If it’s nightlife you’re after, you’ll probably want to check into the Palomar or The U.S. Grant. If it’s golf that’s luring you here, you’ll do very well at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, The Grand Del Mar or Rancho Bernardo Inn. If it’s the beach or perhaps a daily two-hour massage that’s calling your name, several of these resorts should do. Here’s where to stay right now in San Diego.
1. Grand Del Mar
When the Grand Del Mar opened a few years ago, I thought it felt too contrived, too over-the-top. But now that it’s had a chance to settle in, absolutely everything about this resort feels just right. In fact, this might be the finest example of of a sprawling Tuscan revival resort anywhere in California (and that’s a category that includes some truly extraordinary and legendary hotels, from Santa Barbara to Palm Springs and everywhere in between). Service and amenities are unrivaled in the area. 5300 Grand Del Mar Court, San Diego, 858.314.2000
2. L’Auberge Del Mar
This is one of the most charming hotels in Southern California. Most of the rooms here have fireplaces and ocean views (the beach is one block away, just across the train tracks). There’s a hot new chef in the kitchen. And the spa is amazing. 1540 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar, 858.259.1515
3. Paradise Point
This place has been around for 50 years, but it’s still one of the city’s best-kept secrets, a 44-acre private island dotted with recently renovated individual bungalows and meandering rows of quaint one-story cottages with adirondack chairs on the porches. Bicycles. Five swimming pools. Tennis courts. And a brand new spa. 1404 Vacation Road, San Diego, 858.274.4630
4. Lodge at Torrey Pines
Located on one of the finest golf courses in America, with jaw-dropping views from atop the cliffs of Torrey Pines overlooking the Pacific. Gorgeous Craftsman design. Wood-burning fireplaces. The bellmen wear plaid kilts. 11480 N. Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, 858.453.4420
5. La Valencia Hotel
The grand dame of La Jolla is currently undergoing a minor facelift, which is due to be completed (well, mostly) in time for summer. Old School glam and prestige. Pink and green everywhere. Ask for one of the bungalows. 1132 Prospect Street, La Jolla, 858.454.0771
This is San Diego’s ultimate surfer-dude hotel. It’s hip. It’s hot. And it’s right on the beach (although not necessarily the beach with the most coveted waves, but close enough). Contemporary but comfy. Classy but affordable. 723 Felspar Street, Pacific Beach, 858.270.2323
7. Park Hyatt Aviara
This was formerly the Four Seasons and is now a Park Hyatt. Fair trade. Not all that much has changed. The location in Carlsbad is admittedly not ideal, but once you’ve landed here, you won’t want to leave. The drinks at the pool are strong. And the restaurant Vivace is one of the best Italian restaurants in California. 7100 Aviara Resort Drive, Carlsbad, 760.448.1234
Kimpton recently took over the financially strapped Se in downtown’s Gaslamp district and reflagged it as a Palomar, resurrecting what was already a very sexy but poorly managed hotel. Aside from a total sweep of the old management, very little has actually changed. The biggest difference is the new restaurant, Saltbox, which is terrific. 1047 5th Avenue, San Diego, 619.515.3000
9. Rancho Bernardo
It’s a bit of a trek into the rolling hills outside the city, but the payoff is pure paradise—and one of the region’s top spas. The golf course’s first tee is literally right outside the hotel lobby. 17550 Bernardo Oaks Drive, San Diego, 877.517.9340 in the northern hills (next to Rancho Santa Fe).
10. The US Grant
Originally opened in 1910 as San Diego’s original palace hotel, this fabulous downtown address underwent a $56 million redux a few years ago and reopened as a member of Starwood’s Luxury Collection. The rooms are posh, but be sure to ask for a high floor to avoid the after-hours noise from the surrounding nightclubs on the streets below. 326 Broadway, San Diego, 619.232.3121
Also of note, the legendary Rancho Valencia (5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe, 858.756.1123), one of the America’s most renowned tennis resorts, is currently closed and undergoing a head-to-toe renovation, due to be unveiled in time for summer. And the historic but never quite glam Hotel La Jolla (7955 La Jolla Shores Drive, La Jolla, 800.941.1149) was recently taken over by Kimpton Hotels and will soon reopen with an entirely new beachfront personality and sense of purpose.