Widely regarded as one of the best resorts in California since its debut in 2007, the Grand Del Mar is a sprawling 400-acre ode to the late Addison Mizner, the legendary American architect and designer who famously copied the most opulent hallmarks of Spanish, Portuguese, Moroccan and Italian grandeur to create the Mediterranean Revival style that would come to define large swaths of Southern California (not to mention most of Palm Beach, Florida, where much of his work was focused in the 1920s).
The Grand Del Mar is a palatial estate, and to fully appreciate the splendor you might want to bring your running shoes and take advantage of the paved trails that wind around the resort. (If you want to venture farther into the canyon, I believe the resort does provide bikes.) The property includes a 21,000 square foot spa, four swimming pools, tennis courts, a Tom Fazio designed golf course and, most notably for me, the affiliated but independently operated Addison restaurant just up the hill from the hotel overlooking it all.
I’ve stayed here several times over the years, but not since the transition to Fairmont, so I was curious to see how it had changed, if at all. I checked into a poolside room with a private terrace surrounded by manicured privacy hedges. At more than 500 square feet, these are some of the largest standard rooms in California. And also among the most lavishly appointed.
I’ve seen entire apartments in New York that aren’t as spacious as the bathrooms here, wrapped in Italian marble and damask wallpaper. The extra-tall king bed is luxuriously swaddled with expensive sheets and goose-down pillows. I always sleep very, very well here.
Unfortunately the resort’s beautiful Amaya restaurant was still closed for lunch, due to the pandemic, but I was able to enjoy breakfast there. For lunch, I had to dine at the golf course’ Clubhouse Grill, which was good but not necessarily a place I would choose to dine if I weren’t staying on property. The good news, though: Addison is better than ever — and probaby the best restaurant in Southern California at the moment.
The only glaring change that stands out to me since Fairmont arrived is the unfortunate paving-over of the beautiful lawn surrounding the reflection pool adjacent to the wedding gazebo. This used to be a very special setting, flanked by towering cypress trees, but those were also removed. This was my favorite spot of many in the resort, but not anymore. I suppose the new landscaping serves a beneficial banquet function, but when not in use it looks jarringly out of context. Oh, well. This is just one corner of a sprawling estate, so perhaps most people won’t even notice.
All in all, however, this was another fabulous stay. Service throughout proved even better than what I remember from past visits, which has always been first-class. Given the universal staffing woes of the pandemic, that’s no small feat — and the hotel was at full capacity, too. Little did I realize when I selected my date for this stay that the Breeder’s Cup was taking place that same week at the nearby Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack, an international event that draws a particularly demanding crowd. The staff handled all the frenzy with absolute aplomb.
Bottom line: I’ve stayed at Fairmont hotels around the world, including Singapore, Whistler, Shanghai, London and Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The Grand Del Mar surely ranks among the finest of this luxury brand’s global portfolio. There is no better hotel in San Diego, for sure. And if you’re dining at Addison, this is an exquisite way to cap the evening.
Rates from about $650; 5300 Grand Del Mar Court, San Diego, 858-314-2000, granddelmar.com