By Rich Henrich
It’s hot out. Really hot and you’ve been stuck inside with limited time outside. Movie theaters are closed. Gyms are closed. Churches, music venues, museums, other places with amazing air conditioning, all closed. A few restaurants with outdoor seating and misters are open but you still want to escape the heat, your house, perhaps your kids and family. You need a break but where can you go in this COVID world? Well, you don’t have to get on a plane to go on this vacation. With millions of tourists visiting California each year, why not enjoy our home state a little more? Even better, just get in your car, drive over the mountain, enjoy the scenery, and head to Carlsbad, CA, a wonderful seaside village in North San Diego County, just two easy hours away from the insane summer heat.
It felt like a jailbreak at first to grab my dear friend from the jaws of isolation and convince her that we could go on a safe, COVID-compliant, socially distant, genuine California adventure. Alas, we were packed in the car, snack-ready, and prepared for a vacation, even if it meant a few compromises to normal would need to be negotiated. We headed south to The Cassara Carlsbad, a beautiful Hilton resort property, nestled on a lush 12-acre spread overlooking the majestic blue Pacific Ocean and adjacent to the seasonal (March-May) Carlsbad Flower Fields. Cassara is a clean, spacious, family-friendly property with a separate pool area for kids (if you want to bring them) as well as dogs, but we left the furry creature in capable care. While Legoland and the Sea Life Aquarium are closed, the property is close enough to ride a bike to South Carlsbad State Beach and the seven miles of coast to explore. Or you can take the free shuttle to the Carlsbad Premium Outlets as shops welcome shoppers.
With an incredible coast to experience and the desire to avoid crowds, one of the best ways to feel like you are on vacation is to climb aboard a 45-foot luxury yacht known as Obsession. Captain Les George, a former firefighter who found solace in sailing the seas, will gladly share his passion for navigating the ocean with his guests. Pacific Coast Sail Charters is located just a few miles up the coast in the Oceanside Harbor and will provide an unforgettable experience. Whether you have a family or a small group or are just a couple wanting to pretend you are sailing away from it all, Captain Les and the breeze upon your face will take you away just like a Christopher Cross yacht rock classic. The beautiful Beneteau 440 Oceanis provides privacy whether you’re a family or two couples on an adventure. There are separate sleeping quarters, an adequate kitchen and bathrooms as well as a gorgeous galley with a dining table and plenty of comfortable space. The teak wood design is classic elegance at its finest.
We packed a full picnic basket of deli sandwiches and snacks for the voyage. Captain Les provided incredible service as he doubled his duties as our personal maître d’ while we relaxed on the deck removed far from the concerns of the shore we left behind. The afternoon waters were calm as the Obsession cruised across the Pacific Ocean. While we didn’t encounter any dolphins on this trip, we were entertained by several sea lions eager to entertain and met a flabbergasted fisherman who told us his tale of an incredible encounter with an orca (it had a four-foot dorsal fin!) while out on the ocean. The journey was easy, safe and incredibly comfortable. The most difficult part of sailing is returning to the striking contrast of “civilization.” As we pulled into the harbor, kayak and paddleboard enthusiasts dotted the waters. The paddlers beamed with the joy of simple freedom no longer taken for granted. Our elation was as euphoric as a dream and we would forever be changed as we discovered a paradise in the midst of COVID-19. Reach out to Captain Les through his website and make a plan to experience something beautiful at http://www.pacificcoastsail.com.
The next day we checked out of the Cassara Carlsbad and drove down the coast in search of a not so crowded beach. This was a bit of a challenge on a sunny Sunday afternoon. One option that would be worthwhile for future planned escapes would be to reserve a spot at the South Carlsbad State Beach. Unfortunately for the spontaneous traveler, they do not allow walk-ups only advanced reservations. So, onward south down the coast, we would go! Passing through Leucadia, a small surfside village trapped in a time forgotten, conjured up nostalgia for the sleepy beach towns of old. As we pulled into the surf haven of Encinitas, sidewalk cafes and restaurants were bustling with life. Parking for the beach was difficult to find so we trusted the right place would be found if we continued south.
Just at the southern end of Encinitas is The Encinitas Temple, a branch of Self-Realization Fellowship, an international religious organization founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda with a mission to disseminate the universal teachings of Kriya Yoga, a sacred spiritual science originating in India thousands of years ago. The architecture is captivating and the gardens are stunning. The site has served as a destination for pilgrimage for people all over the world to visit the place where a great teacher lived and communed with God. Surfers have known of the spiritual center as “Swami’s” an international surf spot with an incredible right-hand reef that has been known to handle big swells up to triple overhead.
For us, the sun parted the clouds and cast a lone light upon a single parking spot in a small tucked away lot overlooking the ocean. This was indeed the place of destiny, a picturesque coastline with wise palm trees and lush vegetation. A wooden staircase of endless steps led us down to Swami’s Beach, a secluded, semi-tropical retreat from the chaos above. The sunshine, sea salt mist, and freshness of air renewed our spirits once again. As surfers carried their boards along the beach and trickled out into the waters to catch a sunset set (of waves), we watched the sunset on a shore of sanctity. In the parking lot above a small drum circle formed, musicians gathered and voices sang songs to the setting sun. For a moment, humanity was well and a paradise had been found.
Be safe, be healthy but have the courage to seek out an adventure that will remind you how incredible life can be if you are willing to step outside of your comfort zone.