With its signature red-roofed turrets and idyllic oceanfront location, the Hotel del Coronado -- or “The Del” as locals call it -- tops the list as San Diego’s most famous hotel. Built in 1888, The Del (also affectionately known as "Hotel Del") was the largest destination resort in the world when it opened to much fanfare, and today it’s a National Historic Landmark and one of the few remaining all-wooden Victorian coastal resorts in America. The sprawling Coronado Island property features a variety of room options, two pools, several ocean-view restaurants and bars, a spa, and a private stretch of beach for guests. During the summer, the family-friendly resort hosts a ton of fun activities ranging from bonfires to mermaid pool fitness classes. Hotel Del pulls out all the stops for the winter holidays, too, with twinkling lights, beautiful Victorian decorations, and an ice-skating rink by the sea.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the city of Coronado offers a free shuttle service around the island, with a stop at the Del every 15 minutes.
The 28-acre resort has a number of different structures and lodging styles, including the original Victorian Building, the Ocean Towers and California Cabanas, and the extra-swanky Beach Village Cottages and Villas. Each of the unique standard rooms in the Victorian Building features Queen Anne architecture, chic contemporary style with soft hues and coastal accents, and resort or water views. The Ocean Towers and California Cabanas are newer, featuring contemporary architecture and punchy citrus accents. Right on the beach, the towers also have an adults-only pool. Finally, for the well-heeled traveler, Hotel Del’s gated Beach Village is an exclusive enclave of luxury cottages and villas with fireplaces, marble bathrooms, private patios or balconies, and a personal concierge.
YOU SHOULD KNOW The original Victorian rooms were recently refreshed, though some guests might find them on the cramped side.
Bathrooms vary by building and room type but might include features such as seagrass wallpaper, serene hues, dark wood vanities, marble tile flooring, granite counters, and shower-bathtub combos. Some bathrooms feature soaking tubs with a shuttered window that opens out into the room.
The Hotel del Coronado’s spectacular lobby makes quite the statement, with gleaming wood-coffered ceilings, Oriental carpets, and a massive chandelier dripping with crystals that catch the light just so. From the moment it opened, the Hotel Del Coronado attracted luminaries from around the world, including many Hollywood screen legends and U.S. presidents. One of the Hotel Del's most iconic roles was as the backdrop for the film “Some Like It Hot,” which starred Marilyn Monroe. The lobby sets a fitting tone for a place with such a storied past.
Surrounded by chaise lounges and posh private cabanas, the hotel’s large Main Pool is heated year-round and features dedicated lap swim hours in the morning for serious swimmers and plenty of pool toys to keep kids entertained as they splash around. There’s also a hot tub and a poolside bar. The smaller Boardwalk Pool, only open during the summer, is open to guests 18 and up.
Traveling with kids? The hotel’s DelVenture activity center hosts supervised evening and weekend adventures for ages 4 to 12 years old.
The hotel’s Spa at the Del features ocean-inspired treatments that include massages, facials, and body skincare. The spa’s outdoor terrace overlooks the ocean and features an infinity pool.
The Del’s spacious gym features state-of-the-art cardio and strength-training equipment, as well as complimentary fitness classes like Pilates, yoga, circuit work, core-conditioning, body-sculpting and Zumba. For a fee, guests can take Beach Spin or the hotel’s hugely popular Mermaid Fitness, which involves swimming around in a brightly colored mermaid tail -- for real!
Guests can rent bikes, boogie boards, volleyballs, wetsuits, and surfboards.
The Del has several water-view restaurants and bars, including 1500 Ocean. The wood-paneled restaurant offers a three or five-course tasting menu that showcases California cuisine, seasonal ingredients, and a bounty of fresh seafood. If you’re willing to splurge, Hotel Del’s Crown Room Brunch is worth every penny. The drop-dead gorgeous space features a soaring vaulted wood ceiling and unique crown chandeliers (Coronado means “crowned”). The brunch itself is lovely, but the historic elegance is a big part of the experience.
Named for the hotel’s founders, Babcock & Story Bar features classic cocktails and live performances from local musicians. With fire pits and beach views, the outdoor Sunset Bar is the perfect place to watch the sun dip down below the horizon.
Coronado itself can be easily explored by bike -- there are paths covering much of the island. During the summer, Coronado has a free shuttle that services the island, including the ferry terminal; it comes by the Del every 15 minutes. By car, it’s a scenic 12-minute drive on SR-75 South along the Silver Strand to Interstate 5. The I-5 -- more commonly known locally as “The 5” -- is a major north-south freeway. It’s a 15-minute drive north to the on-ramp for the Coronado Bridge, SR-75 North, which also connects with I-5 closer to Downtown San Diego. From I-5, you can access other highways and roads that lead to attractions across the sprawling region. If you want to cross by foot to visit Downtown, there’s a regular ferry service at the Coronado Ferry Landing north of the Coronado Bridge.
You can’t visit San Diego without indulging in Mexican food and Miguel’s Cocina (5-minute walk) hits the spot with festive decor and classic dishes with many seafood-centric options. Housed in an old Victorian home, Chez Loma (5-minute walk) is a local favorite, especially for date night. The upscale French bistro serves classic fare like charcuterie, escargot, and bouillabaisse.
Leroy’s Kitchen + Lounge (5-minute walk), a laidback gastropub known for its brunch, is solid late-night boozing option, though if nightlife is your jam, you’re better off heading to the mainland for the evening, where you’ll find everything from kitschy dive bars to sleek dance clubs.
WHY WE LIKE IT
With its historic Victorian architecture and opulent public spaces, the Del is San Diego’s grand dame of hotels. Ever since the iconic oceanfront resort opened in 1888, it’s offered guests -- including Hollywood stars and presidents -- a memorable experience. That’s still true today, though modern comforts and amenities take it to the next level. Even if you don’t stay at the Hotel del Coronado, it’s definitely worth a visit.