New clifftop resort opens in Encinitas

The new clifftop Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas.
The new clifftop Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
(Courtesy photo)

Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas, a luxury boutique hotel on a clifftop just south of South Ponto Beach, opens its doors today.

The 130-room hotel at 2100 N. Coast Highway is the latest addition to Hyatt’s Alila brand, which includes 16 hotels worldwide with a sustainable eco-tourism design ethos. Besides a spa and meeting space for up to 380 guests, the hotel will have a signature restaurant, VAGA, helmed by local celebrity chef Claudette Zepeda. The restaurant’s debut is still several weeks away.

The hotel was developed by JMI Realty and Fenway Capital Advisors with construction by Suffolk Construction. It is the first new-build Alila resort in North or South America, and the third Alila property in the United States. Other California Alila locations are in Napa Valley and Big Sur. Joseph Wong Design Associates was the project architect. JMI Realty CEO Kohn Kratzer said the hotel was a project more than 20 years in the making.

Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas.
The entrance to the newly opened Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas.
(Courtesy photo)

The Alila hotels each have ecologically minded design features and they offer community-focused guest activities. For the Alila Marea, this includes partnerships with several local organizations and companies. Surfing lessons will be offered by North County’s Surfinfire surf school; Electra Bicycle Co. in Encinitas has installed a fleet of its electric bicycles at the hotel; Mint Studio in Carlsbad will offer event services; and the Rob Machado Foundation of Encinitas has installed several water bottle refilling stations around the resort, as part of the foundation’s goal to reduce plastic bottle waste in the world’s oceans.

Hotel features include 114 regular guest rooms, nine studio rooms, five one-bedroom suites and two 1,037-square-foot presidential suites. Besides the VAGA signature restaurant, Alila Marea will also include The Pocket, a casual restaurant/bar serving the hotel’s oceanfront swimming pool, and Coffee Box, serving coffee from the Encinitas roaster Lofty Coffee Co., pastries and acai bowls.

Claudette Zapeda - Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas
Claudette Zapeda will head up all food operations at the Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas, which opens March 17, 2021.
(Courtesy of Alejandro Ibarra)

VAGA chef Zepeda, who came to fame on TV’s “Top Chef” series in 2018, is overseeing all culinary operations for the resort, including The Pocket, Coffee Box and banquet services. The Chula Vista-based chef started working with the Alila Marea team two years ago as a consultant. Then, after her restaurant El Jardin at Liberty Station closed in mid-2019, she agreed to take on a larger role.

In a November interview, Zepeda described VAGA as her love letter to the melting pot of international cuisines she grew up on in her native Imperial Beach. Its menu has not been released, but she said it will include her takes on some of her favorite ethnic dishes including Indian dosa pancakes, soup dumplings on Convoy Street, Filipino pancit noodles and Ethiopian dishes.

For details, visit

Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas
Interior of one of the two presidential suites at the newly opened Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas.
(Courtesy photo)