10 Reasons Why This Historic San Diego Hotel Is A Design Lover’s Dream
Editorial director Alice Lawlor discovers a Southern California gem.
When I’m traveling, there’s nothing I love more than an authentically historic hotel with quirky architecture. Yes, those sleek hotels-in-the-sky are impressive, but I want somewhere that comes with a side of tall tales — juicy ones, please, about movie stars and/or ghosts. San Diego’s Hotel del Coronado is one of the best (and most charming) examples of a hotel-with-stories I’ve ever experienced. Designed by Canadian-born architect James W. Reid, it was the largest resort hotel in the world when it opened in 1888. Today, it’s one of the last surviving examples of an unusual architectural genre: the wooden Victorian beach resort. Maintaining this National Historical Landmark is no mean feat — the hotel just kicked off a $200-million renovation project with a dual emphasis on preserving its history and creating new experiences for generations to come.
Click through for 10 reasons to put this property on your bucket list.
With seven restaurants and 17 shops on 28 acres of beautiful beachfront land, there really is no need to leave the resort. The Del, as it’s affectionately known, is situated on tiny Coronado Island, accessed via a hair-raisingly high bridge from downtown San Diego. You can almost feel the pace of life slowing down as you drive across the bridge.
Architect James W. Reid’s masterpiece was undoubtedly the Crown Room — pictured here in the 1950s and largely unchanged today. It measures 160 by 60 feet, and is cleverly designed without any pillars to interrupt the view. The soaring sugar-pine ceiling was painstakingly installed with pegs and glue (not a single nail) and hung with illuminated crown chandeliers designed by Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum. Today it’s home to the city’s most extravagant brunch buffet.
No two rooms in the Victorian Building are the same, so you never know what layout you’ll get. Situated beneath the hotel’s famous red-shingled tower, these rooms are accessed via a magnificent human-operated elevator that’s original to the hotel. One of the most beloved operators is Andrew Lounsbury, who just celebrated his 39th year at the property. His favorite guest? Tony Curtis. “He’d say, ‘I’m only checking in if Andrew is working.’”
The most upscale option for accommodations is the Beach Village at The Del. Situated just a few sandy footsteps from the main resort, this collection of 78 rooms and suites functions like an exclusive vacation club, with access to all the amenities of The Del and a personal concierge who’s at your beck and call. There are private pools, soaker tubs, 400-thread-count linens and high-spec kitchens with Sub Zero fridges and Wolf ranges.
…and they have all the sprinkles you could possibly want. ALL of them. Bonus for those who appreciate fun design moves: the ceiling is strung with ice cream cone light fixtures and the walls are a visual feast of vintage-inspired tiling.
According to local legend, Wallis Simpson met her future husband — the Prince of Wales, later to become (briefly) King Edward VIII of England — when she was living in this Southern California craftsman-style cottage in Coronado. In 1989, it was saved from demolition by the Coronado Historical Association, deeded to The Del, and carefully moved to its current location. Today, it serves as the Beach Village’s exclusive restaurant, Windsor Cottage.
The Del’s Victorian splendour was the perfect backdrop for this iconic film, set in 1929. Starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, the 1958 movie would go on to be voted the number one comedy of all time by the American Film Institute. If you’re lucky, you might catch a screening of it during your stay (projected onto giant screens on the beach, of course).
Do absolutely nothing in style at one of The Del’s luxury cabanas. Complete with an L-shaped sofa, coffee table, 47-inch flat-screen TV, fully stocked refrigerator and a midday fresh-fruit delivery, these beautifully appointed outdoor rooms are perfect for lazy days lounging by the pool.
The hotel’s full-service spa features a myriad of treatments inspired by the healing power of the ocean. The Voyager Aromatherapy massage, for example, replicates the movements of the sea to soothe aches and pains. One of their more unique offerings is sound bathing, a rejuvenating experience that uses sounds and vibrations to achieve deep relaxation. Head to the infinity pool terrace to take advantage.
After dark, the beach comes alive again with glowing campfires on the sand. Guests can book their very own pit, which comes with a cooler full of hot dogs and all the fixings, a waiter to serve you drinks and, when you’re ready, the ingredients for s’mores.