Making your vacation a true escape 

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A stunning Pacific landscape, greets me when I step out on my ocean-side balcony at Terranea. A sense of déjà vu washes over me, although I'm sure I've never been here before. Only later, when I learn that countless Hollywood movies from Pirates of the Caribbean and Charlie's Angels to Pearl Harbor were filmed here does the familiarity make sense.

Dipping my toes in the pool and catching up on leisure reading is fun, but what I'm most looking forward to is experiencing Terranea's famous spa. I start with the Ocean Prelude Treatment, which consists of a dry body scrub, warm seaweed body wrap, saltwater bath and massage. I close my eyes to focus on the crashing waves as I am enveloped in a warm mask of blue and green algae, before slipping into a saltwater bath overlooking the sea. It's my first time in a copper tub and they are surprisingly slippery. My treatment concludes with me drifting off to sleep as my lovely masseuse, Marina, massages my body with kelp oil. I feel like a mermaid, minus the scaly skin, since my body is now softer, smoother and more luminous than I could ever have imagined.

I follow up the body treatment with a refreshing pineapple coconut smoothie in the spa café and a few bites of salmon before meeting Patty, my esthetician, who treats me to a customized facial. Patty is naturally beautiful, thanks to her excellent skincare regimen, so I completely trust her to analyze my skin and determine which of the serums and creams in her arsenal of products will help me look my best. After all this pampering, I feel like I'm ready to make my red carpet debut. If I ever get invited to the Oscars, I know where I'm coming to prep!

The next morning, a two-hour private yoga session with José jolts me to life and helps me release all the stresses I'm hoping to escape at this Rancho Palos Verdes, California paradise. My yoga experience combines healing and hatha techniques with meditation to invigorate my entire body and mind. New spa bungalows are available for three to seven-day health and wellness retreats combining spa treatments, a personal fitness consultation and yoga. I only wish I could stay for an entire week.

For those looking for a more active vacation, you can go ocean kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing or even explore a nearby tide pool cove. Maybe a pensive early morning jog is more your style, in which case the TK mile trail hugging the peninsula's coast will suit you. And for golf enthusiasts, The Links at Terranea is one of the premier nine-hole par-three courses in the country. Since my golfing skills are limited to miniature golf, pass on the offer, although the private instructors are happy to help me develop my swing.

Terranea's fine dining restaurant, mar'sel, is another highlight of my stay. I sip Chardonnay and watch the full moon rise while enjoying a healthy kale salad and flaky Mediterranean branzino, prime examples of Californian cuisine. This is flavorful food that I don't feel guilty about eating. My waiter is attentive but never obtrusive, happy to share his recommendations when asked. I must allow myself a bit of indulgence, so for dessert I find myself swirling vanilla butter cookies in salted caramel pudding and chocolate mousse. Such a simple pleasure never tasted so good.

The chef de cuisine at mar'sel, Rebecca Merhej, is just 24 years old. Her culinary innovation and skill are far beyond her years though and she incorporates a little bit of her Lebanese background into her recipes. For example, pomegranate appears in several dishes, both savoury and sweet, accenting salads, fish and a ruby grapefruit granita. Mar'sel has just begun to serve brunch too, so if you visit Terranea on a weekend, definitely stop in and try the pillowy blueberry ricotta pancakes topped with lemon curd, or a frittata with hen of the woods mushrooms, feta, spinach and bacon.

More casual dining options exist too, like the pan-Asian bashi or Nelson's, where you can enjoy crab cake sliders and ice cream sandwiches while listening to live music in the summer.

Casitas, villas or bungalows are also available for purchase or rent for anyone seeking a more private getaway while still enjoying all the amenities of the resort. I've already suggested the destination to friends for upcoming events, from bachelorette parties to family reunions.

Most all-inclusive resorts tend to feel stale after just a couple of days, but that's not the case with Terranea. There is so much to see and do here that I would definitely return again, for a girls' getaway, family bonding or a romantic retreat


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