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The Hotel del Coronado, or just ‘The Del’ is an American icon. Illustrious guests, idyllic setting and distinctive architecture have all contributed to the allure of this San Diego landmark. Set in the Coronado area of San Diego, the hotel was ahead of its time. Built in 1888, it is the largest wooden structure in the United States, and was conceived as a standalone resort, still retaining a sense of luxury and sophistication to this day. Over the years it has seen its fair share of celebrity and intrigue. The 1961 film, Some Like it Hot was filmed here, featuring Marilyn Monroe. Prince Edward was a visitor as was a certain Wallace Simpson. The past is very much celebrated, with classic black and white photos in the corridors, however the hotel has still managed to adapt to changing fashions and tastes. The original tennis courts between the hotel and the beach have been replaced by lawn and a modern wing has been added. Critically, the hotel has been able to retain its sense of grandeur and occasion that the original guests must have experienced. This sense of occasion is most apparent in the main lobby. With its double height ceiling, dark wood detailing and centrepiece chandelier, the lobby is the heart of the hotel and creates a unique first impression. There are modern touches too, with a large LED screen behind the check-in desk showing the Coronado beach.
We would suggest opting for a suite in the original Hotel building for the quintessential ‘Del’ experience. Access is via an original manned lift which is an apt memento of the hotel’s eccentric past. On the one side, the rooms look over an internal courtyard shaded by tall palms. To the other, the Pacific. Large picture windows frame this perfect view.
The hotel is somewhat unique in that as well as being a hotel, it is also a tourist attraction. Tourists are freely able to wander in and out of the main public areas, resulting in an eclectic mix of hotel guests, tourists and locals wandering its corridors and grounds. There is an impressive range of eateries to choose from around the hotel. During the day, the Sun Deck Bar and Grill is a prime spot on the beach for light snacks and drinks. For sundowners, the appropriately named Sunset Bar is the best place to soak up the final rays before the sun retreats behind the headland. Come evening, the day trippers have retreated to their hotels, and the restaurants bustle with guests and locals, enjoying one of two principle main eateries on site, namely the Eno Pizzeria and the Sheerwater. With the flames of the patio heaters, and the subtle ambient lighting, this is an atmospheric place to wile away a few hours. The Babock and Story, the hotel’s bar and informal restaurant is popular throughout the day, however it is arguably best experienced at night. The Babock and Story is somewhat of a Del institution and has the feel of an upmarket gentlemen’s club, with brown leather chairs and dark wood bar area. Its extensive cocktail menu makes drink selection quite a deliberation.
Of course, one of the principle attractions of a stay at the Del is its unique setting. The Coronado beach has been rated one of the best in the United States and provides a suitably dramatic backdrop to the hotel. It is not hard to see why the beach is so popular with runners, walkers and the occasional Navy Seal on exercise. Despite San Diego’s year round climate, the sea temperature outside the summer season means that swimming is largely for the more adventurous in spirit. Retreating to the Del’s pool is therefore recommended. Conveniently located close to the main eateries, the large pool and extensive poolside deck areas are a perfect place to relax and unwind on a sunny afternoon and evening. For those looking for shopping options then they will be served with a host of upmarket boutiques at the lower level of the hotel, as well as the hotel’s two signature shops which have great hotel branded items.
If inclined to venture beyond the hotel grounds, Orange Avenue, at the heart of Coronado Village, is within walking distance and has a range of restaurants and eclectic shops. The Old Town Trolley Tours also have a stop near the hotel for informative tours of the wider San Diego (read our feature on San Diego here for more information).
The Hotel Del Coronado is a San Diego institution and has a historical elegance and presence that is absent from the countless modern high rise hotels further along the coast. A stay is an experience and the hotel has successfully modernised whilst not compromising its original design and atmosphere. For those looking for more than just a beachfront hotel, the Del provides a fantastic retreat in an idyllic setting, whilst also providing a great base for exploring the wider San Diego.