The Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts have a reputation
for luxury and service. From the moment I stepped
into their Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, they lived
up to that acclaim. You cannot pass an employee
who doesn't offer a pleasant greeting or inquire
as to how you're enjoying your stay or how they
can serve you better.
A half-hour north of San Diego, the Four Seasons
Aviara Resort is a relatively new resort, opened
in 1997. It is the first of several major Four
Seasons planned with a community of lavish vacation
villas, to be sold as timeshares, surrounding
the main hotel. Other vacation ownership resorts
are soon to open in Scottsdale and in Punta Mita,
near Puerto Vallarta.
Walking a meandering cliffside path that surrounds
the Aviara, I marveled at breathtaking views below
- the hotel's world class Arnold Palmer designed
golf course; the Batiquitos Lagoon, a wetlands
wildlife preserve; Carlsbad's rolling hills; and
in the distance, the Pacific. Palm trees interspersed
with bougainvillea and irises surround hidden
spas. Wonderful lifelike bronze statutes of workman,
joggers, and children at play are posed about
The main building houses 331 superbly appointed
and spacious guest rooms. What they bill as their
fine dining restaurant, the Vivace, earns every
star. I'm a dessert aficionado and especially
enjoyed their warm bittersweet chocolate melt
with raspberries and pistachio ice cream. Their
other restaurant, the California Bistro, is no
less a fine dining experience. Though all their
restaurants serve those trendy "healthier
heart" meals, I still recommend you try the
banana pecan pancakes for breakfast at the Argyle,
their golf club's restaurant, overlooking a serene
lake and the 18th hole.
Though its golf course is probably the Aviara's
greatest draw, the hotel also has a wonderful
fitness center and spa, tennis courts, a promenade
of distinctive boutiques, a hair salon, and 30,000
square feet of meeting space.
"What," I asked the concierge, "is
the secret of the Four Seasons' reputation?"
"We try to always answer 'yes' to our guests,"
But behind the Four Seasons success is more than
just a philosophy of service. Its success is probably
due to two men. Very different men, worlds and
While there are a some more affordable vacation
package rates for staying at the Four Seasons
Aviara, I couldn't help but being curious as to
what one gets staying in the $4100 a night three
bedroom presidential suite. You see, I like to
live vicariously through the lives of the "rich
and famous." So, I asked if I could see it.
Unfortunately, it was occupied. Was a rock star
visiting? A Prime Minister? No. Isadore Sharp
was visiting the hotel.
"That's why a Canadian flag flies in front
of our hotels," the concierge explained.
"Mr. Sharp is a Canadian and founder of the
Isadore Sharp, an architect from Toronto, built
his first hotel in 1961. He was an entrepreneur
determined to succeed with a philosophy of building
small but luxurious hotels with a reputation for
Several years ago, Sharp, intent on expanding
his hotel chain, met with another astute businessman
with a reputation as a demanding perfectionist,
Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, nephew of Saudi Arabia's
King Fahd. The prince has been described as a
"relationship guy", someone who thrives
on not creating new businesses but enhancing partnerships.
As I walked a pleasant mile and a half hiking
trail laid out between the wildlife lagoon and
the Aviara's golf course, I thought about the
meeting of Isadore Sharp, who is Jewish, and the
Muslim prince. The prince conducts his business
on the Kingdom, a 283 foot yacht formerly owned
by Donald Trump, and usually docked in St. Tropez.
He wears robes and a kaffiyeh, the Arab head dress.
A 1997 business article published in the San
Jose Mercury News described that meeting.
"They were on Alwaleed's yacht when discussion
turned to religion and possible tension between
the two. 'I think we're religious in the same
way,' Isadore Sharp said. 'I think this is a way
to build bridges to peace.'"
These two businessmen put aside political and
religious animosities, and finding common ground
in what made good business sense, created first
class hotels and resorts renown for their luxury
Today there are Four Seasons luxury hotels built
or under development in exotic places around the
globe, from Bali to Boston, from Lisbon to Las
Vegas, from Caracas to Carlsbad, and of course
from Toronto to Riyadh.
The Four Seasons Aviara is not much more than
a mile from another famous resort, La Costa. La
Costa was perhaps San Diego County's premier resort
of the 20th century. But with Aviara's hotel,
restaurants, vacation villas, golf course, tennis
courts, spa, walking trails, views, service, and
a little Arab-Jewish business diplomacy thrown
in for good measure, this resort takes over that
title for the new millennium.