As the summer sun beats down and destinations are welcoming guests, I would like to look back at one of my favorite Southern California locations with a great pool that I visited in the last couple years. Set against the backdrop of rugged hills, the pool plaza at Pala Casino Spa & Resort in San Diego County is an outdoor paradise.
My getaway to the resort began when a friend and I checked into a gorgeous fourth floor suite in Pala’s AAA four-diamond hotel, overlooking the nearby Palomar Mountains. Elegant and welcoming, the room boasted a comfy king bed, big flat screen TV, office area with free internet, a large bathroom with walk-in shower and tub, a mini-fridge and coffee maker and a large, relaxing chair.
Once acquainted with the room, we took the elevator down to the lobby and walked outside to the resort’s spectacular and sparkling adults-only pool plaza. Situated beneath the Palomar Mountains, the area boasts five heated pools and 14 luxury cabanas, along with waterfalls, fire pits, deck chairs, Jacuzzis, and floating daybeds, all scattered about a beautiful outdoor courtyard. There is also a full-service poolside café and bar.
The poolside cabanas — available for rent — are very inviting. They come with personalized pool attendant service, refrigerator stocked with waters and assorted sodas, 49-inch HDTV, Wi-Fi, personal safe, sofa, armchair and chaise lounge. If you can spare the extra dough, these are a perfect place to relax with friends on a hot summer day.
After swimming, sipping a couple bloody marys and relaxing poolside, we headed for lunch at Bar Meets Grill, a unique dining experience with beautiful views of the Palomar Mountains. The California casual cuisine menu is designed to satisfy guests with a dynamic menu. The bar offers a wide variety of specialty cocktails, extensive spirit selections, a limited variety of craft beer and over 50 selections of wines by the glass.
Bar Meets Grill is the perfect spot to sample one of the 50 wines offered by the glass or the signature hand crafted cocktails. With a selection of appetizers available at the bar, it is a great start to the day or a fantastic finish with a delicious appetizer. Our lunch at Bar Meets Grill featured crab cakes, lobster bisque and char broiled burgers.
With our bellies full on crab legs, pork nachos, salad and cheese cake, we left the restaurant and hit the slot machines. Pala Casino Spa & Resort is known as one of San Diego County’s premier casino destinations. The place boasts a Las Vegas-style casino with more than 2,250 state-of-the-art slot and video machines, 84 table games, and an eight-table poker room that hosts live play and championship tournaments.
I played the 25-cent slots for about an hour and walked away even, but if you count the great, free entertainment from the live cover band playing above the bar, I think I came out ahead.
From the casino I visited the fitness center to work off some calories before dinner. Located next to the resort’s 11,000-square-foot full-service spa, the gym offers state-of-the-art treadmills, stair-climbers, recumbent bikes, weight machines and free weights. It is open 24 hours a day for hotel guests.
For dinner we headed back to Bar Meets Grill for ribeye steak, Atlantic salmon with pan-seared potatoes and vegetables, and frutti di mare with shrimp, scallops, lobster, sea bass light marinara over linguine.
The next morning we drove a few blocks to the historic San Antonio de Pala Asistencia, also known as “Pala Mission.” Founded in 1816 as an outpost to the larger Mission San Luis Rey in nearby Oceanside, Pala Mission was part of the Spanish mission system. Today it is located on the Pala Indian Reservation and is the It is the only historic mission facility still serving a Mission Indian tribe.
The little mission features a museum, gift shop, gardens, cemetery, and a chapel. It’s belltower is said to be the only freestanding one of its kind among all the California missions. Across the street from the asistencia, is Pala Store, a charming little market opened in 1897.
Back at Pala Resort, we spent the morning at the pool. Next to the pool is the 2,400-square-foot Starlight Theatre stage, which hosts top-name outdoor concerts on the resort lawn. Pala Casino Resort Spa is located at 11154 HWY 76, Pala, 92059. For more info and current specials, call 1-877-WIN-PALA or visit: www.palacasino.com.