When we decided to head back to San Diego, California, I knew two things from the get go; I wanted to take the kids back to Legoland and I didn’t want to stay in the Legoland Hotel again. Thus, I began to explore the city of Carlsbad.
What you may not know is that Carlsbad is in fact a gorgeous beach town with lots of local shops, good restaurants and stellar hotels. We were lucky enough to stay at the Cape Rey Carlsbad, a Hilton resort which opened in 2012.
Cape Rey Carlsbad
From the get-go the Cape Rey Carlsbad aims to impress. The staff working the valet welcomes you with open arms as you arrive at the hotel and their demeanour never sours. I loved how engaged they were with the kids welcoming them home and asking to hear all about their adventures each time we returned to the hotel.
Once you step into the lobby, you quickly become even more impressed. The lobby is laid out in a gorgeous fashion with beautiful decor and lots of seating. It becomes a hub for exhausted travelers, business travelers and families all looking for somewhere to sit and relax a moment. There is a lovely section with fresh infused water. Additionally, there is an open concept business section with Mac computers, a large television and sitting area which made it easy to bring my children along when I need to do some printing.
The Pool and Beach
As much as I want to tell you about the rooms, this is Southern California and you really need to hear about the beach, pool and other outdoor amenities first. The Cape Rey Carlsbad does not sit on the beach but sits about 100 feet from it across a road. The road is easy to cross with a traffic light, crosswalk and new beach access which was built when the hotel opened. Here’s the best part: even though its a public beach accessible to all the good people of California it is incredibly quiet and gorgeous. Each time we went down to the beach, I breathed in the beach air and wondered how this gorgeous place even exists.
Although I enjoyed the beach, I am a woman who depends on a good pool for family fun. Cape Rey Carlsbad has a great pool. Surrounded by comfortable lounge chairs and in a quiet spot, the pool is the star of the show for me. There is a small baby pool with toys, a nice hot tub with room for about 8 and a large heated pool with beach entry access. The pool slowly gets deeper but the majority of it stays below 4 feet. There is a deeper section for adults and bigger kids that is quite sizeable and very well marked.
Once the sun went down, the pool transforms into a social area with large fire pits, comfortable seating and access to the onsite lounge and restaurant Chandler’s.
Much like the entire hotel, the rooms look brand new. A large number of them face the beach and the view at sunset is absolutely stunning. I loved having a balcony to sit on and watch the ocean waves while the kids fell asleep at night. The hotel was exceptionally quiet and although we had neighbours on both sides of our room, we never heard a sound.
The shower in the large bathroom was incredibly clean as was the rest of the room we stayed in.
Ocean Crest Spa
Traveling alone with Will and Charlie often means that I don’t get to visit the spa but still I couldn’t resist walking in to check it out. The Ocean Crest Spa welcomed me with open arms and gave me a tour. The spa is serene and inspired by the ocean. The treatment rooms are gorgeous and there is a designated patio outside of the spa for an extra dose of sunshine. Even Will couldn’t help but compliment how nice it smelled and how clean it was. Unfortunately, he wasn’t convinced enough to sit through a pedicure.
Chandler’s Restaurant and Lounge
Some prime realty was given to Chandler’s Restaurant and Lounge and its easy to see why. The view from the patio is incredible. Team that with the large firepits and cosy seating and you aren’t going to want to venture far from the Cape Rey Carlsbad for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
We enjoyed a sunset meal and I was taken aback by not only the surroundings and decor but the incredibly good food. While Chandler’s is clearly also a big hit with locals and the after work crowd, families are welcome and treated wonderfully. Our server was quick and good with kids and his food recommendations were perfect. I have a penchant for kale salads and the one at Chandler’s did not disappoint. The kids loved their meals at both dinner and breakfast the next day.
What struck me most about the Cape Rey Carlsbad was how shocked I was to find it was less than a 10 minute drive to Legoland. Having visited Legoland and stayed at the Legoland Hotel before I didn’t recall a beach within sight. Low and behold, a few streets from Legoland is actually an incredibly cute town and lovely stretch of beach.
In the past, I have recommended that if you really need to stay at the Legoland Hotel, you should only do so only for a night to get the experience. I steadfastly stand by that recommendation now and actually suggest you skip that option and simply book into the Cape Rey Carlsbad.
As a strict comparison, everything on site is better from the pool, restaurant, beach access and even things like the quality of the towels and sheets. A quick comparison on both hotel websites booking on the same night shows over $120 in savings by choosing to stay at the less expensive and more luxurious Cape Rey.
It is important to know that Legoland tends to close early and that the early access hotel guests are offered only gets you into the smallest section of the park a half hour early. We entered at the main gate and ended up standing in the same lines as most of the hotel guests who were waiting to enter the closed off sections of the park that house the larger and more popular rides. Most of the park still only opens at 10:00am whether or not you are staying on site.
Another tip is once the park closes, you are mostly stuck at the resort. There is very little around it and the food leaves a lot to be desired. We really enjoyed staying at the beach and just making the 10 minute drive in the morning. It was nice to be able to leave Legoland and return to the uncrowded and incredible beauty of Cape Rey.