Review: New Alila Marea Encinitas [Hyatt Award With Confirmed Suite Upgrade]

The new Alila Marea Encinitas, north of San Diego, is a fantastic hotel and a great spot for Hyatt loyalists to redeem points. Paid room rates seem to run $650 – $800 per night. It’s available as a category 6 hotel for 25,000 points per night. And I was able to confirm an upgrade at booking into an ocean suite that runs of $2000 per night.

I’m absolutely looking to return because the property combines a nice spot on the ocean, great service, and fantastic food. And this goes along with fantastic value through the World of Hyatt program.

alila marea encinitas pool and ocean
Pool And Ocean At The Alila Marea Encinitas

Value Proposition For An Elite Stay On Points

When the hotel first opened in March it was difficult to find reward night availability. It was also difficult to confirm upgrades to suites either with Globalist suite upgrades or World of Hyatt points. A spokesperson told me at the time that “the hotel is still sorting out their inventory for standard rooms and standard suites, especially given the pandemic restrictions.”

However by late April the program had apparently impressed upon the hotel that it had to open up space for both, and they did so. Since I was going to be in the San Diego area I cancelled my existing booking at a Marriott property and decided to give this one a try.

  • Redeemed 25,000 points against $700 room

  • On an award stay I didn’t have to pay the hotel’s resort fee (like Marriott charges you) or taxes

  • As a Globalist I even get free parking on award stays, saving the hotel’s $58 per night valet charge

    alila marea encinitas front entrance

  • Elite breakfast is taken in the hotel’s outstanding restaurant, which offers brunch every day – so you can even have this as free lunch at 11 a.m.

  • And this was all enjoyed with a balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean in a $2000 per night suite.

    alila marea encinitas suite price

Not bad for 25,000 Hyatt points (which can be transferred in from Chase) and my elite status. This has to be one of the better uses for a confirmed suite upgrade as well, based both on the price differential in rooms and because it guarantees a direct ocean view.

Alila Marea Encinitas Ocean Suite

As a Globalist member of World of Hyatt, I was able to use one of my suite upgrades to confirm a suite on my award stay at the time of booking. This doesn’t just guarantee a larger room, it also guarantees that a direct ocean view as well rather than a pool view or coastline view, since the two certificates book into the ocean view suite category if it’s available.

There are two such suites, one on the hotel’s first floor and one on the second floor. The first floor suite has a large outdoor area with couches and fire pit. However the walkway between the hotel and ocean mean less privacy. I requested to be assigned to the suite on the second floor, and that’s where the hotel placed me (I don’t know whether this was random luck, based on which one was available for my day of check-in, or if they acted on this request).

The room is at the very far end of the hotel away from the lobby, in a spot closest to the ocean. And the views are fantastic.

alila marea encinitas ocean view from suite
Ocean View From Suite

This room consists of a living room, bathroom, bedroom, and balcony off of the bedroom. The living room features a couch, coffee table, and small dining table.

alila marea beach resort ocean suite living room
Ocean Suite Living Room

alila marea beach resort ocean suite living room
Ocean Suite Living Room

alt=”alila marea ocean suite living room
Ocean Suite Living Room

In the suite’s bedroom is a bed, closets, and dresser, and the balcony is off the bedroom. Both the living room and bedroom overlook the ocean.

alila marea ocean suite bedroom
Ocean Suite Bedroom

alila marea ocean suite bedroom
Ocean Suite Bedroom

The bathroom consisted of a toilet room, shower with multiple shower heads, and two sinks. A highlight was the shower, which was gorgeous. However water temperature changed slowly and the shower heads on the right had substantially less pressure than the ones on the left.

alila marea beach resort ocean suite bathroom
Ocean Suite Bathroom Sinks

alila marea beach resort ocean suite shower

Being able to step outside onto the balcony was the highlight, however the outdoor space isn’t nearly as vast as for the suite below. There were two chairs out on the balcony but the setup wasn’t ideal for sitting together with someone or for outdoor dining although of course this was still possible.

alila marea resort balcony</i><br />
<I>Ocean Suite Balcony</i></p>
<p><img src=
View from Ocean Suite

Outstanding, Friendly Service at Alila Marea Encinitas

Everyone at the hotel was friendly from the moment we stepped on property. Every service request was acknowledged and handled promptly. When we arrived at the hotel our car was taken, and we were given assistance with luggage immediately. We were shown inside to the check-in desk. The only missed opportunity is that we gave our name to the valet, there were no other guests around, and a true luxury property would communicate our arrival so that the rest of the staff we encountered should already know who we are (rather than asking for a name again once we’ve entered the hotel).

At check-in staff were friendly and explained our on-property benefits. They noted that valet parking would be complimentary (normally $58++) and that breakfast would be as well.

During the check-in process we were given a welcome drink which contained ginger, tumeric, and a local vodka.

alila marea encinitas welcome drink
Welcome Drink

The agent explained that the hotel’s restaurant serves brunch (both breakfast and lunch items) 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, and we’d have an entree and drink waived per person. In fact we ordered more than that and tipped generously – and found the entire charge removed at checkout.

Initially when I pulled up a folio during online checkout only part of the breakfast was removed. The parking charges and a $50 per night upgrade fee were on the folio as well. All of these had disappeared by the time I got my folio after my set check-out time.

Service was available by text as well as by phone. This is increasingly common but the Alila was the first time I’ve experienced prompt responses to all requests made over text.

Here’s the activities sheet that was provided at check-in:

alila marea encinitas activities

Really Outstanding Food

Vaga restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating. While we were there they had both in use, and they had their ‘Grand Opening’ to guests from outside the hotel as well so both were in use at dinner. Still, 50% capacity limits for indoor dining still applied while we were there, and we had no problem getting outdoor seating when we dined.

We prefer dining outdoors whenever possible anyway and there’s both covered and uncovered patio with a better view, and there are heat lamps which face down at the tables in case it’s chilly. There’s also an outdoor lounge area where you can take meals as well.

vaga restaurant
Vaga Restaurant

vaga restaurant lounge area
Vaga Restaurant

vaga restaurant dining area
Vaga Restaurant

vaga restaurant view
View From Vaga Restaurant

vaga restaurant outdoor seating
Vaga Restaurant Outdoor Seating

vaga restaurant outdoor lounge
Vaga Restaurant Outdoor Lounge

Breakfast in the restaurant was a highlight, sitting outside and looking out over the coastline.

vaga restaurant pastries and fruit
Pastries and Fruit

Frequent Miler contends that the lemon ricotta pancakes at the Alila Marea Encinitas give the lemon poppy seed pancakes from the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York a run for their money. They were good, to be sure, but I found them a bit dry and fundamentally a different dish.

vaga restaurant lemon ricotta pancakes
Lemon ricotta pancakes

vaga restaurant lemon ricotta pancakes
Lemon ricotta pancakes

The breakfast at Vaga is really a brunch, equal parts breakfast items and lunch items. This full menu is served 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. And that means you can choose what you wish at breakfast, complimentary for Globalists. I tend to prefer lunch and dinner dishes anyway over standard breakfast fare, like the red risotto with lump crab which I ate for breakfast one morning.

red risotto with lump crab
Red Risotto With Lump Crab

The offerings were varied, and included sushi rolls with your choice of tuna or steak.

sushi rolls
Sushi rolls

They even have deep-fried bacon.

deep-fried bacon

Considering the quality of the food, room service – which comes from the restaurant – was actually a value.

The dinner menu was excellent as well, and we enjoyed a meal on property there. I do suggest making reservations, though they seemed to work to accommodate guests staying on property even though they’ve now opened up to outside bookings.

vaga dinner menu
Dinner Menu at Vaga

evening cocktail at vaga
Evening cocktail at Vaga

dan dan pasty
Dan Dan Pasty

brisket buns
Brisket Buns

clams at alila marea vaga
Clams

One surprising highlight as well is the Vaga burder, which is absolutely delicious and deservedly one of the pricier items on the 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. menu. You’ll just have to remind the Californians preparing it that mayonnaise doesn’t belong on beef or pork.

Drawbacks To The Property

I loved the property but don’t want to let that get in the way of communicating some of the things that could be stoppers for other people, or avoid setting the right expectations.

There are four ways, I think, that the property does come up a bit short.

  1. Lack of privacy. Many of the rooms face the pool and don’t offer privacy. There’s also a walkway between the ocean view rooms and the beach, so people can look into your room – this would be directly in for first floor rooms, and even into the first few feet of second floor rooms, since the glass isn’t opaque to the outside.

    There are two ocean view suites. The first floor room has a bigger outdoor area and a fire pit, which is cool, but I specifically asked to be given the second floor suite because I feared I wouldn’t keep the drapes open on the first floor, and would miss out on the view. This request was honored, and I was totally happy with it as a result – but I wouldn’t stand in the window while getting dressed.


    Large patio area and fire pit of the first floor ocean suite

    I’d also say that while the Pool View rooms are pricier than coastline view, I like the coastline view better and some of these rooms will also have more privacy.

    alila encinitas coastline view rooms
    Coastline View Rooms

  2. Not the best beach. This isn’t postcard-perfect powdery white sand, it’s clumpier and browner, with rocks as well. I do not care at all but it’s worth knowing because some people do.

  3. Small pool area. The pool was mostly deserted while I was there, but the hotel wasn’t full. On a busy weekend, with the weather cooperating, I’d expect that it would be overrun – and you’d hear noise from the pool in the rooms since they didn’t seem super soundproof, either. One plus is that the pool is heated.

    alila marea pool
    Pool area as seen from Ocean Suite

  4. The rooms should be a bit more stunning at this price point at least. The showers are gorgeous! And the rooms are simple greyscale, but they felt a bit drab I thought. The highlight of course is the views, and the ocean views from the rooms are just stunning!

Conclusion

The Alila Marea Encinitas isn’t the sort of landmark that Alila Ventana Big Sur is – but a new property overlooking the Pacific Ocean with great service and great food is something not to be missed.

The value on points is outstanding, food at Vaga restaurant left me wanting to try everything on the menu, and every staff member I interacted with at the hotel – from the front desk to the restaurant to the pool and beach – was friendly and prompt in handling any request.

In fact I’ve expanded my dream trip from staying at Big Sur and driving along the Pacific Coast Highway in a 1996 Cobra. I think I need to drive the PCH up starting at the Alila Marea Encinitas and make the 400 mile coastline trip up to Big Sur, staying at Alila Ventana. And then drive three hours inland to stay at the Alila in Napa (the converted Las Alcobas). Three Alilas in California and a truly epic road trip.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Great review. I noticed in some pics it was overcast and in others there were very few clouds. Were those pics taken in the same day or over a few days? I was planning on staying here in two weeks but I noticed the temp was 65 (for a high) this week and I assumed it wouldn’t be getting warmer anytime soon so I passed. Did you find it to be cold…or just right?

  2. @AJ – I spent 3 nights at the property, so taken over a few days.

    I found the temperature great for dining outdoors, under the heat lamp; walking on the beach; going into the heated pool (although a little chilly). This was not great weather to be in the ocean but I was good with that.

  3. @Nate – Alila Ventana is adults only. Alila Marea where I stayed is not. I brought my two year old and they also did a great job off-menu in the restaurant, suggesting that they could do the gnocchi in a cheese sauce or offer chicken strips (though our two year old will eat adult dishes too)

  4. I stayed two nights in early April and now understand why the hotel was half empty but I couldn’t get a Globalist upgrade. Glad they sorted this out. Pros for me was the restaurant, probably the singular best restaurant now in San Diego county, and the atmosphere and views are fantastic. I actually prefer the bar area over the dining room to eat. Cons were, I agree, that the rooms are pretty stark. Very minimal and the regular rooms are even far more empty than what Gary shows. A comfortable chair would have been nice. The biggest caveat is to make CERTAIN you get the higher floors. If you get stuck on the ground level next to the public walkway you will have people headed to the beach literally a few feet from your balcony and window. There is no privacy at all. The walkway shows in one of the photos Gary took…it can get pretty busy, even late into the evening and the majority of the rooms are along side it.

    If you are local, just go for the restaurant. Really, it’s outstanding.

  5. AJ, we’ll be spending two nights in a 1 bedroom ocean view suite. Bit the bullet and used 40k points to assure the room, though globalist. Our hope is that it is on the 3rd floor, though most likely above the pool. Did you see or know of this type of unit on floor 3?

    Like your California Alila trek to all three. Kauai Grand might take a priority this year, but could be part of future plans.

  6. @Jeff – there are (2) 1 bedroom ocean view suite rooms. One is on the first floor (which I show a picture looking down at the patio area of) and one is on the second floor (my room).

  7. I don’t see much, if any, catering for a vegan. Did you find out anything about that?

  8. @Frank – regular menus are presented in the post, I didn’t ask about vegan specifically, however the kitchen was pretty good about being flexible

  9. Such drab depressing black decor for such a beautiful location. No natural warmth at all. A real missed opportunity on that front by the hotel.

  10. I just returned from a 2-night stay at AM Encinitas over Mother’s Day weekend. Ate in the restaurant Saturday night with (6) family members which was good. As a side note to dinner the Chef true to her heritage enjoys spicy heat, as do I, so be forewarned. I concur with many of Gary’s comments from a points stay perspective, however, I paid $1,000. + per night for a regular room with a fire pit. This was a discounted rate (approx. 20%) due to a A/E Platinum card promotion. The room view was wonderful, although, privacy was non-existent. Not just from the public walkway but from neighboring rooms on the ground floor to the 8-10 rooms directly above you that look directly into your outside sitting area. Hyatt clearly spent money on the facilities none-the-less it’s hard to shake the feeling of a high-end college dorm with long hallways filled with glue-down carpet. I have compassion for the start-up process and getting their systems in place but for the price I felt unfulfilled.

  11. Gary, when does free parking on award stays end? I feel like that was a promo. Have a stay in PDX next month, and that will help me determine if I should rent a car at the airport or wait a day or two until I need it.

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