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Insider Guide: Carlsbad, California

Sunset Magazine

June 6, 2022

Sunset’s Insider Guide series highlights seasonal diversions and secret travel tips from local experts. Follow along as we learn where to eat, drink, stay, and shop.

Meet the insider: Robyn Ukegawa, manager of Carlsbad Strawberry Company

A fourth-generation Carlsbad resident, Robyn Ukegawa has been involved in her family business, the Carlsbad Strawberry Company, for years. You can go into the strawberry field and pick your own fruit, or wander through the corn maze for cute photo ops. Ukegawa also has other tips for exploring the city known for its beaches and breakfast spots.

Cafe Topes food spread
Cafe Topes
Ella Cieslak/Grace Films Co.

“Carlsbad is well known for the brunch places,” Ukegawa notes. Her favorite is Cafe Topes. “They specialize in Cardiff Crack (marinated tri-tip), and they also make really great cinnamon rolls.” For your morning coffee, head to Steady State for quality roasted beans.

Carlsbad Lagoon

Delainy Reinard

It wouldn’t be a trip to Southern California without the beach. “Go to the beach and paddleboard in the lagoon,” Ukegawa says. You’re able to rent boats, kayaks, paddleboards, and more.

Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa pool

Courtesy of Sheraton Hotels

The Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa is in a prime location. Less than a mile from Legoland, the hotel is also close to Ukegawa’s strawberry farm, the beach, and other tourist attractions. For a five-star luxury resort, go to Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa. “It has a fancy golf course and nice amenities like a pool and spa,” Ukegawa says. “I go for the high tea where they serve quality teas and little appetizers.”


For delicious smoked meats and cocktails, head to Park 101. It’s “right on the beach,” Ukegawa says. Or, go to Barrel Republic for draft beers where you can pour your own on tap.

Forum in Carlsbad

Courtesy of The Forum Carlsbad/Pablo Mason Photography

The Forum features high-end brands and casual clothing stores. Don’t forget to pick up fresh-squeezed juice at Pressed Juicery.