by JILLIAN VAUGHN of Iconic. A long winding driveway revealed a grand entrance to a destination that was the same amount luxurious as it was laid back—Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club. The blue colors inside and the distant ocean view set the tone for a relaxing Southern California weekend, where we didn’t have to dress up, but the sophisticated service would wow us.

At Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach, a luxury vacation is in the details—whether you are staying, playing, golfing, spa-ing or dining. Plus, Waldorf Astoria has announced a $30 million guest room refresh of its 400-guest rooms and suites set to debut this September! Each experience on the property is thoughtfully curated to indulge the senses in a true escape, and we experienced it all. 

Perched on 175 acres atop a seaside bluff, this elegant AAA Five-Diamond retreat offers indulgences from fine dining to a day at the beach. Part of our “jobs” at ICONIC LIFE Magazine include luxury experiences like this one, where we can test out luxury vacation destinations for our readers and report back. We love to marvel during these experiences, “yes, we are working.”

We checked into our adjoining Waldorf Astoria suites that had just been renovated with light coastal colors and a private terrace. Champagne and charcuterie arrived moments later. This trip would be a celebration for all good things ahead. 

For the first evening, we dined at AVEO Table + Bar, a lively kitchen and bar serving a Latin-inspired menu in a casually elegant setting. As the hotel’s main restaurant, it was located in the primary spot at the back of the lobby, with a large, extended patio area that overlooked the hotel grounds, pool and Pacific Ocean beyond. 

Our reservation fell just at sunset, and the pastel-hued sky was the most beautiful backdrop for the meal. The ICONIC ladies, being Arizona natives, began to experience a chill as the sunset faded, and the wonderfully attentive staff was quick to bring over outdoor heaters and blankets to make our meal more comfortable. 

We started our meal with the Dungeness crab croquetas, which tasted like the most delicious crab cakes with a Latin flavor. As the waiter mentioned, AVEO is known for its amazing ceviche, so of course we had to try one of those as well. The appetizers were refreshing and full of flavor. This would be the perfect spot to grab a sunset happy hour with a glass of white wine and some appetizers!

Next, it was time for entrees, we decided to stick with seafood and order three dishes for everyone to try. We ordered the Chilean sea bass with black rice and coconut sauce; the salmon with eggplant, cucumber and a dill yogurt sauce; and the casuela de mariscos, a seafood stew with veggies, potatoes and a little spicy kick. 

For dessert, another three dishes were ordered to share. We had the palm sugar creme brûlée, the white coffee chocolate mousse cake, and the torta de monzana, a warm cinnamon apple cake. Each bite was savored—light, fresh and evenly balanced with sweetness and flavor.

In the morning, we took the Waldorf Astoria’s trolley down a long and winding path through the beautiful golf course to the beach club that gave us access to the beach. We walked, talked and savored the ocean air. Again, we were working. On our stroll, we passed many families enjoying the beach and are convinced we had a David Letterman sighting. We didn’t approach of course, but our long stares in his direction all as much as confirmed that was the king of late-night.

We spent the afternoon in town enjoying quaint boutiques and returned for an evening of wining and dining in the members-only beach club, accessible also to resort guests. Here we basked in ocean-front dining literally on/above the beach. Adirondack chairs next to the clear glass were the perfect vantage point to watch the surf come in.

Packed with impeccable design, beachy flair, remarkable views of the Southern California coastline and delicious cuisine, Monarch Beach Club restaurant did not disappoint.

We started with a bottle of Schramsberg Mirabelle Sparkling Rose to get things kicked up a notch. The bubbly glass tasted dry yet fruitful—a complex mixture of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir crisp blend.

The appetizers were a fun way to indulge. A variety of a little bit of everything was an excellent way to get the whole, flavorful experience. Our server’s recommendation was the Fritto Misto, freshly fried calamari, shrimp, shishito peppers, lemon wheels and spicy aioli. We also enjoyed the Seafood Artichoke Dip, which was lump crab, bay scallops, fontina, parmesan cheese and panko herb crust. And finally, the Wild Mushroom and Barley Risotto is pearl barley, braised kale, black garlic cream and asiago cheese. YUM. Three ladies surrendered to the flavors over discipline that night.

For entrees, we ordered the Slow Braised Beef Short Rib with garlic mashed potatoes and roasted winter vegetables. And King Salmon with celeriac puree, red quinoa and sauteed rainbow chard with grated goat cheese. We shared both entrees and spent the evening chatting about our lovely day.

The next day, it was time to pause and visit the Waldorf Spa, which has a moody-lighted, modern entrance with super friendly attendants ready to serve. We enjoyed massages in the private rooms that are decadent themselves. The heated tables and scented oils induced relaxation right away. 

Later, we spent time using the amenities—steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and shower in an elegant and newly renovated spa. Within the facility, guests can take advantage of a curated boutique, fitness classes, a salon and a really beautiful spa pool that is quiet. We highly recommend this spa, and if you’re local, you can acquire a membership as well. 

We can’t forget to share that breakfast on our last morning was robust and creative. Dining again at AVEO Table + Bar, we enjoyed a Latin version of eggs Benedict, cazuela de huevos and avocado toast, first starting with some awesome freshly pressed green juice. 

By the time we departed Waldorf Astoria, we were so impressed by the spectacular service; we couldn’t help but feel thankful. The luxe experiences were a memorable adventure that we knew we wanted to share. If you’re local, there are so many reasons to go. If you are traveling, this is the perfect place from which to base your So Cal adventure. Either way, let them know that ICONIC sent you.