La Costa Resort and Spa has always held a certain mystique for me. Maybe it’s because I first heard of it in the ‘70s, when it was THE place to be. Maybe it’s because every celebrity credited La Costa with helping her unwind or lose weight. Maybe because it was in sunny California — Carlsbad, to be exact — and to an East Coast girl that part of the world was Nirvana. Or maybe because it had reportedly been a mobster haven, and I liked the intrigue. Either way, I vowed that one day I would visit.
And so I have.
The Spanish mission-style resort, located 40 minutes north of San Diego, is now owned by Omni, and has undergone a $50 million renovation. So, now there are 607 imagined guestrooms and suites, an expanded athletic club, two golf courses, 17 tennis courts (four clay and 13 hard), six dining establishments, six pools (including one for adult only), and a 43,000-square-foot spa.
It’s also home to The Chopra Center (yes, THAT Chopra) and Premier Fitness Camp (PFC), a weight-loss resort within-the resort. The Chopra Center, the worldwide headquarters for Dr. Deepak, offers a range of ayurvedic treatments as well as yoga, meditation, and other life-enhancing classes. PFC, on the other hand, is much less woo-woo: Guests go there to get in shape, learn about nutrition, and work out about five hours a day.
The average PFC stay is about a week, though I met a man who would be there for three months, hoping to lose over 50 pounds. Massages and spa treatments aren’t included in the fee, so I opted for Spa Fit, a program in which I exercised with the group in the mornings (weights, circuit training, spinning, etc.), and then pampered myself in the afternoon. (There’s also a Golf Fit option, which offers, as the name suggests, golf lessons in the afternoons.)Both Spa Fit and Golf Fit are all-inclusive and include a room, meals, and snacks, a complete baseline health and fitness evaluation with blood work, a gift of a Polar Heart Rate monitor, educational classes, and a 12-week at home coaching program.
I was only there five days and lost about a pound, but I wasn’t there to lose weight; I just wanted to feel better. And that I did.
The staff was terrific; they truly seemed to want each guest to achieve his or her goals. And the food — it’s about 1200 calories a day — was plentiful. PFC’s idea is that you should eat every so hour; before I knew it someone was handing me an apple or a baggie of almonds between meals. I was only there five days and lost about a pound, but I wasn’t there to lose weight; I just wanted to feel better. And that I did: lighter and toner and generally more fit.
The treatments were first-rate. I especially loved the the Mindfulness Massage, a blend of oils and guided breathing techniques meant to reduce anxiety. I don’t know if it’s because of the oils, the exercise or the healthy cuisine (or all three) but I felt pretty relaxed the entire time I was there. The Herbal Rebalancing body treatment includes a light body exfoliation to help promote healthy lymphatic flow; a detoxifying clay body mask; body wrap; and a rehydrating massage.
La Costa is beautiful: whitewashed buildings with ceramic tile roofs and perfectly landscaped lawns with bright flowers. Sadly, the hotel needs some work. My room was perfectly lovely — spacious and clean — but none of the phones worked. The IT guy was unable to fix it, so I moved to another room. Here, the bedspread had some kind of awful-looking stain on it. It also did not have a duvet cover. Apparently, not every bedspread goes in a duvet, I was told. (Ewww). The resort was happy to bring me a new one, but by that time I was sufficiently grossed out.
What’s more, the signage is poor throughout the property. Each block of buildings has its own numbers, but they have nothing to do with your room number. On my first day, I found myself wandering around in search of my room. I thought I’d be able to locate it by the buildings numbers, but one thing had nothing to do with the other. (I was given my room number, but not the building number, so it was meaningless.) It was a good way to get extra exercise, perhaps, but it was annoying. For $50 million, none of that should have happened.
Would I recommend it? PFC, for sure, especially for those wanting a healthy vacation. And the resort is great for families; I could hear kids whooping it up outside my room. This might not be ideal for those craving a romantic getaway, or a relaxing, contemplative visit. If you want a destination spa, then this isn’t the place for you; it’s really a resort that happens to have a fabulous spa attached. But it’s worth a few days stay, if for no other reason than to pay homage to the stars of the 1970s, and get a great massage while you’re at it.