Event Destination Spotlight: Dana Point, Calif.

February 9, 2024

If you are looking for quiet luxury in a seaside setting for your next event, Dana Point, Calif., fits the bill. 

Known for its laid-back California vibe and pristine beaches, Dana Point is a charming 14-square-mile town that touts itself as the Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World, said Visit Dana Point Executive Director Heather Johnson. Event attendees can hop on tour boats that leave daily from the 2,500-boat and yacht slip marina in Dana Point Harbor, which is currently undergoing a $600 million revitalization. 

Getting there: Located halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles, Dana Point is located 25 miles from the John Wayne Airport, 44 miles from the Long Beach Airport, 63 miles from Los Angeles International Airport and 66 miles from the San Diego International Airport.

Fun fact: Dana Point is home to the Ohana Music Festival, which returns Sept. 27-29 to Doheny State Beach. Launched eight years ago by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, this music festival for families (“Ohana” means family in Hawaiian, after all) will feature more than 35 performances across three stages, featuring a variety of acts across different genres. Last year’s headliners included The Killers, The Chicks, Foo Fighters and Pretenders. The 2024 lineup has not been released yet. 

In January, Visit California and Visit Dana Point hosted a media tour for event and trade show industry press that included three venues. Here’s what corporate event organizers need to know about what’s new and trending in this Southern California resort destination.


Laguna Cliffs Resort & Spa

Closed for one year during COVID, this Marriott property underwent a $25 million renovation before it reopened in February 2021. The resort features two outdoor pools, an on-site spa, 24-hour fitness center, bicycle and surfboard rentals, four pickleball courts, walking and jogging trails, bocce ball, ping pong and easy access to water sports activities with the Dana Point Harbor steps from the property, said Director of Sales and Marketing Sandy Chiu

One of two pools at the Laguna Cliffs Resort & Space, a Marriott property

Need to know: Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the 4-story resort offers 50,000 square feet of versatile indoor and outdoor meeting venues, including spacious grand ballrooms and a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system. The resort also has three outdoor ocean-view venues that are perfect for wedding receptions and other group gatherings. While we were visiting, Shaw was producing an event in the ballrooms and throughout the venue. The ideal meeting: 200-250 rooms on peak is perfect, Chin said.

This Marriott property underwent a $25 million renovation that debuted in February 2021

What’s new: Completed in 2021, all 378 guest rooms, including 15 suites, were updated with a tonal color palette of warm creams, clean whites and soft gray tones. All rooms have hardwood floors, water-efficient rain showers, custom robes and linens, 55-inch TVs and espresso machines. Each room on levels 1-3 features a lanai, and ground floor rooms feature fire pits.

One of the outdoor spaces at the Laguna Cliffs Resort & Spa that overlooks the Pacific Ocean

Experiences to remember: Our group had lunch on the Del Mar Lawn, adjacent to the pool. On the lunch tasting menu: spicy bamboo salad, miso glazed striped bass and palm sugar braised short rib served with baby bok choy, julienne carrots and forbidden rice, as well as pandan panna cotta. With ocean views for miles, the lawn can accommodate up to 350 guests. There’s also a 6-hole putting green that can be used for events.

Photo gallery available here.


Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Perched atop a seaside bluff, The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is a coastal haven with its vibrant beachfront locale and celebrated Five Diamond service. Sprawling shoreline vistas make a lasting impression from the moment your attendees arrive. 

Room with a view: Private balcony with stunning panoramas and sunset views

Need to know: With 18 rooms offering more than 26,224 sq. ft. of indoor conference space, the venue can accommodate up to 900 attendees. Event organizers can also take advantage of nearly 56,000 sq. ft. of outdoor garden courtyards, pool terraces and oceanfront lawns with scenic views that showcase the area’s natural beauty. During our stay, a corporate group was hosting a meeting and awards banquet at the venue.

One outdoor terrace at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel set up for an event at sunset

Staying here: The ocean-view resort, which opened in 1984, embodies California surfing style, with select rooms offering stunning panoramas and sunset views of Dana Point and the Pacific Ocean. For attendees who drive in, the dog-friendly hotel features a walking or jogging path down to the sandy shores of Salt Creek Beach below. The 24-hour fitness center also offers stunning ocean views.

Standard room with a view at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel 


Experiences to remember: Our group dined at RAYA, and Chef Richard Sandoval showcased coastal cuisine through sustainable seafood, local produce and pan-Latin flavors. Our tasting menu included: a seafood tower, Grilled Spanish Octopus, Wagyu Beef Tartare, Branzino Zarandeado and Achiote Salmon. With sunset views in a refined setting, RAYA is one of several on-site restaurants.

Views from RAYA at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Photo gallery available here.


Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Spa

Formerly known as Monarch Beach Resort, the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club rebranded under the Hilton flag in 2020. Perched on 175 acres atop a 150-foot seaside bluff, this elegant AAA Five-Diamond retreat features 400 guest rooms, including 75 suites.

Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club offers 400 guest rooms

Need to know: With more than 30,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting spaces and 80,000 sq. ft. of lush outdoor areas for gatherings, Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club offers a variety of options for corporate events. Several of the indoor meeting rooms have doors with access to an outdoor patio. At nearly 60,000 sq. ft., the expansive Botanical Lawn can accommodate seats for up to 300 guests.


The Hilton branded property offers 80,000 sq. ft. of lush outdoor areas for gatherings

What’s new: In 2022, the hotel embarked on a $30 million guest room refresh, which included new flooring, furnishing and finishes for all guest rooms. Other enhancements included updated private fire pits for the 77 ground-level guest rooms and suites. These rooms come with kits for roasting s'mores on cool Orange County evenings, said Director of Sales Jean Schulte.


Restaurant with a view: the hotel has its own private beach club with oceanside dining.

What to do: From private oceanfront culinary experiences to unique coastal adventures, the 7-story hotel offers both indulgence and inspiration for attendees. Beyond meetings, guests can participate in more than 40 weekly fitness, yoga and meditation classes; 18 holes of oceanfront golf; a private beach club; guided electric bicycle tours; water sports activities and more.

Penthouse patio view: The hotel offers 75 suites

Experiences to remember: Our group enjoyed lunch and networking activities in one of the penthouse suites. On the lunch tasting menu: Heirloom tomato salad, potato gnocchi with parmesan sauce and truffles, star anise glazed carrots, seared Pacific fish Mezcal, prime filet with red wine sauce, ceviche with clams, roasted sweet potatoes and white corn and cilantro caesar salad. The hotel team can assist event organizers with setting up attendee networking activities, such as custom candle making bar, personalized key chains with metal stamping and group spa treatments.
Photo gallery available here.

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