San Diego has no lack of magnificent beaches. You can day drink all day at Pacific Beach (order a Red Bull vodka slushie for me) or swim with the seals in La Jolla, but my favorite beach during our recent trip was off the mainland and across the bay on Coronado. Simply brave the treacherous bridge (I couldn’t bear to look out the window), and you’ll arrive at the most picturesque beach community. The crown jewel of Coronado is the historic Hotel Del Coronado, and this red-roofed icon is where we enjoyed my favorite beach day. The Hotel Del can seem like another world reserved just for the uber-wealthy 1%, but I thought I’d share the downlow on how anyone (even little old me!) can spend the day luxuriating at the Hotel Del.
You won’t be the only person escaping to Victorian luxury at the Del, so arrive early to stake out prime beachfront real estate. We arrived around 10:00AM, and were able to claim a perfect spot of sand right near the water. Crowds definitely thickened as the day went on.
Look for street parking
Like most things at a luxury hotel, parking at Hotel Del is pretty steep. You can easily spend $70+ to park in the official Del lot. Across Orange Avenue, you can find street parking if you’re early, patient, and timing is right. Do a couple of laps around the surrounding side streets before acquiescing to the expensive parking.
Not all beach chairs are created equal
If you’re on a budget, bring your own beach chairs. If, like us, you’re not going to carry beach chairs on a plane or buy chairs you’ll throw away after a day, take advantage of the Hotel Del’s rental service. We spent $20 a chair on two chairs and extra on an umbrella (towels included) right on the shoreline. Service was on point, and I couldn’t resist the signature red umbrellas. If you want to fully lay out and bask in the California sun, rent a striped lounger or cabana, but be aware that you can’t move it closer to shore. Super chic and instagramable options all around. Beach rental services open at 10AM in the summer and are first come, first serve.
These candy cane loungers sit back closer to the hotel. If you want to sit closer to the water, rent a sand chair.
Douse in SPF
I know wearing sunscreen at the beach seems obvious, but apparently I just had to ignore the obvious and was appropriately punished for it. While I may look unharmed and happy go lucky in these photos, I turned into a ruby red lobster by supper time. San Diego weather can be deceiving, as we experienced a perfect day with temps right around 80. Don’t be fooled! The sun is still very hot and can burn you with a vengeance. Pack a travel sized sunscreen in your carry-on and spray yourself liberally.
The reflective aviators are perfect for beach days. And beach selfies!
Wildfox makes the best cover-ups. This one is old, but they sell similar options every season with the perfect dose of wanderlust.
And water while you’re at it!
Pack lots of H20 to keep you hydrated in between walks on the beach, mai tais and frolicking in the waves. If you can, bring your own bottles, as the hotel only sells Evian bottles for $6 each. A luxurious touch, but that $6 could go toward a naughty summer cocktail at the beach bar instead!
The Beach Bar is right across the sidewalk from the beach rental services stand. Drinks include cucumber mint lemonade spiked with gin and blended slushy drinks – plenty that I would want to try. They weren’t selling food at the bar during our visit, even though it says they do on their website, so pack your own snacks.
If you’re going to be spending cash on beach rentals or the beach bar, be sure to get your parking validated! You can easily get $40 or more knocked off your parking bill if you show your receipt to the beach bar attendant. Call ahead to reception ((619) 522-8000) to confirm how much you need to spend, but the requirement was $50 spent when we visited. More importantly, bring your parking ticket with you! You can’t get validated if it’s tossed aside on your car’s dash.
Now on to the important things: What about the food?
We all know that I literally live my life looking forward to my next meal, so I was eager to try the dining offerings at Hotel Del. Near the beach, there are three major options. First, there is a little coffee shop (Babcock Story & Bakery) with lighter fare (think sandwiches and chicken salad), just inside the hotel off the beach. This looked good if you’re in a hurry, but it was always packed and very hot in this area of the hotel. I don’t do sweating, even for food. Second, you can sip margaritas and inhale fish tacos on the Sun Deck. Entrees are around $15-$20, and you sit outside with beach bum approved views. We didn’t try this place, though I wish we had, and ended up opting for the last option: Sheerwater. I wanted to love Sheerwater, I really did. You have sweeping beach views, a gorgeous tiered patio, and an excellent crab BLT. What you don’t get, however, is good service. Our server was slow, forgot several items we ordered, seemed to forget about us several times and was unapologetic about it. The only redeeming service was an awesome bus boy who helped track down our server for us and essentially did his job for him. Skip Sheerwater and stick to the cheaper options. The service wasn’t worth the price. Check out all the dining options here.
Service may have been meh, but that crab BLT made for excellent #foodporn.
You are at a California landmark, so take the time to have a wander! While the pools aren’t open to the public, you can still traipse about the gorgeously groomed grounds or inside the shops and historic lobby. The woodworking is intricate and beautiful, and you do feel transported to the 19th century. There’s also a gift shop if you want to risk the temptation. I spent a good portion of the day just exploring the picture perfect property and snapping photos. It truly is a special place, and I think the best all around experience for a beach day in San Diego.
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