When friends and family visit San Diego, they usually ask me about the best hotels in the area. And after having lived here for over five years now, I definitely have my favorites. Recently, I spent a weekend at La Valencia (aka The Pink Lady) in La Jolla for a mini-staycation to see what it had to offer. At the end of the trip, it was added to my list of SD hotel suggestions for many reasons, including its location, suites and dining options.
La V is one of those properties that automatically oozes class the minute you drive up. The valet is constantly packed with luxury cars, letting you know that this is definitely where the cool kids hang out. While the property welcomes a wide range of guests, this four-star property really caters to discerning travelers. Following its $10 million renovations over the past couple of years, the hotel has transformed into a grander version of its past self. This is, in part, thanks to Managing Director Mark Dibella’s vision for the iconic lady. The new property features updated guestrooms, a new European bistro and a reimagining of its interior décor.
The hotel has never looked better, and with its oceanfront location and old Hollywood glamour, it’s clear why it’s been a favorite for many celebrities, past and present, including Charlton Heston, Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, John Lennon, Madonna, Gregory Peck and the Kardashians.
Probably one of the most important parts about any trip is your hotel’s location. Based on what you’re looking to experience, it could add unnecessary travel time to your must-see sights if you don’t plan well. La Valencia is 20 minutes from downtown and the Gaslamp district, but as a local, I think downtown is the probably the least impressive of San Diego’s best attractions. It has perks of course, plus a great nightlife and Petco Park sits in the eclectic East Village, but being in this city is all about being outdoors in nature.
Thankfully La V is located nearby to some of the best outdoor experiences. Travelers are within walking distance to high-end shopping, casual and fine dining establishments and close to La Jolla Cove, SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and the other picturesque beaches in the area (PB, OB and MB). (Tip: Norma Kay Collections located next door to the property has really unique and beautifully-made jewelry that you must check out.) If you’d rather stay in your own backyard, The Pink Lady has a pool, hot tub and is one of the few luxury hotels in SD resting only feet from the sand. There’s even a gate that allows guests direct access to the beach from the back of the property.
Since 2013, the property has been undergoing renovations which included its guestrooms, suites and villas. Because of its classic architecture, much of the guestrooms have unique shapes and sizes. Vintage accommodations are by far the smallest and are probably best suited for quick travel. On the other hand, for longer stays or for more space, the four villa options range from 425 square feet to 800 square feet. All villas come with either an ocean or garden view plus a balcony or terrace, Italian Frette linens, Keurig coffee makers, Molton Brown bath amenities, robes (unfortunately no slippers) and complimentary Wi-Fi.
The bathroom is spacious, with a spa tub and separate shower inclusive of various showerheads providing that relaxing and never-want-to-leave experience. If you opt for an ocean view, the quaint terrace is the perfect place to relax with a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine at night while enjoying the sunset. (Note: If you’re a light sleeper, the villas sit close to the ocean where seagulls tend to hang out, meaning the potential for early morning squawking.)
Newly added to the property are three new Icon Collection suites that debuted (or will debut) this year. La Valencia Villa and the Sky Suite are currently available to book, with the Pacific suite on its way. Considered the penthouse suite, the one-bedroom Sky Suite was unveiled in May and was designed with a 1940s Hollywood glam style and offers a 180-degree ocean view. With all the windows open its like your own private covered patio which in a way feels like you're on a cruise ship. The 1,100-square-foot space includes hardwood floors, retractable window walls, wet bar, living/dining area and petite Juliet balcony in the bedroom. The 1200-square foot Ocean View Villa is an apartment-style option with an outdoor fireplace, patio and lounge chairs, living room, dining room, vaulted ceilings and a kitchenette.
One of the most discussed subjects by former guests following the hotel’s renovations was the closing of the property’s longtime Whaling Bar. While the famous bar was once a hotspot for its celebrity clientele, it had since become a rarely-visited area typically visited by only a handful of the 80+ crowd. Dibella even shared former guests' various concerns during the last two years of renovations when they learned of its closing.
However, in looking to keep up with modern times and usher in a new breed of clientele, the bar was transformed into Café La Rue, a French bistro with patio seating, open windows and an art deco theme. Today, the bustling eatery is a reminder that change is good, even if you don’t know it yet. It’s a great place to stop in for a bite or to mingle over cocktails while people-watching on the patio.
The Pink Lady’s signature restaurant is The Med which is actually spread across three separate dining areas helmed by Executive Chef James Montejano. Previously, Montejano worked with Michael Mina in San Francisco before making his way to La Valencia. His menu includes seasonal fare and fresh ingredients from local farms. Guests preferring an intimate indoor dining experience can sit inside the Great Room that is reminiscent of a Mediterranean villa. Outdoors, there is a patio overlooking the Pacific and a terrace streetside which is a great brunch spot. If you’re there for dinner, don’t miss the mouth-wateringly good Miso Chilean Sea Bass and the La v Paella.
In October of last year, the hotel unveiled their $1 million wedding package which allows the bride and groom to rent out the seaside property for the weekend for all their guests. The exclusive offer includes accommodations for up to 125 guests, spa services, yoga classes, watersports, five-star chefs, transportation around SD and the help of top wedding vendors. Considering the size of the boutique property and its location, this seems like a no-brainer for couples looking to throw a lavish affair on their special day.
La V is a cool, historic hotel and its La Jolla neighborhood makes choosing it on your next vacation that much easier. Because of its renovations, the hotel is also now ADA compliant and guests in wheelchairs can easily access the pool and villas via the fourth floor. It’s also a pet-friendly property which means your furry friends will get to enjoy the SoCal sunshine as well. One last note, for those considering an SD vacation, May and June (while typically great vacation months) tend to be our cloudiest and gloomiest months. Look to July, August and September to have sunnier skies which allow for better beach days.