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Trip of the Week

La Costa's Makeover

March 08, 1987|MICHELE GRIMM and TOM GRIMM | The Grimms of Laguna Beach are authors of "Away for the Weekend," a travel guide to Southern California.

Perhaps you've seen the billboards along the freeways: "La Costa--One of world's two great resorts."

That's quite a claim . . . and a temptation to see for yourself whether it's honest praise or just adman puffery.

Ever since opening in 1965, La Costa Hotel and Spa has been in the big league of Southland resorts. To begin its third decade as a premier vacation destination, $70 million was spent on an expansion program.

Construction was completed recently and the "new" La Costa is ready to welcome more guests. Here's what we discovered on a visit last month:

What hasn't changed are the costumed bellmen who greet arriving guests in early day golfing attire. But vacationers who come to play golf will find nine new holes as an added challenge. You now can play two 18-hole courses that are spread over the 1,000-acre property at the southeast limits of Carlsbad.

Tennis, Anyone?

Tennis players have some new treats, too. There are still 23 courts, but two of them now sport grass and four others have clay surfaces to test your racquet abilities.

While guests continue to be pampered in La Costa's spa, a new weeklong fitness program has been added to help you develop a regimen for good health. It begins with a computerized diagnosis of the shape you're in, followed by supervised exercise and nutrition routines.

La Costa has even opened a Center for Lifestyle Management for high-stress individuals seeking a healthier mental and physical state. Participants in the 10-day program eat in the spa dining room where all meals are low in sodium, cholesterol and calories.

Carefree eaters are not deprived at La Costa, especially as the recent renovation has increased the number of restaurants at the resort to seven. All are open to drop-in visitors as well as La Costa's guests.

Everyone also is welcome to enjoy entertainment in the Bravo! Cabaret, a 350-seat nightclub that features dancing to live music. A new big-band show with the 14-piece Manny Glass Orchestra begins tomorrow evening.

Visitors who decide to spend the night will find the resort's capacity has been doubled with the addition of 240 rooms and suites. And all of the earlier accommodations have been redecorated.

There's also a new swimming pool, raising the number to five. La Costa boasts a 180-seat theater where guests can watch current and classic movies nightly. It's on the lower level of the resort's new conference center.

You'll find hair salon at La Costa as well as golf and tennis pro shops and a gift store.

How to Get There

For a closer look at one of the Southland's most complete resorts, drive south from Los Angeles on Interstate 5 to the La Costa Avenue exit beyond Oceanside and central Carlsbad. Head inland on the rural road along the edge of Batiquitos Lagoon, a favorite rendezvous for migratory birds.

Turn left on El Camino Real, then look right for the flowers and sign marking the entrance to La Costa. Head up the main resort road, past lodgings and the conference center, until you reach the covered entrance to the main lobby.

Opposite is the clubhouse with all but one of La Costa's public restaurants, plus two lounges and the cabaret. The Brasserie La Costa is open from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. for food and drink. A popular attraction is its marble-top soda fountain where you can order ice cream treats.

Also open for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the resort's most unusual restaurant, Jose Wong's. Amid a mixture of Spanish and Oriental decor you can dine on Mexican, Chinese and Japanese dishes. It has a sushi bar, and mariachis and flamenco dancers provide evening entertainment.

Pasta and other Italian favorites are served for dinner in Ristorante Figaro, decorated with paintings that depict scenes from its namesake opera. Jackets are required for men.

Also serving dinner from 6 to 11 p.m. is the Gaucho Steakhouse, where some of the entrees are cooked Argentina style on an open rotisserie. There's a grand salad bar too.

The Champagne Room is the resort's premier place to have dinner and features a continental menu. The pricey gourmet fare is served by waiters in tux and tails. Men must wear jackets and ties.

Seafood is the specialty at La Costa's other dinner restaurant, Pisces, in La Costa Plaza on El Camino Real just south of the resort's main entrance. Jackets required.

Drinks and Music

While exploring the resort, relax in the clubhouse lobby lounge where drinks are accompanied by a view of the golf course greens and piano music. The pianist is just a well-dressed dummy so don't ask him to play your favorite song.

With the expansion of La Costa with new lodgings, restaurants and other attractions, the management is eager to have more Southlanders become acquainted with the resort. Families can take advantage of special children's programs that are now offered during major school holidays, including Easter.

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