This split-level tropical paradise grew out of the collective imagination of a very hands-on Newbury Park couple.

Working without a formal plan or a professional designer, the pair envisioned a backyard retreat, with several separate destinations and plenty of room for family and friends to gather comfortably and informally.

EnchantedEvening

Written by LESLIE GREGORY HAUKOOS  Photos by RICHARD GILLARD

The result is this charming hideaway, complete with a rock “spool” (somewhat bigger than a spa and smaller than a pool) with a hidden grotto and full-sized water slide, a tropical cabana with kitchen and barbecue, an exotic, cloth-draped gazebo, built-in fire pit and a cozy corner patio with a chiminea.

The couple enjoys a quiet evening together just outside the grotto.  Above, a neighbor’s grandchild gives the slide a try. Below, friends sip a cocktail while dinner cooks on the barbecue.

The couple enjoys a quiet evening together just outside the grotto. Above, a neighbor’s grandchild gives the slide a try.

The couple described their dream to the folks at California Pools, who built the main water feature without a formally drawn design for the approximately 14′ x 18′ spool.

Then Brian Staben of the Rock Shop in Camarillo came on board and the dream really took shape. Having worked on rock structures at Disneyland, which has some of the best faux mountains around, Staben knew just how to craft realistic rock formations with lots of interesting nooks and crevices.

The homeowners credit Staben for the realization of their dream. Now the spool has a shallow pond at the top of the water slide, where guests like to hang out on hot days in just enough water to keep them refreshed while they chat with folks sitting at the tiki bar. The hidden grotto, affectionately dubbed “Boney Mountain Grotto,” after the local landmark, is deep enough for adults to stand in and can fit three or four people.

The spool features a graded beach entry but deepens to 4 feet 6 inches, which is deep enough for safe water sliding. There’s also plenty of seating for several adults and lots of room for kids to splash around on the other side of a peninsula planter. And, when the jets are on, there’s enough length and resistance to get a bit of exercise as well, the homeowner says.

The main waterfall first pools in a 1-foot-deep area, where the family dogs like to romp, before it spills into the main spool. There’s a “cool splash” feature that can be manually operated to keep the water just the right temperature.

friends sip a cocktail while dinner cooks on the barbecue

Friends sip a cocktail while dinner cooks on the barbecue.

Up a few steps, but feeling worlds away, is the tiki bar cabana, which was built with bamboo and covered with thatched palapa leaves. The homeowners replace the leaves every two years, but they say synthetic ones are also available and require less frequent maintenance.

The homeowners did most of the landscaping themselves, with some advice on plants from a friend who’s also a landscaper. A prized feature is the banana plant, which produces sweet fruit each growing season—just like in a tropical paradise.