The Ultimate Guide to Carlsbad, CA: The Best Places to Stay and Awesome Things To Do
May 17, 2021
Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway or a trip for the whole family, Carlsbad is a beautiful place to get away and relax. Located in North County San Diego and less than a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, Carlsbad is an easy Southern California road trip destination. The laid-back town offers several luxurious and family-friendly places to stay and so many terrific things to see and do.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Carlsbad
The weather in Carlsbad is good most of the year. The best time to visit Carlsbad is June through early October, when the weather is generally warm and clear. It gets a bit cooler, and the clouds tend to roll in during the winter months. However, the winter weather is often good for some of the best things to do in Carlsbad.
The Best Places to Stay in Carlsbad
Luxury Hotels In Carlsbad
When you think of luxury hotels in Carlsbad, two hotels immediately come to mind. The Park Hyatt Aviara and the Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara. Both hotels are fantastic, each in its own unique way. Both hotels are a short drive to Carlsbad State Beach, Legoland, and the flower fields. They can also easily serve as a home base when visiting San Diego's top attractions like the famous San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park.
Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa
From the moment you walk into the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa, you will feel a sense of luxury and relaxation. The Park Hyatt recently underwent an incredible $50+ million renovation. The resort's gorgeous natural surroundings and commitment to the guest experience inspired the redesign. The result is a splendid and spacious upscale resort with a relaxed coastal vibe. The thoughtful renovation encompasses everything from updated guest rooms, new dining concepts including Ember & Rye, a Richard Blais restaurant at the 18th hole, and Top Golf virtual experiences. The renovation also includes two refreshed pool areas, including a slide for kids, reimagined cabanas, and an adult pool, and so much more. It is easy to see why the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa received the coveted Forbes Five-Star rating and has been named a AAA Five Diamond resort year after year.
This sprawling 250-acre oasis offers activities for everyone. You can indulge at the Aviara spa, play 18-holes of golf at Aviara Golf Course (designed by Arnold Palmer), work up a sweat at the tennis center and fitness club, or take a stroll on one of the nature trails accessible directly from the resort. Or, relax by the pool and watch the sunset from the new open-air pavilion just off the lobby overlooking the immaculate resort grounds.
Each of 327 guest rooms, including 43 suites, was redesigned to capture nature's beauty. The spacious guest rooms offer two king beds (the sofa pulls out to a king-size bed), a balcony to enjoy the ocean breeze, and a spacious bathroom with a marble double vanity, a separate shower, and an oversized tub. The private balconies offer spectacular views of the Aviara Golf Course, Batiquitos Lagoon, or the coastal foothills. The Park Hyatt is the perfect romantic getaway for couples and makes a terrific family-friendly vacation destination. You can even bring your pet!
Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara
Luxury awaits you at the beautiful Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara. The California Spanish-style resort effortlessly blends elegant décor with a casual yet sophisticated design. Natural light and sweeping views of the Aviara Golf Course and Batiquitos Lagoon enhance the feeling of peace and serenity no matter where you are on the property.
The 246 meticulously designed villas are in low-rise buildings giving guests the sense of being at their home away from home. The bright and spacious guestrooms embrace the coastal and natural surroundings providing guests with an inviting place to relax and unwind. Each guestroom has a luxurious bathroom, a private balcony with a scenic view, and is fully equipped with a kitchen or kitchenette to give guests the unique opportunity to dine in. A Concierge is available to stock your villa's kitchen with your favorite foods before you arrive.
One of a Kind Experiences: The Four Seasons brand is known for its one-of-a-kind experiences, and the Residence Club Aviara does not disappoint. One of the most exciting experiences includes spending the day on a coastal safari with the city's top artist, Aaron Chang. He will teach you how to capture the perfect shot while free diving off La Jolla's shores and soaring above San Diego in a helicopter.
If heart-pumping adrenaline is not your thing, there are plenty of unique activities at the Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara. Seasons Restaurant will introduce The Butterfly Garden, a limited-time experience from June 15th to September 30th on its outdoor veranda to celebrate the Monarch Butterfly migration. The themed daily happy hour menu is designed to excite and entice guests. The visually pleasing cocktails and California-forward cuisine will be on full display while guests learn about the resort's local connection to the monarch butterflies. A portion of proceeds from the Butterfly Garden menu will be donated to the non-profit Butterfly Farms in nearby Encinitas.
For kids, there is a terrific playground and multiple resort-style pools to keep them smiling all day. Movie nights are popular during the summer, and kids (and kids at heart) love ordering fresh cookie dough from the chef's kitchen and baking cookies with their families. To make the experience even better, you can even bring your furry friend along on your vacation. The Four Seasons Residence Club Aviara is so wonderful that guests often stay for weeks or months at a time.
Family-Friendly Hotels in Carlsbad
The Cassara Carlsbad: Tapestry Collection By Hilton
This incredible Southern California resort is nestled on 12 lush acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is close to San Diego's top attractions, including Legoland, which is literally adjacent to the hotel and can be accessed through a side gate entrance just a few steps away. The hotel overlooks the seasonal Carlsbad Flower Fields, where you'll see 50-acres of blooming ranunculus flowers gently swaying in the warm California sun and ocean breeze.
The recently reopened Cassara Carlsbad exudes a modern Mediterranean atmosphere that embodies the seasonal, colorful blooms you see as you gaze out of the hotel. The minute you walk into the lobby, you'll see motifs of centuries-old Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian architecture. Intertwined in the lobby and the room styles are organic colors of natural sand and ocean hues. Looking out into the sunset, you'll feel the peacefulness of a beach-front villa and the laid-back lifestyle that people dream about.
The accommodations are perfect for families. There are 29 two-bedroom Karlsbad Family Suites for guests to enjoy with loved ones for much-needed time away from home amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The brand new spacious suites feature a king room with a parlor (sitting area), a separate guest room with two twin beds, and three flat-screen televisions – creating the perfect home away from home.
The Cassara Carlsbad has access to two pools open 8 am to 9 pm. If you're looking for a little solitude and relaxation, a quiet pool with cabanas and cozy fire pit seating is perfect. Take a magazine and chill-lax with a frozen drink. Look out across the Flower Fields to the Pacific Ocean and breathe in the fresh beach air. Stick your feet in the water and feel the warmth of the sun. Take a dip in the pool; there are divided lanes for swimming and it's heated to the perfect temperature. A family pool with a splash pad and a kid's activity center is also on the property and is the ultimate family fun. Right outside the pool gates is a playground and ping-pong table, and BBQ areas. A calendar of daily events and activities includes things like water coloring, loom-bracelet making, and ice cream sundae eating. Guests can enjoy the fitness center, a basketball court, and scenic running and biking paths. You can borrow bikes from the concierge. If you'd like to bring along your family dog, they are welcome. There is a 20lb. pet weight limit - $85 NR pet fee. Service dogs are allowed.
* Fitness Center – open, 6 am-8 pm, 6 ppl max at one time.
* Hot Tubs/Spas – open, 8a-9p, by appointment only, QR code scan onsite for availability
* Arcade – closed at this time
* Activity Center – open, 8am-7:30pm
* Spaced BBQ's available to allow distancing
* Hand Sanitation Stations available throughout the property
* Cassara Kitchen + Bar – reopening April 2021- check website for current hours once reopened
* Karl Strauss Brew – open for indoor and outdoor dining, check website for current hours
* 7 Mile Kitchen (located at Sheraton Carlsbad, free shuttle). – open for indoor and outdoor dining, check website for current hours
* Courtesy Shuttle within 5 miles of hotel, 9 am-5 pm, available upon request
* Carlsbad's one-of-a-kind Ride the Tide open-air beach trolley offers daily service to Tamarack Beach.
**All onsite amenities subject to a maximum occupancy cap to follow state/county ordinances and allow distancing.
The Grand Pacific Palisades Resort
The Grand Pacific Palisades Resort is the landmark property of the Carlsbad Beach Hotels collection. It shares a property with the Cassara Carlsbad and has all the same amenities. Each condo is a one or two-bedroom suite with a fully equipped kitchen, including utensils, dishes, and pans. This resort is available for either Timeshare or Vacation rentals through Vacation Well. It is also for leisure travelers.
For Owner or Exchange inquiries: Call 800-858-0535, or Email at [email protected]
For Leisure or Rental Guest inquiries: Call 800-725-4723, or Email at [email protected]
The Best Things to Do in Carlsbad
Carlsbad has been gaining attention as a wonderful road trip destination for many years because there are so many diverse things to see and do. No matter your age, there is always something fun and exciting to do in Carlsbad. Here is our list of the best things to do in Carlsbad.
Wonder through the Beautiful Carlsbad Flower Fields - Every year from March through Mother's Day in May, the flowers blossom at the Carlsbad Flower Fields and create fantastic fields of color. This year they have extended their days through May 16th, one extra week! The nearly fifty acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers are a sight to see. There are thirteen bright colors, including picotee (mixture of variegated colors), that have been carefully selected over 85 years to produce the gorgeous Flower Fields we see today.
A visit to Carlsbad during the Ranunculus season is not complete without stopping at the Flower Fields. You can spend hours wandering the fields (we did), enjoying your beautiful surroundings, and taking part in some of the fun, family-friendly activities on site. While you are at the Flower Fields, it's worth taking the time to visit the sweet pea maze (even as an adult, it's fun to see if you navigate your way through), and a visit to the American Flag flower display with red, white and blue petunias. You might even take the antique tractor wagon tour through the fields for the views and to learn the history of the flower fields. Don't forget to stop at Santa's Playground on your way out.
Visitor Tips and Tricks: Here are a couple of tips and tricks for visiting the Flower Fields:
*Make a reservation for an early time slot during the week to hopefully avoid the crowds.
*Bring a fun garden hat, sunscreen, and comfortable walking shoes you can get dirty since you will be walking on dirt paths for a couple of hours without shade.
*There are several dedicated places at the Flower Fields to take pictures where it will look like you are in the middle of a Flower Field. Some of these designated spots even have props. Use these designated spots to your advantage and avoid crossing the flower barrier tape. The employees at the Flower Fields take their job very seriously and will ask you to leave if you are caught violating the rules.
*Continue past the first photo destination spot and head to the second or third field, where the lines to take a photo are likely going to be shorter.
*Be creative while taking your photos. For instance, if you stand in the ditch in front of the flowers and angle the camera upward, you should be able to capture the field of flowers.
*Another photo trick is to have a friend stand at one side of the Flower Field while you stand on the other side. Your friend should be able to angle the camera to look like you are frolicking in the middle of a flower field.
If you stay in one of the nearby hotels, like The Cassara Carlsbad, and opt for the complimentary shuttle, you don't have to think about parking.
You must make a reservation in advance to visit the Flower Fields. If tickets are sold out on the date and time you want to visit, there is still a way to see the Flower Fields, just not up close and personal. Book the Stay, Smell, and Smile package at the Cassara Carlsbad and get two tickets to visit The Flower Fields before May 16th. You can also order online all ranunculus and flower varieties. Flowers are available for purchase while supplies last and can be shipped nationwide.
Carlsbad Beaches - Carlsbad's beaches offer everything from a place to sunbathe to active adventures like surfing, scuba diving, kayaking, windsurfing, and even fishing. There are several popular beaches in Carlsbad.
* Tamarack State Beach (Carlsbad State Beach) is popular with both locals and visitors. Beachgoers can enjoy a wide sandy beach while watching the surfers catch a wave or two. Tamarack Beach offers a walking path, volleyball courts, restrooms, and showers, all available to the public.
* Carlsbad State Beach is also a terrific and popular place to watch the sunset. We put our name in for dinner in Carlsbad Village and walked to the bluffs to watch the sunset.
* South Ponto Beach is one of the wider beaches in Carlsbad. Families tend to flock to South Ponto Beach, where there is enough room for kids to run around on the beach. South Ponto Beach has public restrooms and showers available to beachgoers.
* Robert C. Frazee State Beach is a wide sandy beach that is a perfect spot to spend the day. The wide beach offers visitors space to layout without being too close to the water. While at the beach, go for a walk with your toes in the sand or take the walking path on the seawall.
Surf Carlsbad - North County San Diego is known for its consistent surf breaks. Surfers from around the world descend on North County beaches to experience the predictable waves. The best surf breaks in Carlsbad are at Tamarack State Park, Pronto Jetties, and Terramar Point.
* Tamarack State Park - There are generally a few sandbars at Tamarack that generate a fun peaky wave. Tamarack is best at medium tide with a south swell smaller than 6 feet. The sweet spot is between the jetties.
* Pronto Jetties - At Pronto Jetties, the waves break year-round. The south jetty is best in the winter, while the north jetty is better in the summer. Be careful of the strong riptide from Batiquitos Lagoon.
* Terramar Point - There is a reef at Terramar Point that creates a great spot to surf. The mellow wave is a good place for longboards and beginners. While you are there, check out the tide pools at low tide.
Surfing near Carlsbad - If you head 10-15 minutes south of Carlsbad, there are a few well-known surf spots like Swami's (right reef point), Pipes (a consistent left break), D Street (beach break), and Cardiff Reef (a family-friendly long right point break over a grassy reef – except at low tide during a big winter swell when it can be thumping).
Spend the afternoon at Carlsbad Lagoon (Agua Hedionda) - Carlsbad Lagoon is a paradise of fun with water sport activities on calm, uncrowded water. Along with a large fleet of power and passive rental watercraft, they also offer a kid's summer camp by the week. Spend a day out on the lagoon with your choice of water equipment. They offer powerboats, Bayliners, pontoon boats, Craigcat, fun cat, kayaks, aqua cycles, SUP, and swan boats. Fill out a rentals waiver and book your activity online or call directly if you have any questions! Private party areas are available for rental too. Rent a small or large area and spend the day lounging on the private beach with your friends and family. The rentals include chairs, tables, and barbecues. These private spaces are a great home base throughout the day to enjoy all the water activities available. Contact: [email protected] (760) 434-3089
Take Flight Above Carlsbad - If you are looking for a bit of adventure, then you might want to try seeing the San Diego coastline from above. Think of the spectacular views you could have from the sky! Lucky for you, there are multiple ways to experience a little adrenaline and stellar views at the same time. You can choose from luxurious flight tours, a hot air balloon ride, a helicopter tour, or even fly the friendly skies in an open cockpit biplane! The choice is yours! Let us know which one sounds best to you. Contact: FunFlights.com or 855-TWO-WING
Explore Carlsbad by Bike - Bike riding is a terrific way to see Carlsbad. You can take the scenic coastal route down Carlsbad Boulevard along route 101. On your ride down, you can check out Ponto Beach, stop for lunch at Leucadia, peruse the local antique stores, and watch the surfers catching waves at the infamous surf break Swami's in Encinitas. The cute seaside town of Encinitas is an excellent place to shop and have a bite to eat before heading back to Carlsbad. The roundtrip ride is about 9.3 miles and takes about 50 minutes each way. However, these days, you can get there a little faster with an electric bike without even breaking a sweat. Pedego Electric Bikes, in Carlsbad Village, is a popular place to rent electric bikes.
There are several other interesting places to go for a bike ride in Carlsbad. The Carlsbad Coastal Rail Trail is a short family-friendly bike path that allows you to see the trains up close. The .7 mile trail is a short and wide trail making it ideal for young kids. To access the trail, park in Carlsbad Village or on Tamarack Avenue. You can also go for a flat bike ride at Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
Take a Tour of Carlsbad - Exploring Carlsbad through the eyes of a local could be an exciting way to spend the afternoon. There are a couple of tours that look like they would be a lot of fun.
* Carlsbad Food Tour - Indulge your palate with the Carlsbad Food Tour. The 3-hour culinary adventure takes you through Carlsbad Village, where you will make several stops to taste the flavors of Carlsbad. You will visit local food shops, restaurants, and a wine tasting room, all while learning about Carlsbad's history, culture, and architecture.
* Walk the City Tours - The best way to explore a new city is to walk around and get to know the neighborhood. During this 90-minute (1.5-mile tour), you will learn all about Carlsbad. The tour takes you to some of the most iconic highlights and landmarks in Carlsbad, like the Twin Inns and the Carlsbad Mineral Spa.
Take a Scenic Drive Down the Coast - Carlsbad is close to a couple of cute beach towns that are worth exploring. Take the scenic drive south for lunch through Leucadia into Encinitas and even Cardiff. These idyllic beach towns offer lovely beaches, great surf breaks, and cute shops and restaurants. Hang out in Encinitas and check out the San Diego Botanic Garden and the Meditation Gardens. On your drive, if you are looking for a quick-service restaurant, 101 Fish in Leucadia hit the spot with fresh fish and shrimp bowls. However, if you are looking for a snack or dessert, try checking out VJ's Donuts & Bakery, which often has a line in the morning, or try an empanada at Bump Coffee (both are in the same parking lot). There are numerous restaurants in Encinitas that look great!
Go for a Nature Walk - Get back to nature and enjoy the walking paths around Carlsbad. The Carlsbad Seawall is a local favorite. The paved path is a 1.4-mile out-and-back trail that runs along Carlsbad State Beach. A couple of other popular spots include Batiquitos Lagoon, which offers several walking trails of varying lengths, an out and back trail at the Agua Hedionda Lagoon, or go for a hike and chose your own adventure at Calavera Lake, where you can see an extinct volcano.
Explore Carlsbad Village - Perfect for all ages, Carlsbad Village offers visitors a great place to shop, sit down for a delicious meal, grab a snack, or a drink at a local bar or juicer. Many of the local restaurants offer patio seating so you can bring your pet. We had a fantastic dinner at 264 Fresco, a modern Italian restaurant with terrific wood-fired pizzas, pastas, and seafood. For those looking for a healthy option, Choice Superfood Bar & Juicery has you covered. The superfood banana bread, which is gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan, is surprisingly delicious! After a good meal, it might be time to immerse yourself in some local culture. Carlsbad's art scene is thriving with new and exciting galleries, art fairs, musical performances, and public art displays. All around Carlsbad, you will find art installations, including several playful murals in Carlsbad Village. Carlsbad Village has several parking lots and metered street parking, which makes parking a breeze.
Play a Round of Golf in Carlsbad - There are over 80 golf courses in San Diego County and several picture-perfect courses near Carlsbad. You can choose from courses like the 18-hole Arnold Palmer designed course at Aviara Golf Club, The Crossings at Carlsbad (a public golf course), or the Omni Las Costa Golf Course with 36 holes of golf at the Champions Course and Legends Course. Carlsbad Crossings is an 18-hole championship municipal golf course nestled among the natural habitat and wildlife on more than 400 acres of Carlsbad's coastal terrain and offering visitors a magnificent setting in a relaxed California Coastal environment.
Museum of Making Music is currently closed for renovation but will be reopened very soon. Opened to the public in March 2000, the Museum celebrates the music products industry's rich history from 1900 to today. Through unique exhibitions, vibrant and varied live music performances, and innovative educational programs, the Museum shares the accomplishments and impact of the people who make, sell, and use musical instruments and products.
GIA Museum - Once the GIA Museum reopens and is Covid-safe, it usually offers a twice-weekly free guided tour. The place is modern and immaculate. The guides are extremely knowledgeable and fun. You'll learn about diamonds, including where they are found and how they are mined and cut for market. The displays include jewels from movies and celebrities. There are only two of these facilities in the United States, but they are world-renown. This is definitely a one-of-a-kind tour and not to be missed. GIA offers individual self-guided tours with headsets or tours with a docent. Make a reservation in advance.
Legoland - Love Legos? With more than 60 rides, shows and attractions, it's an interactive, hands-on theme park experience for families with children 2 – 12. The Resort is also home to SEA LIFE® Aquarium, and the world's first LEGOLAND® Water Park. You can enter through the pedestrian gate next to the Cassara Carlsbad. Currently, tickets or advanced reservations are required to enjoy the park.
Carlsbad Premium Outlets® - Conveniently located right off the intersection of I-5 and Palomar Airport Road, Carlsbad Premium Outlets® is one of San Diego's premier shopping destinations. Shop more than 85 designer and name-brand outlet stores, including Coach, Kate Spade New York, Michael Kors, Nike Factory Store, and more. Food options as well. Amenities include ATMs, Baby Changing Station, Family Restrooms, EV (Electric Vehicle) Charging Stations, Nursing Mother's Lounge, Ride-Sharing Pick Up & Drop Off, Security, Complimentary Wheelchairs & Valet Parking. Join The VIP Shopper Club, a membership-based club for the savviest shoppers. Members receive periodic center updates and sale information. In addition, VIP Shopper Club members receive free access to My VIP Centers, a password-protected portion of the website where visitors can find exclusive offers from merchants.
Carlsbad Travel Guide Recap - We hope you enjoyed our Carlsbad Travel Guide with the best places to stay and some unique activities that will appease everyone. Carlsbad, also known as the "Village by the Sea," is the perfect vacation spot for families or even a romantic weekend getaway. If you're thinking of a vacay, there are currently a few special promotions going on at some of the hotels and resorts listed above, just check the hotel websites for more information. Start packing your bags and plan the ultimate, beachy escape to Carlsbad with your family, your significant other, and perhaps even the family dog too!