Terranea resort (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
A little farther north on Palos Verdes Drive, you'll reach a grand bluff-top chunk of land that longtime Angelenos will remember as the site of the Marineland theme park from 1954 to '87. Since 2009, these 102 acres have been the site of Terranea, a luxury resort that opened just in time to get kicked in the teeth by the recession. It has 582 hotel rooms (each at least 450 square feet) and rates that begin around $360, with a nine-hole golf course, spa, three pools, multiple restaurants and views of the Point Vicente lighthouse (next to which is the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, a prime whale-watching spot). Terranea is not a beach hotel. It's all about bluffs, rocks and pebbles. And if you're splurging, it's worth a thought. If you're not splurging, come anyway and grab a free parking spot (first lot on the left as you enter). Make the rounds on the cliff-top public trails, and wind up around sunset at the casual resort restaurant that looks out toward the lighthouse. It's called Nelson's -- in honor of Mike Nelson, the heroic scuba diver portrayed by Lloyd Bridges on TV's "Sea Hunt" from 1958 to '61. The show was shot around Palos Verdes, in glorious black and white, and the restaurant walls are filled with posters (in jarring color) promoting ancient episodes. Give them a look. Then glance again at the sea, take a bite of seared ahi, and be glad. To be any more immersed in SoCal culture, you'd have to strap on air tanks and flip overboard backward.