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12 Top-Rated Resorts in the San Diego Area

Written by Freddy Sherman
Sep 14, 2020

San Diego's miles of beautiful coastline and acres of coastal canyons provide a spectacular backdrop for a wide range of resort options. There are inexpensive beachfront resorts, like the Pier South Resort in Imperial Beach, offering a range of fun activities, or luxurious beachfront options like Coronado Island's grand Hotel del Coronado.

Families can stay in LEGO-themed rooms at the theme park-adjacent LEGOLAND California Hotel in Carlsbad, or have their own island resort to explore at the Paradise Point Resort & Spa, a few minutes from downtown San Diego.

Couples seeking the ultimate romantic getaway have exclusive options, like the Rancho Bernardo Inn in the hills above the city, with only 49 luxurious casitas, or large luxury properties like the Park Hyatt Aviara Hotel & Spa near Carlsbad, with a seemingly endless array of activities and amenities.

Find the ideal base for your next vacation with our list of the best resorts in the San Diego area.

1. Fairmont Grand Del Mar

Photo Source: Fairmont Grand Del Mar

This elegant 400-acre luxury resort is only 20 minutes north of downtown San Diego in Del Mar. The Fairmont, which includes a championship golf course, is about five miles from the ocean.

Guests have four swimming pools to choose from, and there's a large fitness center and a whole wellness program (classes, yoga, special menu, etc.). The Spa at Fairmont Grand Del Mar is considered one of the best in the world.

The guest rooms and suites all have private balconies or terraces, along with marble bathrooms and soaking tubs. Kids will love the hotel's Explorer's Club program, which includes activities, amenities, and dining discounts.

This large property has six distinctly different dining options ranging from gourmet to casual, including one that's especially kid-friendly. For a special dining experience make a reservation at Addison. The Michelin-starred restaurant creates contemporary French cuisine that makes use of local and artisanal ingredients. The food is beautifully presented as well. For something more casual, but still delicious, check out Amaya, which has a lovely shaded terrace area for al fresco dining. It serves California fusion fare.

Accommodation: Fairmont Grand Del Mar

2. Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

Photo Source: Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

Located on 45 acres of gardens and olive groves in Rancho Santa Fe (about 35 minutes north of downtown San Diego), the Rancho Valencia Resort is Southern California's only Relais & Chateaux luxury property.

It's a Mediterranean-inspired all-suite resort, with 49 individual guest casitas, like mini mansions. Each has its own private patio and fireplace.

Dining options include Veladura, a fine-dining restaurant focused on locally sourced, fresh cuisine, or The Pony Room, also serving lunch and dinner.

The resort is right next to a golf course and has its own large tennis facility. There are also yoga classes, bicycles, basketball and volleyball courts, and miles of hiking trails.

Accommodation: Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

3. Park Hyatt Resort Aviara

Photo Source: Park Hyatt Resort Aviara

Formerly a Four Seasons property, the Park Hyatt is a 200-acre luxury resort with its own Arnold Palmer-designed championship golf course.

The rooms and suites (all with private, furnished balconies or terraces) have either golf course or lagoon views. The hotel is about five minutes from the beach and has a free shuttle for guests.

The resort's size means there are miles of hiking and biking trails throughout the property. There's a tennis center and a large, luxurious fitness center. The 15,000-square-foot Aviara Spa offers a full range of massage, as well as beauty and skin treatments.

There is a huge main swimming pool (with a kids' play area), an adults-only pool, and two whirlpool tubs.

The Aviara has multiple dining options, including a fine-dining restaurant, steakhouse, casual restaurant, and poolside café. There's also a lobby lounge that serves food and offers afternoon tea each day.

Accommodation: Park Hyatt Resort Aviara

4. Paradise Point Resort & Spa

Photo Source: Paradise Point Resort & Spa

Only two miles from SeaWorld, this San Diego resort is on its own 44-acre island in Mission Bay with a mile of wide, flat beach. The beach is on the bay, so the waves are calm, and it's great for families.

The property isn't new, but the rooms and suites are regularly updated, and all have patios. Some of the rooms have fireplaces and/or whirlpool tubs.

There are almost 500 single-story, individual bungalow units and 72 suites. Premium rooms and suites command a lagoon view. The resort has five different swimming pools and a small spa. There's an 18-hole golf course on the island and a full marina with boat rentals and water sports gear.

When you get hungry, there are a few different dining options. Check out Barefoot Grill for bold flavored, modern American cuisine. It is popular with locals as well as guests. Tropics Cantina is another option by the main swimming pool. Open seasonally, it serves Baja California-style Mexican fare. The resort offers a 24-hour food delivery service.

Accommodation: Paradise Point Resort & Spa

5. Rancho Bernardo Inn

Photo Source: Rancho Bernardo Inn

This San Diego resort is close to the I15 freeway, north of the city. All the rooms and suites have private balconies or patios, and they each feature unique, original artwork. Little touches separate Rancho Bernardo from the typical, corporate luxury resort.

Although the resort has a kids' program, this one is probably better for couples seeking a romantic getaway. The resort also caters to golfers and girlfriends' spa getaways.

The award-winning spa focuses on nourishing the mind and body with many treatments using fresh fruit, yogurt, and honey. The spa has a heated, outdoor, saltwater pool (for spa guests only) and there's also a large family-friendly pool and a third adults-only pool.

Rancho Bernardo Inn also has a few different dining options. Check out their signature dinner spot, AVANT, for contemporary California fare. The menu changes with the seasons and focuses on locally sourced produce and protein. To dine outside check out the Veranda Patio. The resort also has a coffee shop and a lobby lounge with live music.

Accommodation: Rancho Bernardo Inn

6. Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

Photo Source: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

This large resort is in Carlsbad, close to LEGOLAND, and has just over 600 rooms, suites, and villas. The accommodations are modern and stylish, but the resort is large, and some are quite a distance from the lobby area (consult a resort map on check-in). They all have marble bathrooms and private balconies or patios.

Guests have eight different swimming pools to choose from, including one just for adults and a kid-friendly pool with a waterslide.

There are two championship golf courses and 17 tennis courts at La Costa. The resort has their Kidtopia Kids Club with a play area and various activities and amenities. There's a serious focus on wellness here, with a very large, full-service spa.

It's also the home of The Chopra Center, Deepak Chopra's wellness and meditation facility. Meditation classes are offered free to resort guests. When you get hungry, the resort has Bob's, a steakhouse; VUE, an indoor/outdoor café; and Marketplace, with fresh-made take-out selections. There's also a pool café and another café inside the spa with a healthy menu.

Accommodation: Omni La Costa Resort & Spa

7. Hyatt Regency Mission Bay

Photo Source: Hyatt Regency Mission Bay

This marina-front resort sits on Mission Bay, about 15 minutes from San Diego Airport. The rooms and suites at this large hotel offer either ocean or marina views, and each has its own private balcony to enjoy them.

The Hyatt has its own marina and provides a range of boat and watercraft rentals, including Jet Skis and kayaks. The hotel can also set up sportfishing or whale-watching excursions.

Three swimming pools are on-site, including one with a play area and waterslide, and the resort also features a full-service spa and a large fitness center with ocean views.

The Hyatt has a popular seafood restaurant on the top level (with great views) and a poolside outdoor restaurant. Market Mission Bay is their coffee shop, with freshly brewed coffees and baked goods made fresh in-store each day.

The beach is a short walk away, and the area is great for walking and bike riding.

Accommodation: Hyatt Regency Mission Bay

8. Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa

Photo Source: Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa

This Spanish-style luxury resort sits close to the ocean in La Jolla, across from the San Diego UC campus. The accommodations are in low-rise buildings, and some have private balconies and patios. All are beautifully designed with luxurious finishes and amenities. The resort has Adobe El Restaurante, a high-end Mexican restaurant, and Mustangs & Burros, a more casual Mexican option.

There's a small coffee bar in the lobby and another eatery that serves an interesting menu of small plates and dishes for sharing. Estancia La Jolla is close to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, which presents some amazing fish and marine animals in an educational setting.

When you're ready to relax, there's a large, heated saltwater pool and a big whirlpool spa. The hotel also has a large spa, popular with both locals and hotel guests, offering a range of body, beauty, and skin treatments for women, men, and couples.

Accommodation: Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa

9. Pier South Resort, Autograph Collection

Photo Source: Pier South Resort, Autograph Collection

This beachfront resort hotel in Imperial Beach offers on-the-sand accommodations in a newly-built hotel, at a mid-range price. The Autograph Collection property (part of Marriott) features stylish ocean-view and partial ocean-view rooms and suites.

The hotel is right on the beach and provides bikes along with a range of water sports and beach toys. The beachfront bike path goes on for miles and is perfect for riding, walking, or running. The hotel has a casual restaurant with an outdoor terrace and a rooftop lounge (that serves food).

There's an outdoor, heated swimming pool and a large fitness center with ocean views. The small spa offers a limited menu of massages and treatments, which can also be done in your room.

Accommodation: Pier South Resort, Autograph Collection

10. Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort

Photo Source: Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort

This resort, about 30 minutes north of San Diego, sits across the street from the beach. Many of the rooms and suites have private balconies, and a few offer ocean views. Families and groups may want to consider staying in a condo unit with a separate bedroom and a kitchenette.

There's a large, outdoor swimming pool and a big whirlpool spa, both of which have nice ocean views. There's also an activities center with beach chairs, umbrellas, boogie boards, bikes, and sand toys, which are all free for guests' use.

When you get hungry, the resort has a Mexican restaurant, a yogurt shop, and a cafe with a large outdoor patio.

Accommodation: Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort

11. LEGOLAND California Hotel

Photo Source: LEGOLAND California Hotel

If you're traveling with kids, this family resort, part of the LEGOLAND California theme park, is a must-visit. The resort is in Carlsbad, about 30 minutes north of San Diego.

The hotel has LEGO-themed rooms and is right at the LEGOLAND entrance. Hotel guests can access the park an hour before it opens to the public.

The Wi-Fi is free as is the buffet breakfast at the hotel's restaurant. There's a large, heated outdoor pool and a poolside café. In the summer, the resort screens outdoor movies at the pool and always offers a range of programming and entertainment just for kids.

Of course, the hotel has a few LEGO play areas where kids can build things in a giant pit of LEGO bricks.

Accommodation: LEGOLAND California Hotel

12. Hotel del Coronado

Photo Source: Hotel del Coronado

Hotel del Coronado checks all the boxes for the perfect beachfront hotel experience. The 28-acre resort sits right on the sand with nothing between you and the ocean. There are multiple places to eat and shop right on the property, meaning you really never need to leave.

The rooms and suites are either in the Victorian main building (the hotel opened in 1888) or the more modern tower and poolside cabana wings. Most rooms have private patios or balconies.

The hotel offers full beach services with beach chair, bed, and cabana rentals. The hotel Wi-Fi even works on the beach.

Glorietta Bay is across the street from the hotel featuring a marina with boat rentals. For an exclusive experience, The Del, as it's known, has beachfront cottages and villas, located in their Beachfront Village. It's a Club Level-area, only accessible to cottage and villa guests.

The hotel (which is dog and cat-friendly) is also conveniently located - you can get from the baggage claim area of San Diego's airport to the hotel lobby in about 20 minutes.

Accommodation: Hotel del Coronado

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