Hotel del Coronado: Luxury in San Diego Since 1888

This is a guest post by Susan Guillory of The Unexplorer.

One of the visual landmarks of San Diego is the wedding-cake white topped with candy red roofs of the Hotel del Coronado. This high-end hotel has been catering to the well-heeled as far back as 1888, and is still one of the most beautiful and serene locations in San Diego.

Located on an island it shares with a US Naval Base, Hotel del, as locals call it, is a natural choice for weddings and conferences. In fact, years ago, I stumbled onto a sunset wedding on the hotel’s lawn and peered like a peeping Tom at the magical scene.

Hollywood History

If you’ve seen “Some Like It Hot,” you may recognize some of the setting. In 1958, you would have seen Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon strolling around the property, though they weren’t the first Hollywood celebrities to stay at the hotel. Given its close proximity to Los Angeles (2-3 hours north, depending on traffic), it should be no surprise that stars like Mary Pickford, Ronald Reagan, and Goldie Hawn have been guests over the decades.

Little Has Changed

hotel del coronado, time

What I love about the Hotel del Coronado is how untouched it is, even after more than a century. The dark wood of the hotel lobby gleams like it did in photos from the 1930s. Large royal crowns adorned with lightbulbs hang down from the high ceilings of one of the conference rooms. And guests sun themselves on balconies overlooking the sea, the way they always have.

If you step into the boutique, Est. 1888, you’ll find a mini museum that shows photos of the hotel in its heyday. It’s a fun travel back in time, and looking at the prices on the menus is always good for a chuckle.

In Lieu of a $300 Hotel Room…

The Sandcastle Man

One of my life goals is to be able to afford — and justify — a $300+ night room. I’m sure the experience would be memorable, but until I win the lottery, I have my own way of enjoying the Hotel for a lot less money.

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I grab an overpriced Starbucks drink from the bakery inside the hotel (skip the pastries; trust me), then head to the upper deck that has dozens of tables and couches surrounding fire pits. I sip my latte and look out at the calm waves that lap Coronado Beach, then look behind me at the children splashing in the hotel pool. After that, if I’m feeling like getting sand beneath my toes, I’ll take off my shoes and walk on the beach. On a recent trip with a friend from Canada, we came across Bill Pavlacka, “The Sand Castle Man,” repairing a castle that someone (adults!) had half-destroyed. He’s been building sandcastles for 20+ years, and got his start, no surprise, building them with his kids. He has competed in San Diego sandcastle building competitions and has even won awards for his amazing work.

Once I’ve had my fill of the Hotel and beach, I head back to downtown Coronado, which is a lot like Mayberry: small, unencumbered by Big Box stores, and full of shopping delight.

I love that there’s a place that feels out of this time and world just around the corner from me.