Los Angeles 2016/2017 Trip Report Part V (Spas)

I love spas. There's nothing better than the feeling of being pampered and I'm always on the lookout for great spa deals/places. Knowing that L.A. has a big spa culture, I looked up a bunch to see which one to try and I settled on two: Wi Spa, a Korean spa in downtown L.A., and the Four Seasons Spa in Westlake (about 30-40 minutes from downtown).

Wi Spa


Wi Spa is a 24-hour spa in downtown L.A., in the K-town section. I came here on New Years Eve, and was a bit nervous that it would be packed with people but it actually wasn't bad at all! Or maybe I am used to worst crowds in NYC, but by nighttime, the place thinned out.

Admission to the spa (which has free valet parking) is $25 and provides you access to saunas, the rooftop lounge area, and the gender-specific hot tubs (no clothes in this area only). If you get a facial/massage/etc., the admission price is included in the service. Since I came on NYE, I decided to go for the Buff & Seaweed treatment, which includes a body scrub, oil massage, seaweed body wrap, facial mask, and shampoo treatment for a glorious 110 minutes. I made the rsvp a week in advance for 8 pm, so I arrived at 4 pm to enjoy the other amenities.

I found Wi Spa to be very clean but not as big as the Korean spas in NYC. There are 4 hot saunas set at different heated temperatures and one ice room. You can also order food there but I didn't try any of it since I had a big lunch earlier. Compared to Spa Castle in Queens, NY, Spa Castle is more 'fun' in that it has more saunas in addition to co-ed jacuzzis on the rooftop (as well as gender-specific hot tubs). The body treatment was pretty good, my skin was baby soft after. Great place to relax and unwind if needed but coming on a weekday is probably better. While the place wasn't that packed as I thought it would be, there were definitely way more kids/teens that I care to be around when I want peace and quiet! My fave sauna rooms was the Salt Room (picture above, where you literally lie in salt!) and the Clay Room (where you lie in tiny balls of clay!).

Four Seasons Westlake Village Spa

When I was researching L.A. spas, the Four Seasons Westlake Village Spa popped up on many lists. I am so glad I checked this one out as the amenities and service here are great! On weekdays, they have specials so come then if you can. I did the Unity Daycation package, which is a 50 minute facial and a 50 minute massage for $290. I thought it was a good deal considering the amenities of a swimming pool, hot tubs, sauna, steam room, and access to the fitness classes (though I didn't get to take any classes). My treatments started at 5 pm but I came around 1 pm and wish I came earlier to enjoy! They also have a nice sleeping/relaxation room too. 


This Four Seasons Spa is also the largest in the world, with 28 treatment rooms. Thus the amenities are also one of the nicest of all the hotels. There are three hot tubs, two of which are outside and one inside.


Even though it was 50 degrees out, the plush robes kept me warm, as did the outdoor hot tub. The service staff is really great here too, greeting you with a smile and providing anything you need. I stayed outside for about 1.5 hours, reading by the pool and enjoying the hot tub.


Lying on these nice beds while listening to water trickling in the spa was lovely too. This was a perfect place to recover after my hiking activities!


I really enjoyed my time here. If I do come back out to L.A. I would probably check out a different spa just to see what else is out there but this one was super nice to enjoy and may be hard to beat!

Los Angeles 2016/2017 Trip Report Part II (Hollywood Sign Hike)

Griffith Observatory/Hollywood Sign Hike


Hollywood hike from Griffith Observatory  

Hollywood hike from Griffith Observatory  

The highlight of my L.A. trip was hiking from the Griffith Observatory to the Hollywood sign on New Years Day. I initially had planned to go the day before but the weather was gloomy. I'm glad I didn't try to do this Saturday because I had lunch plans with a friend. If you do this hike, allot 4-6 hours!!! 

I had done a bunch of research online but some of the information is confusing until you get there yourself. The number one thing to know is that there are multiple ways to hike up to the sign. Though I haven't explored all the other ways, I feel like starting from the Observatory makes the most sense due to parking and facilities and the views are just breathtaking all the way!

La la land

La la land

The Observatory opens at 10 am and is closed on Mondays. I thought if I got there a little before 10 am I would have no problem grabbing a parking spot in the lot. I could not been more wrong! I arrived around 9:45 am and the lot was completely full. However, you can also park on the road up/out of the Observatory. I highly recommend you eat breakfast before coming--there are no food facilities and if you're gonna trek 8-10 miles roundtrip, you are gonna be hungry and thirsty! 

I had ended up grabbing Burger King breakfast on the way which I am so glad I did. Below is the view of all the trails going up to the mountain from where I parked my car. I have no idea if these trails lead up to the Observatory but some probably do.  I ended up parking on the road out of the Observatory, off to the side. A ton of cars were parked this way, up on the curb of the road. Basically, if you see a spot on the way to or from the Observatory, just take it! I ended up having to park in a way that my car was on a slant. Californians are super friendly. I was nervous with squeezing into the space and this random guy behind my car helped guide me into the space, and even lifted a big rock from the ground so I wouldn't hit it! And he disappeared before I could say thank you! Trust me, that type of kindness and thoughtfulness is rare in NYC!

Couldn't ask for a more beautiful day

Couldn't ask for a more beautiful day

I then went to the Observatory to use the bathroom before I started the hike. Although there are bathroom facilities right by the parking lot, there was a long line for them. At the Observatory (which is about a 5 min. walk from the lot), there were no lines and it's free to go in and the facilities are clean. 

At 10:30 am, I finally started my hike. The trail starts right to the north of the parking lot (easy to spot). Even though there were a lot of people on the trail, it was never overwhelming. By the time I came back in the afternoon though, the Observatory was SWARMING. The lines for the bathroom were like 10x longer than in the morning, and it felt more suffocating as people milled around the grounds of the Observatory. I think people who arrive in the afternoon just come for the views from this area and maybe do a short walk on the trail. Morning is definitely best to enjoy this place without hordes. I think getting here by 10 am is safe, but any later it might feel frustrating.

Anyway, at the very start of the trail, there is a sign and map. Definitely have a look!


The map  

The map  

As you can see above, there are MULTIPLE trails. If you don't want to hike all the way to the Hollywood sign, you don't have to. You can just go up to Mt. Hollywood summit, which is about 1.5 miles from the parking lot one way.

Pay attention! 

Pay attention! 

This little box on the bottom informs you how to get to the sign, which is 4 miles away, one way! To get there, you basically have to hike all the way to the top of Mt. Hollywood, then go down all the way behind it on another trail (there is only one). You'll come into concrete road (but there are no cars), make a right, and walk a bit further where you will see a gate. Make that left entrance to get back on the trail towards the sign. If you stay on the concrete road, you end up somewhere else. Basically, just follow all the signs you see! They are clearly marked and look like this:

Trail signs

Trail signs

Just keep following the signs to Hollywood Sign. Even though it's listed three times, it just means there are certain overlooks. Just keep going until you get to it. And when in doubt, ask someone coming from the opposite direction if you're going the right way! It's good to check, because like I said there are multiple trails in this area. Following the signs will take you to the sign but it's easy to miss if you're not paying attention. On the way back, I ignored a sign, thinking I knew the way to go. I ended up going down the trail to Canyon Drive and had to climb up a steep hill to get back on track. My quads or appetite were NOT happy with this detour!!

As gorgeous as this hike was, it was definitely a quad kicker. I consider myself pretty active and fit and I was tired after 1.5 miles!! The walk from the parking lot is steep but manageable. So if you're not as active/fit, allot more time. All in all, it took me two hours to get to the top, and a bit over two hours to get back (due to the detour). My legs were so exhausted by the end of the hike and I knew if I sat down, I was not getting back up! There's not too many places to rest on the hike either. You can sit at the top (on the ground) but there are no benches or anything on the way up (well, there was a bench on the Canyon Drive trail detour, which is how I realized I went the wrong way because I did not remember seeing it on the way there!).


Made it to Hollywood! 

Made it to Hollywood! 

The view of La La Land from the top of the Hollywood sign is breathtaking. I got here around 12:30 pm. Thank goodness I had a huge bottle of water. This hike definitely dehydrated me!I What better way to spend the very first day of 2017! 


I forgot to mention, the night before on NYE, some pranksters changed the sign to say "Hollyweed." Lol. I only caught the sign when it said "Hollywoed", the authorities were quick to change it back. By the time I reached the sign the letters were back to normal.


On my way back to the Observatory, I stopped by the top of Mt. Hollywood summit (I bypassed it earlier). You can also go to another viewpoint called Captain's Roost nearby but I skipped that since I was so tired and just wanted to eat. Below is the view from Mt. Hollywood summit. 


By the time I got back to the Observatory, it was 3 pm. I wanted to check it out but like I said earlier, this place was swarming with tourists! So I ended up just leaving. Another reason to start your day here as early as possible: it took me over an hour to get out!!!!!! Because there ar a ton of people here as well as at the park down below at the base, there was so much traffic. I think I got into my car around 3:45 and didn't get out of the Griffith Park area until close to 5:30. I did put my time to good use though--I ended up calling a bunch of restaurants because so many were closed on New Years Day! I ended up eating pizza at Gjelina Take Away, which was thankfully open (and so delicious--will do a food post too).

I really enjoyed this hike though and it's one of the best ones I've been on. I'm not a huge hiker, and this one was challenging, beautiful, and very safe, which is very important to me as a female solo traveler. I'll also post my thoughts on two other hikes I did (Runyon Canyon and Culver City Steps) but of the three this was my fave for sure!

Los Angeles 2016/2017 Trip Report Part I (Overview)

Have you ever wanted to hear a particular song on a radio (and not necessarily something that's currently in the top 10 of the music charts) and then suddenly that song comes on? That type of coincidence has happened to me many times in my life. I remember these moments because my song of choice may not be that popular for that point in time. I've always found it funny when I come across something in society that seems to directly pertain to my life. For example, tonight, about 15 minutes ago, I opened up mail after I finished unpacking from my L.A. trip and this cover stared back at me:



What are the chances my fave NYC magazine, which hardly ever discusses other cities, covered La La Land the same weekend I was there? 

I've been to L.A. a few times before. My first time was during a layover back to NYC from Australia when I was 21. I remember I was in awe of the palm trees, the cool laid back vibe, how everything looked so shiny and new. I visited two more times during my 20s, once with family and another with friends, and I remained fascinated with West Coast culture. It's probably been close to 10 years since my last visit and a few months ago, I just had an itching to go back out to California again so I decided to head out there for New Years weekend. I am so glad I did because it was exactly what I needed to nourish my soul.

Living in NYC is great, I love it here. But every so often I need to get out of town because although everything is accessible here, I do feel like I'm living in a bubble sometimes. In NYC, it's so easy to get caught up in yourself, your peers, your jobs, high expectations, etc. Before I left for L.A., I was feeling stuck, frustrated, and just bored with life. Getting out to sunny L.A. was just what I needed.

I came back last night and I feel so refreshed and relax. L.A. is an excellent place for a solo trip, there's a million things to do. I also forgot how nice Californians are. When you talk to someone, they seem genuinely nice, unlike in NYC where (and I'm guilty of this too), you're generally in a rush to go somewhere else or you have your guard up and/or you don't care to make small talk with anyone. In L.A., I struck up a conversation with a woman in yoga class, something I can say I've never done in NYC. In addition, some random stranger on the street helped guide me in parking my car in a narrow space. He even lifted a heavy rock out of the way of my car wheels, and he disappeared before I could say thank you! 

L.A. has everything--culture, beaches, outdoor activities, great food, and generally awesome weather (it never got lower than 50 degrees during the day while I was there, compared to the freezing temperatures we've been having in NYC!). It was nice to see everything that I fell in love with in L.A. years back was still there and seemed even better than before. I was there for just 5 days and the trip for me was my own personal health/wellness trip. I wanted to be outside as much as possible and do non-touristy things (ie I could care less about shopping or visiting Beverly Hills). A brief summary of my itinerary is below.

The Itinerary (arrived 12/30 but this starts with 12/31 and ends on 1/4)

Day 1: Yoga class, lunch with an old college friend in Studio City, then spent the evening at Wi Spa, a popular 24-hour Korean spa. Admission is $25 ($35 if you go btwn midnight and 4 am) and gives you access to saunas and hot tubs.

Day 2: Visited Griffith Observatory and did an 8 mile roundtrip from the observatory to the Hollywood sign and back. I'll do a more extensive post on how to do this and what to expect!

Day 3: Checked out Runyon Canyon, walked around Santa Monica, Venice, and the Grove.

Day 4: Went to Malibu and visited Zuma Beach, then had a spa afternoon at the Four Seasons Westlake Spa.

Day 5: Checked out Culver City Steps (aka Baldwin Scenic Overlook) and realized how I unfit I am compared to Angelenos! Flew home in the afternoon.

All in all, I had a fabulous time. I stayed at an Air BnB in Venice Beach and my hosts were AMAZING. So friendly and thoughtful. I arrived on Friday evening at 7 pm and they offered to share their dinner with me which was much appreciated after a long flight. Dinner was just a salad but it was a super fresh and tasty salad. They also invited me to ring in New Years with them, which was so lovely of them. I had just gotten home from the Korean spa and planned to go straight to bed, but right after my shower, they called my name and offered me a glass of champagne. They also lit up their front patio with fireworks at midnight! It was such a fun but low key way to celebrate, and quite unexpected!


It was also nice to just drive around everywhere. I love just cruising around singing to music. The freeways were a bit nerve-wrecking but I got used to it (and stuck to the right lane most of the time!). All the signs and roads are clearly marked and makes sense once you get used to it (like knowing if lanes were going to merge or not). You can easily Uber everywhere but I like the freedom of coming/going anytime I wanted. Parking was not bad either, but I didn't really go out to anywhere except a couple of restaurants and parks. All parking meters took credit cards and I was able to find free street parking in some areas as well. The Santa Monica parking garages all offer free parking for the first 90 minutes too. Never had to valet! But that depends on where you go/what you do. 

I will post details on the highlights of my trip in upcoming posts (total of 5 posts)!

Other Links

Though there are a ton of resources online for L.A., my favorites ones were:

Other Things I Wanted to Do but Didn't On This Trip

  • Museums. I thought I would visit some but didn't because I rather be outside! If I had time, I would've gone to LACMA, Getty Museum, The Broad.
  • Other beach communities. I heard Manhattan Beach and Hermosa are pretty nice but didn't make it down there. I've been to Laguna and Newport Beaches before and can attest that those are lovely as well!
  • Venice Canals. I did go here at night for a peek but couldn't see much since it was so dark at night! It's a small neighborhood with a few canals running through it but the homes there were gorgeous. See it during the day if you're near Venice Beach or Marina del Rey!
  • Amusement parks. Of course Disneyland and Universal Studios would be fun to go to but I've been to the Florida ones multiple times and would only have gone here if I really had nothing else to do.
  • More hikes in Malibu/around L.A. There are a ton of places to go! While the 3 that I did were good, there's still so much to explore.

Where to Stay

Since I was traveling solo, I didn't want to spend too much at a hotel. I also wanted to go somewhere low key, so I opted for Air BnB. Venice Beach was really the perfect location. So close to LAX and it's a good mid point to travel to anywhere else in the L.A. area. Santa Monica would be good too but there's not as many Air BnB options in Santa Monica as there is in Venice Beach, and it's just a 10 min. drive away.


People did warn me that Venice Beach can be seedy, and that's true. It's not a place you can really walk around at night. There are bums around and druggies near the very commercial streets at night. But I found the residential area I stayed in with my hosts on Woodlawn Avenue was very safe and quiet both day and night.