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La Costa Resort and Spa, Carlsbad, California

Edward Kiersh
From the Print Edition:
Michael Douglas, May/Jun 98

As was true centuries ago, when the Spanish conquistadores were lured to Southern California's magical climate and landscape, it is still easy to be seduced by La Costa's coastal location. Here, tucked in the hills fronting the Pacific, and only 30 minutes north of San Diego, towering trees shade 400 acres of abundant flowers, ocean breezes keep temperatures in the idyllic 60- to 80-degree range year-round, and the golden-hued, canyon-lined terrain is straight out of La Mancha.

Armor-clad Spaniards on fast-charging stallions have long given way to golf carts, and today, guests have the luxuries of La Costa's fabled 75,000-square-foot spa, with its Swiss showers, Roman pools, herbal wraps and body massages, and two devilish 18-holers with water hazards the size of the Pacific.

La Costa offers so many diversions, from inviting swimming pools to a 21-court tennis club and acclaimed golf school, that guests may well wind up like Don Quixote, wondering which way to tilt. But if these choices prove too confusing, guests can retreat to their elegantly appointed accommodations, or just stargaze in the shimmering lobby or lounges. For more than three decades, this all-season, all-everything getaway has attracted the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Heather Locklear, Sylvester Stallone and Michael Jordan.

The celebrities have been especially drawn to La Costa's world-famous spa, where getting loofah scrubbed and wrapped in moor mud is a sensuous treat and a cure for everyday tensions. "Lifestyle enhancement" might also entail bouts with cardio-crosstraining machines and deft-handed masseuses. Yet after the daily classes in yoga, aerobics and nutrition, visitors can look forward to special spa cuisine that's as tastefully prepared as the epicurean delights at one of La Costa's five renowned restaurants.

Under the award-winning direction of executive chef Josef Lageder, Pisces serves such innovative seafood creations as marinated sea scallops in crispy fried pasta with roasted sesame seed aioli, bouillabaisse, and ahi tuna medallions in herbed tempura, in an intimate burgundy-red room sparkling with mirrors and tableside flambés. The equally romantic Ristorante Figaro is known for its tempting antipasto table, pastas, veals and vintage wine cellar.

Whether it's classic Cabernets or Chardonnays--or just a rejuvenating shot of Scotch--spirits are particularly welcomed by diners who've tangled with La Costa's more "beastly" side, its two dogleg-riddled, 6,900-yard golf courses. Winding through canyons, tall grasses and uphill expanses suitable for filming a Marlboro commercial, each of these killers demands pinpoint accuracy off the tee, a diamond cutter's touch on the greens, and the courage to drive balls over numerous watery graves. The South Course, with four finishing holes known as "the longest mile in golf," is especially fear-provoking, with its ankle-high rough and tight Bermuda fairways. Even though the North Course is a bit more forgiving with its wider fairways, watch out for the multiple-tiered greens with huge swales and hidden breaks. They're treacherously fast.

Golf's typically cruel and unusual punishments still have a happy ending at La Costa. Guests can head for the state-of-the-art golf academy, where they can take advantage of teaching videos. Or if strokes of a different sort are in order, there's welcome relief back at the spa, as this "revitalization" mecca provides a full range of Swedish, shiatsu and reflexology massages.

But if stressed guests want to take matters into their own hands, they have only to enter La Costa's glimmering gift shop to find the perfect elixir for aching bodies and spirits--a humidor stocked with Partagas, Fuentes, H. Upmanns and other premium cigars. Once the cigar selection is made, it's time to relax, kick off your shoes either poolside or on the nearest patio, and savor La Costa's ultimate winning combination: its magnificent, ocean-cooled surroundings and an equally exhilarating smoke. --Edward Kiersh

Florida-based writer Edward Kiersh is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado.

La Costa Resort And Spa
Costa Del Mar Road
For hotel reservations call (800) 854-5000 or (760) 438-9111
Spa packages begin at $360 and golf packages at $400 a night per couple, room included. Both packages require a two-night minimum. Room-only prices range from $275 to $2,200, for a presidential suite.

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