Luxury Hotel with Ocean Views in a Relaxed California Beach Town
The good vibes in Encinitas seem to have carried over to a luxury resort in the area as well.
Getting the hang of surfing isn't as easy as it looks - most people don't get it after their first (or second, or third) attempt, so I half expected my kids to declare that they would rather be playing in the warm sand than trying to catch a wave during our first lesson together.
As the daughters and son continued to ride their boards over and over again, they eventually popped up to the standing position. Seeing them succeed made me proud of how at home they were on the water, and I burst with pride when I saw how at ease they were.
As a private surf lesson, we had been arranged by the team at Alila Marea Beach, a clifftop resort that opened last March on the bluffs north of San Diego on the bluffs of the Pacific Ocean. Designed by Joseph Wong Design Associates, the Alila raises the bar for high-end hotels in the region. Its 130 rooms, each with its own fireplace, granite bathrooms, Indian jute rugs, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a private balcony are spacious and inviting.
Chef Claudette Zepeda is working toward a zero-food-waste kitchen with the on-site restaurant, Vaga, while ensuring guests eat well and have a great experience, bringing a variety of produce-forward plates, such as beets cooked with coconut cream and pink peppercorns and mushrooms cooked with miso and fermented citrus.
It's true that Encinitas is a renowned surf break community known for its free-wheeling spirit and world-class surf breaks, but what really impresses me is how deeply rooted the property is in the community surrounding it. Besides sourcing its coffee beans from lofty coffee, the resort also outfits its café staff with uniforms from a sustainability-minded company called Vuori Clothing, and stocks the restaurant with handmade pottery from The Wheel.
It is even possible for guests to tour the town on cruisers provided by Electra, a bike company located right on the South Coast Highway, which offers tours of the town. In the luxury resort industry, local connections aren't always taken for granted, and it's especially true when it comes to large brands.
There is no exaggeration when it comes to saying that surfers in Encinitas eat, breathe, and sleep the sport all year round. If you spend any morning at Swami's Beach, which is named after Paramahansa Yogananda, who founded the ashram on the cliffs above the beach, you will see dozens of surfers of all ages playing in the waves.
They are likely to walk with sand stuck to their feet after hitting the waves to the Lotus Café for breakfast burritos after they've hit the waves. There is also a strong connection to surf culture at the Alila: throughout the property, prints of Aaron Chang, a local photographer and a long-time contributor to Surfing magazine, are displayed.
For The Pocket, the poolside bar, Mark Zeff Associates turned to one of the most legendary board shapers of Encinitas, Brian Szymanski. Szymanski created the surfboard-inspired wall panels that adorn The Pocket.
To help reduce the amount of single-use plastics that end up in the environment, Alila collaborated with the Rob Machado Foundation, founded by the renowned surfer and environmental activist, to offer refillable water bottles and water stations throughout the resort. With the help of the surf school Surfin Fire, guests have the opportunity to get on the boards themselves, like we did.
Mingle with the locals if you want to get a sense of what it's really like to live in this California beach town. It's no wonder that Encinitas - formed by the merging of five historic communities such as Encinitas, New Encinitas, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Olivenhain, and Leucadia - feels so lively and vibrant. The main street of the city is lined with surf shops, yoga studios, cafes, and taprooms, such as Culture Brewing Company and Modern Times, among others.
A new addition to Cardiff is The Waverly, a chic all-day restaurant that is bustling with people who are catching up over wild-mushroom toast and Japanese-eggplant dip as well as other delicious dishes. It is not unusual for there to be a line out the door of families waiting to get doughnuts at Broad Street Dough Co., a vegan-friendly doughnut shop.
At Thread Spun, a woman-owned boutique in Leucadia, customers browse fair-trade brands, which include accessories made by refugees who have settled in San Diego County. The community here supports one another, and we were glad to be a part of it.