Roadtrip to Cape Rey by Sunset Magazine
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Roadtrip to Cape Rey by Sunset Magazine

June 24, 2021
surf instructors at ponto beach

Stop 3: Flying Solo in Carlsbad

Even though you take the I-5 to get to San Diego, it’s not the same 5 that takes you to Oakland and is riddled with cow smells and beating sun.

This side of Highway 5 follows the coast so you can see waves crashing onto shores and reefs out of your peripheral vision while driving. After checking in and out of two hotels already, I felt like a seasoned vet walking up to the counter at the Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach, a Hilton Resort and Spa. A digital key was issued, and an ocean-view room was requested and fulfilled. Making my way to the elevator I stopped to take in the ocean breeze on the hotel restaurant’s terrace, and exchanged my gaze between the shimmering pool to my left and the crashing ocean waves to my right. 

My room had a balcony for two that was perfectly positioned at the sunset and shore. In my ideal world, I go to bed every night at 7pm (because I am always tired) and tonight’s act of self-care would be just that. 

A quick dip in the pool—which is heated saltwater—a long shower, and a takeout order with the hotel’s restaurant to be eaten in bed was placed. I was in bed watching Dreamgirls with dessert in one hand and a canned rose in the other. The sound of the waves drifting in through the cracked balcony door lulled me to sleep by 8:30pm. Move over rain sounds, ocean sounds are far more elite (and there is a Spotify playlist for that too). 

Surfing as (Extreme) Self Care

While checking in the day prior, I saw the surfboards lining the guest shop and an offer for private surf lessons in the lobby. Upon inquiring, the staff at Cape Rey set me up with a private lesson bright and early before checkout . Around 9:30 I received a call from the front desk that my instructor from Surfin’ Fire was here to pick me up. We hopped into his truck and moved through the roundabout outside of the lobby. Driving up the coast a few miles towards Oceanside I took in the scene that made up the quiet yet bustling small town on the water. Upon arriving at the dock, I was handed a wetsuit and a pink board and told it was time to get rocking.

While the good news is that I face planted in the ocean and belly flopped onto a surfboard about thirty times before finally standing and riding one wave, the bad news is there is no video evidence that I actually did manage to do more than wipe out. I know I live by the previously mentioned motto that if it’s not on camera it didn’t happen, but similarly, some of the best times are when phones are nowhere in sight. But trust me, I am more than ready to get back out there and try hanging ten with a GoPro securely attached to my head in order to collect future evidence. 

Spending two hours in the ocean, tapping in with the waves, a board, and a surf instructor who was full of positive reinforcement helped me find my center (kind of like savasana in Yogaqua). The peace of being in the water combined with the challenge of trying to stand up on a board on a wave in the ocean reminded me how grateful I was to be there. Something about a break from the city and a dip in the ocean always reminds me just how minor some of my stressors are. After a crazy year of working from home and staying in my own bed all day and night, I managed to make it through everything, back onto the road, into a super cozy hotel bed, and to the beach, all with my friends by my side. 

Diving under waves or over them on my board felt like washing away my worries, and putting one foot forward and the other towards the back of the board to prepare to ride the wave felt like leaving them all behind me. Returning to my hotel just before noon, I logged into my email, checked in with my coworkers, and felt a sense of ease for the first time in a long time while looking at my email inbox. From night one in San Francisco waking up and stepping onto the balcony overlooking the water at the Union Square Hilton, to wading in the pool after hours of ocean wipeouts in Carlsbad at the Cape Rey Resort and Spa, I was more refreshed, relaxed, and ready to get back to reality than I had been in months.  

As I loaded my car up and pulled out onto the 5 headed back towards Los Angeles, I realized that sometimes, all you need is a long drive up (and back down) the coast, three hotel rooms, and a couple of girlfriends to help ease you back into enjoying the outdoors again. For more information and ideas to get you started planning your own road trip, check out Hilton’s Hub for all things California—from hotels to city guides, they’ve got everything and more you need for a fantastic few days on the road inspired by my coastal explorations. 

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