This past January, before the defining events of 2020, I visited Carlsbad, California, a smaller coastal city 30 miles north of my home in San Diego. The relatively short drive offered scenic views of the coastline.

Editors’ note: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we travel. With so many restrictions in place, many travelers are venturing closer to home, taking day trips, and seeking to spend their time outdoors.

During that visit, I stayed at Seashore on the Sand, a collection of nine ocean-front buildings within walking distance of many restaurants and shops. The windows of our unit faced the Pacific, stretched from floor to ceiling, accentuating the breathtaking views of the sky and water in varying shades of blue. The private balcony overlooking the ocean connected my bedroom and living room, a perfect place to bask in the sunny rays and salty air.

Bedroom at Seashore on the Sand

Bedroom at Seashore on the Sand

For over three months, I’ve been sheltering in place, limiting personal contact and grocery store trips. This period of solitude with my husband and our dogs has been challenging, revealing, beautiful and hard. I’ve enjoyed the slower pace of daily life but also deeply missed restaurant outings and visits with friends.

Planning a COVID19-friendly trip

COVID-ready Carlsbad

COVID-19-prepared in Carlsbad

I began to dream of a mini-vacation that prioritized the safety of myself and others. I consulted the CDC guidelines, as well as those developed by the State of California and San Diego County. The CDC guidance is a particularly helpful resource for those contemplating travel: It offers questions to consider, best practices to minimize risk, and essential items to bring.

I decided to return to Carlsbad. The abundance of fresh, open air and outdoor activities make it an ideal destination for maintaining physical distance while also experiencing a change of pace.

This time, I looked for a smaller business that may have been harder hit by the economic downturn for this visit. In my research, I came across the Pelican Cove Inn, a small B&B with ten guest rooms, each with a featherbed, fireplace and private entrance.

Pelican Cove Inn in Carlsbad

Pelican Cove Inn in Carlsbad

In advance of my trip, I called the owner, Nancy, asking her about the steps the property was  taking to protect the health and safety of guests. I felt reassured to learn that guests are asked to wear masks in shared spaces, and that cleaning and disinfecting protocols are prioritized. Hand sanitizer is available to guests in shared spaces. In addition to dining inside, guests could enjoy breakfast outside on the patio or at the tables on the rooftop.

I felt comfortable booking an overnight stay and decided to go during the week (rather than on a weekend) to minimize contact with other people. I also packed plenty of hand sanitizer, a mask to wear in public spaces, and gloves for activities like pumping gas.

Settling in

I stayed in the La Jolla room, which was bright and spacious with a spa tub in the bathroom. After arriving and unpacking, I changed into athletic clothes, applied sunscreen and donned my mask before heading downstairs to chat with Nancy.

She highlighted many COVID-friendly outdoor activities, including paddle boating, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. I had set my sights on renting a Pedego Electric Bike, and Nancy showed me a map with several routes along the beach and to the Carlsbad Lagoon.

Pedego instructor wearing a mask in Carlsbad

Pedego instructor wearing a mask in Carlsbad

With these suggestions in hand, I headed to the bike rental shop, a short ten-minute walk away. After a tutorial on how to operate the bikes in the parking lot, I felt confident to venture out on my own, cruising in the bike lane southwards along the coast.

Gratitude in movement

After spending so much time indoors and at familiar places close to home, it was exhilarating to pedal next to the beach, with the sounds of crashing waves and seagull cries providing the soundtrack for my solo adventure. I felt my senses come alive in this new setting.

Whenever I reached a hill on the path, I used the electric components to aid me in the climb — it felt as though I were flying. My hair flowed in the salty wind. I breathed in the fresh air and the scent of flowers in full bloom. I explored the area for a few hours, occasionally stopping to soak in the gorgeous beach views, before heading back to return the bike and ready myself for dinner.

The joy of fine dining

Valrhona Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake

Valrhona Chocolate Grand Marnier Cake

Paon Restaurant & Wine Bar is an upscale establishment that adds a California twist to traditional French cuisine. It’s located in Carlsbad Village, a walkable neighborhood containing boutique shops and restaurants.

As I walked to Paon, I passed by other restaurants, which spilled outside with tables spaced at least six feet apart. I felt hopeful observing this scene, and the ways we’ve adapted to our circumstances to find moments of joy and connection over food. It was a beautiful sight to behold, and the smells of guacamole and fresh lemon permeated the air as I made my way to my dinner destination.

Colors seemed more vibrant, smells more striking, sounds more melodic

My server, Ivan, offered superb recommendations: I enjoyed a starter of house-made gnocchi with wild mushrooms and a entrée of beautifully browned, pan-seared scallops, the delicate meat firm and buttery.

I hadn’t realized until that moment how much I missed the ordinary sounds of a dining experience: soft jazz playing in the background, clinking of glasses and murmurs of people talking to each other. The secluded outdoor patio provided a perfect backdrop for my enjoyment of the expertly prepared dishes.  The flourless Valrhona Chocolate Grand Marnier cake completed the exquisite meal: The cake was soft and warm, the chocolate rich, cut with an apricot coulis and créme anglaise.

Reaping the benefits of a Covid19-friendly escape.

After dinner, I walked back to the beach to catch the sunset. As the sun dipped below the horizon, I reminisced about my stay in Carlsbad just five months earlier, and how much had changed in that short time span.

Both trips exceeded my expectations, and yet this time, my senses were more alert and perceptive. Colors seemed more vibrant, smells more striking, sounds more melodic.

These months of sheltering in place have heightened my senses and my gratitude, enhancing this travel experience immeasurably.

Swan boats at Carlsbad Lagoon

Swan boats at Carlsbad Lagoon

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler? 

  • The main attractions of Carlsbad are located in a small area that is very pedestrian-friendly.
  • Carlsbad is approximate 90-mile drive south from Los Angeles.
  • When it is safe to do so, the Coaster offers train rides from San Diego to Carlsbad, an even more relaxed way to sit back and take in the changing view of the shore.
  • Learning to ride an electric bicycle is an empowering experience — it allows those with less leg strength to ride for longer distances.

Take note

  • Both Seashore on the Sand and the Pelican Cove Inn have ground-level accommodations.
  • Seashore on the Sand units range in size from studios to three bedrooms.
  • Group tours with Pedego Electric Bikes are on hold for now, but you can book a private tour.
  • The bike path along the beach shares space with parked cars, so you need to be careful and alert while riding. There are other paths reserved exclusively for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Some entrances to the beach have numerous steps.



The author’s stay was hosted by Pelican Cove Inn and Paon Restaurant & Wine Bar. All opinions expressed are her own.

All photo credits: Ann Nelson, unless otherwise noted

Editors’ note: This is one in an ongoing series of close-to-home road trip suggested by our GOT Contributors.

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