It has been a rather recent discovery that I need a reason to go somewhere. I no longer have a yearning to go to a particular place just for the sake of going there, or because I need something to do. I now spend a little more time doing research and find places that are truly special. I found a few little miracle gems in LA. Some of them are “hidden” in the middle of the city.
THE PORTOFINO HOTEL & YACHT CLUB
There was purpose and meaning behind choosing to stay at The Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club in Redondo Beach. My husband and I swim long distance in the ocean and have developed a real passion for sea lions. Once in awhile, they swim underneath us. We see them frolic and jump up on the rocks only to be washed off by the waves. We watch them take care of their young and hear their playful calls. In a word, we truly care about what happens to the sea lions.
The Portofino, offers a “Save the Sea Lions” Package that includes oceanside accommodations with scenic views of King Harbor, home to at least one sea lion colony. The package offers a complimentary 2-hour paddle boat ride that allows you to get close to the sea lions, so you can see for yourself what they’re all about.
The hotel has partnered with Marine Mammal Care Center, a publicly-funded organization in San Pedro, CA that supports marine animal rehabilitation for sick and injured animals along the Southern California coast. Due to changing weather patterns affecting their food supply, the center is taking in a record number of malnourished sea lions. The Portofino’s donations help to provide much needed funds for the center.
The Portofino, located in a tranquil, beautiful marina in Redondo Beach, is six miles south from the center of LA. Sounds of the city faded into the background the minute my husband and I approached the sprawling grounds edging up against the Pacific Ocean. Our room, with floor-to-ceiling windows, offered spectacular views of gorgeous sunsets, dolphins and pelicans.After settling in and watching the sun drop into the ocean, we walked across the way to Baleen’s, a classy signature restaurant with a fabulous chef, Jesse Souza. The dishes are fresh and local and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. Huge open windows offer dazzling views of the harbor filled with boats. We walked around the harbor after a fabulous dinner and talked about how lucky we were to have found this quiet oasis situated in the middle of the city.
THE FIGUEROA HOTEL
The Figueroa Hotel, located in downtown LA. and steps away from the Staples Cente, has moved up in the world since it debuted in 1925 as a YWCA residence. The building, converted into a hotel after the depression, appears to be plain and unpretentious from the outside.
My husband and I had no idea what to expect when we entered into the back gates after parking our car. The transformation from the bustling city into a magical Moroccan paradise simply took our breath away. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more surprised in my life.
The expansive lobby and outdoor bar area are filled with flickering candles and overstuffed sofas, with a sparkling blue swimming pool plucked down in the middle of it all! The entire place was overrun with the healthiest bougainvillea plants I have ever seen. A Moroccan-style interior with cozy seating areas and sexy music was playing in the background. We could barely pull ourselves away from this magnetic atmosphere to go check out our room.
Another surprise awaited us when we finally went upstairs and opened the door! Mediterranean décor, low-lighting and soft flowing fabrics were everywhere. The bed was situated by the window, so we could gaze out from the high vantage point of our bed and see the tops of downtown buildings.
The toughest decision we needed to make during our stay was simply deciding where to go and what to do. There are hundreds of choices within easy walking distance right outside the front door. When it was time to check out, we made excuses to linger a little longer. We didn’t want to leave.
THE TERRANEA RESORT
In a word, The Terranea Resort is simply stunning! This place feels like a luxurious Mediterranean estate dropped into the middle of 102 pristine acres on the spectacular Palos Verdes Peninsula. Defining elements of the resort are quite simple: outdoors, outdoors and even more outdoors. Located only twenty miles away from the LA airport, the peninsula, once part of the Channel Islands, slowly shifted to the mainland coast over millions of years.
Terranea is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on three sides and offers breathtaking views from all directions. My husband and I realized within moments after arriving that we had no desire or reason to leave. There are eight different places to eat, ranging from beach casual, to elegant and sophisticated. The property has everything anyone would ever want to experience, including wide-open spaces, walking trails, golf, a spa, fire pits and numerous romantic seating areas by the ocean.
I found it fascinating to learn that while standing on this land you can actually watch the sun rise and set over the ocean from a single vantage point. This occurs during the months of December and January when the sun is at its most southern location in the sky.
Over the last twenty years, the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy has preserved over 1,200 acres
of the peninsula’s open land and the Palos Verdes Nature Preserve is responsible for taking care of the 1,000 acre Three Sisters Reserve of green space above the resort. The Terranea Resort is committed to an educational campaign for guests that focuses on environmental issues.
Venice Beach is a destination in itself and Hotel Erwin, a boutique hotel located 200 feet from the ocean is the place to stay. Action and an interesting history is what Venice Beach has to offer. The beach town was originally founded in the early 1900’s and modeled after Italy’s Venice.
In the earlier days Venice Beach was lined with canals and gondola rides were a main attraction. During the 1960’s, all kinds of colorful characters were drawn to the area, including street performers, artists, weight lifters and surfers.
The High Lounge, the premiere open-air rooftop lounge at Hotel Erwin is the perfect place to catch a bird’s-eye view of all the action passing by on the boardwalk below. Our days spent in Venice were fun. We rented bikes and rode for miles along the boardwalk, went out to dinner, and watched the sun set. This creative community by the sea is a place we want to come back to and we will stay at Hotel Erwin.
IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION
Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club: (800) 468-4292 or www.hotelportofino.com. Prices start at around $249.
Hotel Figueroa: (800) 421-9092, or www.figueroahotel.com. Prices start around $148.
The Terranea Resort: (310) 265-2800, or www.terranea.com. Prices start around $340.
Hotel Erwin: (888) 797-1651, or contact www.hotelerwin.com. Prices start around $176.
Ann Nelson is a freelance writer residing in San Diego, CA