Just 25 miles from Hollywood, Calif., but in a completely different world, Terranea resort is dramatically poised on a bluff jutting into the Pacific Ocean, on the Palos Verdes peninsula. The location offers unobstructed views of Catalina Island and the Pacific Ocean on three sides. While the scenery is immense, the vibe at the upscale resort feels more understated.
Locals often refer to Terranea as “the resort at the Marineland site,” referring to a beloved sealife theme park on the location that closed in the late 1980s. The name “Terranea” reflects the Mediterranean nature and influence found throughout the resort, which helps it feel laidback but still luxurious. Lowe Enterprises opened the property in 2008 and it is currently managed by Destination Hotels & Resorts. Featuring a combination of stone, wood and water, the property’s decor has a contemporary yet outdoorsy feel. When combined with the expansive views on almost all sides, this ambience makes the transition between indoor and outdoor flow seamlessly.
Terranea features 582 guestrooms: 360 in the main hotel, along with 20 two-bedroom bungalows, 50 three-bedroom casitas and 32 villas. Bungalow and casita units lock off for multiple-room configurations — great for families and multigenerational groups. Private balconies are standard for every room and most provide ocean views. My guestroom was airy and light, with a stone-floor bathroom, flat-screen television, in-room refrigerator, and a full array of modern amenities. Furnishings are naturally elegant, warm and contemporary.
The resort features a wide array of services, including a spa and fitness center with a range of treatments. The gym features cardio machines and weights in a bright and open setting, along with daily fitness classes such as indoor cycling, yoga, pilates and circuit training. A highlight of the center is the indoor/outdoor yoga room perched near the edge of the property — perfect for morning poses and afternoon stretching. The spa boasts 25 treatment rooms and 25,000 square feet of outdoor space.
There are three pools on property — including one for adults only, built into the side of a bluff. At the main pool, there are 10 cabanas available for rent and plenty of ocean-facing chaise lounges. There is also a waterslide and spray fountain, two hot tubs and a firepit. All of the pools have stunning ocean views — making it possible to spot dolphins playing off-shore and whale sightings are plentiful in season.
Below the property, there’s a beach cove where a Discovery Trail follows along the coast and connects to miles of trails in the area — ideal for contemplative strolls, family walks or more strenuous hikes.
Terranea keeps up with the European flavor in the resort’s signature restaurant, Mar’sel. A cozy, wood-beamed ceiling and an ever-crackling fireplace in the dining room make the restaurant feel almost like a private home. Herbs and produce are grown on property with local ingredients incorporated into most dishes. A Meyer lemon-infused halibut with peas was especially refreshing. Dessert came out in its own mini-cast-iron skillet — a crisp apple tart featuring an oatmeal crust seared with caramel sauce and topped with vanilla bean ice cream.
Nelson’s, a casual restaurant and bar perched along the bluff, is a favorite among local residents — no doubt due, in part, to its setting overlooking the ocean with a view of the nearby Point Vicente Lighthouse and its ample outdoor seating and stone firepit. The restaurant actually features views of some of the coves used in the 1950’s television show “Sea Hunt,” and still photos from the show decorate the walls. The menu here is simple — with gourmet burgers and sandwiches — and there’s a comfortable bar for watching whatever game happens to be on that night.
Terranea also features a very unique par-3, nine-hole links-style golf course that’s especially ideal for beginners and kids (ages 7 and up). The course is picturesque and relaxing, but it can be challenging enough for experienced golfers as well.
Overall, the resort is definitely family-friendly, with a kids’ club offered in summer and during holidays, as well as other family-minded programs.
There are meeting rooms and plenty of event space at Terranea as well that are perfect for large conferences, weddings and other celebrations.
For clients flying in from out of town, Terranea is probably the closest luxury resort to LAX. For Southern Californians, it delivers the experience of a remote vacation while still being close to home. And, after all, who wouldn’t love a Mediterranean vacation, minus the jet lag?