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Sunny San Diego is known for its perennial vacation atmosphere, its lively downtown attractions and its stunning surrounding scenery. From the beaches of La Jolla to the rugged landscapes of the nearby state parks, it provides a natural canvas for sailing, sportfishing, hiking and horse-riding. Families love the city for its child-friendly highlights — including San Diego Zoo and Birch Aquarium. For those with a taste for urban entertainment, the bars of the Gaslamp Quarter take central stage. From romantic boutiques to five-star resorts, we take a look at the best accommodations San Diego has to offer.
Best Overall: Pantai Inn
Located a five-minute walk from the beach in beautiful, laid-back La Jolla, TripAdvisor ranks the Pantai Inn as the No. 1 hotel in San Diego. Inspired by the renowned hospitality of Indonesia’s friendliest island, the hotel blends Balinese artwork and design elements with exceptional service and a wide range of complimentary amenities. Enjoy a deluxe breakfast on the house each morning and benefit from free parking, free W-iFi, as well as unlimited tea and coffee served throughout the afternoon and evening.
Guest suites and cottages have tranquil ocean or garden views. Suites include generous wet bars and a patio perfect for daytime sunbathing; while one, two, and three-bedroom cottages come complete with a kitchen and dining area. You can even indulge in a range of decadent in-room spa treatments. Although there’s no restaurant, the knowledgeable concierge can advise you on places to eat in nearby La Jolla Village. The lush grounds include a charming courtyard full of tumbling hibiscus, water features, and a fire pit.
Best Oceanfront: Pacific Terrace Hotel
Overlooking a stretch of golden sand far north along the Pacific Beach boardwalk, Pacific Terrace Hotel offers direct access to the beach. Soak up stunning ocean vistas from the heated pool and hot tub, or from your Caribbean-inspired bedroom. All rooms and suites include atmospheric plantation shutters, an HDTV, minibar, and private patio or balcony. You can rent beach cruisers, boogie boards, and sun loungers from reception. Other amenities include a fitness center and massage treatments, while breakfast and evening s’mores are available for a small fee.
Best Budget: Dolphin Motel
Address2912 Garrison St, San Diego, CA 92106-2721, USA
Run by the same family for almost 40 years, the Dolphin Motel is a much-loved veteran of the San Diego accommodation scene. Conveniently located a six-minute drive from San Diego International Airport, it overlooks sportfishing harbor Fisherman’s Landing. Though small, the rooms are both clean and exceptionally affordable. You'll benefit from air-conditioning, a quality Queen bed, and a private ensuite bathroom. You can enjoy the view from the shared balcony.
The motel’s value is enhanced by a series of complimentary add-ons, including Wi-Fi, monitored parking, and a continental breakfast buffet served in the open-air courtyard. If you’re en-route to the airport, make the most of the hotel’s free boarding pass printing service and handy luggage scale. As befits a budget hotel, the amenities are basic (there’s no swimming pool and no restaurant). However, you’re a short walk from several wallet-friendly dining options, including a choice of tasty Mexican eateries.
Best for Families: Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego - Del Mar
Homewood Suites by Hilton San Diego enjoys a convenient location in Del Mar near the hiking trails and beaches of Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Children will love the hotel’s heated outdoor pool and whirlpool, while cribs and high chairs can be provided upon request. Choose a suite with one or two bedrooms and benefit from a separate living area complete with complimentary Wi-Fi and premium TV channels.
Your suite also includes a kitchen and dining area, so that you can save money on big family meals. A dishwasher means you don’t have to wash up, while the hotel offers a complimentary grocery shopping service. Alternatively, Bistro 39 serves contemporary Californian cuisine. Treat yourselves to a free hot breakfast, as well as free dinner and drinks from Monday to Thursday. Other amenities include a fitness center and free parking.
Best for Romance: The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe
Located amidst 21 acres of landscaped grounds in residential Rancho Santa Fe, this luxurious hotel offers a romantic countryside retreat. All guestrooms include decadent amenities and a unique sense of history, but for uninterrupted romance choose the Magnolia Cottage King. Expect floor-to-ceiling windows, starlit evenings in front of the fireplace on your private patio, a two-person shower, and a large soaking tub.
Fine farm-to-table cuisine is served at Morada restaurant, with live music to set the mood on weekends. Celebrate a special anniversary with craft cocktails at The Huntsman bar or with a treatment in the brand new spa. Other activities designed with couples in mind include horse-riding, tennis, golf, as well as lazy days spent soaking up the sunshine by the private swimming pool.
Best Luxury: Fairmont Grand Del Mar
Nestled amidst Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, Fairmont Grand Del Mar sets the scene for luxury with opulent Spanish Revival architecture and sprawling landscaped grounds (including a championship golf course). Four heated swimming pools, an award-winning spa, tennis courts, and an equestrian center add to the hotel’s extensive list of five-star amenities.
No matter which room you choose, revel in 100-percent cotton sheets and a marble bathroom with a deep soaking tub. The Mizner and Manchester Suites offer ultimate luxury with a spacious balcony, a dining table, and butler’s pantry, as well as a separate living room complete with a working fireplace. Of the hotel’s many bars and restaurants, Addison is the stand-out star. Savor fine French cuisine paired with a wine list of almost 3,500 vintages.
Best Downtown: Pendry San Diego
Hotel staff are warm and friendly at this luxe boutique hotel which is prepped to set the tone for your stay in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter. Although historic, 317 guestrooms — as well as the numerous common areas — are modern, infusing the hotel with a breezy SoCo flair. Rooms are pretty standard for an upmarket hotel in terms of size and decor, but they’ve been elevated with luxury linens from Fili D’oro, toiletries from MiN New York, and a soothing ocean-blue color scheme. (Coffee, unfortunately, doesn’t come in rooms but you can request an espresso machine to be sent up.)
With a central downtown location, the Pendry is close to some of the city’s most important business and visitor attractions, like the San Diego Convention Center, which is three blocks away, and Petco Park, two blocks away, as well as countless bars and restaurants. That said, you won't have to venture far from home for a meal. There are six on-site restaurants and bars, plus a rooftop pool and 24-hour gym so you can fit in some post-dinner lounging or an immediate workout.
Best Boutique: Mudville Flats
Located in downtown San Diego, near the entertainment venues of the Gaslamp Quarter, Mudville Flats is a historic California Craftsman home built in 1905. Now run as an intimate boutique, the hotel’s baseball theme mirrors its location within walking distance of Petco Park. All rooms have California King-sized beds, a claw-foot bathtub, and a 42-inch TV. Cook in your fully equipped kitchen and enjoy quiet meals on your tranquil private patio.
There are grills in the backyard garden, while resident owners Michael and Linda Funes are on-hand to provide restaurant recommendations 24 hours a day. Entertainment at the hotel comes in the form of retro card and board games — or you can access a local health club, pool, and spa for the reasonable rate of $20 per day. Bikes are available for rent at reception, while complimentary parking is provided in the hotel garage.
Best with a Pool: Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa And Marina
It’s not located downtown, but that might be for the better at this resort-style hotel. The pools and play areas here are plentiful, with three lagoon pools (each with its own twisty, turny slide) — one of which is just for little guests — and plenty of beach loungers and cabanas. There’s also a ton of pool-centric programming here: relay races, hula-hooping contests, and even shaved ice make appearances throughout the year.
The rest of the 429-room hotel isn’t too shabby, either. Guests can take in panoramic views of the Pacific, Mission Beach, and San Diego skyline from their rooms, each of which have Hyatt’s famous pillow-top mattresses. (Kids will love the bunk beds and aquarium-themed decor in some suites.) There’s also a full-service marina on site as well as an eco-friendly spa. If your stay isn’t all leisure-related and you have to get downtown for business, not to worry — it’s only an eight-mile drive (or cab ride) away.
Best for Nightlife: Hard Rock Hotel San Diego
Surrounded by the bars of the Gaslamp Quarter, Hard Rock Hotel is the perfect base for those in search of a good time. The party starts at hotel bar 207, home to a huge spirits selection and live DJs on weekends. Rooftop bar Float hosts popular weekly pool parties and attracts San Diego’s celebrity crowd with private poolside cabanas and stunning city views. Satisfy your late night cravings at American diner Maryjane’s, which stays open until 3 AM on Saturdays. Suites are made for post-party relaxation, with luxury linens, a rain shower, and a 47-inch HD TV. You can even order a Fender guitar to play in your room. Other amenities include a sushi bar, a fitness center, and bachelor or bachelorette packages.
Best for Business: Omni San Diego Hotel
Connected to Petco Park, Omni San Diego Hotel is located across the street from the San Diego Convention Center. In addition to high-speed Wi-Fi and a 24-hour business center, there are 21 meeting rooms on-site — including a Grand Ballroom with space for up to 1,200 guests. All rooms include a work desk and luxury mattresses piled high with Egyptian cotton linens to ensure that you get a good night’s sleep. Enjoy steaks and seafood at McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant or catch up with colleagues over coffee and craft beer at Zumbido bar. Hotel bonuses include a fitness center, a heated pool, and 24-hour room service.