La Costa Resort and Spa

It’s one of Southern California’s landmark properties, a classic accolades-heavy escape for West Coasters who’ve long relied on its golf, spa and tennis offerings. But even though it still serves those timeless offerings so emblematic of the Pacific coastline, La Costa Resort and Spa has also become a great location for families of any size.

La Costa is just 30 minutes north of San Diego, in roughly 400 acres of prime Carlsbad grandeur.

“Once you drive through the gates, it’s just a whole new world,” says Paul Rapozo, director of travel industry sales at KSL Resorts, which owns La Costa and Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage. “We have been California’s playground for ages.” Indeed, open spaces and darling courtyards with fountains and bougainvillea sneaking behind regal palm trees provide the most idyllic of welcomes to visitors. The resort, Rapozo adds, was originally designed around the concept of providing visitors with the “La Costa lifestyle” of spa, golf and tennis when it first opened as a full-service spa resort in 1965. Today, the resort “couldn’t be more family friendly,” he adds, but has never lost its magic when it comes to specialized treatments or a few hours on its greens.

california outdoors The first thing one wants to do at La Costa is soak in its surroundings—the resort is just tailor-made for it. Its Spanish hacienda-style buildings form a Mediterranean village of sorts, with pretty gardens and winding paths and a bell tower in the spa that chimes on the hour—weddings here are just spectacular. Every so often you’ll run into a large hammock built for two placed in a quiet spot overlooking the golf course, which always has people playing through.

“Everyone who golfs knows of La Costa,” says Rapozo. The resort is home to two 18-hole championship courses that have welcomed the 2006 Accenture Match Play Golf Championship and a slew of PGA tours and tournaments, many of them televised. Run into Nicklaus, Woods, Player, Crenshaw and other golf greats and they’ll tell you they’ve played there. The golf facilities here include a $1 million practice range with 10 acres of space, two different “wings” for hitting and even a putting course for families.

Add to that 17 tournament-caliber tennis courts on both hard and clay surfaces and well-known tennis clinics and lessons with La Costa’s own Mike Casey, “tennis instructor to the stars.” La Costa’s Tennis Center has long welcomed a slew of prestigious tournies, including the Acura Tennis Classic and this year’s WTA Sony Ericsson Tour Event.

Each month brings a new calendar of resort activities for all ages: AquaPilates, Surf Camp, meditation, arts and crafts, outdoor movies, weekend s’mores roasts. Some come with an additional charge and others don’t. Children here gravitate toward Splash Landing, which has three water slides and three pools, as well as a dive-in movie screen, sandy “beach” and a play zone with assorted water features. Adults can lounge about and hide away from the sun in private cabanas, or else head to one of the garden pools.

Kidtopia, the resort’s supervised children’s program, is divided into three age groups, and in fact has a nursery for babies 6 months to 2 years old. It’s an exciting place for those who are a bit older, with everything from dance floors to entertainment stations, a saltwater aquarium and a tree house. Teens can stop by Vibz Game Lounge to play Guitar Hero, air hockey or video games, among other activities.

west coast wellness The Spa at La Costa is among the largest in California: a 43,000-sq.-ft. facility where guests can indulge in a full spa experience. Inside its walls there is a romantic garden with a pool, jacuzzi and the most delicious of Roman waterfall showers that pound on your back and shoulders with great pressure as you think of nothing. There is also a small herb garden and a spa cafe within the spa providing light yet tasty fare, including salads full of color and freshly made smoothies. It would be downright criminal to just stop by for a treatment and not take advantage of its common areas. “We encourage guests to spend an entire day at the spa and take in the serenity and the quietness,” says Rapozo. Talk clients into spending lots of time there and they will thank you for it—even from Los Angeles, the 1.5-hour drive is worth it. Among the heady spa menu of wraps, massages and body treatments, we love the Spanish Herbal Rub, a La Costa signature treat: a skin exfoliation and polish with sage, rosemary and lavender as well as moisturizing oils, a scalp and hair conditioning and, finally, a full massage. After that, the only thing left to do is nap under a pool umbrella.