Whether you live in Southern California and want the perfect get-away, are driving up or down the coast and desire the ultimate respite or are coming from anywhere in the world and seek a special place along the Pacific coast with dramatic forever views, look no further than Terranea Resort.
Terranea is a 45-minute drive south of LAX, but it might as well be another galaxy. One where dolphins frolic and sea lions scamper, birds nosedive for sustenance, and walking trails hug the dramatic bluffs, all of which backdrop the stellar accommodations, an excellent spa and fitness center, a nine-hole, par three golf course, and extremely warm hospitality. Did I mention the great food?
A Resort Having Something For Everyone
Terranea covers 102-acres of some of Southern California’s most picturesque real estate. As a result of the expansive, manicured grounds, and even though Terranea has 582 accommodations ranging from traditional guest rooms to villas, the resort doesn’t feel crowded even in summer. Indeed, development of the property has evolved over the years so that the interests of all types of guests are met and a sense of privacy prevails.
For those traveling with children, a Kid’s Club has age-appropriate activities. For family fun, there an enormous resort pool with a 140-foot water slide, and on weekends, mini golf, lawn games, watermelon eating, and tie-dye station. During the week, there are falconer meet and greets –guests can be introduced to these majestic birds by their handlers – junior golf camp, and guided coastal hikes.
For Millennials, the Cielo Point adults-only pool overlooking the Pacific with Catalina Island in the distance, has a full bar, light bites, and a DJ on weekends. There are electric bikes for rent, archery, a fantastic state-of-the art fitness center, with all manner of exercise classes, including spinning, total body, and circuit training, and nearby, great jogging. During summer weekends there’s the “Sound Series,” Terranea’s concert program with live music.
Millennials and Boomers wanting to chill, will love both the Vista pool and Jacuzzi with its lush greenery, dreamy daybeds, and culinary offerings, and the Spa Pool with head-on Pacific views, an alluring 25-meter pool, fire pits and delectable healthy food options from Spa Café. A bar provides the necessary mimosas or mojitos. On two separate occasions, we saw a trifecta of dolphins dancing as we lounged.
Accommodations for the Discerning
Options abound to meet guests varying needs. Whatever you choose, comfort will be your constant companion. There are balconied guest rooms starting at 450-square feet, suites starting at 900-square feet, clustered bungalows starting at 1,110 square feet, casitas starting at 2,040 square feet, or a private multiple-bedroomed villa starting at 1,860 square feet.
We stayed in a one-bedroom bungalow located steps from the bluffs and the Spa. Designed in calming earth tones, the living area was completely separate so one could get up and work, or work out – there was a yoga mat, block, and free weights in the living room – or play, without disturbing the other. The king-size bed was deliriously comfortable with high-count sheets and some of the industry’s finest pillows. There were two bathrooms, and the primary had a deep soaking tub and walk-in shower, complete with Australian Murchison-Hume amenities.
The bungalow also had a fully furnished granite kitchen with stainless steel appliances and large dining room table. Also, an incredibly comfortable sofa and chair facing the fireplace, plenty of closets, storage, and a washer and dryer. This made it possible for me to think of a month-long visit as the perfect spot to write another book. The large, ocean view furnished patio with a fire pit making evenings warmly romantic.
Eat, Drink and Be Very Merry
Given how good the food is throughout Terranea, and with several dining options available, foodies and their friends will be content. Indeed, for this reason Southern Californians often come to dine and celebrate special occasions. There’s also live music at the lobby bar.
At Sea Beans, there are gourmet coffees, house made pastries, muffins, and cakes – all of which are made under Executive Pastry Chef Eric Jermonti’s direction and supplied to all Terranea restaurants – and macarons, gelato and ice cream sandwiches so creamy and delicious, you may in fact weep. More on that later. Sunset seated in an Adirondack chair near the water at Terranea Cove is even better with a charcuterie board available at Sea Beans ready packed for a perfect nosh.
On the very edge of the bluffs is Nelson’s offering up a sense of near suspended animation. This was apropos as Nelson’s pays homage to ex-Navy diver Mike Nelson, played by the impossibly handsome Lloyd Bridges in the hit series Sea Hunt, much of which was filmed here between 1958-61 and then rerun for years after. We pondered Bridges’ important contributions to environmental awareness as we devoured a lobster roll, Portobello mushroom melt, and an enormous pretzel that caused my husband to state, “Both Dodger Stadium and Crypto.com arena should immediately call Chef Jermonti for tips.” It was here that I first encountered Terranea’s gelato in the form of a heavenly Nutella ice cream sandwich cut in half with chocolate swirls. A serious addiction rapidly ensued.
At Bashi, Terranea’s Asian restaurant, we consumed in inordinate amount of delectable crispy rice spicy tuna rolls, Hamachi so fresh it was no doubt backstroking earlier that day, and dragon rolls with baked eel. The creative craft cocktail list reflects the talents of their mixologists who prepared a Lychee Martini with Reyka vodka that was second to none.
Before or after a spa treatment, you’ll want to try Spa Café for breakfast or lunch. The avocado sweet potato “toast” with an organic poached egg, Pico de Gallo sofrito, and pomegranate seeds was divine and possessed no toast. Rather, it was encased in a melt-in-your-mouth sweet potato lightly laced with grape seed oil and kelp salt flakes. I felt healthier as soon as I devoured it.
Mar’sel is Terranea’s award-winning fine dining restaurant with sweeping ocean views under direction of the affable Chef de Cuisine Fabio Ugoletti. The Australian black truffle house made pasta had me dreaming of Tuscany, while the wagyu beef was so tender that my knife was seriously underemployed.
At Catalina Kitchen the delicious crab cake with corn salsa was the perfect ratio of crunchy to delicate while the ahi salad was fresh and delightful. It was at this time I started again extolling the virtues of Terranea’s gelato with my husband. Though my desired expresso chocolate chip was not on Catalina’s menu that day, it magically appeared at my table. The waiter – bless him – overheard the conversation and sent the restaurant host to Sea Beans to procure it. Service like this? Nearly a lost art.
Fitness, Spa & Activities
The enormous fitness center practically guarantees the impossibility of weight gain. A wide variety of daily classes ensures something for all tastes. I took a morning seaside spinning class. Strategically located on a covered outside deck, spinners face the Pacific. In such surrounds, the top-notch, one-hour class flew by, along with the calories. Another day I jogged a few miles beyond the majestic lighthouse.
At the Spa, an oasis of calm decorated in neutral tones, I waited for my masseuse in the lounge with ethereal music. Turquoise accessories reminded me to lift my eyes to see the blue Pacific steps away. There were healthy snacks of apricots, nuts, house made granola, and mouthwatering lemon vegan muffins with recipe cards to recreate at home. The massage removed any remaining stress following a recent long-haul flight and the outdoor Jacuzzi and cold plunge that followed made equilibrium my middle name.
In addition to golf, tennis, the multitude of yoga and exercise classes, there’s painting, paddle boarding, and kayaking. We opted to kayak on a guided two-hour jaunt to Whale’s Rock and back, covering about two miles and spotting nearby sea lions. Our knowledgeable guide gave us a good background of the area and took funny action videos and photos of us kayaking for posterity.
The Lesson Learned
There’s plenty to do at Terranea if one wants. However, for me the ability to exercise, enjoy the spa, kayak, take bubble baths, read a book, eat great food and otherwise detox from life, all while staring at the blue Pacific and ensconced in marvelous accommodations was utterly priceless.
The only truly terrible aspect of my three summer days at Terranea – and I had heard this from other guests – was that ultimately, one had to check out and head onward. But as the Arnold so famously once said, ‘I’ll be back.” And I can’t wait.
Julie L. Kessler is a journalist, attorney, and the author of the award-winning memoir: “Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.” Her work has appeared in several major publications, including The LA Times, The SF Examiner, The Asia Times, The Jerusalem Post, and The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, among many others. She can be reached at Julie@VagabondLawyer.com.
Written by Julie L. Kessler
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