Travel

Inn-Escapable: La Casa Del Camino Gets Haute

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. —Rumor is that famous writers at the turn of the century used to stay at Laguna Beach's La Casa del Camino to craft prose in peace. These days, the hotel appeals to another breed of clientele.

Last month, the boutique hotel on Pacific Coast Highway completed the first leg of a redesign that celebrates surf culture. Ten of the 41 rooms in the historic hotel were assigned a designer from the world of surfing and ocean worship. And no detail was overlooked.

In the Rip Curl Suite, for instance, a giant underwater photo mural covers one wall. In the Billabong Women's Suite, a seaweed installation hangs from the ceiling, and mirrors near windows are angled to offer expansive views of the beach (more than half of the hotel's rooms have ocean views).

My room, the L*Space Suite, reminded me of the Greek Islands: White from top-to-bottom with a faux-leather tufted headboard, a heavenly down comforter and silver and gold pendant lights that seemed to dance when the sunlight streamed in. I loved it, but constantly felt like I might stain something.

The room was small — a reminder of the hotel's European roots — but that's partly because the bathroom was big enough for a suite, with its pearlized tiles and mirror frames. If space is important to you, request a bigger room; some of the designers knocked down walls to make their creations more spacious. And keep in mind that two-thirds of hotel has yet to be renovated. The next phase of upgrades begins in early 2010; the hotel plans to stay open during construction.

The old rooms (I originally checked into one) are simple and reminded me of hotel accommodations in good Paris neighborhoods. Mine had a bed so firm it felt stiff, and a small television suspended from the ceiling (yes, like you would find in hospital rooms).

A major bonus, no matter your room, is location. You can size up the swell on Thalia Street, a favorite surf spot, just by stepping outside your door. La Casa del Camino is situated about a mile from downtown's Main Beach, so you're too far away to be identified as a tourist but close enough to stroll down for dinner, a movie or gallery-hopping.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: La Casa del Camino, 1289 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach; 949-497-2446; www.casacamino.com.

QUICK TAKE: The seaside boutique hotel offers newly renovated rooms with a touch of surf chic plus the K"ya Bistro and a rooftop lounge ideal for sunset cocktails.

RATES: Start at $129 on weekdays and $149 on weekends; Surf suites start at $249. (Parking included.)

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