Terranea: LA’s Oceanfront Resort

As a third generation Palos Verdes Peninsula native, I have found myself becoming increasingly resentful of the continual growth of concrete on our previously pristine open spaces surrounding the Hill. Although technically Terranea Resort replaced what used to be a different local favorite, Marineland, I still had serious reservations over the thought of a major resort being built where Orky and Corky used to splash. Feasibility study after study were conducted. City councils and land conservancies argued. What about the traffic? The noise? The increased “element” that may venture into our fair city with the building of such a resort. Ten years and many battles and debates later, the brain child of Lowe Enterprises and the combined efforts of Hill Glazier and Scheurer architecture was born, the Terranea Resort and Spa.

Driving down Palos Verdes Drive South, you notice a low profile, sprawling property with architecture that reflects the Spanish heritage of our Peninsula. The colors are neutral and the landscaping designed with plants and flowers both indigenous to Southern California as well as eco-friendly needing little watering. Wanting a fair and objective opinion of the property, I cleared my mind of the past and entered into arguably one of the nicest seaside resorts on the west coast. Meeting my friends who had driven down from Santa Barbara with their three children, I was anxious to visit the most talked about place on the Peninsula in years.

Valet parking my car upon check-in, I am greeted by an incredibly friendly staff and escorted to the front desk where I am offered a chilled flute of rose champagne. I am warming up to this place immediately. Told that the room that I had booked was sold out and I was asked if I minded being upgraded to a casita? Say that again, would I mind being upgraded? And the price would stay the same as my standard room? Yes, that works for me, very well in fact. In all, the resort has 582 rooms including 360 hotel rooms with 32 suites, 20 Bungalows, 50 ocean view Casitas and 32 Villas. The casitas are a short drive or a long walk from the main hotel and lobby. Thus, my car was retrieved for me at once so I could drive and park right in front of my new home for the weekend. Met by a bellman to help with my bags and walking up the steps of the beautiful building, I am in awe of both the staggering view from the casita as well as the beauty and detail of the architecture.

Gleaming hardwood floors, hearty Spanish style furniture, luxury linens and an incredibly deluxe bathroom were what I had waiting for me. Be still my beating heart, this place was top notch. A lovely balcony boasting an unobstructed ocean view was also a sight to behold. A few doors down were my friends who had a much larger version of my casita, complete with a Viking appliance outfitted kitchen, an extra bedroom and bathroom and the same gorgeous furniture. Their kids (and their parents) were thrilled beyond belief at the “house” that they were staying in and quickly changed into bathing suits eager to hit the pool. Calling for a ride down to the pool we were all driven down in a deluxe golf cart and dropped very close to the pool. Showing the boys Catalina Island and marveling in the seaside view which could just as easily been the Amalfi coast of Italy, we made our way to the pool. There we had a cabana waiting for us and wanted for nothing the entire time we were there. Smoothies, margaritas, sandwiches, salads, it was all you could ask for. Running back and forth between the water slide and the hot tub with a pit stop at the water fountain park, all the while absorbing one of the most remarkable vistas made for a visit to a resort pool like no other.

Needing some adult time, we had made a reservation for the resort’s signature fine dining restaurant, mar’sel. The most interesting thing about mar’sel is that Chef Michael Fiorelli offers a menu based on sustainable ingredients with many of the herbs and vegetables grown in mar’sel’s garden that you actually pass on your way into the restaurant. This outdoor, edible garden concept was designed and maintained by the incredible Geri Miller of Home Grown Edible Landscapes. The resort described the restaurant as “the modern interpretation of a classic, California-inspired menu that utilizes local, seasonal ingredients and delivers mouthwatering results and his colorful dishes, refreshing presentations and strict attention to detail impress even the most sophisticated palate”. Shown our way to an outdoor table boasting, you guessed it, dramatic coastline views, we were off to a beautiful start. Beginning with the salad of fresh hearts of palm and Haas avocado combined with Persian cucumber, pea tendrils, yogurt, lemon and dill I was already convinced. With the fresh, tangy start to my meal, I couldn’t help but reflect on Chef Michael’s passion for farm fresh and locally grown, organic ingredients and that the dill had been picked not 20 yards away. For the main course it was hard to decide but ultimately I went with the gently cooked Columbia river king salmon with crispy potatoes, grilled artichoke hearts, picholine olives and crème fraiche. To say that my delicately prepared salmon melted in my mouth is an understatement. Delicious, fresh and incredibly flavorful, I enjoyed every last bite of the salmon and the potatoes both of which were seasoned to perfection. Finishing my wonderful glass of chilled California Chardonnay and reveling in the beauty of our surroundings, we all agreed this was an experience and a meal to remember.

Deciding to take the fairly long walk back to our casitas, we had time to decide that we were not being unfaithful to the memory of Marineland that had once resided on these beautiful grounds by experiencing such enjoyment of the Terranea Resort. A first class operation any way you look at it, the service, the food, the accommodations, the recreation, all serve as a wonderful upgrade to the land that sat for so long waiting for its new identity. For a weeklong vacation, an overnight stay, a drink at one of the many bars with outdoor fire pits, a casual or a fine dining experience, a simple walk around the property or a special event, the experience of Terranea is one that will make an impression to last a lifetime. Next time, a visit to the 50,000 square foot Spa at Terranea complete with its own private pool is first on my list of things to do!
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