Nestled snugly along California’s Pacific Coast, the seaside towns of Coronado and Del Mar offer the quintessential beach vacation. With a relaxed ambiance, picture-perfect ocean views, iconic hotels, and world-class shopping and dining, these are two destinations worthy of visiting.
As anyone who has been here can attest, the most notable landmark is the well-known Hotel del Coronado. With its turreted red roof, massive silhouette, and long history, this is the jewel in Coronado’s crown.
When it opened in 1888, this luxury property was the largest resort hotel in the world, and it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. The hotel has changed hands many times and has hosted dignitaries and luminaries such as Mary Pickford, Babe Ruth, Thomas Edison, and Marilyn Monroe. L. Frank Baum wrote several post-Wizard of Oz books here including Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz.
The Del, as it is locally known, was the first hotel to utilize electric lighting and incorporated 2,500 incandescent bulbs into the design. It is also an architectural wonder in its own right as it is one of the few surviving all-wooden Victorian era beach resorts. Lumber from other states was brought in for its construction, including redwood for exterior siding and white oak for the lobby. The Crown Room is made from Oregon sugar pine and was completed with just pegs and glue without the use of any nails.
The lattice-covered old-fashioned elevator in the lobby is the 63rd designed by the Otis Elevator Company. A buzzer rings the elevator operator, who slides open the heavy iron doors so you can effortlessly glide to your floor.
The rooms in the Victorian Building partially surround a garden patio while others have grand views of the Pacific Ocean. Try to spot some of the original design elements and wooden features throughout the hotel like the electric fans attached to lighting fixtures in one of their bars.
There are several on-site restaurants, including 1500 Ocean. Master French chef Patrick Ponsaty prepares taste sensations using locally sourced seafood and other ingredients to create three- or five-course tasting menus.
In 2012, Coronado was named the No. 1 best beach in America by Dr. Stephen Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach) from the Florida International Universities Laboratory for Coastal Research. Today, beachgoers can enjoy clambakes, concerts, and other activities on this beautiful stretch of white sand.
Set along two miles of the Pacific coast, the charming town of Del Mar is located about 20 miles north of San Diego. Gentle waves lap the shore as kayakers, surfers, and sun lovers enjoy the surf and sand. This is a dog-friendly beach, and each September, canines can get in on the action with a dog surfing competition.
Del Mar is the smallest incorporated city in San Diego County with around 4,500 permanent residents. Still, it is known for big-time events such as the Del Mar Fair, Del Mar Races, art competitions, and culinary events.
This is a pedestrian-friendly town, and you can easily stroll around Del Mar Village’s shops, cafes, and retail establishments. Many of these were constructed in the Tudor-style and are adorned with distinctive half-timbered facades.
Stratford Square, in the heart of downtown, is where you will find a photo gallery featuring some of Del Mar’s notable residents such as Jimmy Durante, Desi and Lucy Arnaz, and Burt Bacharach. Bing Cosby is also remembered for having opened the Del Mar Race Track.
The luxury L’Auberge Del Mar Hotel overlooks the Pacific. Many well-known celebrities stayed at this a historic property, including Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, and Liberace. The original property was demolished in 1969, only to be rebuilt in similar form and design in 1989.
Guests at the L’Auberge will find clean, modern, and comfortable rooms with all the amenities. Prior to arrival, the hotel will ask about your snack preferences and have themwaiting. In addition to onsite dining, you can sit in a rocking chair with your favorite libation on their elevated deck to watch the sun slip slowly below the horizon.
It is only a short walk from the hotel to the shores of the Pacific and lovely Seagrove Park. With an immaculately manicured lawn and a long stretch of a white sand beach, the park is a perfect spot for a picnic, strolling, surfing, or just enjoying the views.
Del Mar’s natural charm and beauty is enhanced by the Torrey pines that dot the landscape. This is one of only two places in the world where you can view this endangered species of pine trees.
There are many independent restaurants in town that offer casual to fine dining. Viewpoint Brewing Co. is located in an industrial area with views of the Del Mar Lagoon. In addition to offering a number of brews, the brewery/restaurant’s food is quite good and up a few notches from typical bar food. Their charred broccoli, pork belly bites, and curry fried chicken are local favorites.
Beeside Balcony serves creative coastal cuisine with Greek influences. Their artichoke hummus, trio of dips, and lamb meatballs are all delicious. Many come here for the chef’s indulgent specialty dessert: baklava ice cream cake layered with vanilla bean ice cream and drizzled with honey-cinnamon syrup.
For chef-inspired cuisine served right at the water’s edge, Jake’s Del Mar is the place to go. They have a variety of seafood options such as Baja fish tacos and an ahi poke bowl as well as land-based entrees. The views alone are spectacular, and they also have a number of cocktail specials in their bar.
Coronado and Del Mar are both an easy drive from the San Diego Airport. If you’re looking for the best seaside respites that California has to offer, then these two towns will more than satisfy your quest for the perfect beach experience.
All of the meal, accommodations, attractions, and transportation was provided free of charge for this review.