Imagine returning from a business trip radiating such positive energy that friends and family who didn’t know you were traveling for work ask where you went on vacation. That happens quite often after hosting a corporate retreat in Laguna Beach. Why? For starters, Laguna Beach is the rare kind of place where even the residents feel like they’re on holiday. Laguna Beach truly emanates a “California original” spirit. Defined by laid back luxury and a treasure trove of hidden gems, there’s definitely something besides dolphins in the water. The weather – it’s Southern California after all – probably has something to do with it, too.
Yes, Laguna Beach is the perfect year-round backdrop for corporate retreats looking to provide attendees with engagement, entertainment and enrichment. And the ROI is huge! From teambuilding exercises based on fictional shipwrecks (don’t worry, you’ll have Navy Seal survivor kits), to private dinners with a Top Chef alum and art classes made easier with alcohol, Laguna Beach will take your corporate retreat from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
La Vida Laguna was founded by a “funtrepeneur” who traded the corporate life to become a Chief Experience Officer. His team also includes a Chief Adventure Officer, and they specialize in group adventure. La Vida Laguna arranges experiences in memorable Laguna Beach teambuilding venues. For example, there’s Shipwrecked—where your group’s luxury cruise ship sinks and you’re left with Navy Seal Survivor Kits that you have to learn how to use – and Counterculture Tour – where your group travels back in time to the 1960s when Laguna Beach was the center of a make love, not war, movement. If a docent-led tour of Laguna Beach’s famous tidepools (more on them later) or a painting workshop modeled after the plein air style of the area’s original artists sounds more your group’s speed, don’t worry. La Vida Laguna offers those too.
Board meetings never seem to be the highlight of someone’s trip—but could they be? In Laguna Beach, you have the option of holding your board meeting in a tree house. This unique meeting space is at The Ranch at Laguna Beach (whose other meeting spaces include golf fairways, a historic girl scout camp and a ballroom). Congregate in the high tech 1,600 square-foot suite where there are plenty of charging stations for staying connected, or break out into small groups and take advantage of the wraparound porch and adjacent Treehouse Gazebo.
The Ranch at Laguna Beach also boasts an award-winning 9-hole, par-32 golf course. It’s on the land of Laguna Beach’s first homestead (a one-room shack on 152 acres) and feels a world away from Los Angeles, just 50 miles to the north. No need to ask attendees to pack clubs—Ben Brown’s Golf Course has TaylorMade club rentals. And since it’s a laidback environment (albeit in a stunning canyon location), you might not even need clubs, or shoes. The course has been known to host “three-club barefoot” tournaments.
The only drawback to bringing your group to The Bungalows at Pacific Edge Hotel is they’ll never want to leave. These five private bungalows front the Pacific Ocean and are catered to accommodate up to 10 people each. Each is distinct in design—from a surfer’s paradise to the ultimate mancave and even a disco/tiki-themed bungalow—but they all offer relaxing well-appointed indoor and outdoor spaces. Oh, and they also come with a VIP Bungalow Host. Group organizers deserve to kick back too.
You can charter a boat and take a dolphin-watching cruise at almost any time in Laguna Beach. Or you can just make a group reservation at Splashes at Surf & Sand Resort. Whether you sit inside or outside, dolphin sightings are pretty much guaranteed at this restaurant perched just 25 feet above the waves. It’s also not out of the ordinary to witness the migration of a megapod – thousands of dolphins swimming in a group more than a mile wide. Regardless, you can definitely count on unforgettable views and amazing food. Splashes is on TripAdvisor’s list of the Top 10 restaurants in Laguna Beach and Chef Fougeray makes a mean seared scallops dish.
Chef Amar Santana was in your living room when he competed on Season 13 of “Top Chef” and finished as runner up. Now, one of Laguna’s biggest celebrity chefs is inviting your group into his kitchen at Broadway by Amar Santana. Sit at the chef’s table and watch the master at work. If your group is too big for the chef’s table, don’t worry: Chef Santana and his staff can whip up custom three-course menus featuring quality food for up to 70 people. All your group has to do is bring an appetite.
Transporting a big group doesn’t have to be a logistical nightmare for meeting planners in Laguna Beach. That’s because it’s easy and affordable (only $105/hour) to charter an open-air trolley. Use your head-turning ride to bring your group from Point A to Point B. Or hop on and hop off as you check out Laguna Beach’s thriving food scene. With more than 100 unique restaurants to choose from, there’s no appetite that can’t be whet (or dietary restriction that can’t be met).
Even if someone in your group has been to Laguna Beach before, they’ll appreciate seeing it through the eyes of Bill Hoffman. The former teacher and beloved Laguna Beach resident is as enthusiastic (and be careful—it’s contagious) as he is knowledgeable. His private, behind-the-scenes, Hoffy Tours will take your group to the best photo opps in the area and touch on everything from local history to architecture and culture. Pay attention too! There may be a quiz at the end with top-secret prizes provided by Bill for the winners.
Incredible things happen when the right people get together. That’s what happened more than 100 years ago, when a group of artists formed The Laguna Beach Art Association. In fact, its greatest legacy, the Laguna Art Museum, is one of the state’s oldest museums. If the idea of looking at a 3,500-piece collection (all of which comes from California) sounds intimidating, don’t worry. The museum offers docent-led tours that can accommodate groups of up to 60.
Want to take a piece of Laguna Beach back home with you? After all, even corporate retreats call for souvenirs! Your group can make their own in one of Sawdust’s Studio Art Classes. Under the guidance of a professional artist, design a copper or silver cuff bracelet, paint an abstract silk scarf, blow a piece of custom glass or simply get the creative juices flowing while working on a glass of cabernet in a sip and paint session. The best part is your “classroom” is in Laguna Canyon on the Sawdust Art Festival grounds.
Of course, the number one reason to come to Laguna Beach – whether it’s for work or play – is the beach. With seven miles of some of the Golden State’s best waterfront real estate, there are more than 30 beaches and coves to explore. All beaches open at 5 a.m., so even if your first meeting is at 8 a.m. you can still get in a stroll on the sand. The best time, however, is at low tide when the tidepools are exposed and you can see in the wild what other people pay to see in an aquarium. At some of the pools, you can learn from the on-site docents that Laguna Beach is one of Southern California’s only marine reserves. But if your group takes a Hoffy Tour first, you’ll probably already know that.