Local Insights


The St. Regis Monarch Beach Chef Concierge Gundula Reile shares the top places to shop, dine and play this season.

By Alli Tong

BS_MB_17_Concierge_By Jody Tiongco-7Summertime in Orange County is beyond compare, with blue skies and warm temperatures providing the perfect setting for a day outdoors, from walking along the beach to whale watching. Likewise, picturesque sunsets afford the opportunity to sit on the patio of an ocean-view restaurant with a cocktail in hand, watching the sun melt into the horizon. Here, Chef Concierge Gundula Reile recommends activities that are sure to bring about an experience to remember.

Singular Shades

IMG_6700Before heading outdoors, make sure to pack two important items: sunscreen and sunglasses. THALIA SURF SHOP, in Laguna Beach, boasts a wide array of sunglasses from which to choose. The shop offers unique brands such as Raen Optics of Oceanside; Timber, which makes its wooden frames from recycled skateboard decks; and Epokhe, an Australian company with edgy designs. “[This is] a real treat as there are very few outlets in the United states that carry the [Epokhe] brand,” Reile says. (949-497-3292; thaliasurf.com)

Also in Laguna Beach, MILANO EYE BOUTIQUE is a “one-stop shop” for optical and sunglass needs, selling high-end brands such as Oliver Peoples, Tom Ford and Dolce & Gabbana. Reile adds, “They carry designer frames for eyeglasses as well as a nice designer selection of sunglasses.” (949-715-7822)

While it can be challenging to find a pair of shades to suit each face shape, SUNGLASS GALLERY in Laguna Beach makes it easy. “They carry all major brands and pride themselves on being ‘your own personal shopper,’ ” Reile says. “They will work with you to find the perfect frame for your face.” (949-494-5452)

Swimwear Styles

-5For the ultimate suit to show off a coveted Southern California bronzed glow, visit THE SHOP in Laguna Beach. From feminine and trendy to casual and surf-inspired, this beach-chic store offers a wide range of styles by local designers, surf brands and exclusive labels, such as Acacia Swimwear and Mikoh. (949-715-8308; theshoplaguna.com)

MERRILEE’S SWIMWEAR, also in Laguna Beach, has been designing, manufacturing and selling swimwear since 1977. For a beachside bikini that boasts a great fit as well as trendsetting and fashion-forward designs, this shop has it all. (949-497-6743; merrileeswimwear.com)

Harbor Fare

-1 2Orange County offers an abundance of restaurants to savor California cuisine with stunning harbor views. Reile recommends a stop at SOL COCINA to enjoy Baja-inspired dishes near Newport Harbor. “SOL Cocina is one of the unassuming restaurants for a casual, relaxed dinner,” Reile says. “The taco offers are very unique and for sure need to be accompanied by a margarita.” (949-675-9800; solcocina.com)

In Dana Point, JIMMY’S FAMOUS AMERICAN TAVERN serves up American cuisine in a cozy setting near the harbor. From burgers to breakfast, as well as beers on tap, the restaurant offers something for all palates. Reile adds, “The deviled eggs are fantastic—of course, combined with a cool beer.” (949-388-8900; j-fat.com)

Coastal Exploration

HV1W2127A trip to Southern California wouldn’t be complete without a little water fun. Visitors can enjoy a cruise out of Dana Point Harbor with DANA WHARF SPORTFISHING & WHALE WATCHING and CAPT. DAVE’S WHALE WATCHING. “It is spectacular being out on the ocean for two hours and seeing the entire coastline from miles out in the ocean,” Reile says. “These whale-watching cruises are so relaxing, enjoying the ocean breeze, as well as enjoying seals, dolphins and possibly seeing a whale.” (Capt. Dave’s: 949-488-2828; dolphinsafari.com) (Dana Wharf: 888-224-0603; danawharf.com)

For a more leisurely excursion, rent a Duffy boat in Newport Beach. Reile recommends taking a picnic basket and enjoying the bay for an hour or two.

Land lovers, too, can enjoy the coast with a tranquil walk on the sand. “[Walk] along the beach from the tip of Monarch Beach until the cliff of Dana Point—take a backpack, water and treat, and just enjoy putting your feet into the water,” Reile says. Those with children may want to take along sand toys and also stop to observe tide pools. Trail maps are available from the concierge.

Cool Treats

Full Case 004To beat the heat, indulge in a sweet, refreshing treat. DOLCE GELATO in Laguna Beach offers unique desserts to cool the palate, including coffee with ice cream, as well as distinctive flavors such as pistachio, basil and sage. (949-715-9249; gelatobydolce.com)

For those who seek a vintage treat with a view, head to RUBY’S SHAKE SHACK on Pacific Coast Highway in Newport Coast. Patrons can indulge in a classic chocolate or vanilla milkshake, or a more decadent flavor such as chocolate chip cookie dough or chocolate turtle. “Stop by for a spectacular sunset and enjoy a milkshake while watching the sunset overlooking the cliff,” Reile recommends. (949-464-0100; rubys.com)