“Please sit down,” directed our butler, Alfredo, in one of the kindest voices I’ve heard in a while. With deer-in-headlights expressions, my 6-year-old and I somewhat awkwardly plopped ourselves on to our suite’s sofa in the posh St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort. Alfredo listed his services, including delivery of fresh coffee on demand in the morning.
He even offered to pack and re-pack my disheveled suitcase, but I couldn’t bear to expose the poor guy to my method of last-minute (read: messy) packing so politely declined. I regret that now, because I could learn a thing or two about strategic folding despite the countless family holidays we’ve taken all over the world in the last decade.
St. Regis Monarch Beach Location in Dana Point
Some might argue Friday afternoon is the worst time to road trip north to Orange County, but that’s what we did. The normally one-hour(ish) drive stretched into almost two, though I wasn’t aggravated because I was expecting worse and knew that a glass of wine awaited at the end. It’s hard to be miffed about anything after pulling into a palatial AAA 5-diamond resort with spectacular ocean views.
Monarch Beach, named for the Monarch butterfly that once abundantly inhabited the area, is a wealthy beach enclave in Dana Point. The St. Regis is located on the east side of Pacific Coast Highway, however, a scenic drive on a tram through the golf course (respectfully stopping as guests tee off) delivers guests from the resort to the beach in just a few minutes.
Family Traditions at St. Regis Monarch Beach
If you’re headed to the OC for a luxury family holiday or need an excuse to, the St. Regis Monarch Beach Family Traditions program that we experienced will fit the bill. Family Traditions includes a St. Regis Suite complete with butler service. I underestimated how kid-friendly the resort is, actually. The above welcome amenity kicked off our trip, but more gifts followed each day in addition to kid robes, slippers, treats and more.
And, that doesn’t even include the beach, fine dining, spa, pools, golf and Southern California sunshine.
Families Traditions allows families to choose one of two adventure outings:
- OC Beach Wildlife Experience: Take a private, guided tour of local hidden beach coves while learning about ocean wildlife and exploring tide pools.
- Catamaran Adventure Whale Watching Cruise: Learn about ocean life on this highly-rated, 2-3 hour tour (length depends on how much wildlife seen) given by Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari.
We chose the whale watching tour and though whales were not to be seen, my daughter still talks about how much fun she had. Through the catamaran’s underwater viewing pod, guests watch dolphins swim next to the boat. It’s pretty cool and the crew seemed to know exactly where to and how to seek out wildlife.
Tip: If anyone in your party is subject to sea sickness, bring Dramamine (of course, consult your doctor) as our ride was uncommonly rough and even I started feeling woozy toward the end.
Butler Service Adds A Whole New Layer Of Comfort
Here is Alfredo, the world’s most perfect butler, in a video explaining the decade-old butler service at St. Regis Monarch Beach. He’s awesome, right?
As we rushed off to whale watching, Alfredo was waiting in the lobby holding a silver tray with hot chocolate and a bag of apples for us to enjoy en route. I nearly died.
Suites That Feel Like Home
We brought Grandma with us and there isn’t a better set-up for multigenerational luxury family travel than a suite with two bathrooms and a separate living area with a comfortable fold-out sofa. Plenty of storage, a work space and TV awaited in the master bedroom.
The bathroom was enormous complete with premium amenities and a kid-sized step stool (it looked hand-painted).
Somehow, they presaged my forgetfulness by placing an excellent 3-in-1 exfoliant in the bathroom (rare to have cleanser in any level of hotel). And, the living room had a standard mini bar fridge as well as a separate empty fridge to store left-over food or snacks from home.
At some point, the ocean-view living area turned into a fort–proof that the suite really did feel like home at times.
Dining At St. Regis Monarch Beach
Sip wine at six ocean view restaurants or order up room service. We managed to dine at half of the venues with Motif, the European-style cafe with an upscale twist, as our first dinner stop. The highlight was the octopus salad. Though it was meant as a starter, the portion size was so large it could have just been my dinner.
Kids meal portion sizes were so large that we took at least half my daughter’s mac and cheese back to the room with us.
The casual Monarch Bay Club offers beachfront eats and cocktails–the latter are easily brought down to the beach in plastic cups. (I did notice a deliberately hidden hole in the table cloth once I moved a plate, that seemed very out of line with this caliber of resort.) We noshed on fish tacos (good) to refuel for a full day on the beach.
For the times when you’re over the expense of in-room dining or just don’t have time to wait for it, Crust offers up to-go coffee, fruit, muffins, bagels and other convenient food. Without a grocery store or Starbucks in walking distance, I think this is extremely convenient for family holidays, especially.
But then again, we had Alfredo always anticipating our needs. Forget dessert with dinner, because families enjoy evening in-room treats.
These cookies are as moist and delicious as they look. Yep.
Other Luxury Resort Amenities
The beach: No need to pack beach gear as the Monarch Bay Club provides umbrellas, chairs and towels. Kids pillage the giant bin full of toys there, too. The ocean was relatively calm during our stay with the occasional dolphin in view. Sand crab-loving kids are in luck as they are easy to dig for in the wet sand. Lifeguards keep the ocean safe while crowding isn’t an issue. Rinse off sand or use the nice restrooms (yay) at the Monarch Bay Club during your beach day.
Pools: An adult pool and family pool share ocean views at the back of the property. I regret we didn’t have time to use the family pool (boy did I ever hear about that after the fact) but we certainly will next time.
Kids club: Need date night or a tee time? Leave the kids at the Sandcastle Kids Club for full or half-days of crafting and fun in the sun (ages 5-12). Sitters are also available.
Award-winning spa: Named after the Spanish village of Gaucin, luxurious Spa Gaucin customizes treatments with old-world and new-world aspects from both California and the Mediterranean. Think figs, Chardonnay and grape seed combined with complete relaxation.
Golf, tennis, and more: I’m afraid I haven’t scratched the surface in regard to outdoor activities. Just know that there are plenty onsite and offsite for all ages.
Getting There From San Diego
To be completely honest, what we’ll do next time is take the train to San Juan Capistrano station, just minutes from the hotel. Kill time before check-in (I’d imagine you can park your bags somewhere but look into that) at Zoomars where kids can feed goats, llamas, bunnies, guinea pigs and more.
She’s laughing her head off, really. The goats were not the slightest bit shy.
Otherwise, hop on the I-5 and head north to the Beach Cities exit. The resort is about 10 minutes from there.
I think staying at a St. Regis with bulter service is one of those things to put on a bucket list, if 5-star luxury family holidays are up your alley. Also, a trip here is a very easy weekend road or train trip from San Diego. Rates are seasonal, of course, but the Family Traditions program starts at $595 per night. I dare say that it’s good value for money given the room, butler service and other amenities.
St. Regis Monarch Beach
1 Monarch Beach Resort
Dana Point, CA
*Thanks to St. Regis Monarch Beach for partially hosting our stay!