It's love in La Jolla

There's more to this Southern California beach town than just romance

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  • The pines are celebrated in exquisite stained-glass doors at the Lodge at Torrey Pines where a kilt-clad attendant greets arriving guests.

    Lodge at Torrey Pines

    Gina Sabatella

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Rare pines and a luxe resort

North of the village, the coast climbs to a mesa fronted by sandstone cliffs. The cliffs tower 300 feet above the ocean, creating an isolated 5-mile-long beach as wild as the rest of La Jolla is refined.

Finding this kind of coastal seclusion is remarkable. But atop the bluffs is something more precious still: some of the rarest pine trees in all the world.

Torrey pines grow naturally only here, at their namesake reserve, and at Santa Rosa Island off the Santa Barbara coast. The trees survive from a forest that went into decline as the climate became drier 10,000 years ago. The fogs that wash over the bluff have allowed the Torrey pines to endure, though their twisted shapes convey the species's struggle to carry on in a changing world.

The trees have a place of honor at another one-of-a-kind spot atop this bluff: the Lodge at Torrey Pines. Set against a golden sky with the ocean in the distance, a Torrey pine atop a crag is depicted in stained glass in the lodge's grand entry doors. If ever an entry set the tone for a building, this is it. Every detail throughout reveals craftsmanship that belongs to another era, from the post-and-beam construction to the hammered copper fireplaces. Though it has only been open since 2002, you would swear it dates back to the heyday of the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 1900s.

The lodge is exquisite, managing the difficult task of benefiting from its location without intruding upon the scene ― not unlike the city itself. They say that La Jolla means "the jewel." Beautiful as a rare gem may be, it's never truly complete without its setting.

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