I've got a full-time job, two teenagers, a husband and a dog, plus a near-pathological inability to say no, so the very idea of driving alone — alone! — toward the Palos Verdes Peninsula on a Sunday morning had me ready for a lovely spa experience.
And Terranea, no ordinary spa, was just what I was looking for. Opened about a year ago at the new oceanfront luxury resort on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, it's got a dreamboat location, on the site of the former Marineland, that made me feel like I was light years from the life I left 20-some miles behind.
Parking was a cinch — a valet took over at the entrance to the hotel — and free with validation. Making my appointment had been just as easy: The representative explained the treatments, answered all my questions, and someone even called the day before to remind me to bring my swimsuit.
The spa takes up 50,000 square feet on a drop-dead gorgeous spot with sweeping views of the ocean. It would be hard not to relax, treatments aside. After check-in at the spa shop, which sells lotions, swimsuits and other items, I was shown around, given a locker, terry robe and rubber sandals.
There are plenty of lockers (which are half-size), showers, vanities and towels. One of the showers is a Swiss shower, which, for the uninitiated, has a decadent 13 shower heads that come at you from three sides and overhead. There also are shower caps, razors, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash and deodorant. One detail I appreciated was a big bowl of iced washcloths right outside the sauna and steam rooms.
But enough of the indoors. Spa clients can — and should — spend the day. There is a big heated saltwater pool and single-sex outdoor lounging areas with cold plunge pools and spa pools. As I sat in my robe on a cushioned lounger, only a glass wall separated me from the ocean while I watched playing dolphins, birds galore and a few scuba divers. Later, I relaxed in a second-floor lounge with the windows opened to the sound of waves crashing on rocks.
There's a beauty salon, a snack bar and a fitness center, where spa clients can take yoga and other classes. The spa has 25 treatment rooms. As I waited to be called for my appointment, I had some of the almonds and dried fruit set out along with the tea and drinking water.
Treatments at Terranea are organized around the body's rhythms, and although clients don't have to abide by their recommendations, the staff suggests options by morning, "bridging time" and late daytime.
I wanted the "ocean prelude" treatment that combined massage and seaweed wrap, but that was fully booked a week ahead, so for the same price ($325), I was scheduled for a classic massage and volcanic clay wrap. With the hot clay spread neck to toe, I was wrapped in Mylar-like stuff to bake a bit. (The masseuse looked slightly perplexed when I asked to have my arms outside the wrap but accommodated my wishes.) They save the best for last on this treatment: a Vichy water shower, coming from a moving bar with seven shower heads, while I lay on the treatment bed. It put me into a trance, and I could have stayed until my skin permanently wrinkled.
Many of the treatments take advantage of the gorgeous location. Some of the 25 treatment rooms have windows that open to ocean views. And there's plenty of salt, seaweed and other marine elements in the products used.
I was escorted into another room, and snuggled contentedly into the heated bed for my next treatment. My facial, called "vital and toned," used hot stones and plenty of hot towels, along with a mask. The stones, the esthetician said, were to enhance product penetration and muscle memory. I'm not so sure what that meant, but by then, it was tough to penetrate my state of bliss with any products.
Signature treatments are generally $245 to $325; facials, $165 to $245. The least expensive item is $45 for a classic manicure — which seems nearly free if you consider organizing a spa day around it.
The only slightly sour note came as I checked out. Terranea adds a 20% tip, unless the customer objects. To be fair, I was warned by e-mail and in the online menu. But that makes it pretty awkward to tip, say, 17%, doesn't it?
The Spa at Terranea, 100 Terranea Way, Rancho Palos Verdes (310) 265-2740. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday. http://www.terranea.com