Hotel del Coronado – Historic. Majestic. Iconic.
Yes, it’s all of these things and more, like beautiful, upscale, and conveniently located a short drive from San Diego and all of its tourist attractions. But does it live up to the hype?
Constructed in 1888 as the biggest hotel of its time, and now featuring 757 guest rooms and suites, this beachfront hotel features Victorian design and distinct red roofing. The Hotel del Coronado also boasts a colorful history considering that memorable guests have included presidents, royalty and some of Hollywood’s biggest names, such as Marilyn Monroe and Tony Curtis who filmed ‘Some Like it Hot’ on the hotel property. Because of its exemplary status and location, it’s become more than just a family-friendly resort with a retro ambiance mixed with classic California flavour. Instead, the hotel has grown into something of a tourist attraction with travellers and road trippers routinely including it as a destination if only for a few hours to check it out and take some photos.
Affectionately called ‘The Del’, the hotel features a mix of 10 different accommodation layouts that range from regular guest rooms in the historic main building to 2 and 3-bedroom suites in the Beach Village at The Del section of the resort. Most are touted as featuring oceanfront or partial ocean views. However, ocean view rooms can be deceiving because the shape of the hotel is unique, therefore giving only some rooms views of the ocean while others, unfortunately, overlook the roof. There are also upscale cottages and villas to consider if guests desire to keep larger groups or family close together.
Accommodations include daily newspaper delivery, safes, Keurig coffeemakers, bottled water, iPod docking stations, 400-thread count sheets and towels, and 46-inch HD TVs with cable access. Cribs and child-proofing are available upon request, as is turn-down service. Higher-end rooms include balconies and sitting/living areas with pull out sofas for increased sleeping capacity. All are decorated in warm neutral colours with accents of teal and yellow, depicting the surroundings of ocean, beach, sand, and sun. Ceiling fans give the rooms a retro feel. The decor is modern yet Classic California, the colours are clean and inviting.
However, not all rooms are created equal. Far from it. The older part of the hotel really shows its age and is in need of several repairs and thorough cleaning, which should include the removal of the musty smell. Bathrooms are particularly vulnerable to issues arising from cleanliness and required repairs. So if you plan to visit with the idea of saving money and booking an older and cheaper room, you might want to rethink your choice.
On the subject of bathrooms, it should be said that despite the ‘luxury’ status of the hotel, it doesn’t transfer to their complimentary bath products. We were surprised to find that Hotel del Coronado features some of the cheapest toilet paper and facial tissues we’ve ever come across, as well as downmarket soaps and shampoos. We’ve found better at much cheaper resorts.
Despite The Del’s year-round appeal, it still has a peak season and off-season which is reflected in the price. Room rates start at $290/night (USD) for 2 queen beds in an ocean view room (during off-season) and escalate to $2500+ for a 3 bedroom villa. High season (summer) rates start at $800+ (USD) for 2 queen beds in an ocean view room and climb to $3100+ per night for the 3-bedroom villa. Additionally, The Del charges a $35 daily resort fee that includes internet access, Netflix live streaming, fitness classes such as Pilates and beach yoga, and discount tickets to local attractions like whale watching and Legoland. Add to that another $50 per vehicle per night for valet parking. That makes for an expensive getaway, even if just for a weekend. And we still haven’t tackled the issue of dining on the premises, which is separately billed.
Depending on how deep your pockets are, what type of accommodations you opt for, and what your expectations are, chances are you’ll find the exterior of the hotel is much more impressive and appealing than the interior. And, certainly, if you end up with a room that doesn’t offer a half decent view, it will detract further from your experience. If you have the money to spend on higher-end accommodations, a suite, cottage or villa will likely give you a better opinion of the resort.
Onsite gastronomy includes The Del’s signature restaurant for California cuisine, called 1500 Ocean. The Sundeck offers up Mexican fare with tropical drinks, while ENO features artisan pizza and wine. Babcock and Story provides a pub-like atmosphere with craft beer and bar-type foods or guests can opt for the patio scene at Sheerwater. For brunch, nothing can beat the Crown Room buffet. But just like the room rates, food and drink prices are also high… very high. Let’s face it, $28 for a hamburger and $45 for 2 drinks is excessive by most people’s standards.
As for activities, The Del keeps guests entertained with a variety of onsite programs and recreational pastimes, including surfing, boating, and biking, onsite and nearby golf, a healing spa with 21 treatment rooms, and lots of shopping opportunities for unique gifts. There is even a beachfront ice skating rink during the winter holidays. Meeting and conference space is available, along with event space. To that end, Hotel del Coronado caters to weddings, private parties, and proposals, all with professional planners and first class service.
There’s no doubt this iconic hotel knows how to pamper guests with plenty of amenities in a luxurious beachside setting. The question is, is it worth the price? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear and depends on the individual doing the evaluating. Your preconceived notions and expectations compared to your actual accommodations and experience will be the deciding factor. For most, it will be well-worth-it and deserving of a repeat visit. For a few, it will be an overpriced disappointment. For us, we’re somewhere in the middle of the road, having loved the hotel, the amenities, and the location, but somewhat disgruntled by our chosen accommodations of an ocean view room in the Victoria building when compared to the accompanying price.
PROS: The location and the surroundings are beautiful. The beach is gorgeous, as is the hotel exterior. It’s easy to see why people visit, even if only to snap a few photos. Most views are beautiful. The staff is friendly, and there’s plenty to see and do not only on the premises but also nearby.
CONS: Room rates and restaurant prices are very high. Clearly, rates are due to the status, location, and popularity of the hotel. Extra resort fees and parking fees are a deterrent. The Del tends to be understaffed during peak season and peak hours. Bath products are cut-rate and cleanliness can be an issue in parts of the hotel.
Hotel del Coronado is slated for a major renovation this year (2019), with a $200M budget planned for room upgrades, a new parking structure and conference centre, as well as a new entry. So it is hoped that many of the complaints we have stated within the review will receive attention and soon be rectified.