One of my favorite cities, the San Diego area has more luxury hotels than you might think. Part of that is because many are tucked away nearby providing both urban and resort options.
We compared notes on what some leading travel magazines and guides are saying about the best hotels, and then we took a look at the best suites and villas for each, all in this issue.
1. Fairmont Grand Del Mar
Travel + Leisure’s #1 hotel in San Diego, the magazine says of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar “opulent” and “swathed in Italian marble and European refinement—plus hiking trails, golf, and a family-friendly pool.” It recommends using the resort as a base to take a sea cave kayaking trip by a guided coastal hike.
Conde Nast Traveler agrees, noting, “The majestic 400-acre property, operated by the team behind The Plaza in New York City, and The Savoy has a luxurious Mediterranean vibe thanks to a rose-colored facade, intricate ironwork, roof tiles, copper accents, and towering cypress and palm trees. The property feels a little like a palace in Spain or France —with California burritos and great surf just a few miles away.”
It’s also a recipient of 5 stars from Forbes Travel Guide, which reports, “This palatial Mediterranean-style resort offers something for everyone. Tucked on a hillside just outside downtown San Diego, Fairmont Grand Del Mar has a mind-boggling array of amenities, including world-class golf at the Tom Fazio-designed course and a spa…Foodies can indulge in everything from afternoon tea to gourmet dining at six different venues, and there are four beautiful pools to lounge by, complete with underwater speakers and luxurious cabanas.”
Manchester Presidential Suites (2)
The two nearly identical Manchester Presidential Suites are located on the second and third floors, each spanning 2,840 sq. ft. They offer a living room with fireplace, study, four 40-inch LCD TVs, a spacious balcony with stone fireplace and ample seating, dining table for eight with adjacent butler’s pantry, powder room, and dual master bedrooms. Bathroom details include marble finishes, deep European-style soaking tub, dual sinks, separate shower, and 13-inch LCD TV.
The 5,000 sq. ft. Villa Loggia features three master bedrooms, including his and her master suite with home office and exercise room, four-and-a-half marble bathrooms, living and entertaining areas, full kitchen and media room with 60-inch Plasma TV. Outside, enjoy San Diego’s renowned weather on secluded terraces and climate-controlled patios. Take a soak in the sunken Jacuzzi tub.
2. Park Hyatt Aviara
Forbes Travel Guide writes about this 5-star rated resort, “Situated on a high ridge overlooking the Batiquitos Lagoon — a wildlife-filled preserve edged by hiking trails — Park Hyatt Aviara Resort puts you in the middle of stunning mountain, valley and Pacific panoramas. You’ll probably be busy in the 15,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, Haim Salon, high-end shops, casual and fine-dining venues, Arnold Palmer-designed 18-hole golf course with clubhouse, multiple meeting and social gathering spaces, six tennis courts and 3.5-acre recreation lawn complete with badminton, bocce ball and croquet facilities, sand volleyball and basketball court.”
Also a top pick by Conde Nast Traveler, it writes, “Palm trees, lush gardens, and a championship golf course dot the 200 acres. It has all the five-star quality you’d hope for, with an amazing staff to boot.”
Meanwhile, Travel + Leisure adds, “Though the hotel is not on the beach, a team of surf concierges and beach butlers ferry guests to the shore and point out the best kayaking, snorkeling, and deep-sea fishing spots.”
The 2,140 sq. ft. Presidential Suite includes a king bed, large living room, dining area that seats eight and a sitting room. This is a specialty suite that includes the option to connect to create a three-bedroom suite.
3. Pendry San Diego
Pendry San Diego, one of the newest players, is the lifestyle brand from Montage Hotels & Resorts. Forbes Travel Guide, which recommends the hotel, says, “The concept aims to deliver the same elevated level of service and hospitality Montage is known for, while blending comfort and luxury with a bustling city experience…Pendry San Diego feels personal and relaxed, much like a classic guesthouse with resort-like amenities.”
It adds, “As for the layout, the property has 317 guest rooms and suites across 12 stories. It also has six dining and entertainment venues, a blissful spa, fitness center and shopping boutique. With its prime location in the heart of the city’s buzzy Gaslamp Quarter, the hotel is primed to thrive.”
Cabana Pool Suite
For lovers of the indoor-outdoor California lifestyle, the 1,082-sq. ft. Cabana Pool Suite provides direct access to the hotel’s pool deck. With its own private 220-square-foot pool cabana, this suite includes a wet bar and a six-seat dining area for entertaining. The bedroom features 180-degree views of the Gaslamp Quarter. The spacious bathroom offers a dual-sink marble vanity, two-head shower and soaking tub.
4. Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa
Conde Nast Traveler writes of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, “More like a luxurious neighborhood than a typical resort, this sprawling getaway is peak California. Think orange groves, bright pink bougainvillea, and Spanish Colonial architecture. The main features—the suites, restaurants, lobby—are spread out across 45 acres, making it feel more like a luxurious neighborhood than a typical resort.”
Forbes Travel Guide adds, “If you’re looking for something secluded, this is it. (The) hotel is made up of 20 pink casitas, which house only 49 suites, each featuring fireplaces with hand-painted tiles, beamed ceilings and private garden patios and large bathrooms, some with bathtubs and steam showers. There’s also an award-winning tennis program, a spa, and privileges at local golf courses.”
At 5,000 sq. ft., The Hacienda is an adobe-style home with a private pool, outdoor jacuzzi, five fireplaces and plenty of privacy. Three King bed suites each have separate entry, garden patio, wood-burning fireplace and deluxe private bath. There’s a full kitchen with Viking appliances and dining alcove. You’ll enjoy the spacious living room with a large fireplace overlooking a private patio. Step out to the large patio with a private heated pool and whirlpool spa. An outdoor dining cabana with grill, fireplace and large table are great for entertaining.
5. The Lodge at Torrey Pines
One of my favorite San Diego hotels, Travel + Leisure writes, “This Craftsman-style resort features stunning design touches (William Morris wallpaper, Stickley furniture) and a location right on the Torrey Pines Golf Course, 5 minutes south of the village of La Jolla. Palisade Rooms have gas fireplaces and views of the Torrey Pines Golf Course, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Take a guided morning hike through the Torrey Pines State Reserve.”
Forbes Travel Guide adds, “The view is gorgeous, but many are drawn by another aspect of the location: the lodge neighbors the 18th hole of one of the world’s most acclaimed golf courses. Tee times are guaranteed for guests who want to try their hand at the championship course.”
The Blacker Suite
The 2,500 sq. ft. Blacker Suite provides an extra bedroom option overlooking the 18th green of the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course and California coastline. There is a central Presidential parlor, private balconies, one and a half baths, a full kitchen and two fireplaces. This suite has one bedroom with a king-size bed and an optional second bedroom with two queen-size beds, a bathroom and a fireplace.
6. The U.S. Grant Hotel
Another Forbes Travel Guide pick, the auditor reports, “Situated in downtown San Diego’s arts and culture district, The US Grant, A Luxury Collection Hotel, provides posh accommodations and modern amenities in a classic setting steeped in history. The hotel’s prime location on Broadway and Fourth Avenue puts you within easy reach of the city’s vivacious nightlife, top attractions, and nearby bays and beaches.”
Conde Nast Traveler adds, “The 11-story historic building is downright regal. Inside, the lobby feels palatial, with sparkling chandeliers, glossy tile floors, and impressive Corinthian-style columns. The hotel has a strong cocktail program, and the Vieux Carré experience is particularly special.”
The 1,300 bi-level Presidential Suite includes arched windows, decorative moldings, and nine-foot ceilings. There is a separate dining and living room, making it perfect for private dinners and meetings.
7. The Westgate Hotel
Of The Westgate Hotel, Conde Nast Traveler says, “Feel transported to Versailles at this elegant hotel where skyline views, comfortable beds, and a decadent brunch buffet draw business travelers and families alike. The lobby is opulent, with Baccarat crystal chandeliers, French tapestries, and Persian rugs. It’s a refreshing change of pace from the recent wave of modern, minimalist, millennial-focused hotels. The downtown location means you’re walking distance from the Gaslamp Quarter and just a few miles from Little Italy, Balboa Park, and the zoo. It’s an elegant, unique option in San Diego.”
The 1,500 sq. ft. Presidential Suite presents panoramic views of downtown San Diego, the Harbor, and Coronado Bridge. Decorated with rich brocades, antique lamps, and French-made furniture, there is also a full kitchen and an Italian marble bath.
8. Omni La Costa
Another favorite of mine, Conde Nast Traveler writes about Omni La Costa, “What used to be a celebrity retreat in the ‘60s has morphed into an expansive Mission-style resort spread out across 400 hilly acres in Carlsbad, an upscale coastal city with a surfer vibe 30 miles north of the airport. This place is all about the activities, and you can go as sweaty or as serene as you choose. The landscaping is immaculate, with palm trees, bougainvillea, and fountains. With 17 clay and hard tennis courts, a championship golf course, restaurants, and its own shopping complex, Omni La Costa feels more like a little city than a resort.”
Travel + Leisure adds, “Immensely appealing for both kids (playroom, water park, and Guitar Hero-equipped teen center) and parents (43,000-square-foot spa and holistic center founded by Deepak Chopra).”
Omni La Costa’s 3,000 sq. ft. Presidential Suite is centering around its spacious living room, including floor-to-ceiling windows opening to panoramic golf course views, a sitting area with fireplace, dining area with seating for six, a complete wet bar with petite kitchen and four balconies. Each of the two bedrooms has its own sitting area and private bathroom and an optional third bedroom adds flexibility.
9. Beach Village at the Del
Forbes Travel Guide writes, “The red turrets of the sprawling Victorian resort come into view as you approach on the Coronado Bridge. Rather than queue with the masses of visitors at the main property, you, as a guest of Beach Village, can access your oasis of cottages and villas via a private entrance with a dedicated valet service…Whether your dream vacation involves arriving to a fully stocked professional kitchen, enjoying a candlelit dinner on the sand, having a surfboard delivered to your room or being handed the keys to a vintage convertible upon arrival, the staff at Beach Village is prepared to make it happen.”
Three-Bedroom Beachfront Cottage Suite
The 2,035 sq. ft. Three-Bedroom Beachfront Cottage Suite includes three five-fixture baths. Two bedrooms feature one king bed and the third has two queen beds. A kitchen/living great room steps out to the beach with ocean views. Located on the ground floor, they also include an outdoor fire pit and outdoor soaking tubs.