Where to Stay in Carlsbad (Best Areas & Places, By a Local)
With so many options for where to stay in Carlsbad, choosing the best place for you can feel like a big task.
Carlsbad, a beach town 40 min drive from San Diego proper, is a paradise to live, work, and play. If you’re visiting the fine city of Carlsbad, then you’ve hit the jackpot for unforgettable sunsets, dolphin spotting, breezy weather, and charming eateries.
I’m born and raised here, and one of the reasons why I love it so much is that there are some incredible things to do in Carlsbad. So, to help you get the most out of your trip, I’m here to spill all the local secrets on the best places and areas to stay.
Table of Contents
- Best Places to Stay in Carlsbad
- 4 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Carlsbad
- Carlsbad Village
- South Carlsbad
- La Costa
- Tips for Staying in Carlsbad
- FAQs About Where to Stay in Carlsbad
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Best Places to Stay in Carlsbad
Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Carlsbad? Here are my top picks:
- 🏆 Best Overall Hotel – Park Hyatt Aviara
- ✨ Best Luxury Hotel – Omni La Costa
- 👪 Best for Families – Legoland
- 👔 Best for Business – Westin
- 🛎️ Best Boutique – Ocean Palms
- 🏖️ Best Oceanfront – Beach Terrace Inn
- 💵 Best Budget – Carlsbad Village Inn
- 🛏️ Best Bed & Breakfast – Pelican Cove Inn
Ok, let’s do a deep dive into the best areas and neighborhoods in Carlsbad:
4 Best Neighborhoods & Areas to Stay in Carlsbad
From golfing landscapes and resorts to oceanfront hotels in Carlsbad, the beauty of the area will surely captivate every visitor. In Carlsbad’s 40 square mile radius, there are 4 main areas to stay in: Carlsbad Village, South Carlsbad, La Costa, and Aviara.
👉 Best Area For Living Like a Local | ✨ Best Carlsbad Village Hotels: Beach Terrace Inn • Ocean Palms • Springhill Suites Marriott • Tamarack Beach Hotel
Drive 40 minutes North from San Diego and you’ll find yourself in downtown Carlsbad Village, the best place to stay if you’re looking to explore the wealth of activities Carlsbad has to offer.
This area is super walkable, and venturing out on foot is the best way to explore. The beach boardwalk is within easy reach, as are a ton of restaurants and entertainment options.
Some of the best hotels here are within walking distance of the ocean including the tiki-style Ocean Palms Beach Resort and the recently-renovated Beach Terrace Inn. For cheap hotels, check out the Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort and Tamarack Beach Hotel. The Village is the best neighborhood to stay in for walkability and true Carlsbad coastal culture.
Pros of Staying in Carlsbad Village Neighborhood:
- Walking distance to all bars, restaurants, entertainment, and beaches
- Tons of cuisines in one concentrated area
- Friendly locals and even friendlier dogs walk the streets
- Fire dancers, street performers, yogis, and volleyball players bring energy to the boardwalk
Cons of Staying in Carlsbad Village Neighborhood:
- You’ll hear the train frequently
- A bit far from San Diego during traffic hours
- Restaurants will get crowded on the weekends and you’ll need a dinner reservation
📚 Carlsbad Village Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Carlsbad Village
- ✨ Best Hotels – Beach Terrace Inn • Springhill Suites Marriott • Ocean Palms
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Carlsbad Village
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Bluewater Grill ($$$), Fresco Cocina ($$$), Harumama ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Campfire, Barrel Republic, Carruth Cellars, Coyote Bar & Grill
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Beach, Boardwalk, Scenic Overlook, Wednesday State Street Farmers Market
👉 Best Area For Beaching It | ✨ Best South Carlsbad Hotels: Cape Rey • Seapointe • Hilton Grand
Only 6 miles south of the Village, South Carlsbad is the best area for laid-back beach vibes.
This town is home to South Carlsbad State Beach, probably the most picturesque spot in the area. The beach is super popular in the summer and is also a great place to stay in Carlsbad if you want to try out some water sports. Swimming, surfing, and diving are all great things to do here.
When looking for San Diego hotels in Carlsbad California, Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach has a luxury outdoor pool while the West Inn and Holiday Inn Express are great cheaper hotel options. There’s also the Seapointe Resort with ocean views and spacious condos.
Overall, South Carlsbad is the hottest spot for sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and a laid-back neighborhood.
Pros of Staying in South Carlsbad Neighborhood:
- A serene oasis for total relaxation
- Uncrowded beaches
- Closer to things to do in Encinitas
Cons of Staying in South Carlsbad Neighborhood:
- Quieter so less nightlife going on here
- Hotels can be a bit pricey here compared to staying in San Diego
- You’ll want a car, e-bike, or golf cart to get around to the Village and back
📚 South Carlsbad Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for South Carlsbad
- ✨ Best Hotels – Cape Rey • Seapointe • Hilton Grand
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in South Carlsbad
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Chandler’s Oceanfront Dining ($$$), Benihana ($$$), Pelly’s Fish Market & Cafe ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – The Camp Store, Chandler’s
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – South Carlsbad State Beach, SB Campground, Carlsbad Aquafarm
👉 Best Area For Convenient Location | ✨ Best La Costa Hotels: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa • Four Seasons Residence Club
La Costa is also part of North San Diego County, a 20-minute drive from the Village. This is mostly a residential area and is great if you are scoping out where to live in Carlsbad, have a larger budget to play with, or want to do some high-end shopping.
As the de facto luxury suburb of downtown Carlsbad, La Costa is home to many working professionals. For visitors, a big draw of this town is the Omni La Costa Resort Spa filled with a top-notch fitness center, kids club, and comfortable guest rooms. While you’re here, I recommend checking out a class at their weekly schedule of activities.
For hotels in Carlsbad, you also can’t go wrong with the Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Carlsbad. Being in La Costa, you are super central to the rest of San Diego’s top things to do.
Pros of Staying in La Costa Neighborhood:
- Plenty of local doctors, specialists, and other daily amenities needed
- Kid-friendly and highly-rated school system
- Upscale shopping
Cons of Staying in La Costa Neighborhood:
- Affordability is decreasing in this area
- Residential community
- Driving is the best way to get around La Costa, and the car rental service Discover Cars makes it easy to get around Carlsbad California
📚 La Costa Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for La Costa
- ✨ Best Hotels – Omni La Costa Resort & Spa • Four Seasons Residence Club
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in La Costa
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Black Rail Kitchen + Bar ($$$), La Cocina Mesa ($$), Bushfire Kitchen ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – La Costa Wine, VUE, Tommy V’s
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas, Bressi Ranch, The Beacon La Costa, The Forum
👉 Best Area For Golf & Family Vacations | ✨ Best Aviara Hotels: Park Hyatt Aviara • Four Seasons • LEGOLAND California Hotel
Aviara is the perfect suburb of Carlsbad for hotel hopping and the iconic Legoland California theme park. If you’re on a family vacation or visiting with kids, then this may be the area for you.
In Aviara, there is plenty of space to roam around, and is generally less condensed than other areas of Carlsbad. In this way, it’s great if you want a dose of nature, as it’s close to a lagoon and hiking trails.
There are plenty of great resorts and hotels in this area, but I have to say, Legoland Castle Hotel is unlike any other. This hotel is situated just outside of the Legoland park entrance and is Carlsbad’s only 5-star luxury resort.
The rest of Aviara Carlsbad CA is surrounded by a golf club and plenty of greenery to make any East Coaster feel at home. If golf is your thing, this is also a great part of town.
Pros of Staying in Aviara Neighborhood:
- Nestled in more open space than the other nearby towns
- Sound sleeping in a peaceful neighborhood
- Close to the lagoon, parks, and outdoor hiking trails
Cons of Staying in Aviara Neighborhood:
- Less action going on in this part of town
- More secluded so you’ll need a car to get around
- Could feel bland or underwhelming for some
📚 Aviara Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Aviara
- ✨ Best Hotels – Legoland • Park Hyatt Aviara • Four Seasons
- 🏠 Apartments – Browse Top Rentals in Aviara
- 🍽️ Where to Eat – Ember & Rye ($$$), Seasons Restaurant ($$$), Ponto Lago ($$)
- 🍸 Where to Drink – Bar Traza, Lobby Lounge, 20|Twenty
- 🎟️ Top Attractions – LEGOLAND California, Flower Fields, Carlsbad Strawberry Company, Carlsbad Premium Outlets, Museum of Making Music
Tips for Staying in Carlsbad
Book Early for the Summer Season
May through September is prime beach time in Carlsbad. Make sure to book accommodations, dinner reservations, beach toys, and chair rentals well in advance so your time will be enjoyable.
Pick Your Parking Wisely
During the peak months, downtown parking can be tricky. To get a great spot, choose one of the all-day lots off Roosevelt Street and State Street or rent a golf cart at Beach Vibe Rentals.
Visit the Wednesday Farmers Market
Taste your way through this local certified organic open-air market. It’s on every Wednesday from 2:30 PM – 6 PM (or 7 PM when it stays sunnier for longer, after daylight savings time sets in).
Shop the Bi-Annual Street Fair in the Village
On the first Sunday in Spring and Fall, the Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce puts on the largest street fair in the nation bringing over 100,000 people to downtown Carlsbad. If you’re looking for a great atmosphere and to meet some locals, then this is the event for you.
Sleep to the Sound of the Train
If you’re staying at hotels in Carlsbad or living downtown, then calculate how far you are from the train stations. If this is something that you think would disrupt your sleep, then I recommend choosing a hotel farther away. On the flip side, if you plan to take the train regularly, then staying close by could make for an easy walk.
FAQs About Where to Stay in Carlsbad
Is Carlsbad worth visiting?
If you’re looking for some of the best-rated beaches in the world, Carlsbad should absolutely be on your travel list. This San Diego beach town has incredible beaches, friendly locals, plenty of great restaurants and nightlife options, and great shopping.
Is Carlsbad CA expensive?
Due to rising inflation prices and a post-pandemic increase of folks moving here, Carlsbad has become more expensive. If you plan on visiting, take this into consideration and plan your budget accordingly.
Is Carlsbad safe?
One of the reasons why Carlsbad is so desirable to live and travel to is because of how safe it is. It’s safe to raise a family and walk late at night. Plus the hotels in Carlsbad have low crime as well.
Thanks for reading my guide to where to stay in Carlsbad! When looking for things to do in Southern California, out of LA and San Diego, Carlsbad is truly a best-kept secret for dining, beaching, and living your best life.
Have fun in Carlsbad!
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