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In the high-end community of Carmel Mountain, nestled on several sprawling acres of perfect golf greens, is the Doubletree Golf Resort. If you're looking for luxury, the polo and white shorts company, and a camplike retreat from the city, look no further. The half-museum, half-lobby entrance is pristine and eloquently decorated in the same fashion I imagine many of the guests' homes are: with modern furniture that looks like you shouldn't touch it, classy black and cream colors, and a golf cart on display. The room was surprisingly, well, enormous, with peaceful views of the golf course between sweeping willow branches. The pub/bistro is quite impressive, with a separate bar area or tables where you can order a variety of burgers, sandwiches, or salads - try the buttermilk parmesan chicken served with jalapeno cheese corn bread. YUM. And my favorite place, as a non-golfer, was probably the fitness center: complete with a tennis court, two swimming pools (one with roped off lap aisles), plenty of poolside chairs and tables for reading, working, or partying; and a little gym with machines. Beneath the shade of enormous trees, I honestly felt like I was back at summer camp.
Think of a hostel with added perks, the look of a hotel, and the unbeatable location of San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, and you've got 500 West. Stepping inside, it almost looks like a museum or even an old college dorm building. There's a cool, dim lobby with stone floors and a fireplace, a smattering of sofas and armchairs, and an impressive YMCA gym connected to the hostel. The rooms are small and cozy, but not like a youth hostel where 6-10 people share; I believe the max is 4 to a room (though bathrooms are detached and communal). When I opened the room window, I loved that I got a fresh breeze from the bay and not the smoggy downtown gunk you'd get in LA or another big city. The cute detached wardrobe made the room feel homey, while a little flatscreen TV is a pleasant surprise. Maria, the housekeeping manager who has worked at the hotel for 19 years, told me that it feels like home - and to stay on the 6th floor, because "it's much quiet than the others."
It is difficult to find a budget option in San Diego while still staying somewhat central, and not finding yourself in a slummy hole-in-the-wall with dirty beds. This Howard Johnson is a pleasant little contradiction - located in the heart of Hotel Circle, only a short drive from Sea World and the beach communities of Point Loma and Ocean Beach, it's also clean, well-equipped, and comfortable. Start off the morning with cereal, pastries, and coffee in the breakfast room (included in the rate), take a dip in the pool, or have a gander at the interesting comic book hero statue in the lobby. The room was surprisingly big for a budget hotel (with clean, soft beds), and a microwave and refrigerator were awesome bonuses.
I normally like Hampton Inns, but this one is especially memorable. The manager at the front desk was ready with a smile and warm welcome when I arrived, which instantly placed me at ease after dealing with Carlsbad rush hour. The hotel seemed to reflect the relaxed, beachside luxury attitude Carlsbad exudes. I was a little surprised at the lackluster pool ambience - it's private and quiet, but the plastic chairs seemed out of place among the rest of the decor. However, the breakfast absolutely made up for it: a sprawling continental, including a "to-go" option of feed bags! And all for free, which definitely widened my eyes in surprise. The bed was ridiculously plush and comfortable, and I loved that they include a lap desk so you can sit in bed with your laptop and watch TV. And if you need a distraction-free environment, the work desk is huge! Best of all: microwaves and refrigerators, even in the standard rooms. Win.
I have to admit: I didn't know what to expect of the Oceanside Marina Suites, but I was (more than) pleasantly surprised at my experience. Oceanside carries a bit of a seedy reputation, but this hotel is situated at the end of the marina, right along the shorefront, and impressed me far beyond my expectations. First off, the manager on duty, Lana, was the friendliest and sweetest member of a hotel staff I think I've ever met. She proudly showed us the newly renovated suite with surprise and excitement, as she hadn't seen that wing since they'd renovated. The suite was wonderfully comfortable, decorated and designed just like an apartment home or townhome, with warm modern colors and little touches like a Marilyn Monroe painting, cozy fireplace, and mahogany furniture. The bedroom even had a sliding closet door and dresser, making me feel like I was staying in someone's house. There is no air-conditioning, but trust me, you won't need it: the cool ocean breeze will refresh the entire suite, even in the dead of summer. And the wide open pool deck is perfect for lounging around with a front row view of the ocean: without the salt or sand.
Simple and comfortable, this Best Value Inn exudes a country-style charm. The windows in the room were high, but that added to the coziness of the enclosure, while the armoire around the somewhat old-fashioned TV made me feel like I was at Grandma's house. The elderly manager is sweet and kind, and though the lobby is small, there is a free computer - and they serve breakfast on the little shelves, complete with bagels, fruit, hot cocoa, and tea! Just enough to start you off on your day in San Diego.
Clean, simple, and basic, Carlsbad's Rodeway Inn is a convenient choice if you want to visit some of the town's claims to fame - like Legoland, the Flower Fields, or even the outlet shops. The laundry room was a plus, and I personally liked that the entire hotel is smoke-free. For a small hotel, I was surprised that they served coffee and croissants for breakfast - and despite the location being right off the 1-5 freeway (convenient travel-wise), it was surprisingly quiet inside the room.
I fell in love with this resort - and could easily have spent much more time here. First off, Carlsbad is the best place to stay if you're going to be in North County - you can hop right onto the 5 and get downtown in 20-30 minutes. It's a luxurious beach town, high-end and "oh so fabulous," but without being snotty -- and I felt that was how the Pacific Palisades was as well. The lobby is gorgeous, with modern black accents on the furniture and staircases, and you almost feel as though you are in someone's beachside mansion. The deck outside the main hotel is even better: an enormous swimming pool, bedecked with lounge chairs, umbrellas, and cabanas, a barbecue, fire pit, and stunning view of the next-door Carlsbad Flower Fields, and beyond them, the Pacific Ocean. The southern California sunshine is intoxicating out there, and you could spend the entire day in poolside bliss. (In the suites wing of the hotel, the pool is enclosed by a jungle style theme, with tented cabana canopies available for rent and a kids' play/splash area.) The breakfast is so big you don't know what to do with it, the gym is the biggest hotel gym I've ever seen (with wide open windows that let in fresh air, instead of a stuffy underground one), and the showerheads are pulsating rain shower delights. But my favorite part of this already awesome hotel? The Redbox knock-off DVD rental kiosk. Why hasn't EVERY hotel thought of that?
Modern meets just plain cool. I was fully impressed with this hotel: from the in-room Wolfgang Puck coffee to the flatscreen expanded-cable TV, the Crabtree & Evelyn amenities (call me crazy, but I don't fancy the cheap, sterile brand shampoos that strip my hair) down to the incredible island-themed pool. There are plenty of chairs, sofas, and loveseats on which to lounge or work in the gorgeous lobby (I loved the sweeping staircase) - or pop into Panini's and try one of their oven-baked pizzas while you work or socialize. You can buy snacks, ice cream, or essentials in the little lobby shop - even beer! Big win. Best of all, however, was the stunning view of rows and rows of palm trees, brilliant blue sky, and the intoxicating San Diego sunshine outside the room window. Le sigh.
"Try it, it's better than it looks." My mom used that to try and persuade me to eat various mystery foods when I was growing up, and she was usually wrong about the "better" part. However, I'm going to use her adage in this case and apply it to Sommerset. On the outside, it has a plain and deceptive facade. Parking in the garage below the hotel, you might start to wonder about the hotel's integrity and perhaps suspect a bit of sketchiness. But ride the elevator up one floor to the lobby, where you are beamed at and warmly welcomed by a smiling staff, and your eyebrows rise in surprise as a grin spreads across your face involuntarily. The manager of this hotel is delightful, and will help you find your way around San Diego and answer any question you have. The breakfast room is reminiscent of a Hilton or Hyatt, with a surprising spread every morning -- for FREE. And the best part is that all the rooms are suites, so you can dine in, with your fully-equipped kitchenette , or dine out in the San Diego cuisine scene. (And if you do dine in, head down to the poolside courtyard with a glass of wine after dinner. The tables and lights make a nice intimate setting at night.)
Despite my hesitation to ever use the word "cute," I have to admit this hotel fits the bill. It's perfectly sandwiched between the beach bum town of OB and the beach itself, meaning you can step right outside and go surfing, swimming, or tanning, or stroll along the eclectic promenade filled with street performers, sidewalk artists, or OB's Friday night market. It's in the midst of hustle and bustle, but the friendly receptionist will whisk you away to the privacy of a casual, cozy little room that reminded me of the beach house where I used to spend summers as a kid. And the courtyard is the piece de resistance - with glass walls that separate you from the noisy crowds on the sidewalk while still allowing you to enjoy the ocean in the evening -- and the fairy lights strung overhead light the place up with charm.
Not worth considering. Look elsewhere for Oceanside hotels if you need a budget accommodation that won't make you feel uncomfortable about your safety.
The Fallbrook Rodeway Inn is a lovely little inn in the heart of Fallbrook, just off one of the main drags through town. Somehow, it still manages to keep peace onsite, and having a quiet place to stay while still enjoying the luxury of nearby shops and restaurants is every guest's goal. (I think) the hotel is family-owned: the desk clerk was inviting and friendly, and her young son was adorable (and well-behaved.) The room had a private balcony with a nice little view and a chair from which to enjoy it, and the warmly-painted walls add a homey coziness to the room, especially when the weather is less than stellar. Enjoy a continental breakfast in the lobby - though right next to the front desk, the lobby is quiet and the cute little iron chairs and tables give it character.
This inn is a lovely little hideaway in Fallbrook, eloquently reminiscent of the town's country feel. Set up on a hill off one of the main drags through town, it's the perfect combination of convenience and privacy when you want to get away without falling off the grid. The rooms are cozy and comfortable, warmly decorated, and almost reminded me of "Grandma's attic" with their bed quilts, high vaulted ceilings, and clawed-feet chairs. You can also get free breakfast until 9:30 and enjoy a soak in the heated outdoor spa in the evenings. But be warned: pets are strictly forbidden, and the staff does random room inspections to enforce this.