Surfers paddle through the break of the Pacific Ocean in the distance as I sit on a balcony with morning coffee in hand, observing it all. The Southern California experience is many things, and I imagine watching surfers paddle out from my hotel room balcony plays a central role, or at least in my experience. After a couple of whirlwind days in Santa Monica, finding a more relaxing vibe at the Cape Rey Carlsbad in North San Diego County brings us to what I discover to be the epicenter of SoCal fun.
There is no definitive way to experience a region, and certainly not Southern California. There are too many beaches, cool cities, unique arts communities, amazing views and delicious food to focus on just a few locations and say it’s the definitive experience. But there is our experience, and Carlsbad played a central role. Our 10-day visit began in Los Angeles over Memorial Day Weekend with a one-night stay in Santa Monica.
After exploring the Santa Monica Pier and having lunch, we hit the road for what I thought would be a two-hour drive south to Carlsbad. Of course traffic slowed things a bit; it seemed everyone wanted to head to the beaches of North San Diego County, where Carlsbad is one of the central communities.
We arrived at the Cape Rey Carlsbad just before check in that Sunday, and while sitting in traffic when I’d rather be at the beach was borderline stressful, stepping onto the Cape Rey Carlsbad, a Hilton Resort property melted all of that away.
This wasn’t my first time to visit the Cape Rey Carlsbad, but it was the first time to fully experience the property. Six months prior, I was in Carlsbad for a conference and had the opportunity to visit several properties. At the time known as the Hilton Carlsbad, I knew after just an hour on the property that I’d want to return.
Cape Rey Carlsbad is still a Hilton property. It was rebranded in spring 2015. Opened in June 2012, the luxury hotel was honored with the AAA Four Diamond distinction in 2013.
The hotel is located on the southern end of Carlsbad along California Highway 1. It’s minutes from an exit on Interstate 5, making it convenient for travelers from Los Angeles or San Diego. The property is actually only about a 30-minute drive north of San Diego International Airport and Downtown San Diego.
The property isn’t a massive high-rise; in fact, the 215-room California craftsman-style property blends in well with its residential neighborhood across from Carlsbad State Beach.
We pulled into the drive where we handed over the keys to the valet and were helped with our luggage to the front desk. Our room wasn’t quite ready so I found my way to the bar for a local beer (Stone this time) and Stacey and Colby discovered foosball and table tennis.
We had a top-floor room (third floor) that overlooked the pool with the ocean in the distance. It was a fun room that gave Colby and I the opportunity to relax on the balcony watching everyone below while Stacey took her time getting ready each night. Having a distraction besides TV to keep Colby from getting too antsy is always a good thing.
Being a new hotel, everything in the room was well-maintained. I always started out with the in-room coffee, but there is also complimentary coffee at a station near the entrance to the restaurant downstairs.
We had plenty of room for the three of us to maneuver, and a bathroom roomy enough for two people to get ready at the same time.
Cape Rey Carlsbad’s 21 rooms include eight suites. The rooms have 42-inch TVs, microwave, mini-fridge and all the usual amenities.
Experience the Property:
Without the property’s picturesque location across from the beach and comfortable rooms, the hotel still would have much to offer. Amenities include the Ocean Crest Spa, the massive ocean view swimming pool and a hot tub that especially hit the spot during the comfortable but chilly evenings.
We didn’t get a chance to try out the spa even though the idea of using it was a Mother’s Day gift that went unfulfilled. The spa features seven private treatment rooms including a couple’s suite with tub and private outdoor area. Offerings include a selection of massages, facials and body treatments.
We did enjoy the heated pool for hours every day, especially since the surf was fun to dip our toes in but way too cold to actually go for a proper swim. We did enjoy throwing a football on the beach and collecting some of the many rocks that wash to shore.
Carlsbad has a selection of restaurants nearby, and we did hit a few of them. But we also enjoyed a few meals at the property’s Chandler’s Restaurant & Lounge.
Dinner our first night featured fresh seafood and a selection of regional dishes. Colby and I had breakfast at Chandler’s one morning while Stacey rested. He feasted on pancakes and sausage while I enjoyed a smoothie, which seemed pretty California of me.
We stayed two nights, long enough to relax and have plenty of pool and ocean time. But then again, maybe it wasn’t long enough. After we checked out on Tuesday our plan was to get in the car and drive into San Diego and spend the afternoon exploring before driving back north to Anaheim for a visit to Disneyland.
So after I loaded the car and started looking for Stacey I discovered her curled up on one of the couches next to a fire pit, drink in hand reading a book. Colby and I joined her there, and we ended up ordering food and more drinks.
One way to know you enjoy a property is when you are in no hurry to leave it. Cape Rey isn’t alone in California properties with cozy fire pits and perfect weather. But it’s a property that does it well enough to keep us lingering well past check out.
Our stay was furnished by Cape Rey Carlsbad, a Hilton Resort. All views are my own. Well, the great sunset views of the Pacific Ocean do belong to Cape Rey Carlsbad, but you get the point, don’t you?