When we think of a real California getaway, our minds instantly fill up with images of the Santa Monica Pier, the hills of San Fran, the vineyards of Napa or even the giant sequoias of Yosemite. But when it comes to beachfront resort-living with a heavy dose of class, there are few places that can contend with the old-world sophistication of San Diego’s Victorian masterpiece, Hotel Del Coronado.
Set along the shores of the iconic Coronado Island, “The Del” as many call it, is located just across the Big Bay from downtown San Diego (a picturesque 15-minute drive from the city’s airport). It’s here that the hotel has been entrancing discerning travelers with its crystal blue waters, welcoming beach town persona and first-class service ever since 1888. In fact, for many of those years, Hotel Del Coronado has served as a sort of mecca for celebrities and U.S. presidents alike—as well as the filming of the 1959 classic, “Some Like It Hot” featuring Marilyn Monroe.
Due to The Del’s longevity and notable guest list—including the likes of everyone from Thomas Edison to Brad Pitt—the hotel was named a National Historical Landmark in 1977; while 2018 marked the 130th year of business for the 757-guestroom resort. This milestone led to an epic year of events including the Icons + Masters Anniversary Gala, a black-tie celebration with five of the nation’s French Master Chefs, and galleries of America’s biggest stars, shot by celebrity photographer John Russo. Aside from star-gazing, The Del’s lifespan can be attributed to how well it brings people together.
“The property has this tremendous allure and every guest who stays here is part of our heritage,” says General Manager Harold Rapoza, Jr. “For 130 years, we have hosted millions of ‘Del memories’—for Hollywood celebrities and British royalty to generations of families gathering for their iconic beachfront photo with the turret. This anniversary both celebrates the past and looks forward to the next 130 years—the legend lives on.”
Part of Hotel Del Coronado’s allure is how well it captures the carefree, SoCal attitude coupled with its historical prestige. The hotel itself was founded by Elisha Babcock and H.L. Story, who dreamed of building a beachside resort, a place that would be “the talk of the Western world.” And once you’ve first laid eyes on The Del’s red Victorian turrets, you’ll instantly feel the magic of what its founders set out to do. Reminiscent of our country’s bygone era, the structure itself is exemplary of America’s wooden Victorian beach resort architecture, one of only a few surviving structures of this genre; it is also the second largest wooden structure in the U.S.
Though The Del clings deeply to its roots, they aren’t totally hung up on the past. You won’t be walking into dated guestrooms muddled in their past glory. Rather, you’ll come to find, renovated contemporary California cabanas and luxurious towers overlooking the ocean. What’s more, is the addition of the resort’s Beach Village, filling out its seaside enclave with 78 cottages and villas over the last decade. These accommodations speak to The Del’s duality as a charming old-world refuge and a modern oceanfront paradise.
Amid its stately design, Hotel Del Coronado very much operates and feels like a true resort. For one, it has a formidable spa and salon (the mark of any true getaway). But it’s also home to an array of eclectic dining options including 1500 Ocean, spotlighting coastal cuisine and local produce; Babcock & Story, a bar named for the founders focusing on craft beer, classic cocktails and lobster bisque; ENO Pizzeria and Wine Bar, an artisan pizzeria reminiscent of a local wine bar; Sheerwater, a casual restaurant set on the patio overlooking the Pacific; Sun Deck, featuring gourmet Mexican fare; and the Crown Room, known for its epic Sunday brunches, housemade charcuterie and Bloody Marys.
Most of all, The Del’s true allure comes from the nostalgia it evokes. Along the white-sand beaches of Coronado Island, it’s easy to imagine yourself slipping into the daydream of another decade—heading back to the big house from your surf lesson by day and brushing shoulders with Hollywood’s elite by night. Whether you visit for a wedding or just want to escape the flurries of a New Jersey winter, The Del reminds us of what a true American vacation once was—a gateway to a Golden Era, albeit with the pleasantries of modern day.