There are three swimming pools at the St. Regis Monarch Beach. Across the Grand Lawn from the hotel is the main Ocean Pool. The name implies it might be a seawater pool, but it is actually a heated freshwater pool with views of the ocean from the pool area. The Lagoon Pool was primarily occupied by children along with the shallow wading pool for young kids. An outdoor adults-only Lap Pool is located at Spa Gaucin.
The Ocean Pool was primarily in use during day light hours with attendants assisting guests with towels, pool chairs, and drinks. Poolside cabanas can be rented complete with TV, CD and DVD system, phone, fax, fan, and wireless internet for the guests who desire these services while at the pool. Drinks and food service are provided poolside from the Pool Bar & Grill across the Grand Lawn.
The Lagoon Pool and a 1.5 ft deep wading pool for young children are located just south of the Ocean Pool in the same fenced and gated enclosure. The Lagoon Pool was primarily occupied by the child guests at the resort. There was a surprisingly large number of children in tow during our stay. While some children also swam at the Ocean Pool, the majority remained at the Lagoon Pool. A large Jacuzzi pool is located between the Lagoon Pool and the Ocean Pool.
Both the Ocean Pool and Lagoon Pool are a uniform depth of 4.0 ft. Music plays from speakers in the potted bushes.
Kelley was told the pools are accessible 24 hours although there is an impediment to 24 hour access. The pool crew hoses down the Ocean Pool area and all the pool lounge chairs sometime around sunset. When Kelley and I returned from the beach around 7:45pm the three gates around the Ocean Pool were deactivated for key card access.
Only the pool gate leading to the Lagoon Pool worked for key card access. On both nights of our stay there were guests trying to access the Ocean Pool gates for night swimming only to return to their room disappointed.
A simple sign directing guests to use the south end gate for pool access at night would have been helpful. I checked every pool area gate to find just one of four gates allowed access to the Lagoon Pool and Jacuzzi area. Crossing the dark walkways between the Lagoon Pool, spa, and cabanas allowed Ocean Pool swimming at night.
One observation I made while swimming is the symmetrical perspective of the resort one sees when situated in the center of the Ocean Pool. The Ocean Pool is a great location for gazing out around the Monarch Beach resort. The view at night looking from the pool to the main fountains at the hotel and the reciprocal view from the hotel seems to be what the designers had in mind when laying out the grounds.
Adults Only Lap Pool at Spa Gaucin
Spa Gaucin (pronounced gow-seen on the TV hotel channel) has an adults only lap pool. The adults only pool was the most appreciated feature of the resort for me. Located on the northeast side of the resort outside Spa Gaucin, the lap pool and Jacuzzi provided an adults only resort location within the Monarch Beach resort. There were lots of children at the hotel and Spa Gaucin provides a pool environment where the upbeat techno music and golf cart brakes are the loudest sounds.
Music plays through speakers in the pool. I have experienced this a couple of times before at Westin resorts and it is an interesting sensation to listen to music underwater. The beat kind of revs up a workout pace.
The fitness room at Spa Gaucin was always in use by multiple exercisers, yet few guests ventured out to the pool area and even fewer actually used the lap pool during our stay.
Several reviews of the St. Regis Monarch Beach resort describe the beach as being a private beach. That is not accurate. The resort’s own website describes the beach as “one of the most exclusive and beautiful beaches in Southern California”. That statement is accurate.
California has a beach public access law enacted in the 1970s under Governor Jerry Brown. The purpose of the law was to prohibit development along the coast of California that would impede access to the coast and beaches by the public. Any beach resort development must maintain a public access thoroughfare through the private property.
The beach is beautifully compact yet sizeable. The exclusivity is due more to the beach geography of cliff borders on the south and north. The beach is located between two luxury hotel resorts and surrounded by oceanfront high-end residences on the coastal bluffs. The beach is a relatively uncrowded stretch of sand about 3/4 mile long and one hundred yards wide and populated predominantly by hotel guests and local residents.
A small stream runs off the golf course through the sand to the sea adjacent to the Monarch Bay Club. The north end of the beach turns rocky past the St. Regis Monarch Bay Beach Club and the cliffs meet the sea.
The south end of the beach is below the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Resort Hotel on the cliff top.
Monarch Bay Beach Club is the only building right on the beach.
The public is welcome to walk through the public access path across the Monarch Beach Golf Course, but our day on the beach in what was perfect beach weather of sun and 85 degrees suggested few people take advantage of the privilege due to the distance from the streets in Dana Point to this beach.
St. Regis Beach Shuttle
Large open-air golf carts with 3 sets of seats sufficient for 10 passengers take hotel guests to the Beach Club about every 15 minutes. There was a waiting line when we were ready to depart for the beach and the hotel brought a second shuttle cart over within a couple of minutes. This was an example of the service level that truly worked for guests from observations during my stay.
The shuttle travels from the entry drive of the resort, past the Golf Clubhouse, and along the golf course, through a tunnel under Pacific Coast Highway 1 (PCH). The west end of the tunnel the tram goes right and enters a private electronic gate to the Beach Club parking lot. Pedestrians go left after the tunnel and the pedestrian path leads to a more southerly beach entrance at a location a couple hundred yards south of the Monarch Bay Club.
The Beach Club has an outdoor deck, bar and restaurant, outdoor showers, and a couple of restrooms. There are lockers on the north end of the building.
On the south end of the building is a lawn with tables and an outdoor bar tent was set-up with a full bar and complimentary water and water with fruit slice flavor.
There were attendants with motorized carts to assist guests with setting up chairs and umbrellas. There looked to be between 50 and 100 hotel guests at the beach with St. Regis chairs and umbrellas.
There were perhaps another 100 persons for around 200 people total on the beach, mostly south towards the Ritz Carlton hotel.
On a perfect beach weather Sunday in Orange County, California we truly felt an exclusive experience of the beautiful beach. There were surprisingly few people on this 7 acre stretch of beach. A great omen for the day was seeing several porpoises swimming north just a few hundred yards off the coast. While Monterey has abundant marine life, porpoises are a rare sighting so close to the shore in my experience.
There is a bit of seaweed in the water here, particularly pieces churning up in the waves. The seaweed was mostly small stuff just one to two feet long. The beach sand was clear of seaweed during the day and I don’t know if the responsibility for the absence of seaweed was the staff or the tide. Here on the Monterey Peninsula our bull kelp seaweed is often 10 to 20 feet long and can really pile up thick on the beach at times.
We walked to the beach for sunset. The path was easy to follow with sign directions and only took 15 to 20 minutes. There were a few dozen people on the entire beach as we watched the sun drop into the Pacific water from our solitary location on the sand.
Side note: There is a flashlight in the TV cabinet of the hotel room which is a good idea to take if you head out at night to the beach.
Suggestion for sign improvement: The St. Regis beach tram only picks up passengers in front of the hotel or at the Beach Club. There are several Tram Stop signs in different locations on the resort property. Perhaps in better days the tram did peruse the grounds picking up passengers, but that is not currently the case.
I know a French family waited with an infant at the Tram Stop sign near the Botanical Garden for 20 minutes in the 90 degree heat. The sign clearly states trams run 8 times per hour to the beach.
The hotel needs to place a notice on these tram stop signs to inform guests they are not currently in use.
Along with the Ocean pool locked gates, signage was the major issue I saw for improvement at the resort.
St. Regis service:
All in all, service levels from the variety of staff around the resort were cordial, helpful, friendly, and accommodating. The hotel provided the best service I have seen in quite some time of hotel travel. Just don’t discuss Starwood Preferred Guest. Cash receives more recognition.