The Park Hyatt Aviara offers an upscale escape. // (c) 2011 Park Hyatt Aviar
Some resorts try to be all things to all people and end up barely satisfying anyone. Not so at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, Calif., where families, couples and golfers, among others, will find luxury, comfort and upscale fun just 30 miles north of downtown San Diego. It’s one reason why the property has always had a loyal following of local fans.
Located on 200 acres of green, rolling hills within the master-planned community of Aviara, the property — formerly a Four Seasons — is a stone’s throw from Legoland and The San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park, which makes it a great base for families. The San Diego Zoo proper and SeaWorld are less than 30 minutes away as well.
There’s also a full-service family pool (as well as an adults-only pool) for unwinding after a day at the parks. The vibe is definitely kid-friendly, without feeling like a family-factory. The beach is a shuttle ride away where lounge chairs, kayaking, kite surfing and other shoreline activities await. The Camp Hyatt program for kids from 4 to 12 years old is complimentary and is open in summer and during major school holidays. Families might also like the game room with Dance, Dance Revolution and other video games, along with tabletop shuffleboard, chess, backgammon and billiards.
A 3½-acre recreation lawn provides guests of all ages with a host of activities, including a summer concert series popular with both guests and local residents. In addition to half-court basketball, a sand volleyball court and six tennis courts, there are also croquet, bocce ball and badminton facilities. At the Batiquitos Lagoon, a wildlife preserve located on the Aviara property, guests can experience nature up close — and might even spy some of the endangered birds that make this lagoon their home.
The resort decor utilizes Spanish colonial architecture, with upscale rooms boasting a classic yet airy feeling — dark wood furniture mixed with rattan, woodsy floral accent fabrics and botanical prints are found throughout. On a recent visit, my suite exuded a feeling of homey elegance. From the balcony I could see miles of hilly terrain and the ocean in the distance. Despite the proximity to the large population centers of Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego, it was easy to feel like I was somewhere far away.
At the property’s signature Italian restaurant, Vivace (Italian for “alive”), friendly and attentive staff offer inventive versions of regional Italian cuisine. The menu descriptions don’t do justice to how fresh and surprisingly light the food actually tastes. The Calamari and Tomato Brodo, with pine nuts, dried currants and caper berries, was homey and delicious. The Late Summer Corn Risotto, with brown butter, arugula and truffles was creamy and rich — without being too heavy.
There are several other dining options on property as well, including the Argyle Steakhouse at the golf clubhouse, the eclectic California Bistro, the informal poolside Ocean Pool Bar & Grill, as well as in-room dining.
The Spa at Aviara bills itself as “bespoke,” with all treatments customized for each guest. Spa-goers will find 15,000 square feet of space with 20 treatment rooms, an indoor solarium lounge area, whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms and locker rooms. The Spa at Aviara also features a couple’s suite, perfect for guests celebrating special occasions or just a relaxing getaway. Amenities in the suite include an intimate lounge area with a marble fireplace and a shower for two, an attached treatment room with side-by-side massage tables and a private patio with a whirlpool.
On the resort’s Arnold Palmer golf course, eucalyptus trees and lavender make for an aromatic game, and chirping birds, ocean views and gentle breezes complete the scene. It’s a challenging course — with fairways that hide their slope and greens that consistently look easier than they play. The Japanese garden on the third hole is stunning and the waterfalls on the eighth make for a great photo op. Overall, the tough course made me want to take advantage of the on-site Aviara Golf Academy — the longest running golf school in the western U.S. featuring one-, two- and three-day golf schools. It consistently ranks as one of the top 25 U.S. golf schools in Golf Digest magazine.
A pleasant surprise for visitors on the course are the course marshals, who are known as much for their playing tips as they are for handing out lollipops to stressed-out golfers.
Park Hyatt Aviara is an expansive property with plenty of space to roam, explore, hike, walk or stroll. There is definitely something for everyone here — and something pretty special indeed.