Weekend Getaway: Carlsbad

Happy Friday! This week was my first regular old five day work week in what feels like forever with our big trip in early May followed by business trips, conferences, and Memorial Day last week. We spent the long weekend at our very favorite resort, Omni La Costa, and it was wonderful and relaxing which was just what we needed.

To fully explain my love for Omni La Costa Resort we’ve got to take it back four years to 2013… the year of the wedding (not ours!). That year we were lucky enough to attend no less than ten nuptials, many of which were out of town. It was a blast to see our loved ones tie the knot and travel to cities we might not have gotten the chance to visit otherwise, but despite the fact that we were doing the whole planes, trains and automobiles thing together, it didn’t actually feel like we had taken a true vacation together… does that make sense? By the end of the year, I was craving a trip with nothing on the itinerary other than sitting by a pool in a bathing suit and eating chips and guac.

Because of his work travel and penchant for loyalty programs we had a free night at an Omni Hotel anywhere in the country. We agreed that we wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t too far so we could spend more time by the pool than in airports, and quickly honed in on La Costa. What followed was a pretty perfect weekend. We flew into John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana and drove the PCH down the coast stopping at Rose’s for breakfast burritos along the way. After getting checked in, we went for a run around the property then settled in by one of their many pools for the rest of the afternoon. That night we enjoyed dinner at Blue Ocean Robata & Sushi Bar just minutes from the resort and when we returned home to the room I was surprised with champagne and a proposal. Needless to say, La Costa holds a very special place in my heart.rose bakery newport breakfast burritoWhen we were deciding what to do for our first anniversary last year, returning to La Costa seemed like the obvious choice. If you read our Cuba itinerary you know that our travels are typically jam-packed and often times we come home feeling less rested than when we left. Our time at La Costa definitely represents a time and place where we can relax and rejuvenate and just enjoy each other’s company without feeling the pressure of squeezing in another landmark or rushing to a reservation.

I’m a creature of habit and absolutely love a good tradition, so it’s no surprise that we headed back to the resort and recreated much of our original engagement weekend (again!). Our Omni experience began before we even left home when one of their “Vacation Ambassadors” reached out to us to offer assistance with any on-property reservations for their many restaurants, the spa, golf course, tennis courts, etc. As with all Omni properties we’ve visited, their service is consistently amazing and we’ve always found their attention to detail and staff to be top notch.

We flew into John Wayne Airport again even though it’s further because I had my heart set on some breakfast burritos from Rose’s (we considered ordering donuts from them for our wedding since they have such a special meaning to me!). It’s a quick hour drive to the resort from Newport, but the San Diego airport is even more convenient and only about 30 minutes away from the property. We had mentioned to our “Vacation Ambassador” that we were celebrating our anniversary and were thrilled to be upgraded to a suite overlooking their golf course upon check-in. When we arrived in our room we were greeted by a sweet assortment of chocolates from their pastry kitchen to celebrate our anniversary… like I said… attention to detail??. Upon seeing the pile of chocolates we knew we had to continue our annual tradition of a five mile run around the property. It’s basically our version of fitting into our wedding dress and tux year after year… we do it for time and are always dead set on making sure we can match the pace we set on our very first trip. If it’s too hot for an outdoor workout they have a spectacular fitness center overlooking the pool and golf course and that’s where we got our sweat on on our second day at the property.omni la costa adults only edge pool cabana

Once the whole exercise bit is out of the way it’s time to get down to the serious business of pool lounging. La Costa has an astonishing eight pools… yes eight… so the options are endless. Their Splash Landing Pool area for families has not only a mini water park but two water slides and I totally would have taken the plunge if I didn’t think this big kid would bum the little kids out. They also have a Sandy Beach area for little babes to make sand castles and wade in the shallow waters. I know we’ll be coming back to La Costa for years to come so I love how many options they have for kids of all ages (and someday I’ll have a kid to conquer that water slide with!). Since we don’t have any little ones yet we stick to their adults-only Edge Pool which consists of the main pool, cabanas, a pool bar, fire pits and jacuzzis overlooking their award winning golf course.

omni la costa tennis courts

omni la costa shopping lilly pulitzer

If you’re anything like my husband, there’s only so much time you can spend sitting by the pool no matter how beautiful the view. When Roberto can’t sit still much longer we’ll head to the driving range to work on our golf game.They have two golf courses and have been ranked a Gold Medal Resort by Golf Magazine every year since 2012. I’m a definite beginner, but the driving range is a fun way to practice my swing and I think next year we’ll finally spring for lessons. Either that or Roberto will spring for lessons and you’ll be able to find me at the spa??. They also have lots of cute little boutiques (hello Lilly Pulitzer) in their main square if you’re in the mood for some shopping.

Although we enjoyed dinner in downtown Carlsbad on our first visit, on our last two trips we haven’t left the resort at all. Why? There’s really no reason to leave and not having to worry about getting to a reservation makes the trip that much more stress-free. There are five restaurants on site and from room service to poolside nachos to their formal restaurants, all their food is outstanding. The last couple years we’ve taken advantage of their amazing Memorial Day Weekend lineup. They have everything from reptile exhibits and scavenger hunts to s’mores and dive-in movies. It’s seriously a kid’s paradise and I’m still a little bitter Roberto wouldn’t let me participate in what he viewed as “kids only” activities. One thing that’s great for big and little kids alike? The Food Truck party they throw in the Main Plaza. They set up an outdoor bar and bring in a handful of trucks for the night. If you’re following along with me on Instagram you know that we sampled literally everything… a Connecticut style lobster roll from Cousins Maine Lobster, multiple tacos and churros from Taco Picasso, and lobster mac n cheese from Organic Food Truck. It’s a seriously magical vibe… families enjoying good food, drinks, and fun under string lights and stars. The last couple years the Warriors have been deep in the playoffs so we’ve ended our nights watching the games at their sports bar, Departures, where they project the game on a big screen. This year we clinched early (no bigs ?) so we stuffed our bellies and climbed in bed for one of the best nights of sleep we’ve gotten in a while.

We always feel like there’s more than enough to do on property, but if you’re itching to get out and about there are tons of things to do nearby. Number one on my list? The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. We missed their season by just a couple weeks, but I’m determined to buck tradition and celebrate our anniversary early one year so we get a chance to visit ourselves. The resort also has shuttles that will take you the quick five minutes to the beach if you want to dip those toes in the ocean. Got kiddos? The options are endless…Legoland is less than fifteen minutes from the property, the San Diego Zoo is thirty minutes, and Disneyland is just over an hour away. For a night on the town, you’re just a quick Uber from Encinitas, Del Mar, or Oceanside and each time we’ve visited we’ve met friendly locals more than happy to share their recommendations for good bars and restaurants.

If you can’t tell I can’t wait to return to the gorgeous property. We’re already recruiting friends for future family vacations and I honestly just can’t wait for my chance to attend the reptile exhibit and take on those insane waterslides!

Many thanks to Omni La Costa Resort for another incredible weekend at the property!

48 Hours in Miami

For the last couple of years, Roberto and I have gone to Hawaii for the January long weekend as our Christmas gift to each other as opposed to actual presents (Roberto may have a different opinion on how this whole arrangement works ?). Cuba has always been on our bucket list, so with the loosening of travel restrictions* and the launch of commercial flights after a 50-year hiatus we decided to take the plunge and change up our island game.

As of right now, the only direct flights to Cuba are from a few select cities and San Francisco is not one of them. Knowing we’d have to stop somewhere, we decided on an extended “layover” in Miami since we had never been and weren’t sure when we’d have a chance to be back.

Here’s how we spent our 48 hours:

We took a red-eye into Fort Lauderdale which always sounds like a good idea: miss the least amount of work while spending the maximum amount of time at your destination. Not to mention that waking up at your destination without having to pay for an extra night in a hotel is a wallet win. In truth, we arrived at 7:30 am (4:30 am our time) totally wrecked. If you read this post you know that we avoid checking our bags at all costs, but if you know us you also know that we’re always late. Like the last people to board the plane late. So inevitably we’re always forced to check our bags at the gate anyway. By the time we got our bags and grabbed our (first) cup of coffee it was peak rush hour, so our Uber ride to Miami Beach took a whopping hour and a half. And as is usually the case with these early morning arrivals… our room at the Nautilus wasn’t ready. We vowed we’d never do a red-eye again, but only time will tell.
Once we got settled, the only logical next step was to set out in search of… what else… more caffeine. We made our way over to Panther Coffee‘s Sunset Harbor location on foot (my favorite way to see a city). We used Lincoln Road to cover the short 1.5 miles across the manmade island. The pedestrian promenade is full of outdoor dining options, shops, and art galleries. We kept it moving and stuck to the people watching the outdoor mall is known for.

Right around the corner from Panther Coffee is True Loaf. The bakery is known for their sourdough and croissants, but I was drawn to founder Tomas Strulovic’s story as well. He took a leap of faith to go from a career in finance to one in flour (he even attended the San Francisco Baking Institute), and his persistence has clearly paid off. We wanted to try both a savory and sweet croissant so we opted for a spicy beef and almond. Both were delicious, but I gotta say the almond was my favorite. If you can’t make it over to True Loaf’s Sunset Harbour location, Panther Coffee sells True Loaf croissants in all their cafes… two birds, one stone.

We took a different route on the way back to our hotel and stopped along Española Way. South Beach is known for its Art Deco buildings, but the couple blocks that make up Española Way feature Spanish colonial architecture. Similar to Lincoln Road, it’s a pedestrian friendly street filled with outdoor dining options and boutiques.

After napping and freshening up at the hotel we headed to dinner at Ola. Unable to decide between all the options we got a bunch of different ceviches and starters to share and split a main. Everything was delicious, but the smoked marlin tacos were a standout. After dinner, we popped into The Regent Cocktail Club for a nightcap. Cleaveland Jones was playing some groovy live music and the manhattans were delicious… what more can you ask for?

We woke up late on our second day and couldn’t believe time was already ticking on our last 24 hours. Eager to get our blood pumping and see more of South Beach in our limited amount of time we set out on a run. We headed south from our hotel along the beach past Lummus Park and Ocean Drive to the very bottom tip of the island, passing all the colorful umbrellas and beach chairs dotted along the sand. I’m always looking for a reason to hit “pause” on our runs (re-tie my shoes, stop at a water fountain, take a picture, etc.), and Roberto just isn’t falling for it anymore. I had already used up my allotted break on a water stop, so my request to slow down and snap pictures was denied. I had to order this book the minute we got home so I could relive it (from above!). Pictures or not, the run was the perfect way to take in the beach scene and Art Deco architecture (and squeeze in a little exercise).

Starving after our workout, we couldn’t wait to get over to Coyo Taco in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami. After consulting Google Maps we realized that biking would only take a few more minutes than riding over in an Uber… at about half the cost #cheapthrills. With our minds made up, we rented our bikes, said our prayers, and headed out on our taco mission. After I got over the initial nerves, it was so much fun. We took 17th over the Venetian Islands and once we got out of South Beach there were hardly any cars so the ride felt safe and leisurely. It only took us about 30 minutes to cover the 5 miles and it definitely beat sitting in traffic.

Coyo Taco lived up to our expectations and a cold margarita was the perfect way to cool off from our bike ride. After scarfing down our tacos (and a mountain of guacamole for yours truly), we wandered around the neighborhood looking at the intricate murals that are everywhere you turn. What we didn’t realize is that we hadn’t even made it to the “official” Wynwood Walls themselves yet (don’t worry we stumbled upon them!). When our feet got weary we popped into Concrete Beach Brewery to share a couple flights. They have a great patio and tons of games… you could definitely spend an afternoon here. After some very scientific taste testing, Roberto and I both agreed their Helles Lager was our favorite.

For our final meal in Miami that night we went to Byblos. Their menu is Eastern Mediterranean inspired and the cocktails were delicious as well (I had to try their spin on an old fashioned which contained Turkish coffee). We loved everything about the meal from the decor to the service, but we were still talking about their black truffle flatbread a week later. Y.U.M. Much like the night before we ordered a handful of things to share and the shakshouka and steak tartare were other favorites. Eager to stretch out our last night we headed over to Ocean Drive which we had only seen in daylight on our run. It happened to be Art Deco weekend so there were lots of people and live music. I’m so glad we got to see the famous hotels at night all lit up with their neon signs. We ended the night (and our trip!) with a scotch at Commonwealth, a bar just a few blocks from our hotel that we had heard was known for their whisk(e)y selection.

Just like that our time in Miami was over.

Quick Recap:

Stay: Nautilus South Beach

Eat & Drink:

Do:

  • Lincoln Ave.
  • Española Way
  • Ocean Drive
  • Rent bikes and explore
  • Wynwood Walls

Next Time: The Nautilus was incredibly beautiful, but we didn’t have enough time to enjoy it. Next time I’ll be sure to enjoy a meal at the gorgeous Cabana Club (formerly the Driftwood Room) and spend a little more time soaking up the sun at the pool.  Since we left early on Saturday morning we didn’t get to enjoy the brunch culture that Miami is known for. Juvia and 27 Restaurant are on my list for next time! I know we only scraped the surface, but we’ll definitely be back!

*Stay tuned: I’ll be talking all things Cuba next week.