for the weekend. It is not hard to understand why.