One of my Hyatt Level 1-7 free night certificates was about to expire and I really wanted to put it to good use and book a hotel that is at least above category 4, for which I have a few other free night certificates available. As I was in San Diego for work, I looked for something in the vicinity and found the Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas. I called my Hyatt Concierge on Thursday to book the hotel for a stay from Sunday – Monday. Monday was also the day my certificate would expire but the hotel had a few suites still available when I booked on Thursday and was hoping for an upgrade. The night before, Saturday to Sunday, the hotel only had their standard rooms available.
The member rate for my stay, if paid with cash, would have been a whopping $882. I checked a few other dates throughout the year, and the cheapest rate I was able to find was for about $550/night. Personally, I consider this a pretty good redemption of my free night certificate. Being a Level 6, the Alila Mera Beach Resort is one level below the maximum of what I could have redeemed my certificate for. However, Level 6 is the highest Hyatt category which you can find in the greater San Diego and Los Angeles area.
The Alila Marea Beach Resort is located in the beach community of Leucadia which is located in the city of Encinitas at the northern end. It borders directly with the coastal town of Carlsbad. The resort is located oceanside atop a stunning coastal bluff extending along one of the most dramatic stretches of coastline in Southern California. With the road, the Coast Highway 101, to the east of the hotel, there is only the cliff between you and the beach. Alila Marea Beach Resort is only 33 miles north of the San Diego International Airport and about 100 miles south of LAX. Either way, you will be traveling on I-5, exit at La Costa Ave and head west until you reach the Alila Marea Beach Resort. Don’t necessarily trust Google Maps as of the moment as it will send you south on Highway 101 to make a U-turn and come back up to get into the hotel. Google Maps doesn’t know that you can go straight at the intersection of La Costa Ave and Highway 101.
The hotel property extends perpendicular from the coast towards the highway. Rooms facing North, West, and South-West offer the best views of the coastline.
Lots of attractions, beaches, restaurants, and other places of interest are just a short drive away by car or even bicycle. More about the bicycle option later. Just north of the hotel property is the South Ponto State Beach and Parking Lot.
From the west end of the hotel, you can walk down a set of stairs that will take you first to an overlook and then all the way down to the beach.
After arriving at the Alila Marea Beach Resort I checked in with the valet about parking my car. He handed me over my parking receipt with instructions on how to request my car if needed. I grabbed my bags out of the car and headed inside. There are no automated sliding doors at the main entrance. Just regular double swing doors and one of them is ADA compliant and can be opened by the push of a button. However, the valets outside will take care of that for you and hold the door open for you to get in and out of the hotel. The check-in counter is inside to the right. I really enjoyed that they have you sit down to check in and talk to the front desk agent. Chelsea helped me out and she did an awesome job. I felt welcome the whole time and got offered a small welcome drink right there. I arrived at about 1 p.m. and they didn’t have my room ready for check-in yet as they were sold out for the last few days and even the day of my arrival. Because of that, I didn’t get an upgrade that I would have otherwise gotten as a Hyatt Globalist. On the other side, it was kinda strange as the hotel sent me an email with a questionnaire to fill out about my upcoming stay. Some of the questions were how I will get to the hotel and what time. I selected that I will be driving and got asked for the make and model of my car as well as my arrival time. I put down 11 a.m. but unfortunately work kept me busy in the morning and I had to push my plans back a little bit and arrived at 1 p.m.
Chelsea offered to give me a hotel key so I can check out some of the amenities of the hotel and I will receive a text message once my room is ready. She also had my bags stored until my room is ready and have them delivered to it once my room was ready. After a little chit-chat with Chelsea, I headed out towards the pool deck and walked around the hotel ground. Just outside the pool deck, preparations were made for a wedding ceremony that afternoon.
About 45 minutes after checking in, I received a text message that my room is ready. I headed back inside to the front desk. Chelsea handed me the keys and I was off to the elevators to get one level up to my room.
One King Bed Coastline View with Patio (Room 111)
My room was located on the same floor as the pool deck and it’s also the “ground floor” for the hotel. From level one, you can exit to the north side and west side of the hotel to take a stroll alongside the property or take the steps down to the beach. I was surprised when I pulled my room key out of the little sleeve it comes in. The keys are actually made out of wood but up to the latest standard of technology. It’s a NFC key which you only have to touch on your room door lock to unlock it. I like these kind of keys way better than the old-school once with a magnetic strip on the back. The Do-Not-Disturb sign, which is usally just a cheap piece of paper, was also made out of wood and hanging from the door handle on the inside of my room.
Shortly after I got to the room, the valet knocked on my room to deliver my stored bags. He explained some of the room features to me, especially one of the most important ones. The air conditioner won’t work, when the sliding door to the patio is open. Makes absolute sense.
The room itself is very spacious. On either side of the King bed is a little nightstand with plenty of power outlets and USB ports. Either side of the bed had individual lights and reading lights. Towards the patio is a little seating area. The room features floor-to-ceiling windows with a huge sliding window to get out on the patio.
My room was facing north and was approximately in the middle of the hotel building. I had a good view of the beach area and the beach parking lot. The patio features two large and comfy chairs and a small table. My room was the last one without a patio firepit. The other rooms, west of me had a fire pit on the patio. Even though there is a public walkway spanning the whole north side of the building, there is enough distance and elevation between the walkway and my patio area. I think the patios even offered the most privacy compared to the rooms on the second floor with a balcony as they had a huge piece of glass under their balcony railing. The patios had a small concrete wall with obscured views a little bit, but not much.
Opposite the bed is a large wall-mounted flatscreen TV. Besides offering TV channels and Chromecast integration, you can also watch the “Surf Cam”. It’s a webcam mounted at the north-western corner of the building overlooking the beach and the stairs you go down to the overlook and beach. A big closet next to the room door had two pajamas hanging in there and plenty of space for your clothing. Next to it is a smaller closet with drawers of which one houses a safe. One of the doors hides a small refrigerator that comes with two complimentary Seltzers. On top are a coffee machine, an assortment of coffees, and teas as well as two complimentary water bottles made out of aluminum.
The bathroom is separated from the rest of the room by a sliding door. It comes with beautiful large vanity and a spacious walk-in shower. Inside the shower is a towel rack and you have the option to choose between the overhead shower head as well as a showerhead on a hose. The toilet can be separated from the rest of the bathroom with another but a smaller sliding door.
The only thing I missed in my room was some kind of work desk. Well, the Alila Marea is a beach resort and you should be here to relax and calm down. There is a small table in the corner of the room, next to the windows, but it’s not optimum if you want to get some serious work done. It’s really just a small table.
I was only staying one night at this gorgeous property. This gave me only one chance to capture the sunset. Unfortunately, it was a very cloudy day and evening, with even some rain. Therefore I didn’t see much of the sun, while creating this timelapse.
Public Areas & Amenities
The Alila Marea Beach Resort features a beautiful lobby. I liked the check-in where you sit down with your hotel concierge who checks you in. There are a few more seating options in the lobby area, but they are probably more likely to be used while you wait to get checked in.
As you walk down the hallway to the elevators, you will pass the Alila Spa. Find all of their offerings online or talk to one of the staff members for more information. Spa Alila is also available for the public to be booked without being a guest at the resort.
The ocean-side pool deck is perfect to relax and enjoy the sun. There are plenty of loungers next to the pool and the hotel offers pool-side dining and drinking service from “The Pocket”. On the pool deck, you also find an infinity-edge whirlpool that is as wide as the pool itself. It’s one of the bigger whirlpools I have seen at hotels and resorts. On the pool deck is also an open shower cabin. Perfect to get the sand off after a day at the beach. Don’t forget to take your room key with you, otherwise you wont be able to re-enter the resort and have to go all the way to the main entrance at the front of the property.
You can rent one of the few poolside cabanas and daybeds. Reservations will be made through Spa Alila.
The fire pit is ideal to hang out and watch the sunset, especially during the “colder” months of the year.
Just outside the pool deck is spacious green, where sometimes lounge chairs are set up for sun-soakers, and from the walkway, you have a great view over the cliff out to the ocean and along the beach. However, this time, the area was set up for a wedding ceremony. It really is a great place to have a wedding and the ocean makes a great backdrop. When I arrived I saw how the whole platform still got erected and after I got back from my bicycle ride early evenings, the whole platform was almost taken down again. The wedding guests had a reception which was held in the meeting room right below the Varga restaurant. During dinner, I could definitely hear the party going on down there, as the meeting room had a patio attached to it where they had the buffet set up.
The Fitness Studio is located on the 1st floor of the hotel, the same my room was on. It is a state-of-the-art fitness studio with all the equipment you can possibly imagine. The only downside of the fitness studio is, that it doesn’t feature any windows whatsoever. On the other hand, from its location within the building, there wouldn’t be any good views anyway. However, I like some natural light during workouts.
Other fitness options include oceanfront yoga classes, group runs, and nature hikes. Ask any of the staff members for more information about that and the times for each of the activities.
Alila Marea Resort has direct access to the South Pronto State Beach via a set of stairs at the northwest end of the property. The first set of stairs takes you down to an overlook point of the beach area and from there you go all the way down to sea level.
Before you head down the stairs, there is a concierge desk staffed with beach ambassadors that can help you with making reservations for a great beach experience. Borrow or rent one of their surfboards for a fun day with the waves. Surf classes are offered as well. Grab some water or sunscreen if needed here. Make reservations with the beach ambassadors for a beachside lounge chair and umbrella, toys, and even a beachside picnic.
One of the best amenities is the free rental of the electric-assist Electra Go! bikes. Helmets are available as well. To get your bike talk to the valets and they will help you with your bicycle rental. You have to fill out a quick waiver on your phone, which will also be emailed to you after you finished the form. After that, you get a quick introduction on how to use your electric-assisted bicycles. All of the bicycles have locks on them which makes it easy to go and explore and don’t have to worry about your bike getting stolen. The locks are only rear wheel locks and you should be fine in the nearby neighborhoods with just that instead of locking it to a solid post or bike rack. I was never worried that my bike gets stolen and I have left it alone quite a few times and it always was still there when I came back. Riding the bikes is like riding a normal bicycle and the electric assist is super easy to use. It’s perfect going up some of the steep hills in Encinitas. I went to Encinitas and checked out some of the many beach stairs and Moonlight State Beach as well as the Encinitas Boat Houses. These bikes are also perfect for a ride into town and go for some food.
The best thing, however, the rental is complimentary and there is no time limit. This is a big plus compared to other places where you get only a one-hour free rental. The resort even encourages you to take the bikes out and explore. Encinitas and Carlsbad are very bicycle-friendly cities. Right from the hotel is a bike path in every direction.
The Alila Marea Beach Resort has all the amenities you can think of for a good dining experience. You can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner all here at the hotel and never have to leave the property. Enjoy your dining experience in the room, at the pool, at the beach, or in the on-site restaurant. The choice is yours.
Coffee Box & Gift Shop
This is kinda like a “mini Starbucks” and they mainly serve different types and flavors of coffee and juices. As for food they only have muffins at the moment but are planning to expand the selection. They are open early and it’s the easiest way to get your early-morning coffee fix.
Besides being a coffee shop the Coffee Box also doubles as a gift shop where you can get your favorite gifts to remember your visit at Alila Marea Beach Resort. You can find shirts, hoodies, re-usable water bottles, and much more there.
Vaga Restaurant & Bar
This is the main go-to restaurant on site. It’s a full-service restaurant and bar which is also open to the public and not only to guests. It is located on the 2nd floor and north-east side of the hotel. It offers indoor dining and dining out on the balcony. To get to the restaurant you can use any of the hotel elevators to get to the 2nd floor and walk east. You might have to get through a closed fire door with an exit sign above it. This is not an emergency exit even though it looks like one. You can also use the spiral stairs, located right in front of the front desk at the lobby level, and walk up to the restaurant.
I highly recommend you to have a reservation if you plan to dine in, especially for dinner. It’s even more important if you want to sit outside on the balcony for dinner and to watch the sunset. When I walked in, I tried to get a table to sit outside on the balcony but they told me there would be a 20-minute wait for that and offered me to sit in the lounge area, better known as the bar area.
The bar area itself is not too bad either. There is an indoor area with the actual bar you can sit at or you sit at any of the comfortable tables and seats opposite of the bar. It doesn’t end here. Featuring also an outdoor patio seating area with even loungers and a fire pit, you have another great spot to watch the sunset for which you don’t need a reservation. However, it’s first come first serve. Get there early for the good spots.
After a few drinks, the waitress came over to tell me that it would take longer than expected to get my table on the balcony but I had the option to eat at the dining room right away. As the sun was already down on this very cloudy evening and I was hungry, I opted for the indoor dining option and ordered their Seabass. The meal had a perfect size, and it was delicious as well. Service was great as well throughout the whole bar-restaurant experience. The indoor dining area gives you a view of the open kitchen.
Varga is also the spot where you will get your breakfast and lunch, which is called on their menu “Brunch” and runs every day from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. After that, you can choose from the dinner menu.
Globalists can come here to enjoy their free breakfast benefit. I didn’t go for breakfast and instead had just a coffee at the Coffee Box. The charge for this was later waived during checkout as my Globalist “Breakfast”.
As you can imagine the prices are on the rather expensive side but not out of the world. On the other hand, you get what you pay for and it was a great food experience for me.
The award-winning Executive Chef, Claudette Zepeda, is a San Diego native who created the menu of modern creations that celebrate the finest local and sustainably sourced ingredients. The name of the restaurant “Vaga” is a play on Claudette Zepeda’s childhood nickname.
To make a reservation, if you are not staying at the hotel, and to check out the menu, visit the Vaga Restaurant’s website.
The Pocket is located right next to the pool. The indoor dining experience is currently suspended due to Covid but their pool-side service is still in full swing. Enjoy drinks and snacks right at the pool while soaking up the California Sunshine. Well, except you come on a very cloudy weekend as I did. 😉
You can grab a cocktail and enjoy the sunset right from the pool deck.
If you crave something else, you can visit one of the many restaurants and eateries in Encinitas or Carlsbad. There are a lot of good locations just a short drive away from the resort. You can also use one of the complimentary bicycles and ride to the restaurant and back to offset your calorie intake. 😉 Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any ocean-front restaurants.
During my stay, I found out that the hotel opened in March of 2021 and was not even half a year old when I stayed there. I had a great time at the hotel but one day is just not enough to really relax or even take advantage of all the amenities the hotel offers. There is just so much to do and see on-property and nearby. I could spend a week here and never get bored.
Overall, the whole staff made me feel welcome at all times. Interactions with staff were always warm and great. They really look out for your well-being. Staff greats you when you cross paths in hallways and other areas of the hotel. It just makes you feel really welcome. My only bad luck was that I picked a day with not-so-good weather. It even rained during the night and the sky was heavily overcast on my day of arrival and departure. But that means I have to come back and next time definitely for more days. Heck, maybe I can get even a reservation for the Pronto or Grandview Suite. Maybe even try to get a surf lesson in. Never tried it, but it would be definitely a great new experience.
Because I used my award night certificate, parking was included which would have been a whopping $52 per night.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
Some of Peter’s photos are published on corporate websites, in-flight magazines, travel guides, and much more.