Local Wally's Top La Jolla Hotels
Best Places to Stay in La Jolla Beach Area
Chances are when you think of San Diego's glorious beaches you're thinking of La Jolla. It's here you'll find beautiful bikini girls and muscular surfer guys on La Jolla Shores Beach, kayaks and snorkelers in the water at La Jolla Cove, and seals doing their thing at the Children's Pool. You'll also find tidepools, secluded beaches, hang gliding off the cliffs at Torrey Pines and even a nude beach if you look hard enough.
Located just 15 miles north of downtown it's an essential spot to visit while on vacation. Be aware that some marketing folks who wrote the descriptions for the hotels on their websites did better in creative writing class than geography as some of the "La Jolla" hotels have a better view of the inland freeway than the ocean. No worries, with Local Wally's Guide to La Jolla Hotels you'll know exactly what you're getting before you get here.
The Very Best Places to Stay in La Jolla
LA VALENCIA HOTEL
Affectionately known as "The Pink Lady", La Valencia has arguably been the definition of elegance since it was built in 1926. Sitting on the hillside overlooking the blue Pacific, it's Mediterranean architecture still enchants visitors today as it did during it's heyday as a Hollywood hideaway. Imagine Charlie Chaplin or Greta Garbo hanging out here. Now imagine you and your family doing the same. My how times have changed!
La Valencia has a charm that's lacking from the big box hotels being built today. The red tiled floor looks original, the painted ceiling still sparkles, and the view remains as always unmistakably La Jolla perfect. It's high end, yes, but in welcoming way that welcomes and delights.
Inside, the rooms vary in size and quality of the view, causing some reviewers with smaller wallets to complain while others exclaim that they died and went to heaven. Let your pocketbook decide which experience you want and no complaining if you get a non-ocean view because life is good when you're staying in La Jolla, on vacation, at La Valencia. A winner for romantic getaways, wedding parties or anniversaries, or a San Diego staycation.
PRO'S: Incredible views in an incredible area.
CON'S: Not the most kid friendly hotel I've been at - maybe that's not a con!
WALLY SAYS: Right up there with the Hotel Del Coronado as one of the top places to stay in San Diego.
LA JOLLA BEACH AND TENNIS CLUB
Want to stay right on the beach? Then look no further as the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club is one of the small handful of San Diego resorts that truly is right on the sand. And this is no ordinary sand, this is a beach in La Jolla, one of the most picturesque beaches in Southern California.
These guys were really smart when they built this resort in 1935. State law says that the beach belongs to the public, right up to the high water mark. So when they built the resort they pushed it back a bit and left a long stretch of sand that looks like a public beach, but it's not - and there lies one of the key attractions to this resort.
Hotel lounge chairs in the sand invite hotel guests, and only hotel guests, to sit a while to catch some rays. Thirsty? No worries as a waiter or waitress will soon be by to take your drink order - say what? That's right, you can have an alcoholic beverage on the beach, something that's outlawed on all of San Diego public beaches. And when the sun goes down wouldn't it be great if the staff set up a nice barbeque for you so you can cook some burgers and roast some marshmallows? Why yes it would be, and yes they can do that. Nice, very nice.
Rooms range from street view plain to ocean view 3 bedroom suites and most have kitchenettes, perfect for cooking up some Top Ramen for the kids while you dine at the elegant Marine Room restaurant next door, one of San Diego's finest restaurants. Many of the rooms have been remodeled, some have not, but in the end it's really all about the beach and the location when you stay here. Kayaks and water sport toys for rent, a par 3 golf course, tennis, pool, and sparkling grounds makes this a true destination resort.
PRO'S: One of the best choices for a true beach vacation.
CON'S: Room decor is average and the bed is sandy - wait, that's my fault.
WALLY SAYS: If you want a beach vacation this is the spot!
LA JOLLA SHORES HOTEL
With newly refurbished rooms, La Jolla Shores Hotel rises above it's red headed stepchild status as the "less popular" sister property of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and finally gets the attention that its location deserves.
The La Jolla Shores Hotel shares the same beach as it's sibling hotel and thus offers many of the same amenities. If you're dreaming of waking up to the sound of crashing waves, taking a leisurely walk along the sand with a cup of coffee or sipping a cocktail on the beach as the sun sets, then the La Jolla Shores Hotel delivers as promised.
Some rooms have kitchenettes, great for saving a few bucks on breakfast so you can splurge on dinner. Nice pool but with the beach 50 feet away I'd better not catch you spending all your time there. Rooms are 3.5 star and those who complain on Yelp! need to be reminded that this is a beach hotel, not a fancy pants resort. Like all beach hotels you'll find areas that could use some sprucing up and not everything is totally up to date, but in the end it's the beach, not the hotel, that's the main attraction.
PRO'S: Great location, one of the few hotels right on the beach.
CON'S: Three and a half star hotel, could use a freshen up here and there.
WALLY SAYS: You won't be instagraming your room like you might in some of the trendier hotels but you also won't get the elbow in your back from your spouse, either!
The Grande Colonial La Jolla
The Grande Colonial opened back in 1913 when La Jolla was still a sleepy little beach town and rooms went for $25 to $50 - a month. Over the years the hotel has come and gone, an enclave for Hollywood stars in the 50's where it would not have been unusual to see Groucho Marx or Charleston Heston sitting in the bar. But by the 70's the hotel had fallen into disrepair and the seaside property was sold for a mere one million dollars - the price of an average tract home in San Diego today.
The hotel went through multiple updates since then and has clearly found its place as one of the nicest ocean view hotels in San Diego. With traditional furnishings, The Grande Colonial will appeal to those who appreciate the finer things in life, looking like something you might see in a magazine with views of the ocean as the icing on the cake. Down the street are suites in a separate building called the Little Hotel by the Sea which were once apartments and now converted into deluxe accommodations.
Rooms are updated and upscale, though if street noise bothers you consider upgrading to the ocean side of the hotel. Nine-Ten restaurant is a local favorite and takes the place where there once was an old soda fountain and the beach (and the seals) is an easy walk down the street. The "Pink Lady" (aka La Valencia) might get a bit more attention but The Grande Colonial is worthy competition for a great hotel in a great location.
PRO'S: Beautiful hotel in a gorgeous setting and ocean views.
CON'S: Prospect Street can get a bit noisy at night.
WALLY SAYS: With comfy rooms, beautiful furnishings and a location steps from the ocean, the Grande Colonial is hard to beat!
Best Places to Stay in La Jolla's Torrey Pines Area
THE LODGE AT TORREY PINES
Wait a second - am I still in San Diego? Set amongst the pines, The Lodge at Torrey Pines looks more like something you would find at Lake Tahoe than oceanfront San Diego. An upscale Craftsman style resort with excellent restaurants, a fabulous pool and full service spa, can it get much better? Yes it can because The Lodge, which is located at the 18th hole of the Torrey Pines Golf Course, can get you onto that course with their "Guaranteed Tee Time Program!
That's right, you smacking the ball on the same course that Tiger Woods plays on, the same course used for the US Open, Phil Mickelson's home course. And don't think it's not a big deal that they can get you a tee time because getting "on" Torrey requires more skill and luck than sinking a 25 foot downhill putt!
Aside from golf, the Lodge at Torrey Pines delivers the type of service and attention to detail that you would expect from a near 5 star resort. The Craftsman theme follows into the 170 guestrooms and suites and the view, oh that view, overlooks the green of the golf course and flows into the Pacific. Beach lovers should note that the beach below is the famous nude Blacks Beach - and access is difficult at best. Listen to your wife, it ain't happening. But jump in the car and you can be in the heart of La Jolla and wonderful beaches and restaurants in minutes.
PRO'S: Golfers paradise but non-golfers will love the woodsy setting and ocean views.
CON'S: You can see the ocean but you can't get to it.
WALLY SAYS: Is that Phil at the snack bar?
ESTANCIA LA JOLLA
They call this Coastal California Rancho style but I sort of doubt that a cowboy ever had it this good. The adobe buildings and rustic setting that describes a rancho gives way to huge stone courtyards, bubbling water fountains, outdoor fireplaces and understated elegance. It's "rustic" in a very elegant and upscale way, you'll feel like a boss the second you arrive.
Rooms are tastefully done with contemporary tones and upscale furnishings and the grounds are exceptional. It's calm and peaceful here, made more so by the excellent spa, itself a popular day destination for non-hotel guests. Great restaurants as well, Spanish music from the outdoor bar, it's like a perfect self contained world where everything you need or want is right here.
A glass of champagne as you arrive sets the stage for the upscale experience. Excellent pool with food service, a wine bar on site, this is a self contained paradise. Of course, the beach and shops are nearby so if you do decide to leave you won't have to go far.
Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa offers an alternative to your traditional San Diego resort. No giant water slides, no nightly luau, there's not even an ocean view. But if your stress level is higher than a politician caught having an affair and the idea of a perfect vacation day ends with a massage and a glass of wine, then Estancia might be exactly what you are looking for.
PRO'S: Such a beautiful setting, it's the old California you've dreamed about.
CON'S: A bit off to itself and away from the main attractions.
WALLY SAYS: Great wedding spot and excellent service, it will be hard to find a nicer setting!
HILTON LA JOLLA TORREY PINES
At times the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines reminds me a bit like the building from The Forbin Project - you know, the futuristic movie from 1970 where a computer takes over the world. The outside of the hotel is stark and cold like the scientific research labs around the area and you'll swear you're pulling into a business park when you first come down the hill. But before you write off this hotel, consider the location. Set on a hill overlooking the Torrey Pines Golf Course, views of the Pacific Ocean, maybe it's OK if a giant out of control computer is secretly housed here with views like these.
Unlike the beautiful family friendly Hilton San Diego on Mission Bay, this Hilton is a bit more restrained, a bit more businesslike. There are a lot of guys in slacks here, even though shorts and flip flops are more appropriate. If you're on business, you're going to fit right in. But don't let this scare you off if you're coming here on vacation. The pool setting is fantastic, the views gorgeous, and the rooms top notch. Go ahead and trip over that guys power cord at the pool and watch his face as his laptop drops to the bottom of the pool - you just did him a huge favor! Torrey Pines Golf Course if right outside your door, the beach a few minutes away, this location is close enough to the action without being smack in the middle of it all. The Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines might not be the sexiest hotel in San Diego but for those looking for a modern hotel with superior views, you can't go wrong.
PRO'S: Really great views from the rooms of the golf course and ocean.
CON'S: A lot of business people can kill the vacation vibe - that guy is wearing slacks at the pool!
WALLY SAYS: An upscale Hilton in a beautiful setting. Whoops, I forgot my laptop.
Best La Jolla "Inland" Hotels
HYATT REGENCY LA JOLLA AT AVENTINE
This is not the La Jolla you've been looking for. No, the Hyatt La Jolla Aventine is all business. It's not even business casual! If you're coming here for a meeting and looking for a stylish and upscale hotel with easy freeway access to both meetings and attractions then you've found your spot. But those on vacation might find the business vibe a bit overbearing - but don't rule it out just yet.
Let's start with a great location right off the main Interstate 5 freeway, smack in the middle between downtown and Carlsbad, a prime location for those wanting to visit both the San Diego Zoo and Legoland. 20 minutes in either direction will get you to your destination and getting to the village of La Jolla with its shops, restaurants and beaches is only 10 minutes away.
Of course the hotel itself has great dining options, including a Fleming's Steakhouse and Truluck's Seafood, both excellent options, as well as a stylish lounge, outdoor fire pits and a nice pool. The hotel itself just went through a major renovation so expect modern rooms all fresh and clean to go with the sparkling service you expect from a top notch Hyatt. So it's a bit business-like but it's also a great choice for location and amenities. If you want a no-compromise hotel that's as clean and modern as a new Tesla then consider the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at Aventine.
PRO'S: Super modern hotel, top notch service.
CON'S: Tons of traffic during the commuting hours.
WALLY SAYS: Business travelers can do no better but vacationers will love it too.
EMBASSY SUITES LA JOLLA
One thing about an Embassy Suites is you know exactly what you're getting. Start with a suite, add free breakfast with made to order omelets, free cocktails in the afternoon, decent lobby, pool, and lots of business travelers and weekdays and tons of kids on weekends. That's the Embassy Suites and that pretty much describes the Embassy Suites La Jolla.
Located off the inland 805 freeway, this is possibly the biggest stretch of truth in advertising when they call this area La Jolla. It's surrounded by business parks and there's a major shopping mall across the street. It's not exactly vacation paradise, but whether you're on business or vacation the close freeway access and proximity to restaurants like the insanely beautiful Karl Strauss Brewery is a plus.
The real La Jolla (and the ocean) is only about 10 minutes away, so getting to the beach is no big deal (and coming back to free cocktails is a recession budget stretcher). I like Embassy Suites for the same reason you do. Predictable, good value, really good breakfast, and good locations. The La Jolla Embassy Suites provides all of these things in a freeway close location and is perfect for anyone looking for good bang for their buck.
PRO'S: Great value hotel, free breakfast, close to La Jolla.
CON'S: You call that a pool?
WALLY SAYS: I can forgive all of the shortcomings of an Embassy Suites once they give me all-you-can-eat bacon!
SAN DIEGO MARRIOTT LA JOLLA
Like the other "inland" La Jolla hotels this Marriott is barely La Jolla. Surrounded by business parks and rental cars, the location is about as sexy as your CFO in a speedo. To be honest, this Marriott used to be as boring as a spreadsheet but a recent renovation has hipped up this Marriotd with a trendy vibe that's missing at the other "business" hotels. Can I say it? Yes, I like it!
From the lobby to the rooms to the restaurants, everything is new and fresh with a sex appeal that belies the generic exterior. Rooms are standard Marriott and if they're a bit unexciting at least they are fresh, clean and crisp after the remodel. Look, this isn't going to compete with a hip Gaslamp District hotel but it sure blows the doors off of the other business hotels in the area when it comes to style. Plenty of businesspeople for sure, but a vacationer with kids won't feel out of place. Great pool and a short walk across a foot bridge gets you to the University Town Center shopping mall, an upscale mall complete with ice skating rink and plenty of casual dining options.
PRO'S: Newly remodeled and looking as good as a Sports Illustrated bikini model.
CON'S: While it will appeal to vacationers it's still a business hotel.
WALLY SAYS: It's a slam dunk for a business trip and a worthy choice for a vacationer!