The best places to stay in four price ranges: budget ($), moderate ($$), expensive ($$$), and luxury ($$$$)


Hotel Occidental
European-style inn on the edge of downtown and close to Balboa Park. Many of the 54 rooms share a shower down the hall, others have private bath, and two suites have full kitchens. Free wireless, in-room safes, and continental breakfast included. 410 Elm Street, downtown; tel. +1 619 232 1336.

Keating House
1880s Queen Anne Victorian transformed into a nine-room bed-and-breakfast within walking distance of Balboa Park. The owners are an energetic pair who know the historic neighborhood well and look after a diverse range of guests. 2331 Second Avenue, Hillcrest; tel. +1 619 239 8585.

La Pensione
“Great neighborhood for singles or couples.”—Maribeth Mellin, author, Access San Diego. Unpretentious 75-room hotel has small, basic rooms (a few of which suffer from street noise) but the Little Italy location is ideal for shopping and dining, and is less than a mile from downtown. 606 W. Date Street, Little Italy; tel. +1 619 236 8000.


Bed & Breakfast Inn at La Jolla
Irving Gill, San Diego’s first noteworthy architect, designed this cubist inn in 1913—it was home to composer John Philip Sousa in the 1920s. The 13 rooms and two suites have private bathrooms and are stocked with period furnishings and upscale amenities; some have a fireplace or ocean view. 7753 Draper Avenue, La Jolla; tel. +1 858 456 2066.

The Dana on Mission Bay
Nicely located on Mission Bay; 271-room hotel has newer, oversize quarters with broad balconies which cleverly juxtapose contemporary wood with accents of Chinese art. A ten-minute walk to the beach, boardwalk, and the city’s antique wooden roller coaster. 1710 West Mission Bay Drive, Mission Beach; tel. +1 619 222 6440.

Glorietta Bay Inn
“They win hospitality awards for a staff that’s been there forever.”—Maribeth Mellin. Opposite the Hotel del Coronado, this well-run hotel is fronted by a 1908 mansion, where 11 antique-filled rooms are located. The 89 less-expensive units are in motel-like structures behind; a few have kitchenettes and marina views. 1630 Glorietta Bay Boulevard, Coronado; tel. +1 619 435 3101.

La Jolla Cove Suites
“A bit worn around the edges but great views, especially from upper units.”—Debbie K. Hardin, author, Great Destinations: San Diego and Tijuana. Moderate pricing and a superb location—across the street from a seafront park—compensate for institutional furnishings at this six-story hideaway; wide variety of room types, including units with kitchens. 1155 Coast Boulevard, La Jolla; tel. +1 858 459 2621.

Sofia Hotel
“I recommend the Sofia to friends on a budget; the rooms are like cute modern studio apartments.”—Erin Chambers, San Diego editor, A $16 million revamp of the 1927-era Pickwick Hotel, this 212-room urban boutique hotel occupies a brick-facade building between the Gaslamp Quarter and the city’s main trolley/train hub. Avoid rear rooms overlooking the bus depot; corner rooms are small but bright. 150 West Broadway, downtown; tel. +1 619 800 826 0009.


Crystal Pier Hotel
“Rooms are literally above the water, you feel the waves as you sleep.”—Maribeth Mellin. This 29-room inn has a unique setting on an 80-year-old wooden pier extending into the ocean. Each of the whitewashed, blue-shuttered cottages (think Cape Cod) is a self-contained suite with full kitchen and patios offering views down the beach. 4500 Ocean Boulevard, Pacific Beach; tel. +1 858 483 6983.

The Grande Colonial
Though others are more renowned, the older Grande Colonial is La Jolla’s cheaper sleeper. The hotel still shines from a thorough 2001 renovation that didn’t sacrifice the lobby’s creaking floorboards and genteel surroundings. Situated one block from the ocean, many rooms have sea views. 910 Prospect Street, La Jolla; tel. +1 858 454 2181.

Hotel del Coronado
San Diego’s most famous hotel since 1888, “The Del” has the lure of a grand old Florida beachfront resort. The 679 rooms (plus 78 new cottages and villas in Beach Village) include a modern adjoining tower, which offers more square footage while sacrificing Victorian ambience. Often swamped with day visitors, the hotel still possesses all its bells and whistles, but note that cheapest rooms are tiny and lack a view. 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado; tel. +1 619 435 6611.


Hard Rock Hotel
“Really gives you a sense of what a cool urban place San Diego is becoming.”—Erin Chambers. Of downtown hotels aiming for the hipster crowd, the Hard Rock is perhaps the least pretentious. A “Vibe Manager” runs the extensive music system, but at check-in guests choose a music genre for their room. Food ranges from a ’60s-style diner serving comfort food till the wee hours to a branch of the Nobu empire. 207 Fifth Avenue, downtown; tel. +1 619 702 3000.

Hotel Solamar
“Decorated in an urban beach style.”—Debbie K. Hardin. Despite having 235 guest rooms, the Kimpton-managed Solamar conveys warmth and individuality; fireplace-enhanced lobby, minibars stocked with flip-flops and art supplies, and fourth floor hotspot with fire pits and poolside cabanas. Guest rooms are playfully contemporary, with stitched wallpaper and bathrooms with soft lighting and a spa-like ambience. 435 Sixth Avenue, downtown; tel. +1 619 819 9500.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines
“California Craftsman-style masterpiece with original Gustav Stickley furniture and Judson Studio glass.”—Marael Johnson, author, National Geographic San Diego guidebook. Sitting next to a fabled golf course, the Lodge is modeled after the landmark Gamble and Blacker houses of Pasadena, skillfully magnified to 171-room size (including seven suites). Excellent dining and top spa. 11480 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla; tel. +1 858 453 4420.

Omni San Diego
“It’s a hotel attached to a ballpark; how cool is that?”—Maribeth Mellin. With a private bridge (“pedestrian sky walk”) leading directly from the hotel into the Padres’ ballpark, the 32-story Omni packs in sports fans, but also caters to convention-goers. Baseball memorabilia lines the halls (like Joe DiMaggio’s cleats), while rooms have smart lighting and sensibly organized bathrooms. 675 L Street, downtown; tel. +1 619 231 6664.


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