Sign up for our newswire newsletter


Omni La Costa Resort & Spa’s Major Renovation Carries a SoCal Tradition Forward

Photo of exterior of Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.
Photo of fountain and palm tree-lined walkway at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.
Fountain and walkway. Credit: Tyler Davidson.

Carlsbad, California, located off the iconic Pacific Coast Highway about 35 miles north of San Diego, is one of those Southern California destinations that is a picture-perfect vacation postcard come to life.

If you’re looking for authentic SoCal beach towns and California history, this stretch of paradise from San Diego through Carlsbad and Oceanside is where you’ll find it, along with a resort that has witnessed more than its share of history, from Golden Age Hollywood stars to an original owner steeped in the nefarious history of the Las Vegas syndicates.

Meetings Today traveled to this iconic resort in mid-April for a sneak peek of the recently completed multi-phase, $74 million renovation scheduled for a summer completion and found that Omni La Costa Resort & Spa remains one of the most interesting and impressive Southern California meetings properties—only much more so. 

[Related: Game-Changing New and Renovated Properties Across California, Hawaii and Colorado]

Always a fashionable events draw, the property boasts its own dedicated events offering, the 26,800-square-foot Coastal Events Center. In total, the property offers three separate meeting, event and exhibiting venues and more than 70,000 square feet of total indoor space and100,000 square feet of outdoor space, including private terraces, vistas, plazas and lawns—the largest resort meetings footprint in the western U.S.

Renovation Highlights

The three-year refurbishment at the sprawling 400-acre resort touched nearly every part of the property, from more than 500 guest rooms and villas to its spa, championship golf courses and meeting spaces indoors and out.

“The golf course was kind of the piece that started it. That’s a $35 million investment—practice facility and golf course,” said Michelle Zwirek, director of sales and marketing for the property. “And when you renovate one room in your house, you have to renovate the rest of the house, right?”

Photo of North Course at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.
North Course. Credit: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.

The results are impressive, with a California coastal design aesthetic reinforcing the Spanish Mission-style architectural heritage of the more than 600-room property—think red-clay tiled roofs and sun-dappled stucco exteriors, all connected by small, inviting courtyards and arched entryways, with handcrafted, painted tiles accenting the journey—but with the obligatory contemporary updates added.

The lobby and bar, along with meeting spaces including the Costa de la Luna ballroom, were actually renovated in 2021 but still have that fresh feel because they were finished during the pandemic shutdown and thus have been lightly used. Luna, in particular, is one of the most-popular venues at the resort because of its seamless indoor-outdoor flexibility.

[Related: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa Unveils Newly Constructed Meeting Venues in 2021]

“I think that Luna ballroom is one of the more special ballrooms in the country; it has that really great indoor/outdoor feel, with one side that has doors that open up right out onto an event lawn,” Zwirek said. “A lot of people will say that when they have a meeting, they really want to get a sense of place, and to be able to see the palm trees and that Costa de la Luna event lawn right outside of your general session has been very, very popular.”

Photo of Luna Lawn set up with two long white tables and chairs.
Luna Lawn. Credit: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.

Guest room renovations include its Resort Rooms, Golf View and one-bedroom suites, with the “hotel-within-a-hotel” Garden Pool courtyard suites brightened up with a mid-century twist. The Bedroom, Studio, Executive Suite, presidential suites and one-, two- and three-bedroom suite villa categories were also renovated.

Improvements at the 43,000-square-foot Spa at La Costa include three new salt rooms, refurbished steam rooms with new aromatherapy features and the update of its Vichy showers. The resort has prided itself as a serene spa getaway—dubbed “the original destination for mind, body and sport”—since opening in the mid-’60s.

Photo of refreshed villa at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.
Refreshed Villa Parlor. Credit: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.

Major Golf Course Improvements

Leading the renovation charge, Omni La Costa’s Gil Hanse-designed Champions Course—which has hosted major PGA Tour events since its opening in 1965—has been completely redesigned and reverted to its original name, North Course. The Legends Course has also been improved and reverted to its original name, the South Course.

A boon especially for corporate groups, the resort is home to Golf Performance Institute, offering what may be the most-comprehensive golf-improvement program in Southern California. Omni Hotels & Resorts also has the distinction of being the official hotel of the PGA TOUR and PGA of America.

A Village Feeling

Photo of Bob's Steak & Chops at Omni La Costa.
Bob's Steak & Chop House, in Main Plaza. Credit: Tyler Davidson.

Arriving at the resort, one gets the feeling of entering a village, strolling the property’s Main Plaza surrounded by Spanish Mission-style buildings and walkways lined with towering palm trees beckoning further exploration. Groups often use the Main Plaza for cozy, Mexican fiesta-style gatherings.

“That Main Plaza during the day becomes one of the best networking spaces that I’ve ever seen,” Zwirek said. “There’s all those little teak tables where you’ll see people having little impromptu meetings over coffee, just as if you were in a piazza in Italy. Not all meeting resorts have that central space where everyone can catch up and meet and then in the evenings have a party.”

Befitting the outdoor lifestyle afforded by Southern California’s idyllic climate, groups at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa almost always press one of its many event lawns overlooking the golf course into service. A major new option includes a 40,000-square-foot event lawn, called the Range View Court and Lawns (due to its location where the driving range and tennis and pickleball courts are).

“The advantage with large spaces like that is that a lot of law firms or incentive programs really like to do outdoor concerts, so those big spaces are perfect for that,” Zwirek said. “You can put up a bandstand and have 500 to 1,000 outside for a private concert with food trucks, so those big spaces are actually really special and that’s why we’re really excited to have one.”
And food trucks aside, the resort also features the mouthwatering Omni staple Bob’s Steak & Chop House.

Of Historic Proportions

Omni La Costa Resort & Spa has been the glamorous playground of presidents and Hollywood elite since opening its doors in 1965. Notable guests have included President Richard Nixon, Jackie Kennedy and Frank Sinatra, among many others. 
But perhaps the most colorful character associated with the resort is the original developer himself, Merv Adelson, a Hollywood television producer with Vegas connections who was married and divorced to Barbara Walters—twice.

Historic black-and-white photo of La Costa Resort North Course from 1965.
Photo of La Costa Resort North Course from 1965. Credit: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.

The story goes that Adelson wanted to distance himself from the 1950s Vegas “scene,” where he associated with the likes of notorious casino operator and ex-bootlegger Moe “Mr. Las Vegas” Dalitz, founder of the Desert Inn, Stardust Resort & Casino and the Las Vegas Convention Center, by building a sophisticated, sequestered SoCal getaway for the Hollywood elite.

Adelson built the 400-acre resort in partnership with Dalitz and two other Vegas associates, Allard Roen and Irwin Molasky.
According to Zwirek, the Vegas connection continues to this day, but now mainly as a sales strategy.

“The meeting space exists in part because the locations provide privacy,” she said. “We bid on a lot of business that doesn’t want to go to Vegas, for example, because if you bring a conference to a city or to Vegas, you might lose your attendees. When you bring them to our resort, they stay in a truly sort of networking, immersive environment.”

Historic color photo of original clubhouse at La Costa Resort, in 1965.
Original clubhouse at La Costa Resort, in 1965. Credit: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.

Activity Options

While “confining” one’s group to the 400-acre property may be perfect for a meeting agenda, there are scores of offsite activity options available, from shopping in quaint downtown Carlsbad—a very popular boutique shopping destination in itself—to nature-based activities primed for the SoCal coast.

Photo of two women in 1980s fashion on pickleball court.
The '80s rock on! Credit: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa.

“From a group standpoint, my favorite is the lagoon walks right next to the hotel,” Zwirek said. “What makes this Southern California coast so special is the fact that the lagoons are actually preserving the coastline and they’re preserving the wildlife. The lagoons are actually a mixture of saline and freshwater, and there’s an aqua farm where they raise oysters and all kinds of seafood, so you can go to the aqua farm and taste the oysters.”

Other offsite activity options include eminently Instagrammable low-tide and high-tide sand art; kayaking through the La Jolla Sea Caves ecological reserve; a s’mores beach bonfire set up by The Beach Genie; and visits to local craft breweries or CaliFino Tequila, a distiller that offers a tasting room and virtual golf.

“You can kill two birds with one stone there and have some tequila and play virtual golf,” she recommended. “And they can also bring their tequila maker [to the resort], so groups have actually incorporated them into their receptions at the resort, which is fun.”

Golfers in the group may also be tempted by a trip to the Carlsbad headquarters of both Callaway and TaylorMade for a curated fitting, which is a very popular option for incentive programs.

Of course, the latest craze taking the nation by storm, pickleball, is also on offer, but with an ’80s retro twist—think headbands and leg warmers—for more-daring groups. 


Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

More California content:

Photo of red bougainvillea in back of a fountain.
Red bougainvillea behind a fountain outside of Spa at La Costa. Credit: Tyler Davidson.
Profile picture for user Tyler Davidson
About the author
Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.