Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach Embraces the Beauty and Bounty of the Oxnard Coast 

A view of the beach and ocean framed by an architectural arch at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach resort in Oxnard, California
Ocean views from Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach (Photo by California News Press)

By J.C. Thomas

California’s celebrated coastline is 1,264 miles long, yet there are only a handful of true oceanfront resorts in the entire state. Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach stands out even among such rare offerings – it’s the only all-suite beachfront resort in California. Located on the edge of Oxnard in Ventura County, the resort boasts uninterrupted views of the ocean and Channel Islands along with luxurious accommodations just steps from the sand. 

“Zachari” means “sugar” in Greek, and the resort’s name is a nod to the founding of the city in the early 1900s by the beet sugar mogul, Henry T. Oxnard. It also references the fine, sugar-like sands that form deep dunes along the resort’s perimeter and shift into the broad expanse of Mandalay Beach. This beach is rarely crowded, perfect for strolling and bird watching, and it faces directly west for picture-perfect sunsets.

Aerial view of the pools and buildings with the beach and ocean at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach
Aerial view of Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach (Photo courtesy of Zachari Dunes)

Zachari Dunes is exceptional for reasons beyond its beachfront setting. As a destination resort, it has a huge array of amenities and activities on-site. With the pool complex, game room, spa, fitness center, fire pits, gear rentals, on-site dining and more, you can have an amazing time without ever leaving the property and its adjacent beach. Further, the resort balances the vibe of a private enclave with a celebration of its Oxnard locale. From menus to art displays, the resort exudes pride in its host city’s heritage just as much as its beautiful beaches. 

With a party of five spanning three generations, I recently checked out all there is to see and do (and eat and drink) at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach. While every aspect of the resort’s hospitality was practically faultless, what stood out was the palpable sense of pride in its home of Oxnard. The city doesn’t ping the typical tourist’s radar, but a stay at Zachari Dunes will leave you wondering how this spot is so often overlooked. Then again, you might prefer to keep the resort as your own secret getaway.

A Destination Resort

Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach reopened after a multi-million-dollar renovation in October, 2022. Formerly an Embassy Suites, the property is now part of the Curio Collection by Hilton. The resort’s marketing director Andrew Sutrisno describes the collection as an upscale lifestyle brand with the flexibility to tell a local story. That story is of the Oxnard coast, a hidden gem midway between Malibu and Santa Barbara that too few out-of-town visitors are aware of. Amplifying the appeal of the coast is the remarkable agricultural bounty of the Oxnard Plain with its thriving fields of strawberries and other produce.  

The major renovation that launched Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach transformed the entire property while leaving its best assets intact. Those assets include the resort’s Spanish-Revival-style architecture characterized by elegant arches, red-tile roofs and meandering, palm-lined pathways, along with the already enviable pool complex. 

The suites, all 250 of them across eight buildings, all got total makeovers, and the lobby with its original grand staircase is now drenched in natural light thanks to new windows. All new are Zachari Dunes’ signature restaurant, Ox & Ocean, the Sugar Beats food truck, Float Spa, and Henry’s Sundries and Gear Rental. Sutrisno explained to me that the property had great bones and an amazing location, making the renovation investment a no-brainer. 

Typical guests at Zachari Dunes include coastal road-trippers journeying up or down US-101/CA-1 between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A luxury resort that offers better value for money compared to any in Malibu or Santa Barbara helps Oxnard stand out as more than just a “drive-by” city along this stunning stretch of the SoCal coast. The pet-friendly resort is also a popular getaway for families and couples from all over the LA area. Cooling onshore breezes are especially enticing in summer when temperatures are scorching inland but perfectly pleasant along the coast. 

Plus, Zachari Dunes is minutes from both Channel Islands and Ventura harbors, where boats depart for Channel Islands National Park. With no accommodations on the islands (other than camping), the resort is an ideal place to stay for national park visitors. 

The white stone Spanish Revival structure of Zachari Dunes resort's main lobby building
The grand entrance to Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach (Photo courtesy of Zachari Dunes)

First Impressions of Zachari Dunes

Zachari Dunes’ very-Californian take on Spanish Revival architecture is visually striking from the moment you enter the front gates. The grand lobby building is crowned with a domed tower, fronted by stone latticework and flanked by sky-high palm trees. Once inside, stop for a welcome drink of house-made strawberry lemonade, presented with a note that Oxnard is the largest strawberry producer in California. 

Sip your delicious drink while taking in the eclectic art collection displayed around the spacious lobby with its plentiful seating areas, coffee table books and fireplace. From some corners you can already catch a glimpse of the ocean. 

Ponds and landscaping around Sugar Beats food truck at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach resort
Lush landscaping around Sugar Beats food truck in the middle of Zachari Dunes resort (Photo by California News Press)

After checking in, take a look at the resort map and up-to-date info about amenities, dinner specials and the weekly activity calendar. While easy to navigate with the hub of activity in the middle, the resort is large with multiple guest room buildings and wings, so do a little exploring on the way to your room. Stroll the pathways, under and around lawns, water features, fire pits and shady awnings, with ocean views that shift from peeks to full panoramas. 

You will probably spot very few people on the beach, although the paved pathway between the ocean and dunes is popular with bikers and joggers. The resort spans a deep and wide stretch of Mandalay Beach, and the closest spots are far enough from the public parking at each end to keep the middle uncrowded. 

Zachari Dunes’ All-suite Accommodations

Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach offers a comprehensive range of all-suite accommodation options ranging from 600 to 1,600 square feet. Every suite sleeps up to four or six, and connecting suites are available. Most feature a furnished balcony or patio, perfect for leisurely morning coffees and sunset toasts. Choose among options with ocean, garden or pool views, or an oceanfront suite for unrivaled views along with the sounds of the ocean to lull you to sleep at night.

Suites with one king bed or two queens all feature a full-size sleeper sofa in a spacious seating area, plus a dining area with a refrigerator, microwave and wet bar with a Keurig coffee maker. For larger groups, such as my own family of five with three adults and two children, an upgrade to a two-bedroom presidential suite is perfect. These six most spacious suites are in their own two-story oceanfront building, with ground floor suites opening onto the resort’s Playa Vista Lawn. 

An orange sofa in the living room of a suite at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach resort
The living room in one of the presidential suites at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach (Photo courtesy of Zachari Dunes)

The presidential suite’s large master bedroom has a king-size bed, armchair and flat-screen TV, a wall of windows with panoramic ocean views, and a private bathroom with a freestanding tub as well as a shower. The second bedroom, also generously sized, features two queen beds, another flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom with his-and-hers sinks and an oversized shower. There’s also the living area comprising an L-shaped sofa that can easily seat six or more, which faces the fireplace and yet another big-screen television. A tall dining table, plush armchair and ottoman, the wet bar, and an additional bathroom complete the suite’s more than ample accommodations. 

It’s hard to keep your eyes off the views, especially through two full walls of windows that wrap around a presidential suite’s living room. But the decor throughout Zachari Dunes is striking as well. Taking inspiration from the resort’s surroundings, the suites are decorated in muted, organic tones of sand accentuated by whites and dark woods. Organic materials like basket-woven lighting fixtures, wave-textured furniture facades and geometric print textiles all evoke the natural environment. Bold and modern artwork with nature themes brightens the otherwise serene aesthetic. 

The Dive Lounge game room at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach
The DIVE Lounge game room at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach (Photo courtesy of Zachari Dunes)

On-site Activities at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach

It’s definitely feasible to have a delightful time at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach while doing absolutely nothing. The most minimal version of activity could involve lounging by the pool and maybe strolling to the ocean and back in between meals and evening s’mores around a fire pit. For guests with a slightly livelier time in mind, the resort presents an enticing array of on-site activities and amenities to check out.

Pools and Cabana Cove

The pools at Zachari Dunes are outstanding. The main swimming pool is huge and heated year-round, while the nearby hot tub, also enormous, sits in its own elevated grotto. For an ultra-luxe pool day, book one of the cabanas (for up to six guests) at the poolside Cabana Cove. 

My family enjoyed a wonderful few hours in the comfort of a private cabana. They feature heavy canvas drapes for shade and privacy, comfy day beds and sofas, and a refrigerator stocked with cold sodas and a complimentary fruit plate. You can order from an all-day menu of snacks and light bites. We couldn’t imagine a more heavenly way to luxuriate than sipping a chill glass of bubbly between dips in the pool!

DIVE Lounge

Located right next to the swimming pools is a unique and memorable space at Zachari Dunes – the DIVE Lounge. It’s part game room and part arcade with a full bar, open to the whole family before 5 p.m. and adults only after that. You can play darts, electronic basketball or shuffleboard, or choose from a library of board games. There’s plenty of comfy seating and big-screen TVs showing sports, and all the games are complimentary for resort guests.

Henry’s Gear Rental

Henry’s Gear Rental, which is also a sundries shop, is just off the lobby at Zachari Dunes. As part of the resort fee, all guests get to pick a two-hour gear rental each day of their stay, which opens up a wide range of activity options and enhancements. Also included is a rental from the resort partner Wheel Fun Rentals, which has a desk on the plaza. Rent bicycles or four-wheel surrey bikes and ride along the extensive network of beachfront paths that connect directly to the resort. 

For beach fun, borrow folding chairs, boogie boards, surf or paddle boards and other beach gear. Get active with tennis or basketball equipment – there are full-size courts for both at the resort – or rent a hoverboard or scooter and explore the local area. GoPro, DSLR and Polaroid cameras are available to borrow, as are telescopes and hiking poles. For a rainy day or indoor entertainment any time, borrow a Nintendo Switch, Oculus, record player or board games. 

Float Spa

Float Spa at Zachari Dunes is the second location of a popular luxury spa based in Santa Barbara. Choose from a menu of massages, facials and body treatments. You can enjoy your spa service in one of the two treatment rooms, on your suite’s private balcony or patio or in a cabana. 

Fitness center and wellness classes

Zachari Dunes’ fitness center is open 24 hours and features state-of-the-art equipment including Peloton bikes and LifeFitness treadmills. Fitness enthusiasts staying at the resort should also check out the schedule of complimentary wellness classes. Look for sunrise yoga and beach body fitness on the Playa Vista Lawn, and beach volleyball sessions. 

Dining at Zachari Dunes

Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach has two dining options on site: the signature restaurant Ox and Ocean, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; and Sugar Beats, an Airstream repurposed as a permanent food truck. While the upscale offerings at Ox and Ocean and the casual breakfast and lunch fare at Sugar Beats serve distinctive appetites, the eateries share a source of inspiration in the bounty of the Oxnard Plain and its coastal waters. 

Ox and Ocean

Ox and Ocean is just off the lobby at Zachari Dunes, where the entranceway is lined with vintage farming posters and paraphernalia from Oxnard’s early years. The display is a reference to Chef Damien Giliberti’s cuisine, which emphasizes hyper-local produce while exploring vibrant Californian, Latin and Asian flavors. The name Ox and Ocean is a play on the theme of surf ‘n’ turf as well as the name of Oxnard. The single-sheet menu of shareable plates also reflects this motif, dividing the offerings into “farm,” “ocean” and “ranch” sections. 

The restaurant is an inviting, indoor-outdoor space with assorted seating sections subtly spiraling around a central circular bar. Bar seats, booth tables, intimate two-tops and patio dining are all available, making Ox and Ocean equally suited to romantic date nights, family dinners and toast-to-your-vacation nightcaps. 

Ox and Ocean’s drinks program is overseen by a Level 3 sommelier, so the wine list and pairing suggestions are top-notch. Local beers and creative, SoCal-inspired cocktails are also available. For a unique tipple, how about the Bloody Ox with bourbon, beet juice, Tajin and a dehydrated beet chip garnish? 

We dined at Ox and Ocean for two consecutive evenings while staying at Zachari Dunes. Despite the menu being tightly edited, and the three adults in our party ostensibly embracing the shareable label, it was really hard to narrow down the options. (A kids’ menu is available as well.) Across the two meals, we shared at least a few dishes from each section of the menu from farm to ocean to ranch, making for a delectably balanced spread and truly memorable dining experience.

Chef Giliberti, a fine-dining adept poached from Santa Barbara, makes almost all the components of his complex dishes in house, by hand. This includes the pillowy bao buns stuffed with slow-cooked oxtail, punchy-sweet hoisin, kimchi and kewpie mayo, a highlight of the ranch section. Another is the roasted duck breast, pinkly tender under golden skin with an orange-honey glaze. This is plated over sweet potato puree with tender spinach and asparagus plus some superbly frizzled bites of duck confit. 

Complementing the richness of these dishes, the farm section of the menu offers some stunning salads and produce-forward creations. While elevating farm fare with complex, artistic accents, the star ingredient shines. In the beet salad, for example, a bowl of showy red and golden beets glisten under a roasted poblano vinaigrette, dainty dollops of avocado puree, local citrus, goat cheese and puffed amaranth. The Brussels with a yellow curry dressing, roasted garlic aioli and Korean chili flakes likewise lifts a humble vegetable into a moreish treat.

Dining within view of the ocean makes a seafood option all but essential. We opted for an incredible sea bass with fregola sarda (a tiny Sardinian pasta), roasted butternut squash, sage brown butter and pomegranate. We also adored the crab croquettes, delicate yet rich with lump crab meat, panko and a feisty sesame chili-garlic dip. The lobster bisque is another seafood triumph, topped with a brioche crouton and lemon creme fraiche. 

Do your best to save room for at least one shared dessert. A must-order Ox and Ocean signature is the fried strawberry hand pie. Made in house from scratch, it’s a sweet showcase for locally grown Harry’s Berries strawberries, baked in a tender pastry pocket and served with a drizzle of dulce de leche and vanilla ice cream. Let the spoon battle begin. If the fire pits outside the windows have you dreaming of toasted marshmallows, go one better with the fire-roasted milkshake. With caramelized banana, Graham cracker crumbles, salted caramel and a crown of fire-roasted meringue, this is a serious contender for the best milkshake you’ve ever had. 

Sugar Beats Airstream trailer food truck at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach resort
Sugar Beats food truck at Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach (Photo by California News Press)

Sugar Beats

The gleaming Airstream trailer repurposed as Sugar Beats food truck sits in the middle of Zachari Dunes resort. The lawn space is surrounded by lush foliage with picnic-style seating completing the casual camp-themed setup. It’s an ode to the RV version of a coastal California road trip, but on this adventure you don’t need to wrangle with a camp stove. Instead, order your favorite gourmet coffee created in partnership with local roasters, Beacon Coffee

Sugar Beats offers casual, super-tempting breakfast and lunch fare as well. Options include a New Jersey-style Taylor ham breakfast sandwich, a breakfast burrito, churros to dip in your coffee, grilled shrimp skewers and an LA street dog.

Palm trees against the sunset over Mandalay Beach seen from Zachari Dunes resort in Oxnard
Sunset over Mandalay Beach (Photo by California News Press)

Mandalay Beach and Local Attractions

Mandalay Beach and all the on-site activities at Zachari Dunes may well fill every minute of your itinerary, but there are a lot of local attractions to explore as well. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Visit other nearby beaches such as Hollywood Beach and Silver Strand, both close enough to walk or bike to from the resort.
  • Book a snorkeling and kayaking excursion to Anacapa Island with Channel Islands Expeditions – Zachari Dunes guests can book through the resort for special discounted rates.
  • Stroll around Channel Islands Harbor, where you can rent a boat or kayak, book a romantic gondola ride, stop in at the Maritime Museum or shop at the Sunday farmer’s market. 
  • Head to Ventura Harbor Village with its lively mix of restaurants, shops and special events.
  • Ventura and Channel Islands harbors are also departure points for Island Packers Cruises, the official Channel Islands National Park concessionaire. Take a day trip to one of the islands, or a seasonal whale-watching or wildlife cruise.
  • Admire beautifully maintained historic homes in the Henry T. Oxnard Historic District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Shop and dine on Main Street in downtown Ventura, also the location of the historic Mission San Buenaventura. 
  • Visit Ventura Botanical Gardens for a hike with incredible views. (Related read: 12 Beautiful Botanical Gardens in California.)


Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton

2101 Mandalay Beach Road, Oxnard, CA 93035

(805) 984-2500

California News Press and its contributors received goods, services and/or other professional courtesies to facilitate this review. All opinions are those of the author.  

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