Sun, Spa, Golf at La Jolla’s Estancia

Estancia's motto is "the destination is where the journey begins."

What a combination, that glorious La Jolla sunshine, a sleek spa with expert therapists, cuisine with an organic flair and comfy, but not ostentatious guestrooms with garden views. And there’s plenty of space for roaming (9.5 acres to be exact).

But if someone mentions Estancia Hotel & Spa, it may not ring a bell. That’s because this casually elegant $60 million, 210-room resort and state-of-the-art conference center just opened last year. It’s adjacent to the Salk Institute, close to Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, and across the street from UC San Diego’s Eleanor Roosevelt College. Formerly an equestrian estate, and built on the site of the former Black Family La Jolla Stables, the d├ęcor here reflects early California with low rise adobe structure, thick plaster walls, exposed wrought iron rafters and those inimitable clay tile roofs.

Mark Podolski, director of sales and marketing (he pre-opened the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa) is justifiably proud of this resort, which is a member of Destination Hotels & Resorts; their motto is “the destination is where the journey begins.”

A measuring stick for any hotel, large or small, is simple. Does a property have a sense of place? Cookie-cutter hotels with the same bedspread in every room on every floor leave nothing to write home about. That is what sets Estancia apart from the competition. Attention to detail is evident, from the gracious way guests are greeted to the attentive service in the Adobe Restaurant and Mustangs and Burros.

Thoughtful touches abound, from impressive, ergonomically designed swivel chairs in The Learning Retreat (25,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting facilities) to the serene ambience in the 8,000-square-foot spa (in which there are 11 treatment rooms). Marissa Edwards, director of the Spa, Recreation and Fitness, is on hand to design the perfect spa day. Estancia is a destination in itself. That is why so many guests valet park their cars here and forget about them for a day or two.

Breakfast starts with a protein smoothie (your choice of soy milk with banana or seasonal berries) and then, the spa. You could spend the whole day there. Between treatments, spa goers can order a “Spa Bento Box Lunch” with such varieties as “Flavors of Asia”-which means Vietnamese summer roll, chilled soba noodles and charred Ahi stir fry salad, grilled chicken salad and sesame-scented tofu ($18). This is the ideal way to lounge in your spa robe (for sale in the gift shop if you don’t want to part with it) after a Sweet Rose hydrating treatment or if you are in a romantic frame of mind, the Secret Garden Couples Massage. The spa has an ambitious Fitness Activity schedule that includes a morning and afternoon guided fitness hike (90 minutes, $15), which explores coastal La Jolla. An added aerobic workout makes this a good investment. Sunrise yoga, aquasize and total body training are other choices.

Why bother to leave after a spa day when the Adobe restaurant (where James Footit is the executive chef) has prepared a menu with specialties such as a free-range chicken duet (a terrine of bacon, apple and Vidalia onion, braised thigh and Swiss chard with sage au jus). I combined several side dishes, however ($8 each), and found one, the green and yellow beans with slivered almonds and a dash of balsamic vinegar, to be off the charts.

When you’re ready to explore the area for a few hours, there’s the village of La Jolla to the north and Solana Beach to the south. The latter is a Mecca for designers and shoppers. The centerpiece of this beach community is the Design District on South Cedros Avenue. For the ultimate statement in handmade, Italian glass furniture, check out the Leaping Lotus for the most fascinating chairs imaginable. They are covered with variously colored glass tiles (

And for the ultimate in canine and feline accessories, visit Muttropolis -for “haute dogs and cool cats,” no less ( It truly is a “utopia for pets and their parents.”

Back at the Ranch (Estancia) you may still have time for a Diablo Margarita or a Santiago at Mustang & Burros, served near an outdoor fireplaces. It’s just another perfect day at Estancia.


The “Grand Opening Getaway” at Estancia (from $219 for two) includes accommodations and breakfast buffet for two. Parking is $17 (valet) and self ($15). Regular rates start at $179 and children under 18 years of age are complimentary with parents (up to four people in a room is acceptable). Check out the Spoil Your Senses package ($569) for two, which includes accommodations for one night, two deep cleansing facials, two 50-minute massages and valet parking. Call 877.4.ESTANCIA or go to

Pamela Price is the co-author of “Fun with the Family in Southern CA” and “100 Best Spas of the World,” both published by the Globe Pequot Press,