Terranea Resort, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

When I think of the Los Angeles area, I think of the hustle and bustle of downtown LA, the luxury of Beverly Hills and the eclectic beaches of Venice, Santa Monica or Laguna Beach. Because expansive land is so limited in Southern California, I don’t tend to think of remote destination resorts in that area. However, the Terranea Resort (terra-nay-a) located in Rancho Palos Verdes, managed to secure a pristine location on over 100 acres of land with stunning ocean views.

The Property

Terranea boasts a prime setting on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean with a view of Catalina Island across the channel. The land was previously occupied by Marineland of the Pacific which opened it’s doors to the public in the mid 1950’s and remained in operation up until 1987.

As described on Terranea’s history pageMarineland was the world’s largest oceanarium featuring sea life, entertainment, and research facilities. Opening one year before Disneyland, many consider Marineland California’s first major theme park, and it remained a major attraction to the area until it closed in 1987″. The property has also been the location for dozens of Hollywood films and television shows over the years, including the television series Sea Hunt with Llyod Bridges. I think this gives the property an interesting story.

In 1998, a 10-year development project began creating a luxury destination resort which has become the Terrenea Resort. In designing the resort, the developers took great pride in preserving the history and legacy of the property.


This is a large resort and a lot of conferences are held here so be prepared to enter a bustling lobby. There are several Front Desk personnel working at one time so the process moves fairly quickly. The lobby is beautifully decorated with fresh flowers and potted plants all around.


The resort offers over 580 rooms consisting of hotel guest room and suites, residential style bungalows, casitas and villas. I stayed in the main building in a guest suite on the top floor overlooking the pool and ocean. The suite offers two separate rooms ~ the guest room and a living room with a sofa bed, additional television and seating, and a writing desk. Together it’s quite spacious.

The Bungalows are located near the resort spa and include some spa amenities when you stay in one of these units. You must be over 18 years of age to use the spa and stay in the Bungalow. There are 4 Bungalow units to a building ~ two lower and two upper. Each Bungalow is over 1,000 sf and richly decorated and offers a kitchen and living area. Some units have oversized terraces with fire pits. One comment that I will make about these units is that they are located right in the middle of the resort, as mentioned by the spa and by Nelson’s restaurant, so there will be more traffic in this area and some of the terraces won’t be as private as other locations on the property. However, if you want to be located near the spa and enjoy people-watching this is a good location for you.

The Casitas and Villas are gorgeous accommodations positioned higher on the hillside with expansive views and offer a luxurious residential feel. This is a great option for families.


There are numerous dining choices on property from light options such as the Lobby Bar & Lounge and Sea Beans, to casual meal options at (the oh so fun) Nelson’s, Catalina Kitchen and Bashi’s with an Asian flair, to the upscale Mar’sel. There are also spa and pool dining options at the Spa Cafe and Cielo Point. I can guarantee you, you won’t go hungry!

I have to give a special shout-out to Nelson’s though, it is the quintessential California bar and grill and a great hangout to watch an amazing sunset!

Spa and Pools

There are three pools at the resort ~ the main pool, an adult pool and the spa pool. My choice was hanging out at the adult pool on a cushy chaise lounge. This pool has a hip, contemporary feel. Pops of orange add some drama and a sleek, orange glass fire pit adds a bit of sass to the patio.

Conversation seating and lounge chairs on a make-shift sand beach overlook the stunning cliffs and ocean. The pool offers a full bar and snack shack and tunes are played throughout the day for a really relaxing and pleasurable experience.

The next day I decided to give the resort’s full-service luxury spa a try ~ a little workout in the gym, sat in the steam room, sauna and hot tub for awhile and then had a healthy lunch out by the pool.


Countless activities await you here. Explore the Aqua-Terra Adventures and make a splash with activities like stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, tide pooling and snorkeling. The beaches here are a rocky shore so you won’t be tanning on a sandy beach, but in my opinion, that’s what makes this shoreline so interesting and beautiful.

Explore the surrounding area on an oceanside hike, by bike, or even a horseback trail ride. Or just take in the stunning ocean views from the resort’s 9-hole par 3 golf course.

And don’t forget, you are still in the Los Angeles area, so you are a stone’s throw from all the glitz and glamour that LA has to offer.

If you are looking for a Southern California destination getaway without the hustle and bustle of being directly in the middle of the city, the Terrenea Resort is an excellent choice.


Nick’s Cove Cottages – Marshall, CA

An hour north of San Francisco is a small grouping of cottages located in Marshall, CA called Nick’s Cove and Cottages. These are a small settlement of 12 unique cabins built mainly in the 1930’s, some on land and 5 on pilings over the beach of Tomales Bay. These are a charming group of cottages with vintage accessories scattered about and they evoke the feeling of a by-gone era.

@2009 Susan Edel

The Property

The area is quiet, tranquil and calming. It is the perfect place to relax, unwind and reconnect with yourself. Located right off of Highway 1, five of the cottages sit on pilings above the beach at Tomales Bay, and the remaining are located across the street scattered on the hillside.

In the early Twentieth Century, the property was originally used for the tradesmen in the area and then turned into lodging after the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge which started attracting tourists to the area. See history (here). In approximately 2005, a multi-million dollar renovation was initiated on the cottages and restaurant bringing it to its current glory.

@2009 Susan Edel


Since it’s such a quaint property, the check-in process is simple. During my check-in, I was informed that the restoration of the cabins and restaurant were the vision of restaurateur and designer, Pat Kuleto, whose iconic restaurants include Boulevard, Farallon, Jardinière and Fog City Diner in San Francisco to name a few.


I have stayed in the InnKeeper’s cottage and Ruthie’s cottage. Ruthie’s cottage being my favorite as it is one of the five cottages located on pilings over the water (see burgundy cottage above). This cottage is also an end unit giving a little more privacy and open feeling. Upon entering the cottages after the check-in, there is always a beautiful amenity of local cheeses, crackers and grapes awaiting my arrival.

I was immediately drawn to the warmth and homey feel of the cabin. This cozy cottage offers a sleeping area with a bed made up so plush you just want to bounce on it, a nice sitting area with a soft leather sofa positioned in front of a wood burning stove, and a little kitchenette area with a small dining table. The bathroom is nicely designed and has heated flooring. There is an outside deck where I cherished waking up early and drinking my coffee in the still of the morning with the bay in high tide and running underneath the cottage. I felt like I was floating on water. In the evening, the soft sound of splashing water lulled me to sleep.

All the cottages have been maintained to preserve the original simple and rustic architectural style, yet, the interior of the cottages are all about relaxed luxury. The cottages all offer similar amenities as mentioned above and each cottage boasts it own private deck or patio from which to watch a gorgeous sunset. Although rustic in feel, the cottages offer all the modern conveniences found in a hotel such as a plasma TV and wi-fi internet access. In-room spa services are also available, and feel free to bring Fido as Nick’s offers pet-friendly cottages along with freshly baked healthy treats for your best buddy.

@2009 Susan Edel


Nick’s Cove Restaurant and Oyster Bar is located on property and offers award-winning, farm-to-table cuisine. The ingredients used are sourced from local dairy and produce farms, and fresh seafood from the local waters. The restaurant has the feeling of a comfortable hunting lodge, offering casual elegance and a sophisticated wine menu to accentuate the fine meals. If your schedule does not allow for an overnight stay, this is still a fun place to come for a meal.

Unique to Property

There are several unique aspects about this property. This is not a chain hotel or row of look alike cabins sitting on a property. Each cottage is individually unique in both its architecture and interior design.

Each of the cottages are designed with different accessories such as fishing rods, canoe paddles, stuffed fish wall plaques, and one even offers a nautical theme design ~ the Nicolina cottage. The feeling is more reminiscent to staying at your favorite, rich Aunt and Uncle’s cabin than staying in a rented room.

The most unique aspect of this property are the 5 cottages that sit on pilings over the Tomales Bay. It’s quite amazing to watch the tide slowly roll in under the cabin and completely consume the beach area until the cottages feel like they are floating on water. It’s a very serene feeling.

@2009 Susan Edel


The beauty about staying at the cottages is that you can hunker down and just enjoy a good book or head out and visit one of the many local attractions such as Point Reyes National ParkBodega Bay (most famous for the filming of The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock), Muir Woods, or Stinson Beach just to name a few. While you are out and about, be sure to visit The Marshall Store, an oyster bar and deli, off of Hwy 1 for a great local experience.

There are numerous other outdoor activities available (see here). I brought my own kayak (there are rentals in the area) and paddled on the Tomales Bay. I say this as a word of warning because, even though I consider myself a fairly experienced kayaker, do be careful when kayaking in the Tomales Bay in front of Nick’s Cove. It can be quite calm and inviting in the early morning but the tide swiftly changes and creates a strong undercurrent that can be very rough and difficult to navigate. This is the only area that has ever given me a bit of a fright. It’s a wonderful area to kayak because it has a lot of wildlife to see but is definitely best tackled very early in the morning hours.

Nick’s Cove Cottages is without a doubt a hidden gem and well worth the visit which is why I feel it’s worthy of being featured on No Ordinary Resort.

Updated Review on the Bacara Resort, Santa Barbara

The Bacara Resort and Spa is located about 10 minutes north of Santa Barbara and boasts an incredible location on California’s central coast. The Bacara Resort is designed with a Mediterranean warmth that meets old Hollywood glamour and, from its inception in 2000, it has been a retreat to a luxury and celebrity clientele.

Bacara, Santa Barbara
Bacara, Santa Barbara

The resort was undergoing some major renovations during my original visit at the beginning of 2011, and many of the buildings were under tarps which diminished the appeal of the resort at that time. This was not a fact I was made aware of prior to my visit so I was caught a little off-guard. Keeping a resort current and newly renovated is always a good thing, but when booking a room, it’s also always a good idea to ask if there are renovations happening at the time you want to book your stay. This gives you the option to book at another time or to request a room as far away from the renovations as possible because nothing can ruin a luxury vacation like hammers and drills going off at 8:00 am in the morning.

I’m happy to report that as of my most recent stay in early 2014, all renovations have been completed and the resort is, once again, in its full glory. I was happy to see that they stayed with the same warm and welcoming Mediterranean decor and had not lost the charm and character by “contemporizing” the rooms into a cookie-cutter design style. Santa Barbara has a rich Spanish history and this resort honors that heritage.

The Property

As someone who appreciates architectural details, I revel in the subtle design elements and lush foliage throughout the resort. The crisp white paint, clay tiled roofs and wrought iron details create a beautiful contemporary Spanish feel throughout the resort. Splashes of color are thrown in with decorative tiles and in vegetation plantings around the property. The property is richly planted with greenery, bougainvillea, and bright annuals in beautiful pottery. The grounds are meticulously maintained and Palm trees scattered throughout give it that quintessential California touch.

There is direct access to the beach but a fact to know is that Santa Barbara has oil rigs offshore and some tar does tend to wash up on this shoreline. There are nature walk paths and a path along the cliffs which is a perfect location for witnessing a stunning sunset.

The Guest Rooms

When booking a room at this property, a very important fact to know is that, although this is the only resort that actually resides right on the waterfront in the Santa Barbara area, the ocean view rooms are very limited due to how the resort sits on the property. Of 359 rooms, only 20 or so rooms have direct ocean views. The majority of the two and three-story buildings are designed in a village setting with a majority of the rooms set around a courtyard. Even rooms categorized as partial ocean view may mean stepping out on your balcony and peering around a corner or over a few rooftops in order to capture a view. That’s not to say that the standard rooms don’t have nice views, as the grounds are lush and beautiful and offer very serene settings. I only point this out for those who are truly intent on having an ocean view.

So here are some No Ordinary Resort insider tips for choosing some of the best rooms on property.

Ocean Views: Typical with most resorts, the best ocean view rooms are going to be the Penthouse and various suites and villas located directly at the water’s edge. Building 2 is the prime location for these rooms. Building 10 is where the resort residence is located and boasts beautiful coastline views. Other great views can be had from the upper units in buildings 4, 6, 8 and 9. A little hidden secret…if your budget can’t afford the cost of a suite, room 8305 is a regular ocean view king room with one of the best ocean views. If you don’t mind being above the Bistro, Building 18 has suites with great water views as well.

Oceanfront Villas

Partial Ocean Views: Many rooms are categorized as partial ocean views and the views vary quite a bit. Some of the rooms located on the first or second floor of the ocean front buildings listed above are considered partial ocean views because they are slightly blocked by the landscape plantings and are good options for this category. I was lucky enough to stay in a category called a Terrace View Suite, which does not sound like it would have a view but I overlooked the pool onto the ocean and I thought it was a beautiful view. This was room 19312, a good room to keep in mind.

View from the Terrace View Suite Room 19312

As much as offering you the best rooms available is important, I also feel that informing you of rooms to stay away from is also as important. In this case, there probably aren’t many I would say that are bad as the resort is beautiful but I did notice that there were some rooms in building 13 that were very closely located to and faced directly into building 19. I would caution you to stay away from these rooms.

The description of the rooms locations are lengthy but because of how this property is designed, I thought it important to really give you a feeling for what the rooms here offer. The rooms themselves feel spacious and offer a Mediterranean design in keeping with the rest of the resort. Rooms have a coffee maker, basic mini-bar offerings for purchase, and free wifi.

The Spa and On-sight Activities

The full service spa is a huge draw for guests and locals alike. The Bacara Spa offers over 60 specialized treatments such as Wisdom of the Sea, OSEA Sea of Life and Sea Stone Therapy utilizing local organic herbs and salts and can be enjoyed on a rooftop terrace with a glass of bubbly. Along with a hair and nail salon, this is truly a luxury spa and place to be pampered.

The spa also has a large boutique selling very nice resort wear, cosmetics and accessories. Many complimentary fitness classes are offered to guests through the Fitness Center along with an adult-only pool option. The resort also offers 3 tennis courts and a tennis shop. Golfing can be arranged at a near-by range. Special organized activities include a Michael Jordan Camp and Kobe Bryant Academy.


You’ll find several different dining options from fine dining at the Miro Restaurant, to a relaxed fare at The Bistro all the way to casual fare at the Bacara Bar featuring both indoor or, my preference, outdoor fireside nibbles. Other options include the Spa Cafe, Blend Coffee Cafe along with 24 hour in-room dining.

Yummy nibbles at the Bacara Bar.

Event Accommodations

This resort offers many great options for personal, wedding or corporate events and houses the largest ballroom between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. The beautifully appointed ballrooms, the light and bright Rotunda room with ocean views and a 206 seat theater will make an impressive impression for any event.

Additional Property Perks

  • Feel free to bring Fido, as this is a pet-friendly resort with a one-time pet fee.
  • A recent perk to the property is a house Mercedes Benz van that offers transportation into downtown Santa Barbara.
  • Enjoy the beautifully designed, on-sight Foley Wine Tasting Room located at the front entrance of the resort.

In Summary

Overall, I’ve stayed at many different resorts in the Santa Barbara area and this property is one of my favorites. The casual elegance of the property, along with all of the amenities offered and accommodating service from the staff make this a great choice for a central coast getaway.


If you would like more information on this property or help in booking a stay, please contact me using the contact box below.

Update Soon on the Bacara Resort and Spa in Santa Barbara

I’m excited to have the opportunity to stay at the Barcara Resort and Spa again this coming week. The first time I stayed at this resort a large portion of the resort was under renovation. I look forward to updating my review on this property soon, stayed tuned. If you would like to see my original review on this property, see here.

Bacara, Santa Barbara
Bacara, Santa Barbara