My husband and I stayed at the St. Regis Monarch Beach the week before Labor Day. We are SPG Gold members (Platinum by year-end!) with plentiful points, so we made this journey as award travel - which makes it difficult for me to comment on overall value (though of course we know that it is quite a pricey establishment). So I'll stick to the other stuff.
Service was high-touch - very attentive, pleasant and helpful but not overbearing. We were very pleased with everything. The rooms were quite nice - what I would expect from a hotel of this caliber. The grounds were quite beautiful, especially the pool - but there were times I wished they had been better about policing the family pool - the main pool was flooded with children, even though there is a separate, adjacent pool that is supposed to be specifically for families.
You will read complaints that this hotel is not "on the beach" - it isn't. The Ritz is, but if you go there, you will note that it rests high up on a cliff over the beach - it still takes some doing to get down there. The St. Regis offers shuttle (golf cart) service to the Monarch Bay Beach Club, which it owns - this was really the easiest way to get there, and my only wish is that the schedule for the shuttle would have been published. A couple of times we waited 15 minutes or more with no indication of when the shuttle would arrive to transport us. Aside from that small beef, we found beach access to be a piece of cake, and the beach area itself was very nice. If you are concerned about an ocean view, the St. Regis offers many rooms with an ocean view; only difference is most also overlook the gorgeous hotel pool and golf course.
The golf course was great - we played there three times during our stay. It was in excellent condition, was challenging but not impossible for we mediocre golfers, and again the service in the pro shop and on the links was top-notch. Like other high-end golf resorts, they just take care of everything for you - shuttling your clubs to and fro, storing them in the clubhouse. We came thinking we were going to play several public courses in the area, but we ended up sticking around at Monarch Beach.
Aside from golf, the highlight of our trip was two dinners at Stonehill Tavern. It is an incredible Michael Mina restaurant with a warm modern/earthy decor. The wine list was equally impressive.
True, there is not a whole lot else in the immediate vicinity at Dana Point - but who needs it? If you are vacationing primarily for beach and/or golf, you will find most everything you need right there at the St. Regis. I would think this would be particularly appealing for a young family, since it just makes everything so much easier and less stressful.