It took two years for the new owners (the same team behind Palm Spring’s Korakia) to gut and strip the old lodge to its multi-level hillside foundation, then essentially rebuild it from scratch in the same exact footprint. An old residential-style carport is about the only thing that didn’t get dismantled and rebuilt.
The hotel comprises a hodgepodge of adjoining and adjacent buildings, from which about half the rooms offer at least a partial view of the ocean. You might have to crane your neck to see the water. When booking direct, the hotel’s website is fairly forthcoming with its various room descriptions. A few come with private decks, and all are stocked with beach towels and flippers. It’s a three-minute walk to the beach, and most weekdays you’ll have this beach more or less to yourself.
There’s no front desk. Rather, the front door opens into what is essentially a small living room where a scratchy old vinyl record will be spinning on the turntable. Have a seat. Someone on staff will eventually come out from wherever it is they hide and check you in with an iPad. They’ll give you an old-fashioned metal key and point you to your room.
The whole affair feels like you’re visiting an old friend rather than checking into a hotel. If the music stops playing, it’s up to you to go change the record: Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Pink Floyd, The Supremes, Santana, The Eagles, Billie Holiday… There’s also a turntable in every guest room, and you’re are encouraged to freely borrow/exchange albums from the large collection in the lobby.
There are no TVs or phones in the rooms, but the wifi is strong. The design throughout is minimal and barefoot casual yet still somehow elegant. The color palette is muted — mostly white and beige — which is actually very calming. The rooms are supremely comfortable. The linens, mattresses and pillows are much nicer than the hotel’s price-point might suggest. The bathroom amenities are by Le Labo.
The all-day restaurant, Saline, is restricted to hotel guests only, which makes it feel like a private club. And the food is very, very good. (See my review of Saline in the Orange County Register). Breakfast is included in the room rate. Lunch and dinner cost extra but are worth it. There’s a small bar in the living room while the dining room actually occupies the adjoining outdoor terrace, which is partially covered and heated, with views of the interior courtyard, swimming pool and the ocean in the distance.
The pool is perfect. It feels very private, surrounded with desert-style flora, ultra-comfy chaises and pseudo cabanas. This really is a great place to just check in and cocoon for a while.
Bottom line: This is probably the best bargain in Laguna Beach, and certainly one of the hippest hotels in town with literally zero attitude. It’s not directly on the beach, but it’s just short walk down the hill.
Rates from about $220. 985 N. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, 949-494-5294, hoteljoaquin.com