By far our favorite trip of our stay here was Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment Biggest Show on Earth whale-watching tour. This trip was not only super fun but super kid friendly too. The Ambassadors program is intended to “open your eyes to Southern California’s unique ecosystems, and open your heart to their connection to the larger global systems.” Expert naturalists run 15 different excursions through. And boy, did they deliver on the Ambassador’s mission.
Although we didn’t see any whales on this amazing excursion we spied plenty of diving dolphin pods, and comical seal pups basking on buoys. I was able to completely relax with my 5-year-old son onboard simply because of the genius mesh netting around the entire front of the boat, which in no way hindered our view of the ocean and wildlife. Parental kudos to the whale watching company Dana Wharf Sport Fishing and Whale Watching, for getting it right. At the end of the trip the Ambassadors Club presented us with a CD loaded with photographs of our day – it was a lovely and unusually thoughtful keepsake from the hotel.
Our three hours on the ocean waves worked up an appetite and we were glad that we’d reserved a table at Raya, which was named “Restaurant of the Year” by Riviera Orange County in July 2011, and handily located in the hotel, overlooking the ocean. My husband flippantly mentioned it was also our 7th wedding anniversary and we were delightfully surprised when our host seated us at a table strewn with rose petals and a card with a quote about love inscribed on it. It was a very nice touch, and one offered to all couples celebrating at Raya.
The restaurant mirrors the hotel’s environmentally friendly theme by serving local organic produce and sustainable seafood. We tried the sweet corn soup, a rock shrimp and bacon quesadilla, and a seafood risotto for our entree. Dining in front of the ocean with seafood that really did taste of the sea was just heavenly.