Click photo to book Dolphin Beach Resort & Spa

I’m sitting here in a robe, which really is a glorified towel, typing away on a feature about what I can sincerely say is the nicest resort I’ve stayed at to date.

Lounge in ocean front style.

Picture this: my laptop sits on a granite counter top, the ocean waves crashing behind me, or wait — actually that’s the sound machine next to the couch. But it still sounds nice. Sweeping ocean views bless this Pismo Beach, California property, along with the chance of viewing playful dolphins and migrating whales. Being so close to the real thing, you may want to switch the sound machine to chirping crickets or croaking frogs. Any way you look at it, peace is upon you.

Listen to Bose Surround Sound in your suite.

Centrally located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco along the rugged California coastline, The Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa offers 63 exclusive and generously sized 1- and 2-bedroom designer suites complete with fully stocked gourmet kitchens, ocean views and designer 300 count Egyptian Cotton linens. Each room comes with a walk-in closet, flat-paneled televisions with surround-sound systems built into the ceiling, and even a laundry room so you can come away with clean clothes.

A 5-Star 1700 sq. foot Villa.

Stepping into the room, the first thought popping into my head was “Welcome Home.” I know it sounds cheesy, but it really happened. It may have had to do with the welcome mat at the front door; or maybe it was the sound of the doorbell – which in and of itself is a very peculiar experience for a hotel.

Who was it you ask? Well Shawn, the Bellman of course. He just dropped by to deliver a welcome plate of carefully cut cheese triangles, luscious long-stemmed strawberries, locally grown grapes and honeycomb which I’ve just learned goes surprisingly well with cheese. He also brought in two bottles of Voss water – one sparkling, and one flat, and a flyer with the week’s events, activities, and a daily horoscope to read over while nibbling on the decadent cheeses at the kitchen counter.

Gourmet kitchen in a suite.

The idea of even having a full kitchen in a hotel is amazing enough, but the attention to detail in the arrangement was well beyond my expectations. In addition to the stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, I was shocked to find glasses, plates, silverware, and practically an entire kitchen set perfectly arranged in all the drawers, cupboards, and cabinets.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a coffee maker, a microwave, a blender, and even a cutting board! If you love to cook, or don’t want to feel obligated spending an arm and a leg at local or on-site restaurants, the Dolphin Bay Resort is ideal for cooking. In fact, as General Manager Sean Damery says, “go ahead and bring food from home. Go shopping at the store. Cook! We want you to. We want you to feel at home here.”

Chef's outdoor fire grill.

But maybe you want to be wined and dined. If that’s the case, take advantage of the on-site Lido restaurant, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s led by the well-respected and sought after Iron Chef of 2008, Chef Evan Treadwell.  But this isn’t one of those managerial chefs that doesn’t touch the food. Treadwell has a hand in every plate that goes out of the kitchen, making sure every single dish is arranged and served to perfection.

Taste is perfected with the
Lido's Iron Chef creations.

I had the pleasure of briefly sitting down with Chef – as he is so casually referred to by the hotel staff. “The quality comes in the details” he told me. Chef often hand picks the best Strawberries, fruits, and vegetables of the lot to make sure each meal is excellent. He also made sure I knew that both he and the hotel believe firmly in the idea of using only locally farmed ingredients, including apple-fed lambs and freshly picked strawberries from nearby Driscoll Farms.

Chef’s coastal cuisine features signature dishes like his Lobster Bisque with Armagnac, Chives and Chervil; Seared Muscovy Duck Hash with a Poached Quail Egg, Cracklings, Watercress and Stonefruit; and Pistachio Crusted Cayucos Abalone with Blood Oranges. If you don’t know what half that stuff is, you might want to take advantage of his cooking classes taking place in a newly converted penthouse suite. Here, you’ll work side-by-side with local producers and the Iron Chef himself searing, frying, and cooking up a storm on the Wolf stove. It’s a sure-fire way to impress your friends, and maybe even yourself.

Take an Iron Chef cooking lesson
in the Penthouse Suite.

Beds have designer linens.

The Lido Restaurant itself hosts an elegant dining room with expansive views of the ocean. At the center of the room is a commissioned grand chandelier fashioned from Italian Murano glass by Barovier & Toso. And if you’re looking for something even more exceptional, there’s Dinner on the Edge, a private table overlooking a dramatic bluff where the land meets the water.

With edible inspirations running amok, you may feel the urge to cook something in your own kitchen up in your room.

For that, you’ll want to learn about the “Butler Program,” in which the Dolphin Bay staff will actually go shopping for you, and deliver your groceries right to your room! But, as cooking accidents inevitably happen, you may want to just defer to the man himself and have Chef Evan Treadwell come right into your room and cook you a custom meal while you watch TV as he often does. Now that’s service!

The infinity saltwater pool near the spa.

Ironic as it is that the ocean is a mere steps away, nothing seems quite as appealing as a crystal blue saline infinity pool and spa to lay near as you accept the warmth of the sun. What’s more, Chef even has a Fireside Grill so you can nibble or drink sweet confections pool side. But don’t forget to bring out the complimentary paid of binoculars from your room so you can catch a closer glimpse of local paragliders that occasionally float above as they scoot along the bluffs. If the idea of paragliding action gets you excited, you’ll be pleased to know the Dolphin Bay Resort has a variety of activities to choose to help keep you interested in your surroundings.

Specialized treatments
at La Bonne Vie Spa.

For your enjoyment, the Dolphin Bay Resort will happily set you up with a couple of horses to frolic about along the beach, motor deep in the dirt on an ATV, send you off in search of Moby Dick with the seasonal Whale Watching tours. You can also delve hundreds of feet underground into the mysterious caves of the central California coast, or even head over to the famous Hearst Castle for a darkly inviting night tour. Whatever your fancy, there’s sure to be an adventure that fits your bill on the provided menu of activities.

But maybe you’re a bit older, and a wee bit thirsty. In that case, you might want to take advantage of the wine tour to one of hundreds of wineries within less than an hour drive of the hotel. Have a little more energy? Dolphin Bay Resort will organize a guided hike in the locals hills and provide you with maps and information about the area. They can also set you up with a hula hoop fitness class on the lawn, or even arrange for you to have an astrology reading if you’re into that sort of thing. I opted for the beach cruiser bike ride, which was a pleasant way to trick myself into thinking I was getting some exercise on this relaxing little vacation.

Pismo Beach at sunset.

Upon return from my trek along the cliff-set mansions of Pismo, I picked the foxtails out of my socks and headed out to the lawn for a relaxing Bond flick starring the original Bond — Sean Connery. If you’ve ever been a fan of the drive-in, enjoying nightly summertime movies projected on a giant screen is right where you’ll want to be.

But you can forget about bringing candy or snacks to this movie. With the ocean breeze caressing your feet, the scent of an island-style BBQ will waft hints of kabobs your way as the Chef who’s everywhere helps you forget completely where you are. This, of course defines my definition of vacation.

Order champagne & grapes in your room.

After a hard day of eating, laying by the pool and sipping martinis, you may just want to come back to your room and get off your feet. Fortunately, each room has a gigantic tub, that’s more fitting to call a spa. Make sure to bring your iPod so you can listen to your own music from the iPod dock in the bedroom while you soak up the complimentary bubble bath. The tub even has a self-cleaning mechanism that occasionally squirts some sort of soapy liquid every thirty minutes or so. I’m not sure if I was supposed to be in the tub while it was doing it, but it sure made my skin feel soft. More importantly though, as a tall guy (6’5"), I’m just glad I’ve finally found a bathtub I could sit in without my knees coming completely out of the water.

Relax in your private balcony.

Ultimately, having the ability to pamper and entertain yourself with a seemingly endless supply of activities for virtually all walks of life truly makes the Dolphin Bay Resort exactly that; a resort. With the comfort of a home, and the luxury of a high-class boutique hotel, you may never want to leave, and that’s okay.

The Dolphin Bay encourages extended stays, especially since it has all the amenities you’d need for a home.

The Dolphin Bay Resort is a proud member of Conde Nast Johandsens Guide’s Recommended Hotels, Inns, Resorts & Spas for 2008, and without question one of the nicest resorts I’ve stayed at.

With that said, anyone in their right mind would be hard-pressed to find anything they didn’t like about this beautiful property. The staff is classy, personable, and real in a way that’s refreshing compared to typically stuffy luxury resorts. We work hard in our lives, and occasionally, we want to be pampered and cared for, and for that, there’s no place I’d rather be.

— Feature by Josh Edelson, Jetsetters Magazine San Francisco Correspondent; photos courtesy of Dolphin Bay Resort.

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