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One joy of traveling is discovering brand-new places; another joy is revisiting travel favorites.
As a cautious and responsible traveler, I personally feel more comfortable dipping into my “best of” catalogue right now, traveling to places where I have personal relationships and can vouch for the integrity and quality of the product.
So, with that in mind, I eagerly made the one-hour trip from my home in Santa Monica, Calif., to Rancho Palos Verdes, a part of Los Angeles county whose lure lies in its gorgeous oceanfront cliffs and its relatively secluded location. The freeways that connect Los Angeles neighborhoods are a blissfully far drive from Terranea Resort, the county’s premier luxury resort where one can actually feel removed from urban congestion.
At Terranea, it’s all about privacy and rejuvenation among the waves, birds and foliage that make up this area’s gorgeous, sparsely populated coastline. While Terranea’s outdoor focus is ideal for lowering COVID-19 exposure risks, the hotel also has implemented the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Safe Stay industry-wide initiative. What’s more, it is Clean + Safe Certified according to the California Hotel & Lodging Association (CHLA).
Below, I recount how Terranea has tweaked its activities, spa treatments, dining experiences and more with guest safety in mind.
Check-In ProcessCurrently, there is no valet service offered at Terranea, but self-parking is easy, and spots are abundant. (If staying in a casita, guests have their own assigned parking spot in front of their room — an important thing to note for guests who prefer not to carry their luggage longer distances.)
Since this is a larger resort, there are multiple front desk agents spaced apart at the lobby to expedite the check-in and checkout processes. In addition to being separated from one another and from guests with newly installed plexiglass sneeze guards, all staffers wear masks and face shields.
During my swift check-in, the front desk employee paid careful attention to avoid touching my personal items, such as my credit card and driver’s license. Another thoughtful touch one can observe at check-in and throughout the property: Whenever a signature is necessary, pens are sanitized before offered to guests, who then place the used pen in cup or tray for un-sanitized items.
Instead of Terranea’s traditional welcome glass of bubbly, guests receive an amenity of gloves, sanitizing wipes and a surgical mask.
GuestroomsTo avoid contact with other guests in hallways and elevators, spring for a 2,040-square-foot Ocean View Casita, which has a private walk-up entrance and plenty of private outdoor space. It also has a living room, a full kitchen, a laundry room, an entrance hallway, a bathroom complete with a tub and shower and a bedroom featuring views of the ocean and outdoor patio.
There is also a front patio area opposite the entrance door that offers another outdoor sitting area featuring a fireplace. While casitas offer no shortage of places to enjoy a hearty breakfast room service, fresh berries and coffee go best with a side of crashing waves.
Rooms are Zen-like retreats; palm fan chandeliers, brown and soft-blue neutral hues and mid-tone wood contribute to a classic yet sophisticated beachy look. Beds here are among the softest to the touch, making it that much easier and cozier to social distance from others.
Rooms are no longer cleaned daily by housekeeping staff unless specifically requested.
PoolsTerranea is a 102-acre property, meaning there’s ample place to spread out. Guests are unlikely to run into many people while walking the cliffside trails that span Terranea’s perimeter as well as crisscross the property. This feeling of privacy even extends to popular amenities such as pools.
Terranea has four pools. The kid-friendly Resort Pool is the biggest and busiest, followed by Cielo Point, which has a dramatic cliffside view. But the saltwater Vista Pool, which sits above the Resort Pool, and the Spa Pool, which has an ocean view, are much more mellow. The Spa Pool, also adults-only, is my personal favorite — and the best way to get a whiff of the Terranea five-star spa experience.
While pools remain open, Jacuzzis and pool slides are currently closed due to the pandemic.
SpaThe award-winning indoor spa is closed — which means the 25 treatment rooms, steam room, plunge pool and expansive fitness center are all off-limits due to County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health guidelines.
Fitness buffs still have the option of outdoor morning yoga and cycling classes. And folks desperate for a massage are also in luck: The property has converted five private outdoor cabanas (tucked away from the pool) into outdoor massage dens, complete with a massage bed and all the lovely essential oil products for a relaxing, personalized treatment.
The current menu is short, with just six options including the Terranea Therapeutics treatment, which allows the therapist to match the correct massage modality to whatever injuries and aches the client would like to work on. The experience is just as customized and well-executed as ever, and guests can still spring for luxury spa extras such as inflammation-reducing CBD oil or detoxifying Mediterranean algae.
Guests should note that treatments are not available on Wednesdays and Thursdays. In addition, due to COVID-19, the spa will not perform massages on pregnant women.
Activities I have visited Terranea several times now (humble brag) and have yet to personally try every activity it offers — a reason to keep returning. The activity options are still plentiful despite COVID-19, since nearly all of them take place outside and are private or capped for small groups.
On this visit, my partner and I tried out archery, which takes place on the Terranea Beach Cove — a sandy patch of land that is enveloped by cliffs and ocean. One other couple joined us for our two-hour lesson, but we were spaced out and had our own targets (and later, our own apple-topped zombie heads). Instructors CJ and Hannah not only go over all the safety rules and best practices, but they offer advice and encouragement after each shot.
Other less active pursuits are available, such as open-air painting by the ocean; mandala painting with meditation; and falconry — a free activity where the property’s on-site falconer introduces guests to local birds of prey.
Other options include tidepooling, stand-up paddleboarding, a guided coastal walk, golfing, surfing, ocean kayaking and more.
DiningTerranea has nine different dining outlets to choose from, and they are all great. Takeout and room service are available for those who rather avoid eating near others, but dining at all restaurants is set up completely outdoors, with tables sufficiently spread out from one another.
Servers wore masks and face shields, and formerly busy common spaces — such as the standing area by the hostess tables — are marked with stickers denoting 6-foot increments for safe social distancing. Impressively, each restaurant has installed a temperature-reading device that allows for contactless checking.
During my stay, I most enjoyed dinner at Mar’sel; if anything like me, fellow guests are more likely to appreciate the beauty of seaside fine dining more than ever now that it is so rare to experience. Heirloom tomatoes picked from Terranea’s private farm, a decadent five-cheese plate, creme fraiche-topped bisque and roasted lamb chops — served with fava bean freekeh — were some highlights.
On the other end of the dining spectrum, Sea Beans Artisan Cafe is as convenient as ever for picking up breakfast burritos, pastries, lattes and homemade gelato sandwiches — a must-have treat for a sweet stay.
The DetailsTerranea Resort www.terranea.com