LA JOLLA, Calif. – The valet attendant at the Lodge at Torrey Pines ran all the way into the resort’s spa to track me down.
The key fob, which I had insisted was in my rental car, must be in my gym bag or purse, he said. It was.
On the way to the resort, I missed the turn off Torrey Pines Road and was almost late for my massage. After checking in at the spa, I accidentally left my credit card at the counter.
Five minutes into a 50-minute massage, I went from frazzled to putty. Half an hour in, I was drooling. Massage therapist Kirstan lulled me with the best scalp massage ever and said she can’t believe it when clients say they want to skip that part.
PHOTOS: For a relaxing trip, try a spa in San Diego
A San Diego spa day might not be the first thing that comes to mind, given the area’s marquee attractions and beckoning beaches. But San Diego has plenty of pampering palaces, spas tucked into luxury resorts from Coronado to Carlsbad. A spa splurge is the perfect side trip from the beach.
I picked the Lodge at Torrey Pines because of the stunning setting adjacent to the Torrey Pines State Reserve, with sweeping views of the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course and Pacific Ocean. The spa has a variety of treatments and packages and occasionally offers a Spa Retreat package that includes a massage, facial and pedicure for $295, a savings over a la carte prices. There also are complimentary guided nature walks in the Torrey Pines Reserve twice a day and yoga on weekends.
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The spa facilities aren’t large or lavish, but the attendants, treatments and service were top-notch. The pedicure is the picture of relaxation, with a heated neck pillow and constantly refilled trail mix and water. The facial was soothing, and there was no hard sell for products, just a skin-care guide listing the Phytomer and Skinceuticals products the aesthetician used.
One of my favorite parts of the day took place outside the spa. Spa guests have access to the peaceful hotel pool. I plopped down on a plush lounge chair, wishing I had brought a book. Instead, I watched the parade of golfers on the 18th hole of Torrey Pines’ south course. I almost missed one of the best finds at the pool: the tucked-away hot tub overlooking the golf course. The Boston firefighter sprawled out in the hot tub probably wished I’d never found it.
I didn’t want the day of decadence to end, so I headed to La Valencia Hotel in downtown La Jolla. I found a seat on the ocean-view terrace of the Med restaurant and sipped a French 75 cocktail as the sun set. The waiter asked how my day was and I filled him in on the spa splurge.
“So you’ve had a really disappointing day,” he said.
He raved about the restaurant’s sea bass, octopus and paella but my depleted budget called for something more low-key. I walked over to the popular Whisknladle Neighborhood Bistro, named the Critics’ Best of the Best Casual Restaurant 2015 by San Diego magazine and sister restaurant to one of my San Diego faves, PrepKitchen. The bartender talked me into an appropriately decadent dinner: the dreamy WNL Burger with caramelized onions, bacon, remoulade, Gruyere and Cheddar cheeses topped with an egg and served with fries.
Details: 11480 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla. 858-777-6690, spatorreypines.com.
Where: Hotel del Coronado, 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado.
Why go: Coronado has some of the prettiest beaches in San Diego, and the Del has the best location in town. The spa is worth a visit just to hang out at the beachfront spa pool, a glassed-off oasis from the Del’s bustling main family pool.
Sample prices: A Swedish massage is $165. Manicures start at $45.
Where to grab a drink after the spa: The resort’s Sunset Bar or Sun Deck Bar and Grill.
Details: 619-522-8100, hoteldel.com.
Where: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa, 2100 Costa del Mar Road, Carlsbad.
Why go: The sprawling resort is not on the water but its spa is top-notch and has won numerous accolades.
Sample prices: A Swedish massage is $160. Manicures start at $50. To save money, book the first appointment of the day Monday through Friday and a 50-minute treatment is $135.
Where to grab a drink after the spa: The oceanfront Dini’s Bistro, 3290 Carlsbad Blvd., Carlsbad.
Details: 800-729-4772, lacosta.com.
Welcome to our annual guide to the best San Diego has to offer for summer vacation. Here’s what’s coming up:
July 12: Wine tasting in Temecula, plus what’s new in downtown San Diego.
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