Park Hyatt Aviara: Some of the Best Hotel Service in the United States

I spent last weekend at the Park Hyatt Aviara, a former Four Seasons property, and I was really excited to be there. The story as I understand it is that the ownership didn’t want to make the sort of capital investments necessary to maintain it as a Four Seasons given general economic conditions so they had a parting of the ways with their former flag and hence the re-branding.

I tend to think of Park Hyatt as a modern brand, and Aviara was a Four Seasons in the ‘old school’ model, so other than the signage the place doesn’t really fit my mental model of a Park Hyatt.

But what did strike me more than anything other than the old fashioned furniture and draperies was the service. Every single person that I encountered at the hotel throughout my stay was friendly and helpful. I was consistently addressed by name and staff went out of their way to accommodate. I almost didn’t feel like I was at a hotel in the U.S.

The stay was an incredible value for the rate that I paid, which was under $250, and for a confirmed upgrade to a suite with complimentary breakfast and internet as a Hyatt Diamond. And yet the property isn’t really my style since I prefer much more modern design and the physical plant is showing its age. If I needed to be in the area it would definitely be my choice of properties, but the property itself is unlikely to be a destination for me in its own right.

I checked into the hotel a little bit before 2pm and the place was busy, apparently not with guests but rather preparations for a North San Diego “Best Of” event of some sort, complimentary tickets to which were delivered to my room shortly after arrival. My car was taken by the valet and I was guided to check-in, where I was immediately assisted. Room was pre-blocked and ready, lots of pre-prepared papers were given including a handwritten note from the G.M. (odd that it wasn’t waiting in my room), features of the resort, and a listing of Diamond benefits. They spell out 2pm checkout and I was specifically asked whether I’d like to take advantage of that. A far
cry from my experience at the Andaz 5th Avenue the weekend before where I was told 2pm was not possible, and a far cry from Starwood where non-resort properties have never denied me 4pm (though where the late checkout benefit isn’t guaranteed at all at resorts).

I was sent on my way to the room (not escorted), and found a nice sized suite with double sized balcony that had two sets of seating.

The room overlooked the pool and had a nice enough view, but it’s not a resort on the water.

I was offered the Diamond amenity at check-in and chose the points, but in the evening shortly before heading to dinner a plate was delivered with three different dips and three crostinis. No snacks were delivered the second evening.

After the first evening’s local festivities ended, the property really cleared out and we didn’t see many other guests.

Service was consistently outstanding, valet parking very prompt. But while the grounds are lovely it’s clear that major capital improvements haven’t been done in years, and the age of facilities show especially in the pool area. Though in fairness renovations are going on, the main gift shop is closed for instance.

The only odd service element was housekeeping ringing the doorbell before 9am on Sunday. Now, I didn’t have the do not disturb sign up, and I was awake so no harm, no foul, but it did seem odd. Still, that really was my only service complaint.

I was out for the weekend working, my wife came along and took the opportunity to arrange for surf lessons. Timbo was apparently an excellent teacher, her first time on a board my wife got up and caught some great waves and now is sending me lists of places around the world that she wants to give surfing a shot again. At least Kuta is on the list, so I have an excuse to back to Bali. She also want to go to Portugal for the weekend…

Sunday morning at the hotel was busy, even though the place had seemed fairly deserted on Saturday, as the locals turned up for Mother’s Day brunch which ran $90 per person. The hotel apparently offered another breakfast location, or so another guest mentioned, but my check-in letter specified the location where breakfast was complimentary and that was the location of their rather decadent brunch. I was really curious to see how it was handled at check-out, and I had understood from previous discussions of the property that the Diamond breakfast benefit was $65 so I rather thought they’d give me that amount as a credit. The full charge showed up on my bill, which the agent at checkout apologized for and explained was because it had been coded as a lunch charge rather than breakfast, and immediately removed the brunch from the bill. A $225 or so charge for two.

Now, $90 did feel a bit much for the offering, though it was definitely excellent. When we sat down we were offered all you could drink champagne for $9 per person. They didn’t mention what kind of champagne it was, and everyone in our party was heading to the airport shortly after, so we passed. Still, I was surprised that $90 didn’t include at least a glass of champagne.

There was carved meats, salads, sushi, egg station, caviar, and an enormous dessert selection. All high quality, all tasty. And a nice way to spend a couple of hours with friends on a Sunday.

I was thoroughly thrilled with the place at the price point and as a Diamond using a confirmed suite upgrade and receiving breakfast and internet, and also given the modest occupancy levels. Without status, paying high season fully occupied rates, I wouldn’t have been as excited for sure. But the service was some of the friendliest I’ve come across in the states, and that was true independent of the Gold Passport loyalty offerings.

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, 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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  1. Park Hyatt is not supposed to be a trendy brand. Park Hyatt is really just the brand to rival Four Seasons and Fairmont. I’ve been to the Park Hyatt Toronto, and although the TV was new, the furnishings are extremely classical.

  2. I’ve been there once with free stay last summer. It was great stay. I wanna go again..

  3. I used two of the Big Welcome Back nights here, particularly liked the adults only pool. It makes for a relaxing weekend getaway from LA.

  4. Been a few times for drinks / appetizers in the bar (I live a few mins away) – terrible service! Better service @Tuscany in the strip mall up the road. Can’t vouch for the stay experience, but the place is in desperate need of some updating.

  5. My parents recently stayed at the property and loved it as well.

    It seems like a great property overall, but the room looks so drab to me.

  6. My wife and I will be staying here in a couple of weeks. Very much looking forward to it, as it is our first Park Hyatt experience.

    Can anyone provide some generally accepted tipping guidelines. Valet / Bell Hop / etc?


  7. I read a lot of travel blogs and I am always amazed by the pictures of food. In my opinion, pictures of food are the biggest waste ever. How many times in my life have I seen food that looks great but was disappointing. And, vice versa. Pictures don’t give any indication of taste or smell. It is just so odd how many food pictures appear in travel blogs.

  8. Gary,
    How do you compare the PH to the Sheraton for a family trip? (I’m both Hyatt Diamond & Starwood PLT)

  9. I’m glad the service was so good, because it really does seem like that property is sorely in need of renovation. I’m a Hyatt afficianado, and enjoy the Park Hyatt brand very much (especially Paris), but I don’t really have much desire to visit this property.

  10. @mark I often provide specific commentary along with the food photos in order to balance things out, sorry if seeing two pictures of food out of 20 or so troubled you.

    @Udi I can’t really compare to the Sheraton, haven’t stayed there, and I’m not really the best judge of family travel. Sorry!

    @TCho Indeed it was the service that made everything a really good experience, the hotel does need investment to stay tip top, and the design elements didn’t enthrall me.

    @Ben I didn’t use luggage assistance, but I tipped the valets a couple bucks each time. But then I wasn’t looking for my rental car to stay parked right out front, and the valet service is VERY quick here regardless.

    @mowogo I find the few Park Hyatts I’ve been to (Tokyo, DC) quite modern and much prefer their design to this one.

  11. Agree with you Gary that these rooms are dated and not up to modern Park Hyatt standards. I much prefer the rich contemporary design of PH DC, Buenos Aires and Paris.

    That green couch HAS to go!

  12. We also had a great stay back in January, and we used the breakfast credit toward the Sunday brunch as well. Granted, I think we were charged the normal brunch price ($65 IIRC) instead of $95 Mother’s Day brunch pricing.. greatr spread, still, $95 seems a bit much.

  13. Perfect timing! i’m staying here for a night over the Memorial Day weekend, and using a suite upgrade.

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