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First Look at the New Alila Marea Beach Resort in Southern California

The Alila brand’s first new-build US resort opens on the Southern California coast on March 17.

Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas Courtesy Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas

Taking its name from the Sanskrit word for “surprise,” the Alila brand has for years treated guests to bespoke hospitality, thoughtful design and standout experiences in such far-flung destinations as Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman and India. In 2019, the brand became a part of the Hyatt collection of hotels—a move that accelerated plans for its entry to the US. For its first projects in this country, Alila took over and rebranded two well-known California hotels to introduce Ventana Big Sur (built in 1975) and Alila Napa Valley (formerly Las Alcobas Napa Valley.) This week, however, sees the arrival of its first ground-up US outpost: Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas, set along the coastal bluffs above the laid-back SoCal city.

Describing the idea for a resort in this San Diego-area location as “nearly 20 years in the making,” general manager Benjamin Thiele tells Robb Report that the hotel will embody the signature pillars of Alila, but in “a distinctly Southern California way, bringing an entirely new concept of luxury to the beach town.” He adds that the resort “is a celebration of our destination, with almost every part inspired by the area’s natural landscape, as well as its vibrant surf and beach culture.”

Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas

Many of the rooms have private terraces or balconies with fire pits.  Courtesy Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas

For the design, San Diego-based architects Joseph Wong Design Associates and interior design firm Mark Zeff Associates took inspiration from the unspoiled beauty of the coastline, using natural materials like stone and driftwood to craft the understated décor. Views of the Pacific Ocean are featured throughout, as are pieces by acclaimed surfing photographer and local Aaron Chang, known for being one of the first lensmen to join surfers in the ocean to capture thrilling images of the sport; Chang will also serve as the resort’s artist-in-residence, allowing the property to host both permanent and rotating collections of his work. The pool deck, meanwhile, will be lined with custom handmade surfboard-inspired wall panels.

The natural connection continues up in the 130 guest rooms and suites, which feature coastal or garden views, luxury Bellino linens crafted from sustainable beechwood fibers and—in most—a balcony or patio with a private fire pit. The Ponto and Grandview presidential suites, each spanning 1,037 square feet, come with double-sided fireplaces, outdoor living areas, deep soaking tubs and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the Batiquitos Lagoon.

Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas

The two presidential suites have double-sided fireplaces and outdoor lounges.  Courtesy Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas

The culinary program also draws from the area’s influences. San Diego native and James Beard Award Semifinalist chef Claudette Zepeda oversees the drinking and dining outlets, all of which celebrate locally sourced ingredients rooted in sustainability. Featuring an exhibition kitchen and views of the seaside bluffs, the signature Vaga restaurant (set to fully open based on California’s indoor dining regulations) is described as Zepeda’s “love letter” to her hometown, while the poolside Pocket will serve tacos, sushi and local fish, and the Coffee Box café will showcase coffee from a local roaster, as well as local produce in its acai bowls.

As one of the pillars of the Alila brand is experiences that, as Thiele says, “embrace the natural surroundings, traditional culture and the local community,” this outpost has developed a number of options that do just that. On the wellness front, guests can enjoy beachfront yoga classes, morning runs along the coast, nature hikes and use of electric cruiser bikes custom designed by Encinitas-based Electra Bicycle Company, then retreat to the Spa Alila for holistic treatments inspired by the healing powers of the ocean.

Via the resort’s Surfboard Butler program, guests will have access to over a dozen custom-designed house surf boards, and to a butler who can arrange for lessons, transport to and from the beach, wetsuit storage and more. Depending on the season, there will also be poolside events, stargazing on the bluff, and the opportunity to book behind-the-scenes experiences at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and thrilling adventures such as rides in a vintage open-cockpit biplane. Once pandemic restrictions allow, there are plans to introduce an ongoing music series (in partnership with the Rob Machado Foundation) and mezcal tastings with the in-house master mezcalero. Rooms start at $639 per night, one-bedroom suites start at $1399 per night and presidential suites start at $3149 per night.

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