Recently, my inspection travels had me visiting California’s St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort and Spa in the ocean side community of Dana Point. This Mediterranean-style Mobil Five-Star resort is a sparkle in the California sun and has a little something for everyone, from celebrity chef Michael Mina’s Mobil Four-Star Stonehill Tavern, to the challenging Monarch Beach Golf Links, and the quietly luxurious Mobil Four-Star Spa Gaucin.How does a Mobil Five-Star inspector spend his days? Here, an inside peek at the wining, dining, and hard work that goes into inspecting a luxury resort.
Whenever I try to explain what it is that I do for a living, I tell everyone about the extensive travel and long hours of reporting and testing. I’m always met with a disbelieving look, followed by the question, how do I get your job? As a five-star inspector for Mobil Travel Guide, the country’s oldest and most respected star rating system, I spend at least 200 days a year on the road, sleeping in the best hotels, dining in the top restaurants and experiencing great spas, rigorously test over a combined 1000 plus criteria, so that I can report back to you, the traveler, on the best places to spend your hard earned vacation time.
Recently, my inspection travels had me visiting California’s St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort and Spa in the ocean side community of Dana Point. This Mediterranean-style Mobil Five-Star resort is a sparkle in the California sun and has a little something for everyone, from celebrity chef Michael Mina’s Mobil Four-Star Stonehill Tavern, to the challenging Monarch Beach Golf Links, and the quietly luxurious Mobil Four-Star Spa Gaucin. With all the amenities at this resort and its picture-perfect location, there’s little reason to leave.
Whenever I travel, I always make sure to inquire about the guestroom’s views. Sitting outside on a private terrace, like the one my room at the St. Regis offered, is one of my favorite ways to enjoy my morning coffee and soak in the beautiful surroundings. So, when booking a room at this resort, remember to request a room with a courtyard view of the pool, as they are some of the best views the resort has to offer. For those wanting to spend a little more, should make a request for the executive suites, which provide a little more space, possibly a direct ocean view and your own personal butler. My room was elegantly appointed with all the comforts of home, plus many added luxuries, such as the 47 inch flat screen television and the in-room digital music. The guest bathroom is equally as luxurious and elegant, and I must say, one of the most spacious I have experienced in all my travels. It is definitely a favorite! Falling asleep is never a problem as the resort uses luxurious Italian 300 thread count sheets and 400 thread count duvets on the very plush and inviting guest bed.
My flight was delayed on my first day visiting the resort, and jet lag was settling in, so I took advantage of the luxurious surroundings of my guest room, and ordered my first meal from room service. The in-room dining menu offers such a wide range of choices from pastas, salads and grill selections to additional entrées created from Motif Restaurant such as the Lobster Rolls and Calamari Salad, that I had a very difficult time deciding what to try. The in-room dining staff confidently steered me towards the chef’s specialties. When dinner arrived, the staff took the time and effort to make this meal seem as just as special, as if I was dining in one of the resorts restaurants. Crisp Italian linens, white Rosenthal china and stylish cutlery made for an elegant place setting. I must say, the heirloom tomato salad, drizzled with pesto sauce was excellent.
One of the best, and most underused, resources at any resort is the concierge. Make sure to stop by and chat with one of the resort’s expert concierge staff, as they’re extremely knowledgeable about the area. They suggested a number of galleries that the Laguna area has to offer, and offered a list of restaurants for me to consider when I asked about a dining recommendation, highlighting the specific ones that met my needs. I decided to take them up on the offer and reserved a table for dinner at a local restaurant called Ti Amo Ristorante. It was a short drive down the South Coast Highway towards Laguna and strategically poised over looking the ocean. If you can, request a booth table in the Ocean Room, the view of the sun setting during dinner is breathtaking. I am so pleased that concierge recommended this restaurant as it was cozy and romantic and the Carpaccio di Manzo and the Portobello Ravioli dish were scrumptious.
Earlier in the day, after spending a few hours searching the local galleries to see if the concierge recommendations were accurate, and to look for the perfect piece of art to take home, I decided it was time to stop by and pamper myself at the wonderful Mobil Five-Star Spa Montage. Situated on a bluff just a short drive from both downtown Laguna Beach and the St. Regis Monarch Beach, Spa Montage is located within the stunning Mobil Four-Star Montage Resort. The best way to enjoy this spa experience is to plan in advance and book one of the myriad luxury treatments. After a long decision and with the help of their expert staff, I indulged in the spa’s signature “Surrender” treatment. It proved to be two hours of pure luxury and relaxation. The therapist custom tailored my experience to maximize my personal needs incorporating the Laguna Beach Kur and the signature Montage massage. Arrive early or plan to stay after your treatments to enjoy these luxurious facilities. Take a dip in the outdoor whirlpool and plunge pool, and then relax and cozy up next to the fireplace in the relaxation lounge.
After heading back to the St. Regis Monarch Beach and Spa for the final night of my inspection, it was time to get ready for my reservation at Stonehill Tavern. Make sure to sample one of the tasting trio appetizers, as it is a signature of the restaurant and really is the best way to experience Michael Mina’s unique twist on Modern American cuisine. I tried the Maine Lobster trio and it is simply delicious! Dinner was so enjoyable that I picked up a copy of Chef Mina’s cookbook so that I could try to replicate this scrumptious experience when I get home. Speaking of home, it is time to return to mine, reflect on this wonderful experience, and start planning for the new ones ahead. To help plan your visit, go to www.mobiltravelguide.com for more information.
Looking for that perfect trip to New York City? New York can be such an exciting and overwhelming place to visit. Look for next month’s Mobil Five-Star Inspector insider’s guide to the big apple!