Lisa Romerein; styling by Sunday Hendrickson

Tucked behind lush landscaping, this vibrant California rental offers beach style and sweeping Pacific views.

“Pack a bathing suit and you're all set,” says Shelley Arends-Cornwell. She provides guests at her Secret Garden Cottage with just about everything they need for a day at the beach but a fruity cocktail. The Laguna Beach rental emits a coastal vibe that encourages visitors to plunge into vacation mode. The 1920s board-and-batten structure's style pervades every corner―from the purple siding and turquoise decking to the garage doors, which sport graphic beach murals.

Inside, exposed beams, vaulted ceilings, plentiful windows, and space-saving built-ins give the 750-square-foot cottage an airy feel. In the bedroom, French doors open onto a small deck overlooking the Pacific.

Mornings call for dining outdoors or visiting nearby Victoria Beach, accessible via tunnel. The rental comes equipped with beach chairs, towels, coolers, bodyboards, and sand toys. (Shelley will even arrange surfing lessons for novices upon request.)

Those who wish to venture out can explore stretches of sand at Newport Beach and Dana Point (less than a 20-minute drive), or choose from activities such as snorkeling or sailing at Dana Point Harbor. In addition, day trips are available to Catalina Island. In the evenings, visitors may hop on the summer trolley, which stops in front of the cottage every 20 to 30 minutes, and enjoy dinner downtown. Or they can stay in, put their feet up, and watch the magnificent sunset over the sea.

(published June 2008)

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