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Friday, December 5, 2008

Review: La Costa Resort in Carlsbad California

If you look fabulous in a bikini, even after birthing three children, you’ll fit right in at La Costa. Granted, we went in summer, when every woman but me was in that bikini. Lots of families at this resort, in short driving distance of the Pacific Ocean, but definitely not on it.

Whether you want to pawn your kids off at La Costa’s Kidtopia camp, or keep them around while splashing at the pool, kids are definitely welcome here.

In the resort’s pool complex, you have three options. One pool is shallow with a sandy beach entrance. One is a regular roundish pool for hanging out (swimming laps would be difficult if others were in there). And one is the landing spot for adventurous souls going down their two fabulous slides.

My daughter surprised us by going down (again and again) the two-story winding slides without a second thought. For those who aren’t tall enough or comfortable enough with these, there’s a kiddie slide which is hugely fun for the tots. In between the kiddie slide (photo at right) and the big slide is a water play area, with various structures to run around while they spurt and bubble water out in all directions (photo below on right).

The hotel has special events for the families, like crafts some afternoons, and occasional evening events like S’more making, that are free. We saw a great morning show with a lizard guy, who brought out his blue-tongued skink and boa constrictor as two of the many crawling creatures. And it was free.

The Kidtopia room looked fun, with morning and afternoon sessions for kids ages six months to 12 years, as well as some evening sessions where they feed the kids dinner. We didn’t use them, but we did poke around. There’s a craft area, indoor climbing structure for toddlers, computers and aquarium, plus large motor skill things for the younger set. (More details below)

Though we didn’t take advantage, they also offer kids’ tennis and golf camps in the summer. And they have a teen program for kids ages 10 and up (since when was “10” considered a teen?)

We shared a suite with my brother-in-law’s family. Each family had a self-contained room with 1-2 beds and a fully bathroom. Our rooms opened to a shared lounging area with couches and TV. That way, the kids could sleep and we could play Settlers of Catan (theoretically). Or we could just leave my sister-in-law behind with all the kids, while the rest of the adults played hearts in my in-laws room (wisely for them in a different building).

According to their website, they also offer an arrival goody bag for all kids (we didn’t get this), free crib usage with a stuffed animal and kiddie bathing products, free use of diaper genies and high chairs, rental strollers, baby-proofing supplies, and Nintendo Game Boys on request. My sister-in-law asked for a mini-fridge in the room, but they wanted something like $40 a day for that. And they didn’t take too kindly to a request to heat up a Jenny Craig meal in their microwave either.

One downside in the room: the door separating the bathroom from the sleeping area was a sliding door with no lock, though the toilet did have an additional door. However the kids could easily slide open the main bathroom door while we were showering in the glass-walled enclosure, exposing us to anyone who happened to be in the bedroom.

“Indulge, invigorate and inspire” is the theme of the spa, and thanks to my mother-in-law, I was able to do just that. The 50 minute massage clocked in at just over $3 a minute – $155 - not cheap! The women’s spa area features free loofa rubs, where you lie naked on a massage table, while the technician rubs you down and then hoses you off. Quick and dirty. The toiletries were fabulous and the Spanish style co-ed waiting area is relaxing. You can hang out inside the single sex spa lounge, or go outside for a co-ed rainforest shower or Jacuzzi soak. And they have sunblock out there for you as well.

The downsides: the parking lots are a hike from the rooms. The hotel does provide free valet service during the day, though, you might spend 10 minutes walking to get your car at night and in the morning.

We only ate breakfasts at the hotel – they have a buffet, at least on weekends. The restaurant service slow, and the buffet was average. It cost about $25 for adults, and the resort offers package rates.

La Costa is about 30-45 minutes north of San Diego, with Sea World, the San Diego Zoo and more.

It’s about a 10-15 minute drive to Legoland, and you can read about our experience at Legoland here.

Rates start at $350 a room, and go up up up from there. Plus there’s a $22 resort fee daily.

Kidtopia: for kids ages 6 months to 12 years. Kids 2 and under have a two hour maximum time at the club, and parents must remain on resort grounds. They take the kids swimming, play outdoor games, do crafts and watch movies.
Half day (four hours): $50 which includes lunch.
Full day (9:00-4:00) is $80 and includes lunch.
Evening program is 6:00-10:00 and includes dinner, for $55.
There’s a 10% discount for siblings.

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