Paradise in Palos Verdes


Terranea Resort is a wellness weekend worth the drive.

By Leslie A. Westbrook

After a flat tire in Oxnard, traffic delay at scenic Malibu Rock (a Porsche commercial filming) and a quick detour to pass by my grandmother’s former home in Lunada Bay, I arrived at my weekend wellness retreat: Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes. The sprawling coastal resort, set directly at the ocean’s edge, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this month — and I am not sure what took me so darn long to get here!

I had forgotten how beautiful the drive is into bucolic Palos Verdes Peninsula. PV, as it’ s known to locals, somehow remains an unspoiled, very special place and Terranea Resort is a saving grace for many Angelinos and other residents in a 100-mile radius looking for a relaxing retreat.

Quiet Mind, happy body
Despite delays, I arrived in time for an afternoon “Quiet Mind” appointment at Terranea’s lovely spa — the perfect antidote to what had turned a 1.5-hour drive from Ventura into a four-hour sojourn. My brain was still roaring at high RPMs and I needed to put on the brakes.

The valet took my car, check-in was swift (where I was offered water or a glass of sparkling wine) and I quickly unpacked and made a beeline to the spa, where other guests in soft, white robes resembled monks in the hushed atmosphere.

Jaw-dropping ocean views from the spa’s indoor and outdoor lounge areas are akin to sailing on a cruise ship. I met Trina, the owner of Spa Lé La in Studio City. She told me that she comes here on her days off, specifically for the ocean views that, on a clear day, extend to Catalina Island. If a spa owner drives here from the San Fernando Valley, you know it’s bound to be fantastic.

What exactly is a Quiet Mind treatment? A three-part marma massage (an Ayurvedic technique using pressure points) to “open energy pathways.” Marma points are energy centers that, when blocked, can lead to disease and aging; massaging them offers a variety of health benefits.

The heavenly full-body massage was performed with oil infused with arnica, lemon grass and ylang ylang. The facial massage soothed with chamomile, jasmine and argan oil. The oil used for the scalp massage included green tea and rosemary. Angelina, my therapist, anointed my body with the warm oils (all sourced from Blue Beautifly in Oakland) and used long, gentle strokes to lull and ease my mind and body almost to sleep. The hour-long treatment began and ended with hot towels on my feet.

I took my après-treatment time in the eucalyptus and rosemary steam sauna. Add in a warming cup of ginger turmeric tea and a soak in the outdoor Jacuzzi, and my world was set right.

I topped off my time in the spa at the The Body Bliss ™ bar. Using a clever iPad app, a person chooses and designs an “Intentional Aromatherapy” blend that is added to body butter, body oil, scrub or bath salts ($28-$32). My “super individualized” experience resulted in a blend called “Inner Peace” of ylang ylang, vetiver and orange with a dash of anti-aging pomegranate in a body scrub to take home. It seemed perfectly fitting and a good pairing after the Quiet Mind treatment.

Dining, hiking and falconry
The resort has eight restaurants with menus ranging from Asian cuisine to burgers and fries to a lovely lunch buffet to super healthy (the spa café, Solviva — highly recommened). My favorite spot, with the most impressive cuisine and great views, was the resort’s fine dining venue, Mar’sel.

Sunday morning, after a full body workout in the fitness center, I enjoyed a fantastic brunch on the outdoor patio at Mar’sel. I’d return just for the biscuit topped with salt from the waters from Terranea’s beach cove that has been collected and dried onsite. (You can purchased small vials of the salts, some flavored.) The salt is tested and, rest assured, comes from the cleanest ocean waters in the area.

Visitors should venture outside on the stunning peninsula to enjoy coastal walks and trails with inspiring views. So inspiring, in fact, that I’d stake my reputation to claim that the landscape here is a SoCal Big Sur.

All resort activities such as guided coastal hikes, ocean kayaking, archery, horseback riding and more are available to the public: You do not have to be a resort guest to book these paid experiences or participate in complimentary ones.

One of these is the half-hour Falconry Meet and Greet. House falconer Joe Roy III shared lots of cool info and let us take pictures with his birds of prey (that keep seagulls and other pesky birds at bay) including Owlbert, a handsome Eurasian eagle-owl.

Terranea’s stunning oceanfront location and special activities make for a great day trip for those who want to discover unique things to do in SoCal. If you can, splurge on a couple of nights and take advantage of the opportunity to, say, paint mandala rocks while sipping margaritas. An option, of course, is just to do nothing much at all — one of the best things about any wellness retreat.