Hyatt Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas. Bottom Line Review.

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After falling in love with the Alila Ventana Big Sur, I was excited to try out another of the three Alila hotels in the U.S. (the third is Alila Napa Valley).  Alila Marea is a brand new resort near San Diego with gorgeous ocean views.  My wife and I stayed three nights.  We very much enjoyed our stay and we loved some aspects (especially the restaurant!), but didn’t fall in love with this Alila property overall as we did in Big Sur.

There is a lot to love at the Alila Marea Beach Resort: wonderful views, awesome balconies, fantastic food, and more.  It’s hard to put a finger on why I didn’t fall hard for this property.  Physically, the rooms are very nice, just not as nice as what we experienced at Ventana.  The views around the hotel are very nice, just not as nice as around Ventana (but the in-room balcony views at Alila Marea are much better if you’re lucky enough to get an ocean view room like we did).  At Ventana Big Sur, you’re completely surrounded by beautiful nature.  At Alila Marea, yes, you have the beautiful ocean on one side, but you also have a busy street on the other.

Alila Marea Beach Resort Bottom Line Review

Bottom line: Alila Marea is a very nice resort with a fantastic restaurant.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the resort is location challenged: it has direct access to a beach, but not a great one; hiking trails are nearby, but you need to go a mile across a busy road to get to them; great dining is nearby, but if you want to walk, you have to go along a busy street to get to them; and it’s near San Diego, but if your intent is to go downtown, Alila Marea is not very convenient.

  • Points Price: Category 6, 25K points per night standard, 21K off-peak, or 29K peak (Hyatt currently plans to roll-out peak/off-peak pricing in July 2021).
  • Cash Price: Varies. On dates I checked, prices started at around $700 or $800 per night.
  • Points Value: Excellent!
  • Resort Fee: $50 per day. Fee is waived for all guests who book their stay with Hyatt points or free night certificates. Fee is waived on paid stays (booked through Hyatt) for top-tier Hyatt Globalist members.  Resort fee includes: pool and fitness center access, free electric bike rentals, morning yoga classes (8am weekdays, 9am weekends).
  • Parking: $52 per day for valet parking.  Fee is waived for top-tier Hyatt Globalist members who book their stay with Hyatt points or free night certificates.
  • Turndown service: None at this time (presumably due to Covid).
  • Dining: Great service and food!  The hotel’s main restaurant, Vaga, is beautiful inside and out.  There’s plenty of outdoor seating with heat lamps and a few firepits.  Coastline and sunset views make the setting awesome.  The real star is the food.  We ate dinner at Vaga two times, breakfast three times, and lunch once.  All of the food was fantastic (To be honest, I didn’t care for their take on Eggs Benedict, but that speaks more to my breakfast expectations than the quality of the food).  Regarding our one lunch experience: we ate by the pool.  The poolside restaurant’s kitchen wasn’t yet open and so they brought food over from Vaga.
  • Spa: My wife got a massage and said it was excellent.  The spa’s showers and sauna were not yet open due to Covid.
  • Hyatt Elite Benefits: I was top-tier elite (Globalist) at the time of this stay.  A friend who stayed at the same time was also Globalist.  We enjoyed the following elite benefits:
    • Free parking on award stays (saved $52 per day)
    • Waived resort fees (saved $50 per day)
    • Free breakfast for two.  We were told that this was limited to $32 per person per day, but they actually erased all of the breakfast charges even though we went over a couple of times.  We saved at least $60 per day.
    • Room upgrade: We were upgraded to an ocean view King room with balcony.  Our friends were upgraded to a studio coastline view with balcony (the studio rooms are bigger than the king rooms).
    • Suite upgrade award (no luck there): I tried before the stay to apply a suite upgrade award, but no suites were available.  The hotel fact sheet shows that the entire resort has only 5 one-bedroom suites, so this wasn’t surprising.  There are also only two suites larger than the 1-bedroom ones (Ponto suite and Grandview suite).
  • Welcome Gift: None (unless you count a little alcoholic drink offered at check-in)
  • Would I stay again? Yes?  I would certainly enjoy staying again if circumstance warrants it, but I wouldn’t seek it out as a vacation destination, and if my intent was to spend time in downtown San Diego, I’d pick a hotel in town instead.  See my thoughts about this resort being location-challenged above.
  • Pros:
    • Ocean views
    • Fantastic balconies
    • Super comfortable robes
    • Each room is stocked with two hard seltzer drinks in the fridge
    • Excellent food
    • Lots of outdoor dining with heat lamps and firepits
    • Free electric bike rentals (we didn’t get a chance to do this unfortunately)
    • Morning Yoga outside (we didn’t take advantage of this, but it looked like people enjoyed it)
  • Cons:
    • Balcony light: There’s a light on each balcony that is turned off centrally some time in the middle of the night (ours was still on as late as 12:30).  This is surprisingly annoying because it would be nice to sleep with the sliding doors and curtains open so as to enjoy the ocean breeze and the sound of the surf, but the light shines annoyingly brightly into the room.  We called the desk about it, but were told that nothing could be done other than to close the curtains to block out the light (and unfortunately, the way the curtains are mounted, it’s necessary to pull them all the way closed in order to block out that light at all).
    • Technical issues with the A/C: The A/C is cleverly designed to turn off when the balcony door opens and to turn back on when closed.  In our room it didn’t always work that way and instead we found ourselves one night having to open the door in order to turn on the A/C.  Given how new the resort is, I’m not surprised that they still have kinks to work out.  I didn’t consider this in my overall assessment of the resort because I’m sure they’ll fix this soon.
    • No dedicated walk/bike paths: This is not the Alila’s fault, but it’s unfortunate that biking involves sharing the road with cars, and walking to town involves walking just next to the busy road (The 101).  Venturing out on foot or bike would be so much more pleasant with dedicated off-road paths.
    • Some of the floor 1 rooms lack privacy.

Picking the best room

This photo was taken from a walking path that hugs the coastline side and ocean side of the hotel.  Depending upon the position of the sun, it’s often easy to look directly into each room on the bottom guest level (floor 1).

If you book a base room with points, you may not have any choice as to which particular room you’ll get.  But if you do have a choice, keep in mind the following considerations:

  • Room type: There are three levels of room types going from smallest to largest: 1) One King or Two Queen; 2) Studio Rooms; and 3) Suites.  Here are the number of rooms in each category:
    • One King or Two Queen: 116 rooms
    • Studio: 9 studios
    • Suite: 7 suites
  • Garden, Coastline, or Ocean View: In my opinion the views from the ocean view rooms are way nicer than the coastline views.  I didn’t see what the Garden views looked like.
  • Floor 1, 2, or 3: The ocean-view section of the hotel only goes up to floor 2 whereas the coastline section offers 3 floors.  If privacy is important to you, note that the floor 1 ocean view rooms were not very private.  People walking along the exterior resort path could easily look straight into each room unless the curtains were pulled closed.  This is unfortunate because you probably wouldn’t want to block out those great ocean views.  The floor 1, north-west corner suite appeared to be the least private room of all since people could look in from two directions.

While everyone differs in their preferences, here is how I would prioritize room choices (if I was given a choice of upgrades):

  1. Floor 2 ocean view suite
  2. Floor 2 ocean view studio (I’m not sure if these exist though)
  3. Floor 2 ocean view King or 2 Queen (we had the King version of this one)
  4. Coastline view suite (prefer floor 3)
  5. Coastline view studio (prefer floor 3)
  6. Coastline view King or 2 Queen (prefer floor 3)
  7. Floor 1 ocean view suite
  8. Floor 1 ocean view studio (I’m not sure if these exist though)
  9. Floor 1 ocean view King or 2 Queen

Photos and Captions

Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas Exterior

Alila Marea’s car entrance. Pull up around the circle to have your car valet parked. No self-parking is available.
This road-sized walking path goes along the resort’s north and west sides.  This is viewed from close to the street with the ocean beyond the view.  If you walk forward to the corner and turn left, you then walk along the front of the ocean view rooms and then to the resort’s pool.
Notice that the part of the building in the foreground only has two levels of rooms whereas further back there are three levels.
It would be awesome to have a room with a firepit like this, but most of these fire-pit rooms are not very private.
Yoga by the pool
Beach access
Rocky beach below stairs, looking left.
Rocky beach below stairs, looking right. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to walk very far north along the beach.

Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas Pool and Fitness Room

Small pool and fairly large hot tub.
Fire pits and seating area next to pool.
Poolside Bar: The Pocket.  This was not open for inside dining during our visit.  Additionally, the kitchen is not yet open and so food is brought to the pool from the main restaurant (Vaga).
Windowless fitness room

Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas King Ocean View with Balcony

Cool wooden room key
Entry way
King bedroom with balcony and ocean view

King bedroom bathroom
Cool looking shower. Water pressure wasn’t good in our room, but our friends said theirs was good.
Robes were awesomely comfortable

Free water. The front desk gladly hands out additional bottles upon request. There are also a couple of filtered water dispensers around the resort for refilling bottles (the easiest one to find is near the pool’s bathrooms).
Hard seltzer drinks found in fridge. These are free.

Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas Studio Coastline View with Balcony

Studio rooms are larger than regular king or 2 Queen bedrooms and include a desk.
Coastline View. Yes, this offers a pretty view of the ocean to the left and a lagoon to the right, but it also includes a parking lot and highway 101 in the middle.

Vaga Restaurant

Breakfast and lunch menu.  For lunch, the sushi Hand Rolls were terrific!
Morning Granola.  Very good.
Coffee by the fire pit. Make sure to ask for sugar with your coffee so that you’ll get the pictured rock candy stick thingy.
Vaga’s take on Eggs Benedict with lamb instead of ham and Béarnaise sauce instead of Hollandaise sauce.  I might have liked this for dinner, but I wasn’t a fan of it for breakfast.
Side of fruit
Lemon Poppy Ricotta pancakes. So good. Yum!
This was our usual breakfast spot each morning.
Vaga’s outdoor seating includes traditional tables, fire-pit seating, and some loungers as shown above for ocean viewing.

Sunset as viewed from Vaga’s balcony during dinner.
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