©2006 Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel The Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel Spa in Los Angeles offers visitors an upscale spa experience.

Relaxing and Unwinding in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is big, busy, sprawling and crowded -- the only way people here deal with it is their ability to kick back and relax. For some "relax" means spa time, and there's plenty of opportunity for that here in the land of beautiful people.

For others, a day on the beach or out on the water is more than enough to soothe nerves riled up by traffic jams. And through it all, there's plenty of cafes, beachfront towns, and lounges to submerse yourself in LA's famous casual vibe.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Los Angeles

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Los Angeles

Unlike a lot of cities on beaches, some of Los Angeles' finest stretches of sand aren't outside the city at all. Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach are great, Venice Beach is a good bet for both relaxing and people watching, and there are dozens of beaches along the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu that are ideally suited to a lazy beach day. One caveat with Malibu: traffic and parking can sometimes be a nightmare if you don't get an early start.

For the rejuvenating effects of a spa without the star prices, locals head south toward Orange County to hit the hot springs at Glen Ivy Natural Outdoor Hotsprings and Day Spa (25000 Glen Ivy Rd, Corona). For just $35, you have access to all of the hot springs pools, sauna, steam rooms, Roman baths, red clay mud bath, and Wafa. Additional services (facials, scrubs, and massage are highly recommended after a soak in the hot springs) are available for additional fees ($55 - $145). Bring towels and an old bathing suit if you plan on doing the red clay mud bath, and just relax.

For a more upscale spa experience, you should visit the Mobil Four-Star Spa at the Peninsula Beverly Hills (9882 South Santa Monica Blvd). On the garden retreat rooftop surrounded by ten private cabanas, a Jacuzzi, and a 60-foot lap pool, the spa at the Peninsula offers a wide range of wraps, scrubs, massages, and facials in a beautiful setting at one of the best hotels in the city.

In addition to its beaches, most out-of-towners forget that Los Angeles also has quite a few parks that are excellent places to wile away an afternoon. The 160-acre Descanso Gardens (1418 Descanso Dr) is a great place to relax and unwind, strolling along wooded paths bordered by streams, a bird sanctuary, and acre after acre of beautiful flowers, including more than 100,000 camellias. The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens (301 N Baldwin Ave), though slightly less subtle and tranquil, is similarly relaxing.

As a fitting end to a relaxing day, grab afternoon tea on the terrace of the Greystone Mansion (905 Loma Vista Dr). The grand dame of Beverly Hills mansions and the site of many a film and TV screening, the Greystone is worth a visit just to take a wander around the amazing house and grounds, but the tea on the terrace is a luxurious bonus. Served one Saturday per month from May to August at 4 pm at a cost of $43 for non-Beverly-Hills-residents, it's actually a steal for what you get; live musical entertainment, a tour of the first floor, and an unbeatable ambience.

Those interested in losing themselves on the links can head to the Tijeras Creek Golf Club (29082 Tijeras Creek, Rancho Santa Margarita) for a 16-hole, 172-yard, par-three course that requires a quick shot over water to a green guarded by bunkers. The Tustin Ranch Golf Club (12442 Tustin Ranch Rd, Tustin) is an 18-hole public course that offers caddies and a helpful staff that will fetch you food or drinks during a round on a hot day.

LA is a big town with an awful lot of sights and attractions to pack into your visit. If you'd rather not strike out on your own in Los Angeles, keep reading for our guide to organized tours.