Sensational summer retreats

Los Willows Inn and Spa, tucked away in a rustic Fallbrook Canyon, offers the ultimate in romance.

Special to The Malibu Times


ummer is here, and these resorts have what it takes, from theme weekends to spa packages at the stunning new Pacific Waters Spa Hyatt Regency in Huntington Beach. For those with marriage on their mind, Los Willows, tucked away in a rustic Fallbrook Canyon offers the ultimate in romance. These are just a few enticements to rev up those sunny summer days.

Regardless of what calls you to Burbank (an appearance on the “Tonight Show,” perhaps?), the sleek Graciela, in “the media district,” is a 101-room hotel with ample amenities to keep you happy, from fine Italian linens to a delightful rooftop sundeck. Upscale and residential in feel, the Graciela is conveniently located near NBC, ABC studios, DreamWorks and Disney Headquarters. Ask about the hotel’s Sweet Indulgence package, which includes a premier deluxe junior suite generously scattered with rose petals, a bottle of Roeder Champagne, two 45-minute Swedish massages, a choice of in-room movie, a “Taylor Fladgate” port for two, chocolate truffles and continental breakfast in bed. The cost for all those comforts is just $379 per night, per couple.

In the burgeoning world of casino-based hotels, the 522-room Pechanga Resort & Casino, located in a residential area, looks more like Las Vegas. Purple lights illuminate the hotel as you approach acres of parking. From the 14-story structure, views of the Temecula Valley or the San Jacinto mountains are majestic, but the lure of seven restaurants is equally enticing. There’s the Great Oak Steakhouse, Blazing Noodles, the 24-hour Pechanga Caf, seafood at The Grotto, a buffet with more than 90 choices, Paisano’s for Italian cuisine and the Snack Bar.

It took just a year for this complex to earn the coveted AAA Four Diamond Resort award. Ask about their Wine Country Package for two, which includes accommodations, wine tastings and tour, lunch, a Casino Value Pack and (of course) a bottle of wine! The cost is $259 per couple Sunday through Thursday.

It’s “Surf City” U.S.A. at the chic 517-room Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. This is the ultimate tribute to America’s surf culture, which made this city famous, along with the longest concrete pier in California.

Starting with Andalusia-inspired furnishings, pillow top mattresses, down comforters and bathrobes, this spacious resort has combined 21st century comforts with surfing memories. This is epitomized at the Surf City Sunset Grille, a recreation of world-renowned surfer Peter Mallory’s Surfboard Factory. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, this restaurant is a nod to the era of the “woodies.” Exhibiting surfer memorabilia from every corner, rafter and tabletop, those of us who remember the days of Jan and Dean will enjoy it.

At The Californian, Chef de Cuisine Adam Navadi has created a menu reflecting “clean preparations, natural flavors and fresh local products.” This means specialties such as bacon-wrapped turkey medallions (designated as a “low-carb alternative”) to loaves, wraps and buns, from a Grilled Garden Burger to an authentic Californian Burger with tomato garlic spread, accompanied by tangy Parmesan garlic fries.

The Pacific Waters Spa is a lavish retreat with a world-class menu of treatments. Recommended is the Grande Day Spa package ($425) that includes an Herbal Bouquet Body Scrub, the “Swept Away” Swedish massage, “Age Intervention Therapy” (a 5-minute facial) and a salon manicure and pedicure.

In the midst of a secluded canyon, surrounded by vineyards and an avocado orchard, Los Willows is a 44-acre paradise. No wonder it plays host to more than 100 weddings annually. Seven exquisite guestrooms in the inn are furnished to perfection with mesmerizing views of the peaceful rolling hills. The inn has a full service spa, which is popular with weekend wedding parties as well as guests checking in for a few days of rest and relaxation.

The Los Willows Day Spa at the entrance to the inn has treatments rooms as well. The Spa for the Day (eight hours, $295) makes a wonderful gift for that special person in your life. It includes a spa breakfast upon arrival, a one-hour guided nature hike, an hour-long yoga class by the lake, a spa lunch (with a glass of wine from the owner’s private vineyard), and two 50-minute spa treatments of your choice, which could include a Los Willows Signature Massage and an Avocado Cream Wrap. The innkeeper recommended we make a dinner reservation at the Pala Mesa Resort, a short ride from the inn. Call 800.722.4700 or send an e-mail to to contact the resort.

The inn’s AquaTerra restaurant, with views of the golf course, has an ambitious menu with specialties such as garlic and herb crusted halibut with tomato fondue ($19) and a Louisiana Hot Pot with steamed mussels, clams, rock shrimp, scallops and Andouille sausage in a spicy tomato white wine broth ($17).

The conscientious staff at Los Willows can make many recommendations for tours and dining in the Temecula/Fallbrook area.

Planning ahead for an autumn getaway? The Smoke Tree Ranch in Palm Springs is a relatively undiscovered, but very historic ranch in the midst of all that makes this desert destination so popular. Covering 375 acres of natural desert, the Smoke Tree Ranch has a wealth of organized activities, from hiking, biking and horseback riding to birding, day trips and excursions to Joshua Tree National Park. Surrounded by private residences, guests stay in well-maintained cottages and dine at the friendly Ranch House. The season opens in late October and closes in late April. Sample rates start at $395, double occupancy in a one-room Studio Cottage, and include breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Contact information:

_ The Graciela, 322 North Pass Avenue, Burbank

818.842.8887, 888.956.1900

__Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa,

21500 Pacific Coast Highway,

Huntington Beach, 714.960.1234, 800.233.1234,

__Los Willows Inn & Spa,

530 Stewart Canyon Road, Fallbrook, 888.731.9400

__Pechanga Resort & Casino,

4500 Pechanga Parkway, Temecula, 877.711.2WIN,

__Smoke Tree Ranch,

1800 S. Sunrise Way,

Palm Springs, 800.787.3922

Pam Price is the co-author of 100 Best Spas of the World published

by the Globe Pequot Press,