Hotel Joaquin is where the surfboard swagger of Montauk meets the beach chic of St Barths, at an unplugged oceanside bungalow just an hour outside Los Angeles. The art-filled interiors are bathed in sunlight and filled with flea-market furniture sourced from France, while in the individually designed rooms you’ll find natural oak, reclaimed terracotta, and your very own record player with a selection of vintage vinyl. The Mediterranean restaurant serves health foods from local farms, and there’s a bar serving cocktails by the pool. But the waves are just a stroll away…
Noon, check-in from 3pm, but both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £445.25 ($560), including tax at 14.5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $56.32 per room per night on check-out.
Rates include à la carte breakfast – with options such as ‘rawnola’ with almond milk, freshly churned smoothies, egg-white frittatas, and house-cured salmon – but not the $50 (plus tax) a night, per room, resort fee.
There’s an ‘Adventure Garage’ filled with water sports kit for surfing, kayaking, snorkelling and more.
At the hotel
WiFi. In rooms: record player and selection of vinyl, beach bag, Le Labo bath products, minibar, free bottled water, tea- and coffee kit, air-conditioning.
Our favourite rooms
Every room is different, so pick according to your priorities – go for La Vue for panoramic ocean views through an oversized picture window, Ciel for a stone bath tub and vaulted ceilings, or Citron for lemon-scented air drifting in from the garden.
The sceney saltwater pool is heated, and flanked by palm trees and day-beds.
There’s a tucked-away treatment room, for aromatherapy massages and facials on request.
Leave the laptop at home – Hotel Joaquin is all about unplugging and unwinding.
If you’re a wheelchair user, book the adapted Motu guest room. The hotel’s common areas meet ADA standards, too.
These digs are for grown-ups only.
The hotel is keen to look after its own patch, which is why it works with the Clean the Ocean conservation project. The ingredients used at the restaurant comes from local farmers and the kitchen garden, and the bath products are by cruelty-free Le Labo.
You can hardly avoid ocean views in this snack-sized restaurant, but snag a table with your favourite angle on the waves.
Saline has a super-casual, homey feel, so there’s no need to dress up – and no sweat if you’ve come straight from yoga.
Chef Leo Bongarra rose to Executive Chef at LA’s Sunset Tower Hotel, before crafting the seafood-centric Mediterranean menu at Hotel Joaquin’s restaurant, Saline. Shareables and salads are the stars of the lunchtime show (cucumber toast with tahini and pomegranate is a lovely post-swim snack), while dinner brings the likes of crab gnocchi with macadamia nuts, Napa Valley lamb chops with turmeric cauliflower, and of course, the catch of the day.
The Bar at Saline prides itself on poolside spritzes and low-alcohol cocktails, so all that hard work on your downward-dog won’t go to waste. Go for the ‘No-booze cruise’ (Seedlip garden, Fever-tree tonic, ginger and pineapple), or opt for something stronger, like the Samsara (a blend of seven rums with fortified sangria, ginger, lime and a splash of absinthe).
Breakfast is served from 7.30am to 11am; Saline serves food all day until 10pm, and drinks from 11am until 10pm.
The hotel is on the sea-facing side of Highway 1, on the edge of Laguna Beach in Southern California.
John Wayne airport in Orange County is the handiest place to arrive – it’s just 12 miles from the hotel (25 minutes by car), and has domestic routes from cities including Seattle, Dallas and Atlanta; Long Beach airport is an alternative, 45 minutes from the hotel by car. LAX airport is the nearest international hub – it’s around an hour’s drive if you’re lucky with traffic, and has flights to major cities in Europe and Asia.
The nearest station is San Juan Capistrano, with trains running north to Los Angeles’ Union Station and south to Oceanside; it’s roughly 20 minutes’ drive to the hotel.
This is car country. The road that runs past the hotel entrance happens to be the legendary Highway 1 – for the classic California road trip, follow it south to San Diego or north all the way to San Francisco. There’s free valet parking.
If you’re coming by boat, dock at Laguna Beach or Newport Beach and take a taxi to the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Make your first stop the ‘Adventure Outpost’ – there’s a host of activity gear provided absolutely free for guests, including paddleboards, kayaks, surfboards, bikes, snorkels and… erm, dominoes, for the less energetic. You can borrow deck chairs and umbrellas for the beach too, or just set yourself up on a day-bed by the pool. Take part in instructor-led fitness, meditation and yoga classes each morning, or summon a therapist to the spa treatment room. Go for a wander along the bluffs of Cliff Drive for awe-inspiring ocean views, or turn towards downtown Laguna Beach to see soulful architecture and meet the artistic locals. Then there are the beaches, oh the beaches: start with Shaw’s Cove,a short walk from your room, then branch out to family-favourite Wood’s Cove, mansion-lined Victoria Beach and the Crystal Cove conservation area. For a culture-hit, visit The Laguna Art Museum or catch a show at Laguna Playhouse. Sawdust Festival(late June until the end of August) is your chance to get crafty with classes in painting, pottery and more. Also in high summer, look out for the utterly unique Pageant of the Masters, which sees classical works of art recreated live on stage. Laguna Beach’s main beach is, er, Main Beach – you won’t have it to yourself, but what it lacks in quietude it makes up for in volleyball courts, kids’ playgrounds, and a sand-side boardwalk.
Cafe Heidelberg does the simple things well – among them organic omelettes, fresh-baked pastries and fruit-laden waffles. The best cuppa in town is at Urth Caffé, a specialist purveyor of premium coffees and teas. Old-school diner Penguin Cafe (981 South Coast Highway) is all about syrup-drenched pancakes, chunky burgers and chili dogs. For pizzas and pasta, try the Neapolitan Alessa, and for sharing small plates head for Watermarc. Nick’s Laguna Beach is the pick of the top-end options, while over in Newport Beach there’s a branch of Nobu.
The rooftop bar at 1929-built La Casa del Camino is something of a Laguna Beach institution – pair the Pacific views with a fresh-fruit mojito for the full experience. Deck on Laguna is a prime spot for sundowners, and you can pop upstairs for shucking-good oysters and a steak dinner at Driftwood Kitchen afterwards.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this design-led hotel in California and unpacked their board shorts and beach reads, a full account of their oceanside break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Hotel Joaquin in Laguna Beach…
Hotel Joaquin doesn’t really feel like a hotel. Sure, it’s got a farm-to-table restaurant and a full-service bar, but a few nights here feel more like you’re staying with a friend – a friend who has an awesome, art-filled bungalow by the beach. Better still, this isn’t one of those friends who invites you round just so you can look after their kids (there aren’t any), or forces you to watch TV because there’s nothing better to do (there aren’t any of those, either). There are lots of better things to do, of course, mostly out in the salty ocean air. Consult the in-house ‘adventure guru’ and borrow kit for your water sport of choice, or just pull on your boots and walk on the bluffs. Or, just hang back at the bungalow, admiring the light-flooded interiors, and biding your time for another dip in the pool…