Celebrate Your Life – See the World
By J. Kat Loren ::
The coastal fog parts shortly after I turn off highway 101 and drive up the hillside towards Chaminade Resort through a forest of cypress and eucalyptus. Its scent invades my car and I am instantly relaxed. Chaminade Resort & Spa is a 300 acre property filled with wooded, rolling hills and a mountain top location that looks over the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. I feel as if I am retreating far from the Santa Cruz beach crowds rather than being just minutes away. I sense the peacefulness of place and the setting intrigues me. Chaminade comes into view and it appears to be an old California mission-style ranch surrounded by a coastal forest. Clearly, this is a resort with a bit of historic significance attached, a resort with a biography rather than a leisure hotel comprised solely of an architectural cluster of buildings.
Chaminade takes its name from a French priest and educator, Father William Joseph Chaminade. In 1929, his Marianist brothers began construction of a boy’s school. The core of that school, completely renovated over the years, now forms the Executive Conference Center, which is located within the reception area. Chaminade functioned as a school until WWII and then became a novitiate used to train Marianist priests until 1970 when it became a church retreat center. No wonder the property feels peaceful. Between 1979 to 1985, a group of investors bought the property and transformed it into a place for leisure guests now managed by Benchmark hospitality Management Company. Fortunately, they managed to retain the ambiance of old California.
I follow the signs to the reception area. It is spring and colorful flowers line the road and the circular centerpiece outside the main building that contains the reception area, meeting rooms and restaurants. The valet opens my door and directs me to reception. I would discover that the service at Chaminade is excellent. The entire staff is friendly in a California way – unpretentious, personable and professional, aware of your presence and anticipating what you need without being invasive. The service and the peacefulness of setting draws many return visitors, repeat family gatherings, and members escaping the San Francisco Bay area.
By the numbers:
153 guest rooms, 2 restaurants, a full gymnasium, four tennis courts, a pool, three miles of hiking trails through the forest, full spa services, volleyball and fire pit near the outdoor pool, and 12,000 square feet of meeting space for conferences.
Rooms are housed in two-story buildings that appear at first, to be small apartment buildings. Décor is dated, the colors mostly muted brown and while the beds are comfortable, the furniture definitely dates back to the 1980’s. I suppose you could call it “retro novitiate” or perhaps even “neuvo ranchero”. Bottom floor rooms feature patios from which to view the forest. We chose a bottom floor room, spent a little time outside on the patio sipping sparkling water and nibbling on the excellent fruit and cheese plate that hospitality so graciously left for us in the room. Later that night, we felt so safe and relaxed that we opened the sliding glass door, closed the screen and let the scent of eucalyptus and sound of birds waft in all night long.
What you’ll find nearby:
Begin your day at Chaminade with a walk or run along the three miles of forest trails, play a round of tennis on one of four courts (racquets available in the gym if you’ve forgotten yours) or head to the huge gym for a full workout. Then drive a short distance to nearby Capitola to shop or dine or Santa Cruz – Chaminade is situated just off the highway, between both towns. In the afternoon, return to the resort to relax away from the beach crowds and partake of the spa. If you play volleyball, I noticed a beautiful outdoor net near the pool, close to a fire pit. Who needs a crowded beach when you can hang out here in the summer and meet new friends?
I spent the early afternoon lounging by the pool chatting with other guests, mostly middle-aged couples like myself, taking a weekend away. Fortunately, I packed my Miracle Suit – a bathing suit that really does take 10 pounds off your presenting body image. When my sister saw me saunter out to the poolside in my new suit, she said, “Wow, that is really flattering.” Apparently, those by the poolside thought so, too.
Just as I was contemplating picking up the poolside phone and ordering a light snack, I noticed young families on their way into the pool and realized it was almost time for my massage. It appears that later in the day, young families shift from the beach to the pool and older adults and young adults move into the peaceful oasis of the spa.
The spa contains a full course of treatments designed to soothe body and soul. You are greeted by staff that set the atmosphere by speaking in muted tones, hand you a robe and spa slippers and give you a tour, suggesting that you change and then spend some time before your spa treatment either in the steam room and sauna or in the beautiful meditation room with its fountains, and music designed to bring your heat rate and mental activity down to the level of relaxation your soul craves. It is a place that you can return to throughout the day as your spa admission gives you all-day access to the amenities of the spa.
Their massage therapists are excellent. After a combination deep tissue and relaxation massage, I reluctantly slide off the table and move into the steam room conveniently located in the women’s locker room. From there, I shift into the sauna. And I emerge a limp noodle.
Both the men’s and women’s locker rooms contain a wonderful steam room and sauna – clearly built after the novitiates vacated the property. The outside courtyard, facing the forest, contains a koi pond and patio, a Jacuzzi and a cordial group of guests sipping champagne. I could spend hours here. But it is Friday and the resort hosts a Friday evening wine tasting in the main reception area featuring local wines. The Santa Cruz/Monterey region boasts some wonderful wineries so opportunities to taste are not to be missed.
After such a relaxing time in the spa, who wants to dress up? I slipped on a pair of Taos casual sandals with a bit of a wedge heel that goes with any outfit and made my way to the outdoor dining patio of Linwood’s Grill, located in the resort’s main building. Chaminade is known for its spectacular Sunday brunch and locals flock here to dine with resort guests on Sundays, drink mimosas and look out over the ocean. The Linwood’s Bar and Grill, the less formal restaurant on the premises, opens to a large patio with outdoor seating. It is a perfect place to watch the sunset over the ocean, sitting around a tabletop fire pit, sipping your favorite wine and nibbling appetizers with friends. However, the food is unspectacular and I notice that most resort guests gather here for a time then disappear to one of the many wonderful restaurants in nearby Capitola and Santa Cruz.
If you seek a peaceful oasis that is unpretentious, a quiet refuge for couples, a place to gather your family on special occasions or for no occasion other than to be together without distraction, or a business retreat with a relational or team-building focus, Chaminade is the perfect place. The service is wonderful. The staff exudes a genuine joyfulness that sets the tone for arriving guests.
Located just off Highway 101, at One Chaminade Lane, Santa Cruz, CA, the driving distances are as follows:
San Jose Airport- 30 minutes
Monterey Airport – 40 minutes
San Francisco Airport – 75 minutes
Downtown Santa Cruz- 10 minutes
The Beach/Waterfront- 10 minutes
Wineries – 15 minutes
For More Information:
Reservations: (800) 283-6569
As is common in the travel industry, Chaminade Resort provided the writer with a night’s stay, dinner and a spa treatment to research this article. The opinions of the writer are her own.
J “Kat” Loren is a Pacific NW-based journalist and author of more than a dozen books. She currently focuses on writing health, fitness, and travel articles and is taking time this summer to practice her ukulele and write The Great American Novel. Her blog “Crazi Culture” is a popular read among those who like eclectic topics and travelogues about odd places and adventures. http://www.craziculture.wordpress.com
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