Fun and Relaxation at Pala Casino Spa & Resort

Pala Casino Spa & Resort is a relaxing getaway in San Diego County (photo by Greg Aragon)

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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 of great restaurants, and experience the resort’s stunning, new pool area.

The getaway began when a friend and I checked into a gorgeous 4th-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.

Pala Casino
The rooms at Pala are luxurious and offer great views (Photo – Pala)

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″ HDTV, Wi-Fi, personal safe, sofa, armchair, and chaise lounge. They must be covered during the summer.

Pala Casino
The resort’s sparkling pool area boasts five heated pools, luxury cabanas, waterfalls, fire pits, Jacuzzis, and a full-service poolside café & bar (photo by Greg Aragon)

After swimming, sipping a couple Bloody Mary’s 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 here at Pala. Every Monday Tuesday & Wednesday, Choices offers a snow crab buffet, and on Thursday they put on a lobster buffet.

Pala Casino
Choices Buffet offers endless delicious entrees and desserts (photo by Greg Aragon)

With my belly full on crab legs, pork nachos, salad, and cheesecake, 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-sq-ft 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 Bar 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.

Pala Casino
Founded in 1816, Pala Mission was part of the Spanish mission system (photo by Greg Aragon)

The next morning we drove less 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 It 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 belltower 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- sq-ft 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 HWY 76, Pala, 92059. For more info and current specials, call 1-877-WIN-PALA or visit:

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Greg Aragon, Writer Greg's Getaway
Greg Aragon is a travel writer from Pasadena, California. For the past 15 years Greg has authored “Greg’s Getaway,” a popular travel column that covers the globe. In the course of writing Greg's Getaway, Greg has traveled to more than 25 countries in search of exciting destinations, people, food, drink and culture. From Alaska to Zermatt, Greg has experienced the thrill and beauty of traveling to the fullest. Along the way he has dog sledded on glaciers, drank with sea captains, danced with hula girls, dined with royalty, sung with street performers, wrestled with pigs, jumped from airplanes, conquered rapids, panned for gold, rode a rhino, slept in trees and much, much more. When not on the road, Greg enjoys strumming his old nylon string guitar and playing basketball.