ROAD TRIP Palos Verdes’ Terranea: A dream resort an hour away from the 818

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In today’s economy, the name of the travel game is to find creative ways to cut costs.  Air travel has become not only uncomfortable with long security lines, no-frills customer service and cramped legroom — it has become prohibitively expensive, too.  The answer, at least for me, is to find vacation spots that are within a short drive, but feel like they are worlds away.  One such place is Terranea.

Overview of the Terranea Resort.

Sky view of the Terranea Resort. Photos courtesy of Terranea

If Terranea sounds more like a dream than a resort, it’s probably because it is. Perched high above the ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes, just an hour away from the San Fernando Valley, Terranea sits on 102 pristine acres — 75 of them “green space” — overlooking some of the Pacific’s most breathtaking views.  Rising out of the ocean directly across from Terranea is Catalina Island, visible even on a hazy day.   With 582 rooms, three signature restaurants, three salt-water pools, an oceanfront spa complex, kids’ club, retail shops, hiking trails and its own secluded cove, Terranea is the perfect place in which to get lost.  And while the rooms aren’t exactly a bargain (except when there is a special deal, which there is at the end of this article), one can rationalize that without the cost of airfare, luxury at a resort that respects the environment the way this one does is a very good deal.

Terrace at Nelson's Restaurant at Terranea.

Dining al fresco at Nelson's Restaurant, the "surf shack" of Terranea.

Open for just a few months at this writing, the paint on Terranea is barely dry, so it doesn’t have the soul of an old seaside resort, but it does have history: this is the exact spot where the 1950’s Marineland of the Pacific once stood, and Terranea’s owners have incorporated elements from the past into the building of this resort, giving it a great start.   But let’s talk about food (because what’s a road trip without something delicious at the end of the drive?).

On a recent solo day trip, I enjoyed an al fresco lunch on the cliff-side terrace of Nelson’s Restaurant, Terranea’s take on a “surf shack.”  Named after the Lloyd Bridge’s character in the old TV series “Sea Hunt,” this restaurant boasts some of the most stunning views on the property.  An homage to Mr. Bridge’s lifetime efforts to protect the environment and the ocean, Nelson’s is just one of the many examples of this environmentally conscious property:  furnished in all-recycled materials, even the centerpiece bar is made from recycled wine bottles.

Fish and Chips

Phenomenal Fish and Chips — delicate halibut that had been dipped in a beer batter, impossibly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside — almost like a tempura.

Here I indulged in some of the best fish and chips I have ever eaten:  delicate halibut that had been dipped in a beer batter, impossibly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside — almost like a tempura.  The fries were skinny and well done, just the way I like them, and the tartar sauce thick and homemade, dotted with tiny chunks of pickles. Who cared that I likely consumed a week’s worth of fat grams in that one meal? The sun was warm, and I felt that I could reach out and touch the giant pod of dolphins (we counted eight) that passed below, magically slipping in and out of the ocean.

Hotel exterior

Terranea sits on 102 pristine acres -- 75 of them “green space” -- overlooking some of the Pacific’s most breathtaking views.

Terranea is the perfect place for a day trip, though you will likely want to stay longer than a few hours once you get there.

They do not offer day passes to utilize pools, however, the restaurants, golf course and spa are open to non-resort guests. If a non-resort guest books a spa treatment they have access to the spa facility including pool, lounges, whirlpool, sauna and locker rooms for the day of the treatment.

And if you decide to take your kids along, don’t be offended if they would rather go to the kids’ club than hang with you – with activities like photography, “oceanarium adventures,” s’mores roasts, and a 7 year-old concierge devoted just to them, you can’t really blame them.  That’s okay, though… more time for fish n’ chips, is what I say.

Special deal alert! Starting Tuesday, October 13 for 15 days (ends at 11:59 pm on the 27th) Terranea will be offering a 50% off special – rates starting at $210! Guests can book their stay now through December 17. Visit for more details and to make reservations (a light box will pop up on the home page starting this coming Tuesday).

Terrenea is located at 100 Terranea Way Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275 (310) 265-2800

Jennifer Evans Gardner is a food and travel writer, cookbook author, and owner of the Little Feet in the Kitchen cooking school. Formerly Editor-in-Chief for, Jennifer has also written for, ePregnancy, Eating, Santa Barbara, and Kiwi, among other publications.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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