A new Joie de Vivre beach hotel is mostly a joy, despite a disrupted sleep: the Mission Pacific Hotel
In late May, Hyatt opened its newest Joie de Vivre property in the unassuming beachside enclave of Oceanside, California. The Mission Pacific Hotel has 161 rooms and a prime location overlooking the beach. It's flanked by a Wyndham property on one side and a Marriott hotel is one block away, but the Mission Pacific outshines them both.
With sleek, comfortable rooms and the acquisition of a historic home that also has a "Top Gun" connection, the Mission Pacific is a unique beachfront gem.
A sister property, the Seabird Resort, sits across the street and offers extensive amenities that guests at both hotels can enjoy. I stayed at the Mission Pacific about two weeks after it opened. Here's a look at what this hotel does right, what it gets wrong and what you can expect when staying here.
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The Mission Pacific Hotel is a fairly new Joie De Vivre Hotel that opened on May 21 -- six days before its sister resort, the Seabird. The timing of my booking was perfect because I was able to secure a rate of $381 per night, including taxes and a $100 food and beverage credit. Since I was going to get free breakfast as a Hyatt Globalist member, this credit covered pretty much all of my meal costs during my two-night stay.
The Mission Pacific is a Category 5 Hyatt property, requiring 20,000 points per night. TPG values Hyatt points at 1.7 cents each, so if the nightly rate is above $340 per night, you’re better off redeeming points. It’s also worth noting that the hotel charges a nightly $42 “guest amenity fee,” which is waived on award nights.
Related: 6 ways to redeem Hyatt points as travel rebounds
The Mission Pacific Hotel is located at the corner of Mission and Pacific Avenue in Oceanside. The city is just 40 miles north of San Diego and an easy drive from Orange County.
Oceanside isn’t what typically comes to mind when you think of a California beach town. It’s much more working-class. You’ll see regular people driving regular cars, a lot of casual surfer types and its surprisingly diverse. It's very different from the beaches of Orange County.
Coming to Oceanside from Laguna Niguel was a $45 Uber ride. If you’re coming from San Diego, you can take Amtrak from the Santa Fe Depot station and get here in about an hour. It will cost you $18.
I ended up taking Amtrak to downtown San Diego at the end of my stay because there was traffic caused by construction near Carlsbad. When my parents left two days before I did, it took them over two hours to get to the airport via Uber. I ended up downtown within 50 minutes.
It’s a scenic ride overlooking the coast and the Amtrak station in Oceanside is just one block from the hotel. With the ongoing rental car shortage and surge charges running rampant due to a driver shortage, Amtrak might be the fastest and cheapest alternative.
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We arrived at the Mission Pacific Hotel at around 4 p.m., just in time for check-in. Two valets were standing on the curb and rushed over to greet us and help us get our bags out of the trunk. A third staff member guided us towards the lobby and held the door open for us.
The lobby was light and airy, with lots of light wood and cool beach-themed art. The lobby had its own signature scent, which I can’t quite describe but it had notes of fruit. The hotel missed a prime opportunity by not bottling it up and selling it because I would absolutely want my house to smell like that lobby.
There was lots of seating in the lobby with plenty of power outlets. It definitely has shared workspace vibes between the seating options, power outlets and proximity to the High/Low cafe.
The front desk agent was checking in another customer when I arrived. A few days before check-in, the hotel began following me on Instagram, so I paid attention to any differences in service that might be attributed to this fact.
I’m happy to report that the front desk agent was just as attentive and welcoming to the other guest as she was to us. She asked how our day was, where we were coming from and whether we were celebrating any special occasions.
She acknowledged my Globalist status and informed me that I had been upgraded to “a beautiful ocean view room,” which was nice. I later found out the hotel was at about 20% capacity, which probably helped my odds of getting an upgrade.
The agent informed me that the rooms had two free water bottles we could refill with still or sparkling water in the ice room. I later found out there was no sparkling water, just cold and room temperature.
She also told me we could have breakfast via room service, on-site or next door at the Seabird Resort. We could use the pool next door by showing our key cards, though the Mission Pacific had its own rooftop pool.
She wrapped up the keys for us and walked around the desk to hand them to me. She pointed me to the elevator and said, “Enjoy your vacation!”
The mask mandate had been dropped just two days earlier, but the staff at the hotel were all masked up. The hotel guests, not so much. Between the low occupancy rate and the fact that I was fully vaccinated, this was when I officially started going mask-less for the first time in a year and a half
I will continue to wear a mask at airports and in crowded places to avoid getting sick, but during my stay, I felt comfortable walking around the hotel sans mask. Of course, California has since changed its mask policy so I'm taking extra precautions when dining out and going into public spaces.
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My room was located on the fourth floor, in between the two hotel wings. It had a direct view of the ocean, but I soon realized that its location was not ideal when it came to street noise.
You see, the hallway leading up to the room was open. With the Amtrak station one block away, you could hear the train horns loud and clear. More on that later.
Noise issues aside, I absolutely loved the room at the Mission Pacific hotel. It was so beautifully decorated, with a neutral palette and the occasional pops of contrasting colors. The room was cozy and had a beachy/coastal vibe.
There were two queen beds with power outlets and USB ports on each bed. Even the phone had two USB ports, which was convenient. I travel with two laptops, my cell phone, a Kindle and two power banks. So there's no such thing as too many charging ports.
What wasn’t so nice is that the phone didn’t work and the engineer who came up to take a look wasn’t able to fix it. It made it mildly inconvenient to order room service and explain why I wasn't calling from the room.
The bed was incredibly comfortable, with a nice, firm mattress. Between the mattress and the blackout curtains, I got a great night's sleep ... until the Amtrak trains started honking. It was the loudest, most disturbing noise and I found it baffling that the hotel didn't soundproof the doors.
I'm a pretty heavy sleeper (I've even slept through earthquakes), but when that train horn blew at ten past midnight, I woke right up. It was definitely not a pleasant experience to hear that noise at any hour.
Across from both beds was a long bench in between a snack station and seating area. A few years ago, hotels were getting rid of desks to appeal to millenials, which was widely ridiculed. I think hotels like the Mission Pacific get it right with multi-functional seating areas like this one. They're functional yet cozy, ideal for both working and eating.
On the other end was a snack station featuring an Illy coffee maker with complimentary coffee, tea and plenty of sugar and cream.
I liked that the mini-fridge wasn’t stocked with your typical sodas. Instead, they had ABC soda, which included flavors like toasted coconut. Unfortunately, the fridge wasn’t very cold and the soda turned out to be close to room temperature.
There were also two refillable water bottles with the hotel name on them. I love this concept and hope more hotels adopt it to reduce plastic waste. Plus, it's a great marketing opportunity because it can get the hotel's name out there at minimal cost.
The snacks were plentiful and reasonably priced. I also liked that they offered sunscreen for purchase. I tend to forget sunscreen on virtually every trip, so when it's available in the room and I don't have to make a trip to CVS, it's appreciated.
What stuck out to me about the room was that there was no stationary. Not that many of us are writing letters home these days, but they've become so ubiquitous that when I didn't see them in this room, I noticed.
There was lots of storage space, with a large closet near the entry. Inside the closet, I was surprised to find a steamer rather than the usual iron. Honestly, I think it's so much better than trying to make space for a large ironing board and then finding a place to plug in the iron without toppling over the board and injuring myself. The steamer solves all of those dilemmas.
The highlight of the room was the ocean view and the balcony was the perfect spot to take it in. There were two very comfortable seats with a table in between. I also stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel on this trip, which had metal chairs on the balcony that were not the most comfortable for lounging.
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The bathroom had an open layout and blended in with the rest of the room. It featured a large vanity stocked with lots of towels and a magnifying mirror attached to the adjacent wall. The mirror included light controls, which is always a cool feature I like seeing in hotel rooms.
The bathroom was beautifully lit and featured a large shower stocked with Pharmacopia amenities. The shampoo didn’t lather much, but it did leave my hair nice and soft.
Two robes hung from the rack across from the shower and below them was one pair of the most comfortable rubber slippers. I noticed one was a size small and the other a medium. When I called the front desk about this, they brought up two more mismatched pairs to even things out: A small and a medium.
I was not a fan of the faucet’s water pressure, which was awful. I understand the need to be environmentally friendly, but the sparse spray was obnoxious and made hand-washing a hassle.
The bathroom had two large sliding doors on two sides that allowed you to close it off completely from the room. This is nice because we've all stayed in those hotel rooms where the bathroom has zero privacy. No one wants that.
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Food and beverage
The Mission Pacific Hotel currently has one open restaurant called High/Low. It’s a trendy cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. Its hours are listed as "sunrise to sunset," serving breakfast as well as lunch.
The hotel has another wing set to open in mid-July and will feature a Mexican-inspired restaurant called Valle. In the meantime, there’s also room service, The Rooftop Bar and the Seabird hotel’s Piper and Shelter Club restaurants.
During my stay, I had breakfast via room service and also at Piper’s at Seabird. Piper’s breakfast was excellent – if you're given a choice, go there. The french toast is incredible and the service attentive.
But on my first morning at Mission Pacific, I ordered room service. I placed my order at 8:37 a.m. and was told it would take 30 minutes. When the food didn't arrive, I called and the host apologized, saying it would be there shortly: "Sorry. We got like four orders, bam bam bam”.
Twenty minutes later, our food still hadn't arrived and I called again. The host apologized and told me she would bring it up herself and "we'll make it up to you." Our food arrived in a High/Low bag well past 10 a.m. and there was an extra decaf coffee we didn’t order. Maybe this was how she intended to make it up to us because that's the last I heard about it.
The food itself was not good. The avocado toast was basically a couple of breadsticks with a smattering of avocado. The "A-Frame" I ordered was supposed to have chorizo but came with beans instead. It was definitely nothing like the item description, but considering how late it was, I let it go.
Breakfast was disappointing, so we headed to Piper the next day, where we experienced a total 180. The food was delicious, the service was great and our food was delivered promptly. I’ll share more about Piper in my review of the Seabird Resort, so stay tuned ...
The Rooftop, Mission Pacific’s bar, was located on the 6th floor next to the pool. I noticed many locals coming off the street and taking the elevator up to the bar, so it was packed even though the hotel was experiencing low capacity.
We visited The Rooftop on the one day it was sunny. Most of the seating doesn’t have umbrellas, which can be pretty intolerable on hot days. We managed to snag one of only two covered tables located at the entrance.
It took well over 15 minutes before anyone took our order. At one point, a man holding towels stopped by our table to check on us and then notified the waitress, who came over right away.
We ordered and our food took a while to arrive. In the meantime, I picked up the glass of water the waitress had delivered and was shocked to find red lipstick on the rim. I flagged down another waiter to let him know about this and he took the glass away.
When our waitress came back with our appetizers, she made no mention of the glass. When I bought it up to her, she brushed it off nervously with, “Yeah, sorry about that. Not sure what happened.”
The plates weren’t clean either – they were sticky and when I opened the folded napkins, there was no cutlery. It took a while to get them replaced and I had to request a new one once again because the cutlery wasn’t clean.
I ordered the octopus torta and a steak taco, which were a bit salty but good overall. The virgin pina colada had a bit too much syrup but was fine.
When we received the bill, there was no line to charge it to our room. I had to ask our waitress about that and she had to print out a different receipt type. It was kind of a hassle and tacked on more waiting time to an already slow service.
Room service dessert
One more try for Mission Pacific room service, this time for late night dessert. We ordered "lime" pie and pana cotta. I had asked the person on the line if this was, in fact, key lime pie. He assured me that it was.
Instead, I got a lime tart with a strangely chemical taste that made it pretty much inedible. The pana cotta, on the other hand, was good.
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The Mission Pacific has a gym and rooftop pool and jacuzzi.
The pool overlooked the beach and was surrounded by pool chairs and a single hammock. Two palm trees anchored the pool and next to the jacuzzi were cabanas that guests could rent for $300 during the week or $400 on weekends.
These prices are pretty steep, considering you can book a beachfront cabana at this rate in Maui. The cabana rental includes a basket with bottled water and snacks.
The rooftop pool had a lift and a ramp leading up to the pool area, making it accessible to wheelchair users. In the photos, the lift is covered up but visible on the right side of the pool.
Next to the cabanas was a small pool house, perfect for escaping the heat. It featured a dining table and seating around a fireplace.
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The hotel gym was well equipped and featured two Peloton bikes, plenty of weights and Technogym equipment. The treadmills featured walking tours of cities like Paris, Rome, Istanbul and ... Cleveland. You could choose from various landscapes, which made for fun exercise. I normally prefer to get my steps in outdoors because of the scenery, so this really solves for that.
The Top Gun House
The coolest “amenity” at the Mission Pacific Hotel is the historic Graves House, aka "The Top Gun House." This house has become a tourist attraction since it was featured in the 1986 Tom Cruise classic.
The hotel developers paid $1 million to move the house from its original location. It’s been painted blue and placed right on the side of the hotel facing the pier. In July, the building will reopen as an ice cream parlor.
In the meantime, you’ll see lots of tourists posing for pictures and peering inside the house. Considering its status as a tourist magnet, moving the house in front of a brand new hotel and opening it up to the public in this way is sheer genius.
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While the Mission Pacific Hotel may not have sprawling grounds, it does have a quaint outdoor lounge area. It's right behind the Top Gun house and just outside of the lobby.
There's a comfortable couch, some Adirondack chairs and a fireplace. Behind that is an empty lawn where you can throw a ball with the kids or play a game of fetch, considering this is a dog-friendly hotel. (You can bring your furry friend along for a $150 fee.)
I'm sure when that ice cream parlor opens up, it will give guests yet another reason to lounge by the fireplace while enjoying a sweet treat.
The Mission Pacific has an entire row of retail shops on the first floor, which are still under construction. When I asked a staff member when they thought the stores might open, I was told sometime in July.
There are many local shops you can walk to from the hotel, but having an on-site place to shop is certainly an added convenience.
The service at Mission Pacific Hotel was great overall, except for the rooftop bar. In general, I felt the staff were welcoming and tried to correct their mistakes. The front desk staff, in particular, were top-notch. They did get my rate wrong at check-out and it took 30 minutes to fix, but they were very apologetic and eventually corrected the issue.
During my stay, I decided to try a new experiment and pretend I lost my room key to see if the front desk will give me a new one without checking my ID. The front desk agent recognized me from check-in and asked if my room number was 225. I told him it was 428 and he handed me a new pair of keys without requesting ID.
This can be forgiven, since the agent recognized me from check-in and there weren’t many other guests staying at the hotel. If it had been a different agent, I would have taken issue with the fact that a key was handed over that easily.
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Note on accessibility
The Mission Pacific Hotel offers wheelchair-accessible spaces and rooms. There was a pool lift (covered up with a canvas bag in the photos), along with wheelchair ramps leading up to both the rooftop bar and pool area.
Related: How to travel on a budget as a wheelchair user
I enjoyed my two-night stay at the Mission Pacific Hotel, despite the snafus. I didn't enjoy the food much, but with the hotel's proximity to the Seabird and the ability to charge those meals to my room, I had options. I do think the hotel needs to address the cleanliness issues I encountered at the rooftop bar. It's unacceptable to serve guests unclean utensils and cups.
It's worth noting that the nearby beach is currently experiencing some construction, with new retail shops being built nearby. So you may encounter occasional noise, though it's not as disturbing as the sound of the Amtrak train.
That being said, you can still enjoy the sun and sand with minimal disruption. It has a great location for a getaway, with the perfect mix of upscale accommodations and a location close to lots of great local restaurants and shops.
I did love the rooms at the Mission Pacific and the bed was one of the most comfortable hotel beds I've ever slept on. That being said, the noise from the Amtrak train was very disruptive. For that reason alone, I would probably choose the Seabird Resort next time.