By Greg Aragon
I hit the jackpot recently at Pala Casino Spa & Resort in San Diego County. I didn’t win any money, but I did stay in an awesome hotel room, dine at a couple great restaurants, and experience the resort’s stunning, new pool area.
The getaway 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 paradise at the resort’s sparkling adults-only pool plaza. Set 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 & 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, arm chair and chaise lounge. They must be coveted during the summer.
After swimming, sipping a couple bloody marys and relaxing beside the pool, we headed for lunch at Choices, The Buffet. As Pala’s signature buffet, the expansive, buffet-style restaurant features a dining area capable of accommodating 625 guests.
Highlighted by a complete exhibition kitchen, Choices offers over 200 different hot and cold food options including dishes from Asia, Italy, Mexico; as well as traditional American favorites, salads, an omelet station and a wide variety of mouthwatering desserts made fresh at Pala. Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Choices offers a snow crab buffet, and on Thursday they put on a lobster buffet.
With my belly full on crab legs, pork nachos, salad and cheese cake, I left Choices 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 8-table poker room that hosts live play and championship tournaments.
I played the 25-cent slots for about an hour and walked away pretty much 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.
After working out I met my friend for a delicious dinner at Boy Meets Grill restaurant. The California casual cuisine eatery serves a wide variety of appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, pizzas and salads, as well as a selection of pasta and entrée options created by Chef Anila. Our dinner began with a jumbo shrimp cocktail and a glass of merlot. For the main course I had succulent bourbon short ribs with garlic chips with sweet red cabbage and horseradish potato. My friend devoured seared rib eye steak with mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus.
The next morning we drove less than a mile 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 only historic mission facility still serving a Mission Indian tribe.
The little mission features a museum, gift shop, gardens, cemetery, and a chapel. Its bell tower 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. Upcoming shows on the stage include Foreigner on Thursday, June 13; Latin Legends featuring El Chicano, Tierra, Malo and Thee Midniters on Saturday, June 29; and Styx on Friday, July 26.
Pala Casino Resort Spa is located at 11154 CA-Highway 76, Pala, 92059. For more info and current specials, call (877) WIN-PALA or visit: palacasino.com.