San Diego’s North County is one of my favorite corners of the world. That’s partly for sentimental reasons — it was the first real vacation my husband and I took with our son — and partly for its blend of coastal beauty and small-town charm. The area is as kid-friendly as they come, and family resorts abound, but only a few are truly special. Among that elite group is Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, which, after starting life as a spa and golf retreat in the ’60s, has evolved into one of the best family getaways on the West Coast.
Although La Costa sits off a main road close to the highway, the bustle fades into the background as soon as you drive through the gates. Spanish Colonial-style buildings are tucked amid lavish landscaping, dotted with tiled fountains and tumbles of tropical blooms. The resort is spread out, but that’s a good thing — take your time strolling from point to point, and you’re rewarded with pretty vignettes at every turn. And since it’s pet-friendly, kids are likely to meet a new furry friend or two along the way.
Family accommodation options here seem endless. My 8-year-old and I shared a beautifully appointed La Costa room, with a king bed, a pullout sofa and a terrace overlooking the garden pools. Rooms in all categories are spacious, but if you really want to spread out, book a suite or connecting rooms. Family suites, which have two bedrooms and two baths plus a living area, work especially well. The resort also offers villas with full kitchens and laundry facilities. These are privately owned but held to uniform standards, so there’s no guesswork about the decor or amenities.
Guests can choose from a range of different packages themed around golf, spa and other amenities. The Splash & Stay package is tailored just for families. In addition to accommodations, it includes welcome gifts for kids, a s’mores roast, a kids’ club session for two children, dinner for two adults, and more.
La Costa doesn’t just accommodate kids; it actively caters to them, with a daily schedule of family activities, baby and toddler equipment, and a market where you can pick up snacks, diapers, first aid supplies and even a new toy or book. Kidtopia, the onsite kids’ club, offers half-day and full-day sessions for ages 6 months through 12 years. Older kids can hit Vibz Game Lounge for gaming stations, air hockey, billiards and more.
My son wasn’t feeling great on the morning of his Kidtopia visit and had to cut it short, but he loved all the bells and whistles, from the saltwater aquarium to the light-up game floor. And I love that the schedule takes kids all over the property — throughout our stay, I saw duckling-like processions of little ones on their way to and fro, all of them happy and engaged in the fun.
The family pool area just outside Kidtopia is fantastic, with a pair of 100-foot waterslides and a cute splash pad. Another pool nearby has a sandy beach entrance. If you want peace and quiet, visit the adults-only Edge Pool. There’s a small, tranquil pool at the spa that you can access either with a day pass or by booking a treatment.
Since the spa is part of La Costa’s reason for being, don’t miss it. Facilities are lovely, with an extensive menu of services plus a reflexology pathway, sauna, steam room, waterfall shower, hot tub and other soothing respites. Parents can also visit the Chopra Center for holistic wellness therapies, book a fitness class through the Athletic Center, take a tennis lesson or play a round of golf on one of the two courses.
With all that activity, you’re bound to work up an appetite. BlueFire Grill is La Costa’s signature restaurant and has an inviting patio and fire pit that overlook the resort’s central plaza. A few small cafes are sprinkled around the property, and indoor-outdoor Bistro 65 serves an excellent breakfast as well as lunch and dinner, with a stellar view of the golf course. Wiped out from a long cross-country flight, we opted for room service on our first evening, and the quality and service were both terrific.
There’s also a grab-and-go counter and an ice cream shop in the market with incredibly tempting desserts (you have been warned). Diversions Sports Lounge off the main lobby gives parents a place to have a drink and catch the game — we were at the resort during March Madness and it was hopping.
Given all this, you could have a full and complete vacation without leaving the grounds. But if you’re itching to explore the area and get your toes in the surf, Carlsbad’s beaches are within a few minutes’ drive. Legoland (always a hit with our family) sits 10 minutes from the resort; Disneyland is an hour or so away.
Down the coast, Torrey Pines State Reserve is a fabulous place for a hike. Afterward, relax and watch paragliders float over the cliffs at Torrey Pines Gliderport, or if you’re up for an adventure, go tandem and join them! I’ve done this in the past and it is an unforgettable way to end a day in such gorgeous surroundings.
We’ve featured this resort on Ciao Bambino for years, as it is a family vacation icon. Read our full review of Omni La Costa for more family-focused details and to request a quote. When you use our Check Availability Form to reach out for a quote, one of our Family Vacation Consultants will follow up to ensure all is well. This is a free service on Ciao Bambino and costs you the same as if you were to go to the hotel directly.
We can help! Our Family Vacation Consultants can provide expert advice on the best accommodations and activities for your family. Request assistance on our Connect with a Travel Advisor page.
Editor’s Note: Ciao Bambino received a media package to review Omni La Costa Resort. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Lisa Frederick unless otherwise noted.
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