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Celebrate at the Beach – Laguna Cliffs Marriott in Dana Point
by Janice Wilson

Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa, in Dana Point, California, is a place to celebrate life! I know because I took my daughter there on her annual birthday outing. We spent three glorious days and nights at the most picturesque spot on the Southern California coastline.

The resort’s red-roofed, Victorian-style architecture overlooks the cliffs above the bay. With captivating views of the Pacific Ocean and sprawling Gatsby-esque lawns, I felt like we were in the movie “Somewhere in Time.” Even the winding driveway up to the resort was romantically lit with street lanterns. The shiny wooden lacquered decor was inviting and enchanting with all the elegance and ambiance of a coastal beach house. A large roaring fire greeted us in the lobby. Laughter ignited the lounge as the guests shared cocktails and their day’s activities. Their sounds were relaxed and inviting. I smiled knowingly at my daughter. This was going to be a memorable birthday!

As I read the list of activities to my daughter it was no wonder everyone in the lounge looked so happy and content. There was tennis, croquet, kite flying, whale watching, tide pool exploration, waterskiing, sailing, shopping, hot tubs, swimming, picnicking, golf, and most importantly, a SPA!

When the bellman opened the door to our room, we both felt we had arrived at our own private beach bungalow. The walls were a sunny yellow. Our beds were accented with turquoise and royal blue striped fluffy duvet covers with a hint of small gold stripes that reminded us of bright beach towels inspired by the blue of the Pacific Ocean. The beds felt as comforting as the rays from the warm California sun shining on the sandy beach. The crisp white accent of the wooden head board gave the room a whimsical seaside cottage feeling. We immediately spotted their Bernard waffle-weaved robes and changed into them. We kicked off our shoes and relaxed and enjoyed the scent of their lavender sachets. I told my daughter that lavender is the aromatherapy that calms and soothes your senses so you can sleep better. She’s a manager for the Abercrombie Kids Store in San Diego. With her hectic schedule and long retail hours, she needed this time and place to unwind and mellow out. It was her first birthday treat of the trip.

Even though the room was cozy and pleasurable, my daughter’s eye for the corporate traveler immediately noticed the high speed internet access. She was relieved that she would be able to efficiently send and receive e-mails and use the internet. She was also delighted with the two phone lines. She hates waiting for anything and with this amenity she felt immediately at home. Mom wasn’t going to disrupt her immediate need to use the phone. I laughed as she gave a sigh of relief. Being the mom, I proudly assured her that I wouldn’t take her anywhere that wasn’t technologically advanced. I told her when I booked our room that they informed me that this property caters to even the most sophisticated of the wired generation traveling today. I looked at her laptop, iPod, wireless Bluetooth, and digital camera, and knew that if she needed to access the state-of-the-art multimedia system that linked the 55,000 square feet of conference space she was in good hands. This was a birthday retreat, but if she ever needed to come back for a training session I wanted her to know that this place had touch screens, control hidden microphones projectors, and phone and video conferencing for any business need she might have. Moms will always be moms, as I found myself lecturing her on the resort’s many business qualities. She politely listened to me, but what really caught her attention was the pamphlet on the SPA. After all, this was her birthday weekend and being renewed, revitalized, and refreshed were three of her many birthday wishes.

As I turned out the lights and snuggled under the cozy duvet comforter, I whispered a quiet thank you for the beauty of this lovely California resort, my precious daughter, and most of all . . . the time to enjoy. I drifted off to sleep embraced by the cool sea breezes and the hopeful expectation of the good times to come.

Daylight peeked through our patio windows and it was time for the birthday celebration to begin with fresh brewed gourmet coffee prepared in our room. We sipped our java from clear crystal mugs as I perused the USA Today with a cursory nonchalance about how the rest of the world was spending their day. My daughter Kyra, was diligently studying the Spa pamphlet. Would it be a Pure Fiji Coconut Body Polish, a Green Tea and Aloe Vera Wrap, their signature massage called the Peaceful Warrior, or the Ultimate Radiance Facial? There was no question in her mind.

We decided to stop burning daylight and begin the birthday bash at the SPA! When we entered the Spa, we were warmly greeted by the Spa Director, Maureen Vipperman, a beautiful and vivacious woman. She invited us to take a seat in front of the cozy fireplace, as we listened to the sounds of the soothing waterfall. Her passion and knowledge for the Spa’s unique relaxation and healing services was captivating. She told us that even though the Spa was less than a year old it had already garnered a reputation for being a place for wellness and healing. She told us that the spa used a variety of treatments that emphasized therapeutic health and international healing techniques and products. She didn’t forget a single detail with her caring curiosity. We savored every second of her articulate attention to our personal needs to create our perfect Spa experience.

Before deciding on our first treatment, Maureen took us on a guided tour of the newly renovated facility. She was quite proud of their state-of-the-art fitness center that was fully equipped with the latest in Star Trac cardio equipment and Life Fitness strength equipment, complete with headphones and personal televisions for each running and bicycle machine. This impressive facility rivaled centers twice its size. Maureen smiled spiritedly when she informed us that the fitness center was open 24 hours a day. My daughter and I exchanged a guilty glance. There would be no excuse about not having the time to workout on this retreat.

We made a mental note that we would work out tomorrow for sure. Right now, our minds, bodies, and souls were looking forward to relieving the stress and exhaustion from our workaholic lives. Maureen recommended the couples massage for our first treatment. She thought it would be a great way to start the birthday party. We noticed that one of the nicest things about the Spa, besides Maureen, the décor, and the treatments, was a comfortable ease and beauty about the facility. The layout of the spa was intimate, yet the treatment rooms were spaciously light, roomy, and elegant. The room for our couples massage was breathtaking. It was large and airy and decorated in gold sandy beach tones. There were two massage tables facing each other, beautiful white marble floors, and two large Swiss showers with 12 rotating showerheads. There was a private outdoor patio with a whirlpool tub, and outdoor furniture. Our therapists recommended ordering lunch after our treatment so we could enjoy the sunshine and fresh ocean breezes in our private garden.

As we prepared ourselves for the massages, I realized this was the perfect way to spend time with my daughter. It seemed like only yesterday that I looked down into her newly born eyes and dreamed about all the wonderful adventures we would have. The thrill of sharing this experience of renewing our spirits with this unique massage was beyond my expectations. In the silence and serenity of releasing the stress from our bodies a strong bond of appreciation created a lasting memory. After the massage we both took showers and luxuriated in the refreshing feeling of pulsating shower heads cleansing every pore of our bodies. We slipped on robes that were deliciously toasty from the in-room robe warmer and walked outside to the patio where our lunch awaited us. All we could do was smile at each other from the inside out. Our skin glowed as our bodies basked in loving appreciation for the special care. We savored our delicious lunches, not wanting this day to end.

After lunch, I scheduled the Ultimate Radiance Facial for myself and Kyra’s next gift to unwrap—the signature treatment, The Peaceful Warrior. Our bodies floated on air, as we were led to our separate rooms. As wonderful as it was to share the massage experience, trading stories on our individual services was even more exciting.


Janice Wilson, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at