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California’s Colorful Carlsbad Coast

Painted sunsets. Azure skies. Cerulean seas. And in the springtime, flower fields awash in vibrant hues. This is Carlsbad—the colorful San Diego County California coastal town that delights visitors year-round.

Located midway between downtown San Diego and Orange County, Carlsbad is one of those unique and charming coastal towns well worth a visit for so many reasons.

Home of the boogie board and the world’s first outdoor skate park, Carlsbad has inspired outdoor recreational enthusiasts for years. Its wave action is a siren call for surfers. Its laid-back vibe and miles of oceanfront are loved by beach bums everywhere. And its lagoons are perfect for kayaking and stand-up paddling. Bottom line is anyone who visits not only raves about the destination but can’t wait to return.

Where to Stay in Carlsbad

Perched on a bluff and nestled along the sunny Pacific coastline, Cape Rey Carlsbad is classic-California meets craftsman-style at its best.

The resort exemplifies a classy but relaxed Southern California lifestyle. Guests are well taken care of and service here is outstanding.

We loved our spacious oceanfront guest room with balcony overlooking South Carlsbad State Beach. Sunsets here are spectacular and the flicker and scent of beach campfires after dark sets the tone for the perfect beach vacation experience.

PHOTO: Fire pit at Cape Rey in Carlsbad, California. (Photo by Noreen Kompanik)

Resort amenities include a large heated outdoor pool and spa. Fire pits surrounded by a myriad of lit palms provide the ideal setting for enjoying a glass of wine and cozying up when coastal temperatures dip in the evening.

Ocean Crest Spa with spa treatments inspired by the sea is a hallmark of the resort. An impressive selection of facials, massages and body therapies are available. My 80-minute aroma massage was a totally pampered experience. With treatment rooms named Embrace, Serenity and Paradise, surrounded by low lights and quiet relaxing music, it’s easy to find your Zen.

Where to Play in Carlsbad

One of the best and most fun ways to explore the Carlsbad coast is by bike—especially if it’s electric. Pedego Carlsbad’s motto is “Hello, fun” and that’s exactly what the riding experience was all about. It was joy riding along the sun-filled coast, Pacific breezes in our hair with minimum effort even on the up-hills.

Carlsbad is blessed with seven miles of continuous picturesque beach, making this a premier destination for beach campers, bird watchers, beach lovers, surfers and bodyboarders alike.

For a spectacular hike, Crossings Trail provides a great path with wide open vistas. The moderate-to-difficult trail is a treat for nature lovers as it meanders through a canyon, past a creek, over a rustic bridge and through riparian zones. At the top of the trail, hikers are rewarded with breathtaking views of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon and the Pacific Ocean.

The easily walkable downtown that includes colorful Carlsbad Village is a fun place to hang out. A myriad of fascinating boutiques offer local products, olive oils, gems, botanicals and more. Along with its vibrant bars and restaurants, visitors could easily spend a full day here exploring.

SunDiego, a board, beach, skate and surf shop, celebrates San Diego’s surfing history with old-time photos and historic surfboards dating back to the 40s. The iconic blue Victorian building the store shares with an adjacent restaurant is a well-known Carlsbad landmark.

San Diego County is renowned as the capital of U.S. craft beer, and Barrel Republic is the Mecca for craft beer lovers. With 52 beers on tap along with seven wines and four non-alcoholic brews, this is one immensely popular hangout for locals and visitors alike.

The self-pour tap concept provides descriptions of the beers so patrons know what they’re getting. Still not sure? Their knowledgeable staff is more than happy to assist and give recommendations. And Republic’s kitchen serves up some tasty upscale pub food to complement its liquid assets.

Where to Dine in Carlsbad

It’s delectable farm to table ocean view dining at Chandler’s, located at Cape Rey. The restaurant enjoys a stellar reputation with locals as well as guests staying at the resort. And for good reason.

Our breakfast entrees, the Lobster and Shrimp Benedict and Cinnamon Brown Sugar Challah French Toast, were both remarkable. Sharing to savor both was a must. Interior and exterior dining at this quintessential California eatery is available. The setting is beautiful, service is impeccable, and food quality is top-notch.

20|Twenty Grill is so-named for its picture-perfect panoramic views of the Pacific coastline. The restaurant, perched high on a Carlsbad hill, proudly sources from 12 featured San Diego County farms, enabling the eatery to serve up the freshest entrees imaginable. Though the menu isn’t expansive, it’s selective and creative.

Bruschettas are a hallmark of the menu and the Walnut Raisin with fig jam, melted Brie, prosciutto and arugula combination was absolutely outstanding. The Compressed Pear Salad was a delightful creation of arugula, goat cheese, pecans, cinnamon and star anise tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette dressing.

The wine and drink list is extensive and kids (big and little) love their handcrafted sodas.

Craft beer lovers delight in Carlsbad’s Draft Republic. It’s not just for the 101 beers on tap. Their creative craft cocktails are phenomenal too and the atmosphere is fun, festive and perfect for families and social gatherings.

Carlsbad, California
PHOTO: Carlsbad’s waves are perfect for surfers. (Photo by Noreen Kompanik)

The restaurant features 50 flat-screen TVs and extensive game rooms with throwback and modern video machines, tabletop sporting games and even bleacher seating for spectators. This place has it all. Not for one second however are the entrees anywhere near what you’d find at a typical sports bar or pub. Draft Republic provides an extensive array of menu items all innovative, incredibly delicious and guaranteed to please any palate. Of special note here is that portions are generous.

We loved our shared Chop Chop Salad made with kale, Brussels, radicchio, broccoli, cabbage, black mission fig, feta vinaigrette, a red wine reduction and toasted almonds.

The Independence Plate is a BBQ-lovers dream dish comprised of smoked ribs and beef brisket, jalapeno cheddar sausage and maple bourbon slab bacon. Accompanied by jalapeno cornbread, black beans, jalapenos and pickles, this entrée is meant to be shared. And it’s unbelievably tasty.

As a seafood lover, I was thrilled with their Grilled Salmon, served with roasted & shaved Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, toasted pumpkin seeds and topped with charred lemon vinaigrette. It was every bit the equal of fish entrees I’ve had in fine dining seafood restaurants.

All who visit Carlsbad say they fall in love with its almost picture-perfect year-round weather, beautiful beaches, stunning coastal views and great eateries. Add in that magnetic quaint small-town feel and it’s no wonder they, like us, always come back.

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