Your best friend is soon to wed. You're in charge of the prenuptial ladies fete but your buddy is an iconoclast and so are you. If you're looking for bachelorette parties that score points for originality, you might consider these unusual substitutes.
For an unforgettable bridal shower, head south to the world's first all-women surf school. Surf Diva has been teaching wahines (Hawaiian for "women") to become awesome "shredders" since 1996. Competitive surfer and local legend Isabelle "Izzy" and her twin sister Caroline "Coco" Tihanyi founded the company in picturesque La Jolla. They offer an unusual alternative to bar hopping or a Shabbos kallah, when friends of the betrothed visit the traditional bride on her last Shabbat afternoon as a single. Surf Diva's all-women instructors include firefighters, paramedics, nurses, teachers, lawyers and snowboarders who suit up women with a wetsuit and board and teach them how to ride a wave with confidence. The school is such a success it now offers classes for guys, so ask the bride whether she wants the Y-chromosomes in her life to jump in.
Make sure your squad is comfortable swimming about 200 yards at sea. After an on-shore lesson, you'll head out with your instructors into the water. When you finally get up on the wave, fellow surfers cheer you on as if you scored a touchdown. You'll get a workout, too. All that paddling means an hour of surfing equals 200 pushups. Even if you can't manage to stand up, you can still take home some fabulous souvenirs, complete with the company's can't-miss "empowerment" logo.
Surf Diva is located at 2160 Avenida de la Playa in La Jolla. Packages start at $65 an hour per person and typical bachelorette parties run two hours. You can opt to have a catered lunch and take-home T-shirts or hats. Weekend clinics are also available, $135 for four hours of lessons for groups of 10-25. For more information, call (858) 454-8273; or visit www.surfdiva.com.
The High Life
Does your bride prefer luxury down time? Perched above the majestic Santa Barbara coast, Bacara Resort & Spa evokes the glamour of a classic Hollywood-style getaway with a contemporary twist. Set amid 78 acres of prime oceanfront real estate, Bacara caters to golfers, beach lovers and spa-minded kosher bridal parties for overnight and day visits. Its majestic Mediterranean-Spanish Colonial architecture and lush greenery complements seascape views and rooms complete with fireplaces, fragrant beeswax candles, oversized tubs, luxury bath amenities, robes and slippers.
The resort's name is derived from merging parts of the words Santa Barbara and Anacapa. These nearby namesake islands are visible on a clear day, though they sometimes disappear like a mirage true to the meaning of the word Bacara in the language of the Chumash Indians, who once populated the area. Visitors learn more about the culture, history and customs of the Chumash in a small exhibit in one of the gift shops near the main entrance, where cars circle a lovely fountain.
Throughout the property, bellmen add to the allure by whisking guests up and down steep inclines in electric trams. First stop on your bridal getaway: the extensive 42,000-square-foot spa. The facility boasts a full-service beauty salon and an extensive menu of treatments, including massages, scrubs, wraps, pedicures, facials and more available outdoors, in-room or a la carte for day visitors. Tucked into an extensive complex beneath the spa, a state-of-the-art fitness center offers myriad classes in body sculpting, mat-based Pilates, meditation and more. Those looking for rigorous training can book various specialty fee-based workouts, including cardio boot camp, minitriathlon and two-hour beach workout/run. With an emphasis on holistic healing, Bacara's complimentary fitness sessions include Chi Gong, stress reduction, tai chi and various types of yoga.
Swimmers will delight in the three zero-edge swimming pools, which have a surface flush with the ground, as well as the private beach minutes from your room. If leaving work behind is impossible, the picturesque beachside pool is surrounded by 28 cabanas featuring a high-speed Internet connection for your laptop or a rental. (High-speed Internet access is also complimentary in your room.) You can even rent a TV for the cabanas. And a massive, surround-sound screening room for 211 viewers is available for private screenings if you must show the bride a recap of previous escapades.
Not to be missed is a private guided hike or complimentary group excursion to Bacara's scenic 1,000-acre ranch. My guide led me up a mountain trail that gave way to magnificent ocean views, perfect to picnic, trail blaze or quietly contemplate the future. During my visit, we picked delicious samples from the extensive organic avocado orchard for a post-hike treat and marveled at the citrus fruit, including lemons and blood oranges. The plantation, which is a five-minute ride from the resort, also produces herbs and other delicacies served at Bacara's restaurants.
The resort's fine dining restaurant, Miro, takes its inspiration from the eponymous artist's three authentic sculptures on display. Chef Remi Lauvand creates California-French cuisine on Miro-inspired dishes and his team of chefs is skilled in serving up double wrapped "fish-in-foil" kosher dinners served with brand new cutlery and dishes. Sealed meals produced under hashgacha in Los Angeles are also available. Both must be ordered in advance. Bacara's charming wine cellar boasts kosher vintages among its 10,000 bottles. Other dining possibilities include The Bistro, where chef David Garwacki serves California-Mediterranean fusion dishes indoors or al fresco, and the Spa Cafe, where the flavorful meals contain less than 23 percent fat.
For an online tour, visit www.bacararesort.com or call (877) 422-4245 for reservations. Nightly rates range begin at $450 per room per night, based on double occupancy, or $1,150 per night for suites accommodating four friends. Packages, including unlimited golf or two 50-minute spa treatments per nightly stay Sunday-Thursday, start at $750 per night, double occupancy. Day spa packages starting at $355 include three treatments and lunch. Day visits require a 50-minute treatment starting at $120, which includes access to the facilities and most fitness classes.
If surfing or a luxury beach getaway isn't the right match for your bride, you can start off her married wardrobe with a trip to the Garment District capped off with dinner at her favorite restaurant.
For designer women's wear, visit the Cooper Building ( 627-3754), located on Los Angeles Street near Ninth Street. Likewise, the California Mart ( 630-3600) located on Los Angeles, between Ninth and Olympic Boulevard, and the New Mart ( 627-0671) on Ninth, between Main Street and Los Angeles, are occasionally open to the public for sample sales.
You'll find more selections in women's wear along Los Angeles, between Olympic and Pico boulevards; along 11th Street, between Los Angeles and San Julian streets; along Santee Street, between 11th and Pico; along Maple Avenue, between Olympic and Pico, and along Wall Street between Olympic and 12th Street. Accessories galore -- sunglasses, hosiery, perfume, belts and bags -- can be found along Main, between Olympic and Pico and on Santee, between Olympic and 11th .
Tips: Wear comfortable shoes and come with plenty of greenbacks. Some shops only accept cash and all sales are typically final. Remember to book reservations for a celebratory dinner in advance of your shopping spree and let the wait staff know it's a special night for your bride. Ask if they'll likely surprise her with a celebratory toast or another treat. And invite surprise guests, like her groom, for dessert.
Visit www.fashiondistrict.org for more info and SederOlam.com for an extensive directory of kosher restaurants.