Hotel del Coronado
San Diego, California
The legendary Hotel del Coronado has graced the coast of Coronado Island in San Diego, California for 130 years. This Victorian masterpiece has hosted 11 U.S. presidents including Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. Several Hollywood classics are connected to Hotel del Coronado. Disney even copied its architecture in designing their flagship Grand Floridian Resort in Florida.
A conference recently took me to the Hotel del Coronado for the first time. I jumped at the chance to spend 3 days and 3 nights there and having the opportunity to explore San Diego. Did it live up to the expectations?
Hollywood at Hotel del Coronado
“Some Like It Hot”“
The most famous movie filmed at Hotel del Coronado is Some Like it Hot starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis. The BBC and others have rated Some Like it Hot as the best Comedy Movie of all time. I made sure to watch it with my family before going. Wow! It is funny. The ending is hilarious and unexpected.
More importantly to this article, 60 years after filming the movie, the Hotel del Coronado still looks basically the same. The hotel’s exterior, the meeting rooms, and the beach view are easily recognizable. While claw footed tubs are no longer in the baths and the guest rooms have been modernized, they still feel reminiscent of the film. This is a good thing.
“Wizard of Oz”
The other classic film most closely associated with Hotel del Coronado is the Wizard of Oz. The author of Oz books, Frank Baum, had a home only about two blocks away. He wrote many of the stories at his home and at the Hotel del Coronado, where he was a frequent visitor. He volunteered and would actually read his stories to children staying at the hotel.
Baum based the Emerald City of Oz on the Hotel del Coronado. Mr. Baum made his own contribution to the hotel by designing the crown chandeliers that hang in two large meeting rooms: the Coronet Room and the Crown Room. I made sure to visit these while there. They were being used for events, but I was able to sneak a peak when they were not in use.
Photos and keepsakes from both movies can be found in the shop, Est. 1888, located just off of the lobby.
My flight arrived after dark and I caught a ride to the hotel. After crossing the Coronado Bridge, I could see the famous, red, spiral roof capping the white base. It was lit up for Christmas and shone in the night; a beautiful site.
Entering the lobby atrium, I was greeted with dark wood, carved with Victorian detail and a huge Christmas tree. Check-in was smooth and easy. An attendant waited by the old-fashion cage elevator. The pleasant gentleman lifted me to the 3rd floor. I had never ridden in an elevator like this. I prefer stairs, though; so, this was the first and last time I used it.
I noticed an old, musty smell throughout the hotel. I was concerned, as I am sensitive to mold. The first evening was only time I noticed it, though. I guess I got used to it or it was not severe in the first place. I did not get headaches, congestion, or itchy eyes.
After leaving the dark lobby and entering the hallways, I felt like I was walking through one of Disney’s Victorian themed resorts: Grand Floridian, Boardwalk, and Yacht & Beach Club. The details and accessories were almost identical!
My room at Hotel del Coronado was large and clean. It retained the Victorian details but with modern amenities. A Kuerig coffee maker with breakfast tea, a flat screen TV, mini-fridge, a ceiling fan, and walk-in closet were all appreciated. Two bottled waters were left for me each day.
A tall window with venetian blinds gave light. My view was nonexistent, a roof and another window, but I did have much reduced conference rate. So, that was okay.
The mattress was very much on the firm side. I prefer firm mattresses. Others might not like it though. It felt good to me and I slept well. The bedding was soft and there were plenty of pillows from which to chose.
Exploring the Hotel
I took plenty of time to explore during my stay. I have stayed a lot over the years in Disney Resorts. The Hotel del Coronado felt like a Disney deluxe resort. I mean that in a good way. Everything that you want to do was at hand.
Multiple shops filled the main and lower levels. Gift shops, upscale and souvenir clothiers, a toy store, a candy shop, an ice cream stand, and a 24 hour bakery gave plenty for me peruse. Victorian detail permeates every corner of the resort.
There were a variety of dining options at the Hotel, from fine dining with local ingredients at 1500 Ocean to the Beach and Taco Shack. The fine dining options require reservations. Eno Pizza’s open air pizza oven filled the air with delicious aromas.
My breakfast was supplied each day at the conference. I only ate one meal at the hotel. $16 for a deli sandwich with no sides at Babcock & Story Bakery! The food prices here would make Mickey Mouse blush.
Many dining options are located within easy walking distance. I asked the concierge for recommendations. He referred me to a few nearby restaurants that were reasonably priced and gave me a voucher for a free appetizer. His picks were great! My appetizer of shrimp, chorizo, and cheese was amazing. The fish tacos were good, too.
As I mentioned before, I sought out locations associated with Some Like It Hot and Frank Baum. I definitely found both and had a great time.
The beach has drawn people to the Hotel del Coronado for 130 years. It is huge! The light grey sand was soft. White capped waves crashed onto the shore . Baby blue life guard stands dot the beach. A variety of shells washed up each morning.
Unfortunately, a lot of trash washed up, too. Heavy rain had hit the area the two days before I arrived. The Tijuana River had overflown and washed it into the sea. People were banned from entering the water due to elevated fecal bacteria counts. Yuck! The water temperature was only in the low 60s (16 – 17 C), so only dedicated surfers, waders, and maybe a few Canadiens were affected.
Like a Disney resort, the Hotel del Coronado offers activities for ages. I visited at Christmas. A beachside ice skating rink was popular for both guests and locals. Santa Claus showed up for a brunch in the Coronet Room.
Beach bonfires were lit to roast marshmallows. Each morning, exercise bikes were lined up next to the beach for a spin class. Yoga sessions were held on the front lawn.
Things to Do Nearby
Many shops and restaurants are located nearby, both touristy and upscale. I enjoyed browsing several of the art studios. Lamb’s Theater, Coronado’s highly regarded local playhouse, is a short walk up Orange Avenue. Up the beach to the north, locals love the large dog beach.
I walked the short distance to Frank Baum’s house. It is a private residence. I just viewed it from the street. The owners had Wizard of Oz memorabilia on their porch.
The popular hop-on, hop-off trolley stops at the Hotel del Coronado. You can tour all over San Diego on this. It stops running at 5 p.m. My conference let out at 12:30 each day; so, it wasn’t worth it to me.
Two miles across to the other side of Coronado, you find the ferry terminal and ferry landing restaurants and shops. Two ferries leave from here going to San Diego. One goes back and forth to the 5th Street landing at the Convention Center, near the Gaslamp Quarter. The other travels to the Broadway dock, near the U.S.S. Midway Museum. A $7 Uber ride gets you to Balboa Park or the San Diego Zoo.
The Hotel del Coronado transported me back in time. The architecture and furnishings set the stage. The service and atmosphere seemed from a time past, too: doormen, elevator operators, ice cream parlors. It really did feel frozen in time.
I visited during the Christmas season. Decorations, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and continuous Christmas carols playing overhead added to the family feel.
I loved the Hotel del Coronado and San Diego. The hotel, beach, and grounds are beautiful. The room was clean, spacious, and comfortable. Even though, it is a famous resort, it had a laid back feel. The staff were all pleasant and helpful.
The only negatives were the initial musty smell and the cost of food. As I said, I only noticed the smell the first evening. And, I found much more reasonably priced dining options nearby.
I hope to return to the Hotel del Coronado with my family in future. I want them to experience it, and there is a lot more to see in San Diego.