by Terry Ward
Located about a half-hour north of San Diego and one-and-a-half hours south of Los Angeles, Carlsbad Beach is a quintessential southern California surf community where healthy living and being outdoors as much as possible are perennial prerogatives. For families visiting the area, Legoland, just a few-minutes’ drive from the Hilton Garden Inn Carlsbad Beach, is a big draw. And the hotel offers a free shuttle service (available 24 hours a day) to the theme park and other points around town within a five-mile radius, which means you can pretty much park your car during your stay and get around to most places for free.
Once you’ve gotten your fill of all that colorful Danish building block wonder, the natural delights of Carlsbad and nearby seaside communities will keep your family entertained for days. Surfing, horseback riding and hiking are all at the hotel’s doorstep. And the Hilton Garden Inn’s spacious and ultra comfortable rooms — set around a courtyard with a heated pool and outdoor fireplace — make it easy to settle in and stay awhile. Your fellow guests are a range of vacationing Americans, Canadians and Europeans, for the most part. And while families abound, the hotel appeals as a weekend escape for couples, too, with all the nature activities and small town charm of Carlsbad and San Diego’s big city highlights just a short drive down the coast.
Our Editor Loves
- Bed & Brick: LEGOLAND partner hotel
- Sailboat excursions
- Onsite family dining
- Horse Back Riding
- Theme Park
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The property is set back enough from the road so that you don't hear the noise from the passing cars inside the rooms. While the ocean is just across the street, you will really only see the crashing waves of the Pacific if you have an ocean-view room on the second floor or higher.
From a decor and comfort standpoint, we'll place this hotel squarely on the upper end of the mid-range scale. The overall feel in the rooms is quite corporate -- leather, dark woods, glass and metal accents, with the odd palm tree painting or retro surf photo here and there to tie in the beach feel -- but accommodations are supremely comfortable, with plush beds, bathrooms with granite countertops and sunken tubs. Of the 151 rooms, most either have a king-size bed (with the option of adding a rollaway bed) or two queen beds.
The hotel has just one suite (on the ground floor, with a patio overlooking the garden and courtyard), with a king bed in a private room and a separate living room with a pullout queen sleeper sofa. An additional powder room is also in the living area. There's the option of adding a rollaway to the suite, too, so you could easily sleep five people. Connecting rooms are also available with either a king room connecting to a room with two queens, or two queen rooms. A microwave, mini-fridge and coffee making supplies are standard in all rooms.
My wife and I stayed at the hotel for our anniversary. It was directly across from the ocean and we just wanted to get away. We were offered a bottle of wine or champagne for our anniversary, which was unexpected and a nice touch. The room was clean. We had breakfast at the hotel, which was very good. The breakfast buffet also included custom ordered eggs/omelette and french toast. The bacon and hash brown potatoes from the buffet were great, unlike the eggs on the buffet, which were kind of cold and like rubber. The omelette was awesome though.
This hotel is a joke. It was disgusting. The hotel front desk was in a closet. The hotel is under renovation yet it's charging $240/night was astounding for the horrible quality you get. Room was musky and had hair all in the bathroom. Room door wasn't charged so had to wait 15 minutes after arrival to get someone to help us. Another customer had the same issue. You'd think you'd know to charge your doors. Would never recommend this. When I complained the manager was a jerk. I told him I looked online and reservations were now $90/night and he told me "sorry that's too bad." and hung up on me. Horrible service. Will not ever stay here or recommend
Once you've made a visit to Legoland, with its rollercoasters and themed shows, spend some time relaxing around the hotel's heated pool, complete with a hot tub and lots of chairs for lounging. The pool maxes out at four-feet deep, making it good for families with young children. An expansive pool deck, which has an outdoor hangout area with sofas and chairs surrounding a large fireplace, is set on a terracotta tile patio. And the hotel's pretty landscaping -- banana trees, palms and flowering plants galore -- lend a garden feel in keeping with the name.
During the summer months, guests gather for "Movies on the Lawn" on Thursday, Friday and Sunday nights, with family favorite films showing on a big screen set up outside on hotel property. Free blankets, popcorn and cookies are passed around for everyone to enjoy. While there are no DVD players in the guestrooms, video game hook ups are provided, so you can count on some downtime with the kids occupied when you need a little relaxing time in your room.
All sorts of family-friendly outdoor activities are nearby. Across the street from the hotel, the Sea Wall Trail -- a trail that runs along the coast -- makes for a nice family stroll or a bike ride You can rent kayaks, windsurfing equipment and fishing gear at Agua Hedionda Lagoon, where there are hiking trails, too. The nearby Hosp Grove Trail is a good place to have a picnic and take a stroll through the eucalyptus groves.
The SeaLife Aquarium is another good family destination with hands-on exhibits and play zones that educate children about California's coastal environments. San Diego's SeaWorld is about half-an-hour south, too. Check online or ask the hotel reservations agents about packages that include SeaWorld, Disneyland and Legoland tickets as well as daily family buffet breakfasts at the hotel.
The Carlsbad Beach Bistro
The casual restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with food also served poolside per request. Breakfast has plenty of selections kids will appreciate including cereal, eggs and pancakes. At your request, the chef will even whip up some chocolate chip pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse. Lunch and dinner options for kids include chicken, cheese or mashed potato quesadillas; chicken tenders; hamburgers and cheese burgers; and make-your-own pizza pies where kids can choose toppings they like for their own personal pizzas.
Snacks and frozen packaged items are available 24/7.
Evening room service is available from 4 to 10 p.m. daily.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Warm cookies are served every afternoon in the hotel lobby. During the busier summer travel months for families, children are treated to a stuffed animal toy upon check in -- perhaps a seal or a dolphin -- to get them in the California nature mood.
Wireless high-speed Internet is complimentary.
While the hotel doesn't have onsite babysitting services, the concierge can help you arrange trusted local babysitters to come to your room to watch your kids. Be sure to give 24 hours advance notice if you'd like to arrange for a sitter.
Fitness Center and Library
There's a cozy library area just off the lobby that's a nice place to read a book. And the hotel has a business center and fitness room with a few cardio machines and weights as well.
The Art of Smart Timing
All of the hotel's facilities, including the pool and hot tub, are open (and heated) year-round.
Weather-wise, the summer months are the warmest and most popular time to visit this stretch of California's coastline. There's plenty to do year-round, and temperatures stay mild during the day while cooling off after dark. The theme parks (SeaWorld, Disneyland and Legoland) are at peak capacity during the summer months as well as spring break and the December holiday period. Visiting outside of these times might make for a more mellow family vacation.
Los Angeles' airport (LAX) is located roughly 95-miles north of the Hilton Garden Inn, and San Diego's International Airport is less than 40-miles south. All of the major car rental companies are represented at both airports. There is a fee for onsite parking.
The hotel's free shuttle takes you anywhere within a five-mile radius of the hotel and operates 24 hours a day (just call when you're ready to be picked up). The shuttle's standard route includes Legoland, into town, and to the nearby outlet shops. But do pack a stroller with you if you have young kids, as it's nice to walk along the Sea Wall path, which leads three miles all the way into town.
For Mom and Dad
Line up a babysitter and plan an adults-only outing down the coast to the seaside enclave of La Jolla, just north of San Diego. Stop off in the scenic beach towns of Encinitas and Cardiff-by-the-Sea along the way, then plan dinner with an ocean view at George's at the Cove, where the California modern-menu focuses on seafood and whatever happens to be in season. For a romantic date night closer to the hotel, hit Paon Restaurant and Wine Bar in Carlsbad Village and enjoy a fab selection of California wines alongside French cuisine rendered with California flair.