Girls Trip Near Los Angeles
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Last month some of my girlfriends and I headed south of Los Angeles, to a dreamy little getaway on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It was less than an hour from west LA and we are already planning our trip back to Terranea!
One of the things Nick and I love about LA is that you can drive an hour in pretty much any direction and wind up in a cool place. Growing up in Texas, I could drive an hour from Dallas and not even be to Waco yet, let alone Austin. Half of our girls live in LA and the other half have been to LA several times, so we started researching some relaxing, NEW options, away from the city. We landed on Terranea Resort, which I was stoked about, as I have had my eye on it for a while.
Terranea is a luxury oceanfront resort in Rancho Palos Verdes.
For reference, it is located along the coast, in-between Manhattan Beach and Long Beach and just below the Torrance / San Pedro area. It’s about 37 miles / a little under an hour from Santa Monica. I’ve glanced at it before as a trip for me a Nick, but it is a 5 star resort and the price tag isn’t cheap! We talked it over and the girls and I think it was well-worth the money we paid, but here are a few things that we did to help us out with the cost:
We booked before busy season. Summer is busy season, so going in March worked in our favor. I’ll touch on this later, but we were slightly worried about the weather, since it isn’t super warm yet in California. Needless to say do not worry about it being too cold in March - hah! Book earlier and save money!
We booked during a BOGO deal. They ran a special for buy two nights, get one free! I’m not sure if this is an every year deal, but I know they did it last year and this year. We also booked with an American Express card, which allowed us a super late checkout on our last day. Our trip was Friday - Monday. We milked our vacation for all that it was worth and stayed at the pool on Monday until 3:30 pm, so we could make our 4:00 pm checkout. Booking through Am Ex also gave us $60 resort credits each day that we could use towards food, etc, just not the resort fee or parking.
We split the room 4 ways. We all shared a double room / shared beds with each other. We like each other and went to college together, so we know how to share 1 bathroom amongst 4 girls - hah! I don’t think you can make this work with just any group, but it worked well for us and we would do it again.
WHERE TO EAT
What makes Terranea Resort so cool is that you literally never have to leave. Don’t get me wrong - I love a fun trip that involves bouncing from here and there; however, we were really just looking for some lounging and girl time. When I think of a resort of this caliber, I often think that I have to be in Mexico or some far off land, but there really are great options like Terranea you can enjoy here in the continental U.S.! The resort has 4 restaurants, along with poolside dining and quicker options like a coffee shop of sorts call Sea Beans and the lobby bar and grill. We dined at all of them except the lobby and the Cielo pool. Here’s a brief overview of the food offerings:
Catalina Kitchen. We ate here the first night and the food was good! It is probably the second to nicest dinner spot compared to Mar’Sel. I enjoyed our dinner entrees here more than our brunch entrees at Mar’Sel, but that isn’t really a fair comparison. It is in a courtyard near the pool, so not much of a view, but obviously still worth going. The steak, fish, and pasta were all great!
Bashi. This was my last favorite. We sat inside versus patio dining, as we didn’t make reservations ahead of time. I also made the mistake of not getting sushi here. If you go here, get sushi! Their sushi was delightful. It is adjacent to Catalina Kitchen, so not much of a view either.
Nelson’s. This was my favorite overall. Both the meal and ambiance were wonderful! They kept describing it as super casual and half of us weren’t meat eaters, so we avoided this until the last night. I would have eaten here multiple times if I could though! It is right by the water, so the view is exquisite and my cheeseburger was really good. They do have good options like fish tacos and veggie burgers for non-meat eaters, so good on that front too. Their salads were yummy as well, which is not usually the case for a “casual burger joint.” We enjoyed lunch and dinner here.
Mar’Sel. This is the restaurant Terranea is most known for. It is their fine dining option! We did the coursed brunch on Sunday. It will cost you a pretty penny, but dining on the lawn is so nice and you can’t beat the view. We did not try it for dinner.
Sea Beans. This their grab and go / coffee shop. I really liked their easy breakfast options, but come back in the evening and get gelato or a fruit tart!
The Grill at the Resort Pool. This is the grill at the main pool, though the Vista pool (nearby) has a smaller version that uses the same kitchen. I thought the drinks were better from the main pool, but the food tasted the same at both the resort pool and the Vista pool. Both were good! Can’t beat the french fries ;) I liked their kid’s chicken tender meal too - hah!
Solviva. I’m not sure when the full restaurant is open and when it is not, but their salmon wrap is awesome!! We tried to come back and have another, but their kitchen was closed. This is the the spa pool, which was probably our favorite pool, because it was so close to the ocean. If their main kitchen is closed or you don’t want their current offering, you can actually walk over to Nelson’s (nearby) and get to-go food (and drinks, including alcohol!) from them. That’s what we did on Monday when the spa’s kitchen was closed.
As I mentioned, we didn’t dine at the lobby restaurant or Cielo Point, which is an adult only pool. to. I would have liked to try the lobby, but we ran out of time. Cielo Point wasn’t open when we were there, otherwise we would have for sure tried it.
WHAT TO DO
If you’re unfamiliar with the area, it may not seem like a big deal not to have to leave the resort to eat; however, there really aren’t any close restaurants for you to dine at, so it is super convenient. It’s actually a blessing that you don’t have to leave the resort! But again, once you arrive, you likely won’t want to. Hah! It’s also kind of annoying to enter the property, as there is a gate, check-ins, etc so if you are trying to just relax, you may not want to endure the hullabaloo of leaving. I will say that you if you do want to leave, you could always drive up to Long Beach, or even Laguna for the day or for a meal. One of our favorite breakfast burrito joints is called The Chori-Man and is nearby in San Pedro. They specialize in chorizo and are worth leaving if you like a good burrito! My favorite is the maple habanero.
Don’t worry if you don’t just want to chill by the pool(s), there are PLENTY of options where you can move your body and be active. We didn’t use their gym, but we walked by it when we were at the spa and it is really nice! We did do yoga by the spa pool one morning. It was a nice stretch and was relaxing. They offer this every morning, along with a spin class option (by the sea!!) as well. If you want to be near / on the water, they do have paddle boarding, kayaks, snorkeling, and more!
The Terranea Beach (where the above water activities are enjoyed) is actually by both the Point Vicente State Marine Conservation Area, in addition to the Abalone Cove State Marine Conservation Area, so it is great location for all of the water activities. Terranea has nearby hiking options, but also have some trails within the property that are really enjoyable / good for all skill levels. For wildlife sitings, I would go more towards the Abalone Cove area / toward Terranea beach. One morning we saw a pod of 4-6 dolphins gleefully swimming by. The next morning we saw A WHALE. We had jut walked up to Terranea Beach, when we saw a large animal with a blow hole arch and swim by. There was a cute little seal swimming behind him too. I had yet to see a whale since living in California, and I felt so lucky to be able to witness it! Note that whale season is typically December - April, though you may see some between May - October, though not as likely.
Don’t forget that of course Terranea has a spa, and they also offer golf too!
If you do decide to leave the resort, I would highly recommend stopping by Wayfarer’s Chapel. It’s known as “The Glass Church” and is absolutely stunning. Definitely make time to see it at least on your way in / way out of the city. It was designed Lloyd Wright, the architect and son of Frank Lloyd Wright.
TIPS BEFORE GOING TO TERRANEA
Make reservations. You don’t have to be a patron of the hotel to enjoy the restaurants on property, though they do give a leg up on reservations to those staying. Point being, other people like the restaurants too, so keep that in mind! Even if you don’t plan out your whole time there, I’d suggest making dinner reservations ahead of time, which you can always cancel. That way you never have to wait and can just glide on in. We didn’t make reservations ahead of time for Bashi, Catalina, or Nelson’s. Day of we just asked the front desk concierge to make us some around 7:00 and that worked out for us. The restaurants close kind of early even on the weekends, so take note of that as well. For Mar’Sel, I made reservations several weeks ahead. They book up pretty quickly, so be aware of this if you want to go there. If you can’t find a res on Open Table, and are staying at the hotel, I would just call and see if they can squeeze you in; however, I’m not sure they could have fit us in day of or weekend of.
Rooms. We had an ocean view room and it was great!! A little balcony and everything. They also have villas, bungalows, and casitas which we want to look into next time we visit. From what I can tell, these are independently owned and rented through Air BnB / VRBO.
Know your pool options. I wish I would have looked at the map better before going. There are four pools: the main Resort pool, Cielo Point pool (adults only pool), the Spa pool, and the Vista pool. Note that they have hot tubs and cool features like water slides, but they were closed during our visit due to COVID-19.
The first full day we enjoyed the spa pool and it was wonderful. The second day we tried to go back and they wouldn’t let us in unless we had spa appointments. We didn’t have any, but we also didn’t have any the day prior. Maybe it was different because it was a Sunday and the previous day was less busy / a Saturday? Not sure, but we were able to slip in fine on Monday. The salmon wrap at the spa pool is so good and one of our favorite meals. So light and refreshing!!
The second full day we spent the afternoon at the resort pool after we were weren’t allowed to enter the spa pool. We were at the very edge, so away from the splashing children for the most part and as close to the ocean as we could get. The food / drinks here are the best of all the pools in my opinion. I can’t compare it to all of them since we didn’t get to go to Cielo Point.
Our final day (which was actually day four, as we arrived Friday evening) we went to the Vista pool which is only for those who are 13 and up. The food is actually the same as the main resort pool, but I didn’t think the drinks were as yummy here. They weren’t bad, I just enjoyed them from the main pool better. I did however like the Vista pool over the Resort Pool though!!
I’m really sad we didn’t get to try the Cielo Point pool, but it is usually only open in the summer / busy season and only open Fridays and Saturdays at that. It’s an adult only pool and looks stunning! Oh well, guess we have to go back;)
Bring water. I drink water like a crazy person, as do most of my friends. I brought a 24 pack of water and we drank it all by Sunday morning. Note that we got there Friday night and really had only been there a full 24 hours by the time they were all gone. It’s kind of weird because they don’t have water bottles or anything like that at the front desk. You can get water from Sea Bean’s, but they close fairly early. I just started bringing my re-usable water bottle to restaurants and filled them up there - hah! You can order water from room service, but we didn’t really want to pay for that. They do give out water at the pool and such when you ask, but I typically drink water constantly, so it wasn’t enough. Just something to consider / take note of.
Hidden Fees. Maybe hidden fees isn’t the right phrasing, just don’t forget about extra fees. There’s a daily resort fee, but I think we got that removed because of our American Express card. There is also a parking fee. You can pay $50 a day for valet or $30 a day for self park. Also note that they don’t allow anyone but the doormen to use the luggage carts, so either fork over that tip or lug it sans cart yourself.
Kid Friendly. We received quite a few messages about if kids were allowed at this resort. The answer is yes! They were very kid friendly in my opinion. Obviously some pools are off limits, but I’d say the resort as a whole welcomes children of all ages.
Sunny Weather. Do not be fooled by the weatherman!! The predictions said it would be around 60 - maybe 70 degrees, so my friends didn’t think we would spend much time by the pool and didn’t bring sunscreen at all! This is such an interesting little peninsula because I swear it felt like 80 degrees at times when we were by the pool. Even by the ocean, I thought we would get more of a breeze, but we didn’t, which is crazy! At night it definitely cooled down, so I would pack like you regularly would for California… in layers! And for sure bring sunscreen!! I really didn’t wear shorts at all except for to and from the pool. For meals and such like dinner, it was cooler and I wore pants / dresses / jackets. I’d say go expecting good, warm weather during the day!
Terrenea is such a great hideaway and you don’t need an international flight to get there! Well, pending you’re in the United States. It lives up to its Californian reputation of having rugged beauty and awe inspiring scenery. The peninsula the resort sits upon was once part of The Channel Islands, which eventually fused to the California mainland, leaving it where it is today. It makes perfect sense that filmmakers have flocked there to shoot scenes for Pirates of the Caribbean, Charlie’s Angels, and more. These pictures don’t do it justice. We are honestly already trying to go back and bring our husbands. Such a fun trip - would highly recommend!!
Do you have any favorite getaways in California? I’m looking for something stateside to do for my birthday and I think I live in the best state to find these types of hidden gems. Don’t worry - I love you Texas! Just a different vibe / hideaway I’m looking for ;) Make me feel like I’m in Hawaii, but I’m not, why don’t ya?! Happy travels!!