A landmark for all of San Diego, the "Hotel Del" rose above the beach in all its glory in 1888. Now a National Historic Landmark, the Pacific Coast's oldest resort hotel reflects a grandeur only starry-eyed visionaries could imagine. Designed to attract tourists—and potential Coronado residents—from all over the country, the hotel was constructed from hundreds of thousands of feet of redwood, oak, and other woods shipped in to build the largest all-wood structure in the country. The result is a Queen Ann style castle bedecked with red-shingled turrets, towering cupolas, frothy gingerbread trim, circular ballrooms, and pristine white balconies facing Glorietta Bay on one side and the open sea on the other. Rooms in the original Victorian building are in high demand despite their quirks, be they tiny bathrooms or ocean views so partial they requiring balancing on the furniture to see and sand or water. All retain a casual elegance, with sand-colored walls, wood-shutters on the windows, and French doors. Claim an ocean-view suite and you'll feel like royalty, especially while sitting on your balcony drinking Champagne while hordes of tourists checking out the grounds snap your photo. You need a guest key to access the grand pool or book one of the cabanas or lounges for two at the swanky Del Beach area. Guests seeking privacy opt for the plain seven-floor tower beside the main building, with its adults-only pool and quiet beach. Those with considerable spending power opt for the exclusive Beach Village's cottages and condos outfitted like private homes. Finding your way around the grounds can be confusing for the directionally challenged. Take time to check out the herb and rose gardens, relax on a bench beside the walkway edging the sand (a popular local jogging and biking path), for locals, and stop to admire the weddings that take place almost daily on emerald lawns and the sand. Maze-like underground tunnels in the Victorian building contain souvenir, resort wear, candy, and toy shops and historic photo galleries--look for shots of Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe filming Some Like it Hot on the Del's beach. Sunday brunch in the opulent Crown Room never disappoints, even with its $80 tab, and sunsets are perfect when viewed from the outdoor patio at ENO Pizzeria and Wine Bar.
- Frommer's Staff