The Hotel Del Coronado (or the Del as locals and visitors lovingly call it) is a historic hotel resort, located on Coronado Island in San Diego. 

I recently spent a night at the Del (and a day lounging on Coronado Beach) on an overnight trip to San Diego from Los Angeles.

Was the room worth the $700 price tag? Are there better ways to visit the hotel grounds? What are the must-do activities when visiting Coronado Island? 

All of these questions (and more!) will be answered in my Hotel Del Coronado review.

Hotel Del Coronado History

Built in 1888, the Del offered respite from the heat of the city for both California’s elite and middle classes.

Most guests were long-term and stayed several months at a time. Wealthy “residents” stayed in the main house (which cost around $30 a day), and the lower classes stayed in a tent city on the beach (which cost about $30 a month). 

Famous guests have included a dozen U.S. presidents, as well as celebrities like Thomas Edison, L. Frank Baum, Charlie Chaplin, Vincent Price, Babe Ruth, James Stewart, Bette Davis, and Katharine Hepburn.

Modern-day celebrities like Oprah, Brad Pitt, Madonna, and Keanu Reeves have also been guests of the Del.

 

The Hotel in Pop Culture

The Del is probably most famous for the role it played in the Billy Wilder hit, Some Like It Hot, starring Marylin Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon (who were also guests at the hotel while filming).

While Frank L. Baum was staying here, he wrote parts of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz at the Del. Stephen King’s short story “1408” was inspired by the hotel. 

Hotel Del Coronado Review

Only a two-hour train ride away, San Diego is an easy day trip from Los Angeles. At the station, take a cab or rideshare to the hotel (about a 10 to 20-minute car ride away). 

The 700-room hotel serves as the backdrop for Coronado Beach and features a boardwalk, a private beach, half a dozen restaurants, a bar, live music, and tours of the grounds. 

This Hotel Del Coronado review will focus on the rooms, service, and grounds. 

Hotel Vibe/Ambiance

The hotel definitely has a vibe to it. If I had to give it a name, that vibe would be “So-Cal bougie”.

You can visit the grounds for free if you like, and you’ll probably notice that most of the people there are day visitors — local San Diego residents who are there for the views and food and beach.

Pretty much any part of the hotel you could explore as a guest you can visit just by stopping by which really removes any illusions of eliteness you might possess while staying here. I loved that about the Del.

The only areas you can’t visit as a day-person are some hotel floors and the pool. 

The grounds are gorgeously maintained, and there’s plenty to explore, including a historic lobby, shops, restaurants, and bar.

Hotel Service/Staff

For the most part, the hotel staff was amazing. 

The check-in team was friendly and helpful. I managed to get a room upgrade for only $30 and early check-in for no cost. The bellhops were also punctual and friendly and handled my suitcase with care.

Yet, I did spend about 15 minutes wandering the back entrance, trying to find the lobby. Two valets watched me as I dragged my suitcase up and down the stairs. When I approached them, they were suddenly too busy to answer my question.

Not the kind of guest service you’d expect at a $700-a-night hotel. 

Housekeeping called my room at 7:30 p.m. to ask if I needed anything, and I asked for some bottled water that never found its way to my room. Again, not a big deal — but not the kind of service you expect to get for the money you’ll spend here.

The check-in team was friendly and helpful. I managed to get a room upgrade for only $30 and early check-in for no cost. The bellhops were also punctual and friendly and handled my suitcase with care.

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Del Coronado Grounds

The grounds at the Del Coronado are worth the visit. You can explore the main building, including the ballroom, dining rooms, lobby, shops, and restaurants. The only exception is if there is an event closing some rooms to the public.

I didn’t visit the hotel pool while I was here as I spent my time at the beach instead, but the pool area was well-kept, and staff did a good job of keeping non-guests from taking up the pool chairs.

There’s a huge lawn for sunbathing, which anyone can enjoy for free. Nearly all of the hotel’s restaurants either overlook the pool or the ocean. The drive up to the hotel offers a stunning view of the Victorian building. 

There’s live music on the boardwalk on the weekends. 

You can take a tour of the Del on certain days, and the hotel even runs a ghost tour one or two nights on the weekend. 

hotel del coronado ambiance

Rooms at the Del

I splurged and got a room for one night at the Del, thinking it would be not only a hotel stay but also an “experience” — and boy was I right. But not in a good way.

Rooms started at $450 a night, plus a $ 100-per-night California hotel tax. I booked a week in advance, so I paid a bit more, which was $700 a night (with taxes and fees) to stay in the baseline rooms, which are located in the old Victorian section of the hotel.

Room prices go up to thousands of dollars a night in the newer sections of the property. Poolside rooms with built-in cabanas and firepits started at $800 a night. The Beach House is the priciest section, with rooms over $1,000 for a one-night stay.

My room is what I would consider a three-star room. 

The hotel itself is a four-star hotel, but I believe they combine the quality of the newer sections of the hotel (which seem to be a five-star experience) with the older section to get that four-star rating.

But the room quality reminded me of three-star hotel room quality, and I definitely wouldn’t stay in the old section again — especially for the price. 

Honestly, I didn’t think it was necessarily “worth it” to stay on property at all here. Instead, just book a chair on the beach and enjoy the restaurants. 

My Hotel Del Coronado review of the rooms? Save your money and stay across the street.

Hotel Del Coronado

Hotel Del Coronado Restaurants

The Del is home to a half-dozen restaurants, all of which offer similar menus. But really, there’s a good chance you’re here for the ocean views if you’ve chosen to eat at the Del on any given day.

I ate at the Beach & Taco Shack for lunch, the pizzeria for dinner, and the Sheerwater for breakfast. 

Beach & Taco Shack

The Beach & Taco Shack gets really terrible reviews online, but I thought the food was great. 

I didn’t eat at the shack itself (all food ordered on the beach is from the Beach & Taco Shack), but the vibe seemed lively, as it was right next to the live music. 

Tacos were my menu option of choice, and I got ones stuffed with fish. They were pretty run-of-the-mill fish tacos (they cost $16 for two), but what do you expect at a hotel resort?

ENO PIzzeria + Grab-and-Go Market

I got a pizza to eat in my room at ENO, a pizzeria that also has a grab-and-go market.

The pizza was coal-oven style and really good. The market across the walkway offered single-serving sizes of wine, hard liquor, and beer, as well as baked goods, sandwiches, and some grab-and-go meals.

A bottle of vodka with two shots cost $12, and a half-bottle of wine cost $30. So, I ordered two glasses of wine to go from the pizza place and called it a night.

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Sheerwater

For breakfast, I opted for the Sheerwater, one of two restaurants open for brunch on the weekends. 

I got the potato hash with chorizo and an egg. It came with some kind of chipotle may or aioli, and it was one of the best hashes I’ve ever had. I washed it all down with a glass of prosecco and some coffee. 

My bill was about $40, not bad for brunch at a resort with booze. 

Babcock & Story Bar

I didn’t get a drink or food at the Babcock & Story Bar because it didn’t have great ambiance and was insanely crowded, but I walked through it a few times.

The bar is situated between the boardwalk and the hotel and is used as an entrance/exit to the public bathrooms. The food seemed like it came off the same menu as the other restaurants. It seemed a little overpriced (again, not surprising for a resort), but was not worth it because of the lack of ambiance. 

Miguel’s Cocina

Miguel’s Cocina (which is across the street from the Del) isn’t owned by Hilton or affiliated with it in any way. But I did walk across the street and eat lunch here the day I checked out, and boy was it awesome — and totally worth including in my review.

Coronado Beach

Coronado Beach 

I spent about six hours on the beach at the Del, and I can’t recommend the experience enough. 

There are two ways to spend a day at the beach here: 

  • Spend $15 on a chair and $15 on an umbrella to sit on a rocky beach by the water with the peasants
  • Spend $50 to sit on soft sand (chair and luxury umbrella included) and get waited on by these guys who are all-too happy to take your drink or food orders or move your umbrella a few inches when the sun moves

I opted for the latter, and it was totally worth the extra $20. 

My bar bill was about $80, which wasn’t surprising as I spent the day eating tacos and drinking Aperol spritzes. 

You can’t see the water from this area (there’s a sand dune in the way), but the shore is just a one-minute walk away, and you’re still close enough to the public bathrooms. There’s also free ice water and suntan lotion. 

Ice House Museum

This pint-sized jewel-box museum is located in the property’s old ice house. Now that modern refrigeration has replaced giant ice blocks to keep food cool, the structure is better suited as a museum.

I’m not sure I would recommend a trip to the museum on its own. There aren’t any “exhibits”, only a few photos plastered on the walls that explain the throughline of the Del’s existence. 

What I would recommend is renting the self-guided tour headset for $6. I would have loved to have taken a tour, but with all that beach lounging, I just didn’t find the time.

Hotel Del Coronado Splurges

The entire experience of staying at the Del (and visiting as a day guest) is a splurge. 

Though there are some “free” experiences, such as cruising down the boardwalk, enjoying live music, lounging on the lawn, or wandering the property, most activities cost some cash. 

Coronado Beach Rental

I can’t think of a better way to spend the day than sprawled out on a lounger on Coronado Beach. 

With the backdrop of the hotel behind you, the ocean in front of you, and waiters ready to bring you drinks and food and fix your umbrella, there’s no place I’d rather be. 

$50 a day may feel like a splurge, but I think it’s a bargain. If you spend six hours here like I did, that comes out to less than $10 an hour for Victorian seaside ambiance.

Cabana Rooms

I didn’t stay at the Cabanas, but I wish I had. For an extra $200 for the night, I would have stayed in a five-star room, gotten access to a poolside cabana (just outside of the room), and possibly even a fire pit. 

These rooms start at $800 a night, and they seemed worth it. 

Since I don’t recommend staying in the Victorian section, these are your best bet if you want to stay on property.

 

Hotel Del Coronado Saves

There are a few ways to “save” at the Hotel Del Coronado. Not everything is super pricey here, and I’m happy to report that I found some ways to keep a few extra dollars in my pocket.

Hotel Tours

If you want to really explore the hotel, I recommend taking a tour.

I didn’t have time to do a full guided property tour, but they do offer them for $25 to $30 (without tip). 

Instead, I took the self-guided tour for $20. The tour takes about 90 minutes and was really informative. I’m sure I would have enjoyed the guided tour more, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me.

Premium Room Upgrade

The hotel booking site offered me the option to bid on a room upgrade. 

I won the bid and for only $30, I got a room on an upper floor that looked over the courtyard (with a peekaboo view of the ocean). 

Despite my overall displeasure with the quality of the room in the historic building, the room upgrade was totally worth the extra money. 

Miguel’s Cocina

Across the street from the Del is a Mexican restaurant called Miguel’s Cocina. I ate lunch here with a friend the day I checked out.

Only a three-minute walk from the hotel, Miguel’s is worth the “trek”. 

The food is outstanding (I got the mole tacos and a giant margarita), and is reasonably priced. For two margaritas, two entrees, one child’s meal, and three sodas, I paid about $85 with tax and tip. 

No ocean views, but the food was way better than at the Del.