If you haven’t been to the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, in Dana Point, Calif., in the past few years, then you’re in for a surprise.

The luxury hotel company’s first purpose-built resort, opened in 1984, began shedding its formal, and “traditional,” dark-wood interiors six years ago to reflect a more modern concept of luxury. Today, the 396-room Ritz-Carlton—sited on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean with enviable views of the Southern California coast—embodies a casually elegant interior of relaxing hues and comfortable contemporary furniture.

The property has 18 functions rooms for meetings and events of up to 900 attendees, with more than 25,000 square feet of indoor space and nearly 54,000 square feet outdoors, including a gazebo overlooking the ocean. The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Laguna Niguel, offers 12 tranquil treatments rooms. Guests also have access to the spa’s pools, sauna, and fitness facility. Hotel guests get special rates and preferred times at Monarch Beach Golf Links, a par-70 championship course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and managed by Troon Golf, across the Pacific Coast Highway from the resort. In addition, the resort will coordinate tournaments for groups and has access to five other courses.

The hotel partnered with Jean-Michel Cousteau last year to bring his Ambassadors of the Environment education program to the resort, and the dedicated center opened on property in April 2010. Programs can be customized for groups. —Donna M. Airoldi

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