It took a lot of coaxing to get me to visit San Diego. Having spent so much time in L.A. and San Francisco for work and increasingly for fun, I had honestly relegated San Diego near the bottom of my list of places to visit in the Golden State. My girlfriend of nearly two years, who grew up in La Jolla, was determined to change my thinking (a talent girlfriends wield skillfully) on the subject of San Diego. Her weapon of choice? The historic La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla. Knowing my appreciation for provenance, this was a shrewd and ultimately successful move.
Opened in 1926 as the standard-bearer for classic California hotels, the property has in recent years undergone a nearly complete restoration (some of the areas are still under construction though it was not really a disturbance to us – one small wrinkle was that we were unable to secure the namesake drink at the Whaler Bar, as it was closed for renovations). The timeless architecture of the building has been retained and at the same time the rooms have been modernized (I don’t know that I have ever stayed in a hotel with better showers an often over-looked attribute), which is exactly what you want.
Situated right in the middle of things on Prospect Street, La Valencia is within easy walking distance to both the beach (and La Jolla cove; scroll down for an awesome old photo of it from the early 1910s) and nearly all of the La Jolla shops and restaurants. From the hotel we walked over to Windansea one morning, then other days had breakfast at Pannikin, scoped out the D.G. Willis bookshop (which is pretty cool) had brunch at The Cottage, ate some of the amazing banana cake at Come On In Cafe and dined at Herringbone with some friends. During the day we laid by the pool, tripped over to the Torrey Pines Gliderport and enjoyed the view of La Jolla from up above Black’s beach (word of warning, beware of all of the creepers down there). From atop Black’s I imagined what it would be like to golf Torrey Pines, but the GF decreed that golf was strictly prohibited on this trip. We also saw Harry’s and it looked very ACL, but we didn’t have a chance to check it out – there’s always next time.
Before we left town we cruised over to do a quick giro of Coronado Island to check out all of the great old Craftsman homes and classic cars that are over there (of which many of which ended up on the ACL Instagram). It’s an awesome place if you ever have a chance to check that place out.
If you are looking to spend a relaxing weekend away in San Diego, La Valencia is a great place to do it. It’s a nice starting point for all of the fun little nooks and crannies of the area. Thankfully, we avoided most of the Affliction clad bros by staying far from PB (I suggest you do the same, add in downtown SD to that while we are at it). All that said, I left San Diego with a positive impression I wasn’t expecting. A nice hotel can do that to you, so can an open mind.
Many of these great old photos were found via the La Jolla Historical Society.
I personally traveled to and stayed at La Valencia at my own expense in May of 2013 and was not compensated in any way for this review. I endorse it because I really like it.
Comments on “Checking In | La Jolla’s La Valencia Hotel”
Wonderful. There is a similar-vintage El Garces Hotel–fabulous architecture, being stabilized and perhaps restored way down south in Needles, CA, along the Colorado Ricer. The only drawback is that Needles is no longer a major railroad vacation destination, and the hotel fronts on the tracks, not the river. But what a colonnaded/balustraded facade!
Those guys knew how to do it up at the turn of the 20th Century. Thx.
My sister lives in PB and I can say that the Affliction-clad bros are kind of a problem, not as bad as you might believe though. And it is a shame you were not allowed to golf at Torrey. It truly was a surreal experience when I played there.
…not to mention the Panerai store right there that put a crater-sized dent in my bank account (but was worth every penny)
For your next trip, I recommend Hotel Del Coronado the iconic San Diego landmark where “some like it hot” was filmed. Their bar, “Babcock & story” has some good drinks and the Sunday brunch at the Crown Room is legendary. To impress the lady take her to the Marine Room at high tide, or at least for their happy hour, to watch waves crashing right against the glass. For a true San Diego treat, check out Bottlecraft in Little Italy, a unique bottle shop with amazing beer selection (run by a friend from college). Enjoy!
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I stayed at the La Valencia on my first break from college as a freshman on a family trip to La Jolla. I think my brothers and I were the youngest people in the place. The staff couldn’t be better, and the location is perfect. Glad to see that they are keeping up with the times.
Back when I lived in SoCal, I had a girlfriend that would take me to George’s on the Cove every couple weeks for lunch. It was quite nice. She on the other hand, turned out to be not so nice.
I lived in San Diego for a decade in the eighties and once took a colleague to lunch at the La-Vee. I’ll never forget my shock at the tab of $25 per person. This was sharply contrasted with a typical lunch at Jose’s Courtroom across the street for $5 at the time. The clientele also were not comparable:
La Valencia–Middle-aged Euro-touristas and Grandmothers
Jose’s Courtroom–LaJolla High alumni slumming with au pairs, surf nazis, and yuppies.
On my income, it was a no-brainer.
There’s a Panerai store at La V now? Well, it WAS a beautiful place- clearly the neighborhood’s gone downhill.
If you make it back, go just a bit south to Bird Rock. Enjoy a beer and a taco at Don Bravo.
I was born and raised in La Jolla and I’m glad you had a chance to visit our little town. We’re trying hard to resist becoming Beverly Hills south, clinging to our roots as a funky little beach town. Just one that has more than it’s share of Ferraris and Architectural Follies.
Next time you’re there, you need to get breakfast at Harry’s, lunch at El Pescador (the yellowtail sandwich is a winner) and dinner at Reimel’s. (Go during California Spiny Lobster season and get the wood-grilled lobster tacos.)
While you’re there, you’d love the Ascot shop, the haberdashery of choice for the gentlemen of a certain age in La Jolla.
I like the old postcard. Why don’t you see postcards with fancy edges anymore?
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