Tried & Tested

Hotel Check: The Grand del Mar

27 Jun 2011 by Tom Otley

What’s it like? Five star luxury resort which opened in October 2007 with a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, spa, several swimming pools and a lovely location set in 415 acres in the hills north of San Diego.

The staff are superb here, all the more impressive since it is an independent hotel, a member of Preferred Hotels for marketing, but standing apart from the large American chains. The attention to details is impressive. Lots of good American hotels have a coffee station in reception, but here there was also a choice of several teas including chamomile, lemon, green tea and pear. The design is a mix of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and Morocco, which nevertheless works, though I was initially confused by the giant triptych in the bar of St Mark’s Square in Venice.

Entering reception you have a view through a colonnade out through the lobby sitting area to the startling green of the golf course as it winds its way up through the wooded hills. Walk through to get a better look and you’ll see a 75-foot long, 22-nozzle fountain flanked by Italian cypress trees and lined with gold, royal blue and white marble tiles. The resort is built on a slope so that you enter reception on the third floor and the rooms are on this floor and below on level two and level one, level one being the swimming pool. These rooms have terraces and allow you to walk straight out to the pool or grounds, and there are fountains flowers, fragrant shrubs and lots of carefully manicured lawns.

Where is it? In the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, around a 30 minute drive from San Diego’s international airport, though this depends on traffic – we managed 20 minutes one night, nearly an hour during the evening rush hour. It’s an upmarket area within easy access of the coast north of San Diego including Del Mar and La Jolla.

Room facilities: The resort has 249  rooms including 31 suites and eight villas which is sells on a fractional basis (there is planning for up to 50 of these). The “standard” rooms are huge – 51sq m and come with either one king bed or two queen beds.

There are options for the view, from the simple grand which the resort terms as having “internal” views, though this only means they don’t have horizon views and they would be fine for most resorts, through to Terrace views which overlook the adults-only lap pool or Fairway, over looking the golf course. The furnishings are superb, Pratesi linens and goose-down pillows, 100% cotton, Italian-woven towels, bathrobes, and toiletries by Acca Kappa. The marble baths are so large that if you fill them you start to float. There are dual sinks, separate shower and 13-inch LCD TV, and each room also has a 40-inch LCD TV, laptop safe and bar with a Nespresso machine as well as full mini bar. Each room also has free wifi.

Restaurant and bars: Again, there are several, from Amaya the all-day restaurant to its signature fine dining restaurant, Addison, as well as The Clubhouse Grill; a poolside cafe for snacks, a shop offering coffee and pastries and the lobby lounge.

We had a packed itinerary and only ate breakfasts in the resort but these were superb, with omelette and waffle stations, lots of fresh fruit and yoghurts, and on both days the option to make your own bagels with salmon and cream cheese. One evening we also had a drink in the bar and a reception in the library bar where a temporary buffet of delicious food was set up including two types of risotto – wild mushroom and asparagus. It’s a tasteful place in a sort of US sort of way – oil paintings of famous golfing holes around the world.

Business and meeting facilities: The resort is set up for this, from the large Elizabeth Ballroom on the third floor (the floor you enter from the car park), featuring six divisible sections, car access, a built-in stage, ceiling heights from 18 to 19 feet, and wrap-around foyers. There is also a full business centre available during office hours.

Leisure activities: As you’d expect from an American resort, there is a monthly activity calendar with everything from fitness walks, yoga and horseback riding lessons to golf clinics, canyon to waterfall hike and Pilates (some activities are chargeable). The resort is so large I never saw the tennis courts, though I saw lots of families returning from having played (tennis rackets were available from the concierge’s desk). The fitness centre was very large, and the two times I was there, underused, though the lure of the pools had people doing laps most mornings.

VERDICT: Very impressive – not just the physical product – the huge rooms, the free wifi, the beautiful grounds, but the service, which is warm and genuine yet extremely professional.


How many rooms? 249 rooms, including 31 suites

Room highlights: The huge size of the standard rooms – 51sqm and the free wifi stand out, though everything about the rooms is impressive, including the comfortable beds

Price: Internet rates for a midweek stay in July started at $425 including taxes per room for a Grand King Guestroom 

Contact: 5300 Grand Del Mar Court, San Diego, CA 92130, tel: 858-314-2000;

Tom Otley

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