Mandalay Beach may sound as if it's in some exotic locale on far-off shores. But don't call the airlines--you can drive to this wide stretch of white sand on the Pacific. It's just over the Santa Monica Mountains in Oxnard.
This summer there's a special reason to make a trip to that expanse of unspoiled Southland coast: the new Mandalay Beach Resort, a luxurious seaside hostelry with 250 suites a few steps from the ocean.
Oxnard is known more for its agriculture than its visitor attractions, but now Ventura County's largest city can boast a major holiday destination on the beach. It complements Oxnard's only other waterfront lodging, the Casa Sirena Marina Hotel operated by Princess Cruises in Channel Islands Harbor.
The harbor is home to 1,800 pleasure craft and has been Oxnard's recreation center since 1965. The scenic small-craft shelter was dredged from sand dunes that once served as desert backdrops for early Hollywood films, including "The Sheik" with Rudolph Valentino.
On a weekend getaway or longer vacation, visitors to Oxnard's harbor enjoy rental boats, sportfishing, bikeways, parks for kids' play and picnicking, and a half-dozen restaurants. You'll even find a small bathing beach near the channel entrance.
But for accommodations on the sand, head a half-mile north of the harbor to the Mandalay Beach Resort. Get there the scenic way from Los Angeles by going west on Interstate 10 to join California 1 through Malibu and along the coast.
After the highway veers inland beyond Point Mugu and becomes a freeway, exit west in Oxnard on Channel Islands Boulevard. Just across the bridge over Channel Islands Harbor, bear right on Harbor Boulevard, then turn left on Costa de Oro to the resort.
You'll spot the Spanish Colonial-style bell tower and the huge stone fountain that marks the entrance to Mandalay Beach Resort, a member hotel of the nationwide Embassy Suites. Lush tropical landscaping gives a well-established look to the resort, which opened four months ago.
Eleven low-profile stucco buildings with red tile roofs surround garden courtyards that feature a free-form swimming pool and whirlpool spas amid rock formations and waterfalls. These outdoor art forms are the work of Julian Georges, creator of the noted waterscapes at the Acapulco Princess and Hyatt Maui hotels.
Mile of Public Beach
A natural focal point is the mile-long public beach that fronts the $36-million resort. Guests have spacious suites, each with two full baths, a separate parlor, two TV sets, three telephones, a small refrigerator and a microwave oven. Each of six presidential suites has a fireplace and two bedrooms.
Guests are treated to complimentary cocktails for two hours in the evening, and a full American breakfast is available without charge every morning in the Surf Room.
Also useful is the free 3 1/2-acre underground parking garage.
Fine California cuisine at reasonable prices is served in Mandalay Beach Hemingway's, the resort's restaurant, which has two dining areas. Enjoy lunch or dinner in an atrium courtyard or beneath an immense umbrella-shaped ceiling. Sunday champagne brunch is served from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for $14.50 per person; reservations advised.
A concierge is on hand to help plan sightseeing and resort activities. Two tennis courts are lighted for night play. Arrangements can be made to meet guests arriving via Amtrak at the Oxnard depot, or at the Oxnard airport, which is served by American Eagle with 15-seater prop planes from Los Angeles International Airport.
Resort Room Rates
Double rates for a night at the all-suite Mandalay Beach Resort range from $120 to $160 depending on view, with no charge for children under 12 years. (Two-bedroom suites are $375 to $450.)
Sunday through Thursday until Aug. 28 there's a special rate of $89 per night single or double. Call (805) 984-2500 or toll free in California (800) 582-3000.
For access to Mandalay Beach if you're not a hotel guest, follow Mandalay Beach Road south to the public parking lot at the edge of the resort. Walkways guide visitors through the fragile dunes to the ocean for swimming and surfing.
Additional public access north of the resort will be built when the city of Oxnard develops 62 acres of Oxnard State Beach.
For more waterfront fun, return south on Harbor Boulevard to wander along the western edge of Channel Islands Harbor. Marinas, small parks and restaurants border the waterway. You'll find good food and views at Tugs, Port Royal and the Whale's Tail.
Seafood, Mexican Fare
After returning to Channel Islands Boulevard and recrossing the harbor bridge, turn right immediately onto Peninsula Road, which leads to two more restaurants and the Casa Sirena Marina Hotel. Try Mexican fare at Cisco's By-the-Bay or seafood in the popular Lobster Trap at the far end of the road.
Back on Channel Islands Boulevard, the next right turn takes you to the parking area for Fisherman's Wharf, a pseudo-New England village with shops and food stops. Best known for seafood is Reuben's, previously known as Castagnola's.
By heading south on Victoria Avenue, you'll parallel the eastern side of the harbor and reach Captain Jack's Landing with the Left Bank restaurant and departure dock for Cisco Sportfishing excursions. New this summer are dinner and dance cruises aboard the 75-foot China Clipper. Call (805) 985-8511 or toll-free (800) 322-3474.
Return to Los Angeles by rejoining California 1, or go north on Victoria Avenue and pick up U.S. 101, heading south.
Round trip from Los Angeles to enjoy the waterfront at Oxnard is 140 miles.