Hotel Del Coronado - Not Your Ordinary Beach Vacation

The Hotel Del Coronado (affectionately known as the Hotel Del) is no ordinary hotel. Built in the late 1880s, it is one of the few remaining classic beach resorts in the United States and is listed on the register of National Historic Landmarks. You just don't find wooden buildings of this size, or of this elegance, at the seaside any more. With its red roofs, turrets, balconies and curves, it is truly the grand dame of beach properties.

The Del comes complete with a fascinating history of visits by past presidents and Hollywood legends, the filming of iconic movies (photos abound of Marilyn Monroe during the filming of "Some Like it Hot" in 1958) and its very own ghost (the lovelorn Kate, who died by her own hand in 1892 and still wanders the Del today). The earliest visitors paid less than $3 per day for room and board. I can promise you that today's prices far exceed that amount, making this a luxury destination indeed.

 View of the beach from my room - nice to wake up to this view each morning.

View of the beach from my room - nice to wake up to this view each morning.

On top of all this, the Del has long stretches of sandy beach, palm trees, beautiful vegetation, a variety of restaurants, a spa, pools and lots of possibilities for "retail therapy."

 Seaside vegetation.

Seaside vegetation.

 The main pool at the Hotel Del.

The main pool at the Hotel Del.

I recently had the good fortune of staying here, tagging along with a friend who had a business meeting at the hotel. I had a chance to soak up the history, wander the grounds, explore Coronado Island and, most of all, to enjoy walks along the beach with my toes in the water, listening to the sound of breaking waves and marveling at it all.

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The sunsets here are spectacular. The sun sinks quickly into the ocean, so mind your weather report when it says that sunset is at 5:08 p.m. because by 5:15, it will be over except for a long lasting post-sunset glow. But oh those few minutes of watching the sun sink into the sea, from the balcony of my room, glass of wine in hand, are magic!

 Sunset from the balcony at Hotel Del Coronado.

Sunset from the balcony at Hotel Del Coronado.

Everything about this hotel is special - the setting along a beautiful coastline, the mild temperatures (60 degrees in January), the rooms with balconies overlooking the water, the beautiful wood-paneled main lobby with its unique vintage elevator (complete with a uniformed elevator attendant), the gardens, the attentive staff. There is even a sand castle artist who builds intricate and beautiful chateaux on the beach in front of the hotel.

 Sand castle on the beach at Hotel Del.

Sand castle on the beach at Hotel Del.

The only downside I found was that the cost puts a stay here out of reach for so many of us (me included - remember I was a tag-along on this trip). Room rates start at around $400/night soaring up to more than double that. The cost of food is also high (think $36 for a fish taco lunch, a $37 breakfast buffet, $6 for a cup of tea, $6 small scoops of ice cream). Though expensive, the food was really good, especially the extensive breakfast buffet with made-to-order omelets, waffles and pancakes, fruit choices from berries to kiwi and melon, a bagel station complete with lox, pastries galore, and really good coffee (a must for me). 

I did find several good restaurants off the hotel property with much more reasonable prices. Two of my favorites were Clayton's Coffee Shop (a throwback '50s diner where the waitresses wear flowers in their hair, the jukebox plays classic songs and the red chairs swivel at the counter). This is a great place for breakfast or lunch - servings are huge and shareable.  

 The counter at Clayton's diner.

The counter at Clayton's diner.

For lunch, happy hour or dinner, I especially liked Brigantine - a great seafood place with fresh fish, an oyster bar and some really good margaritas.

 Fish tacos with coleslaw and house-made chips at the Brigantine.

Fish tacos with coleslaw and house-made chips at the Brigantine.

What a treat a few days here were. I never thought of myself as a "California girl" but who knows, maybe I have a little bit of beach in my soul after all.

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Hotel Del Coronado   hoteldel.com