Just 20 miles south of LAX, there’s a quiet peninsula in Rancho Palos Verde pushing out into the Pacific Ocean facing Catalina Island. Dolphins, sea lions and grey whales frolic here in the kelp-rich waters, and the land is thriving with Torrey Pines, wild sage plants, sable palms and indigenous coral trees, so named after their dark pink shade.
The 582-room Terranea Resort sits pretty atop a bluff within this 102-acre bucolic environment, where when you first arrive, you immediately feel the pull of nature with big deep breaths of fresh ocean air. The sea breeze on your skin and the sound of surf splashing over the rocky shoreline combine with the warm California sun, and suddenly that tightness in your body begins to loosen up a little.
“I’ve been working with planners for 11 years and I think the real difference here is our ecology,” says Marissa Edwards, recreation manager. “That’s why groups are coming here, because they’re trying to disconnect from the city, their cell phones, their email, while connecting with their company and clients in a natural, healthy environment. Everyone who comes here, the first thing they say is, ‘It’s just breathtaking.’”
The overall design is Mediterranean in look and feel with a judicious use of natural coral stone colors and warm earth tones. The rooms start at 450 sf in the main hotel building and go up from there in the 20 oceanfront bungalows, 50 oceanview casitas and 32 villas lining the ocean or 9-hole golf course.
“Another reason planners love this resort is the experience for groups to go from indoors to outdoors,” says Ron Sandvig, vp of sales. “Even the indoor spaces give you the feeling that you’re outdoors because of the open design and vistas. And since we’re built on the ocean’s edge, that really embraces the powerful energy of the ocean.” Indoor function space is 60,000 sf; outdoor space totals 75,000 sf.
The signature restaurant Mar’sel exemplifies Terrenea’s seamless indoor/outdoor synergy by opening out to an oceanfront terrace with 270° views of the Pacific. A 5- or 8-course chef’s tasting menu with wine pairing includes such delectable dishes as grilled octopus, maple-glazed Berkshire pork belly, Pacific Northwest black cod and a grilled wagyu ribeye. The lawn is an especially fabulous setting for large banquets.
The resort also shines with a highly interactive stable of outdoor teambuilding activities, starting with the 2-mile hiking trail winding around the bluff and secluded beach tucked inside a scalloped cove. A variety of “Terranea Teachable Moments” dot the trail with descriptions about the ecosystem.
“That’s huge these days, groups are definitely looking for some type of active educational component in their recreational activities, especially anything having to do with the environment,” says Edwards. She explains that one of the most popular group experiences is open ocean kayaking where attendees often spot bottlenose dolphins, bat rays, leopard sharks and sea lions—plus grey whales during migratory season January through March.
A slew of other activities range from falconry classes to outdoor painting lessons and team kite building. All of them stress the resort’s connection with, and protection of, the environment.
Nature plays a big part in the oceanfront 50,000-sf spa too. How does lounging in a hydrotherapy tub with a view of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island grab you? The spa design is California-style with loads of natural wood and textured stone, and something else that nature delivers:
“Sunset and sunrise over the water nine months out of the year,” says Sandvig. “This along with the crashing ocean adds a hard-to-find ambience, in addition to the wide array of natural, wellness-inspired treatments.”