Overview: If you have to be in the Carlsbad area, this property is a good choice
Strengths: Quality of furnishings, facilities
Drawbacks: Location, little things
An annual industry conference normally held in Orange County (California) was moved, due to ongoing renovations at the usual hotel, to the Park Hyatt Aviara this year.
Located in Carlsbad, this property was originally developed under the Four Seasons flag. Disputes with ownership over capital spending during the last recession saw Four Seasons resign and Park Hyatt brought in to manage the property. (Four Seasons still operates the adjacent residence club, where apparently transient rooms are also available. Several clients stayed at the Residence Club as transients and spoke very highly of their stay.)
Overall, my stay at the Park Hyatt was a positive experience. For a Park Hyatt (not my favorite flag), this was a good property (partly owing to it originally being a Four Seasons).
That said, unlike some of the resorts to the north in Orange County which might be destinations unto themselves, this property is probably only one to consider if you otherwise needed to be in the Carlsbad/North San Diego area. Though the PH Aviara offered ocean views, the property itself was over a mile inland from the beach. Compare this to the Ritz or Montage in Laguna, both of which are direct oceanfront. If you were making a Southern California holiday (and didn’t specifically need to be in the Carlsbad area), I’d have a strong preference to be right on the beach and would likely go up to Orange County.
Upon arrival, I immediately notices that behind the front desk, the hotel had three paintings by David Kroll. I am a big fan of Kroll and we have two of his pieces at our house. (I’m thinking of getting one for the office, too!) The Eau (f/k/a Ritz) in Palm Beach also has a commissioned Kroll work featured prominently in their lobby, as does the Ritz DC (which last I was there had several on display!).
I reserved what was described by the conference organizer as an executive room. It turns out this was a full suite, which was a pleasant surprise. (Though this hotel is in the program, I wasn’t on Virtuoso for this trip as the conference room rate was so attractive that it was more cost-effective to forego the usual amenities.)
The front desk clerk described the suite as being a “Courtyard View,” which is consistent with the language on their website. This is an odd approach as the views were principally of the ocean (albeit in the distance) and surrounding areas! While “Ocean View” might be cheeky due to the distance from the water, perhaps “Panoramic Room” or “Vista Room” might sound better than “Courtyard View.” Just an idea.
The suite was a fully divided suite, with one and a half baths.
The furnishings were very nice, though the energy efficient light bulbs really kept a dim tone to the room in the evenings, even when every single light was on.
Some moderate art pieces and bolder wall colors added a nice touch to the living room area.
The bath room was also dim.
The closet, however, had traditional lighting and was very bright.
Off the foyer was a powder room.
The suite had two balconies, both affording (distant) ocean views.
Looking due west, the balcony provided wonderful sunset views.
Teak chairs were on both balconies.
There were plenty of readily accessible power ports next to the bed, sofa and desk. Each included USB chargers.
The business end of the ice tongs were wrapped in plastic each night at turn down. I’d not seen this before, but thinking about it, assuming they are washing the tongs each day, it is a welcome touch to see them protected. Next time you use an ice bucket in your hotel room, you might ask where the tongs have been!
Room service was prompt and the food good. Room service brought unheated bread and a toaster to the room, which allows for perfect and fresh toast. Some of my breakfasts over the days:
The public areas were grand, and reminded me of a combination of the Ritz in Laguna and the Four Seasons in San Francisco. Being December, Christmas decorations were out.
The room corridor was long.
With limited exception, the service was better than I expected. Housekeeping came exactly when I requested it. The front desk and concierge handled all (but one) of my requests perfectly. Due to this being a business trip, I had a bunch of things I needed assistance with, including several meal bookings and chauffeurs. (I found Uber worked well in the area, too, but typically took about ten minutes to get to the hotel to pick you up.)
The only item that wasn’t seamless was a pre-arrival request I made via Twitter to have a particular toiletry item in my room upon arrival. The hotel acknowledged the communication, but it took me following up the second day to get the request sorted.
Some of the smaller quirks included:
- Housekeeping didn’t leave any soap or body wash in the step-in shower. The soaps and body wash were in the adjacent tub, and you had to take it from the tub before you got in the shower. This is fine if you do an inventory of the items provided in the shower. I, of course, seeing a few bottles in the shower didn’t inspect each one and only found out what wasn’t there after I was fully wet on my first day! Housekeeping also didn’t replenish shampoos and soaps sufficiently at each servicing, and left bottles with only a fraction of their full content and no back ups. I would appreciate any conservation efforts of saving little plastic bottles (in which case do what the Hotel 1000 does in Seattle with large bottles), but in this case, my suspicion is this was cost-related. There were also no drinking glasses in the bathroom.
- While enjoying drinks and dinner at the bar, some of the bar area staff were openly complaining about how someone had quit and how the remaining staff had too many hours as a result. The went on to say (again, talking amongst themselves, but in clear earshot of me and other patrons) that the hiring process for a replacement was slow and bureaucratic. They also complained that “the Hyatt Corporation” put a bunch of additional requirements on them related to hiring. While these requirements weren’t listed during their lamenting (so I don’t know exactly what they were), it was notable both that a) staff were complaining within earshot of customers and that b) they all referred to the company as “the Hyatt Corporation,” in each case with a sort of evil connotation.
- Service at the California Bistro (the hotel’s breakfast/lunch/dinner restaurant) was too casual. It was much more akin to a TGI Fridays than a hotel trying to operate at the five-star level. Also odd, the less formal restaurant served sodas in cans (with an accompanying glass) during meals, leaving the cans at the table.
None of these are showstoppers by any means, but these type of things are indicative, in my opinion, of a less-than-polished property.
I didn’t get a chance to visit the pool, spa or their higher-end Argyle Steakhouse.
While I wouldn’t actively seek to return to this property as a destination unto itself, I wouldn’t hesitate to return if my travels brought me to the area again.
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During my stay, I got in a round of golf at The Crossings at Carlsbad. Though actually a municipal course, it was a high end experience (and is generally priced as such). The greens were in very good shape, but proved to be brutally difficult – due to undulations, extreme speed and pin placements. My foursome ended up with a roughly 2.75 putts-per-hole/per-golfer average, highly unusual for a group of low/mid-teens index golfers.
Though I booked directly with the course, as a guest of the Park Hyatt, we were able to get the Southern California resident price for our greens fees. The pro-shop staff said if we stayed at the Sheraton (across the street from the course), we would have gotten the even lower Carlsbad resident rate.
Even at full freight, this course represented a very good value.
* * * * *
If in the area, however, I might I’d also consider the Cape Rey Hilton. (This property is formerly known as the Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort.) Located directly across the road from the ocean (with no permanent buildings on the west side of the road), this hotel is not your typical Hilton. Several of my colleagues stayed here and were quite pleased.
I had dinner at Chandler’s Restaurant at the Cape Rey property and was very surprised on the upside. This was not a “hotel restaurant” that you’d find at most Hiltons. Indeed, many of the patrons appeared to be locals.
Park Hyatt Aviara
7100 Aviara Resort Drive
Carlsbad, California 92011
+1 760 448 1234
The Crossings at Carlsbad
5800 The Crossings Drive
Carlsbad, California 92008
+1 760 444 1800
Cape Rey Hilton
1 Ponto Road
Carlsbad, California 92011