Destination Guide: San Diego
There's just something about being in San Diego that makes it hard to stop smiling no matter what's on your scorecard. Why are golfers so happy here? Maybe it's because San Diego is home to over 90 golf courses in every conceivable setting - from oceanfront to desert to mountains. Or that golf is a year-round pursuit with more playable days than anywhere else in the United States. Hailed by Golf Digest as "one of the top 50 golf destinations in the world," host to the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, and home to the annual Farmers Insurance Invitational (formerly known as the Buick Invitational), San Diego is a favorite destination for golf-lovers.
San Diego’s diverse terrain allows golfers the chance to play well-designed links in a variety of stunning settings, from rolling hillsides and canyons to majestic cliffs towering above the Pacific Ocean -all offering spectacular views.
Numerous San Diego courses have been designed by golf luminaries, including Gary Roger Baird, Tom Fazio, Ron Fream, Alister Mackenzie, John Miller, Gary Player, and Ted Robinson. Visitors can find courses with traditional, time-honored layouts, as well as many offering more modern architectural elements.
Where to Stay:
Whether you're looking to stay in a beachfront resort, a luxurious high-rise in the heart of the city, at a secluded bed and breakfast inn or an historic hotel in one of San Diego's best neighborhoods, there is something to suit everyone’s taste and budget. Here are some of our top picks for golfers, including world-class golf resorts as well as unique La Jolla hotels, located just minutes from the best courses.
Rancho Bernardo Inn
The elegant and stylish Rancho Bernardo Inn is the perfect retreat for relaxing after a day on the Rancho Bernardo Inn golf course. The spacious and luxurious guest accommodations offer private patios or balconies overlooking the golf course, many with wood-burning fires. Each room is decorated with custom furniture, warm and inviting colors and luxurious amenities. The resort also boasts a luxury spa, award-winning cuisine and on-site conference center. Rancho Bernardo Inn, nestled in a lush valley amidst a backdrop of mountains, has an ideal location offering sunny weather year-round and is conveniently located just minutes from the San Diego Safari Park and the area’s best attractions and beaches.
The Grand Del Mar
Serenely nestled in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve just five miles from the Pacific coastline, The Grand Del Mar seamlessly combines the old-world charm of a Mediterranean estate with the modern luxury of an elegant resort. The result: a destination lauded by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the “World's Best Places to Stay” and awarded Five Diamond status by AAA. Little wonder, given the sun-drenched climate, stunning natural beauty, luxury guestrooms, championship golf course, four pools, a highly acclaimed spa and six irresistible dining options – epitomized by Addison, Southern California's only five star and five diamond restaurant.
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
The historic Lodge at Torrey Pines is perched atop dramatic cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and adjacent to the 18th green of the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course. The Lodge is a golfer's retreat, and hotel guests have access to coveted tee times on this beautiful, historic and challenging course. The Lodge's Golf Services Department can arrange for tournament groups of 16 to 144 and also offers individual play packages for smaller groups that may be reserved up to 24 months in advance.
The Lodge pays homage to the California Craftsman style of architecture of the early 1900s and is modeled after the Gamble and Blacker houses in Pasadena, California, two of the best examples of early 1900s Craftsman-style architecture. The relaxing and comforting guest rooms have an historic yet contemporary feel of elegance and warmth, featuring custom-designed furniture, leather chaise lounges, Tiffany-style lamps and oil-rubbed bronze fixtures, as well as all the modern high-tech conveniences demanded by today’s travelers.
Guests will also enjoy the full-service spa, two restaurants, and expansive public rooms with fireplaces, large mantelpieces, overstuffed couches, comfortable leather chairs and amazing views of the Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Behind The Lodge is a heated pool with relaxing poolside cabanas, whirlpool, croquet lawn, and a large terrace with chaise lounges for basking in the Southern California sun.
Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines
Overlooking the legendary Torrey Pines Golf Course and the Pacific Ocean just beyond, the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines is one of San Diego's finest Four Diamond hotels and a golfer’s paradise. The hotel is located near the 18th fairway and golfers marvel at the views of the coastline and deep ravines. Nature lovers can spot wildlife and the famous Torrey Pines trees that are indigenous to the area. Let the golf team at the hotel assist you with packages that include amenities such as advanced tee times at the famed course, cart rental and green fees.
The hotel is only minutes from Del Mar, the village of La Jolla, and the area’s best attractions. Guests will also enjoy the newly renovated, luxurious guest rooms which boast private balconies or patios with panoramic views of the gardens, golf course or ocean horizon.
Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa
Situated on 9.5 acres of a former equestrian estate, Estancia offers modern luxury in a naturally serene setting on the cliffs above La Jolla. Conveniently located between La Jolla and Del Mar just south of the Torrey Pines Golf Course, the hotel is just a short drive from San Diego’s attractions, beaches, and shopping. Estancia is the perfect place to unwind, with elegantly appointed guestrooms and suites, three distinct restaurants and bars, full-service spa and a heated courtyard pool with poolside cabanas.
La Valencia Hotel
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean since 1926, this historic boutique hotel offers a tradition of elegance and unparallel service. Situated atop La Jolla Cove, it is just steps from beaches, museums, shopping, galleries and golf. La Valencia Hotel, The Pink Lady of La Jolla, is well known for its distinctive pink exterior as well as its beautiful courtyards, hand-painted murals, and exquisite Spanish mosaics that evoke old-world charm. La Valencia has retained many of the original rooms and characteristics that have established her as the place to stay in La Jolla. The charming guest rooms, suites and ocean villas are richly appointed with custom furnishings, luxury textiles and warm tropical hues. Some rooms also offer balconies for enjoying the spectacular La Jolla coastal views.
The Grande Colonial-La Jolla
Ideally situated in the seaside village of La Jolla, The Grande Colonial-La Jolla combines historic charm with contemporary amenities and services. Built in 1913 as the Colonial Apartment and Hotel, it was a trailblazer in its day. Its original whitewood-framed building was the first lodging facility in downtown La Jolla and saw today’s tourist town grow around it. The hotel combines original architectural charm with upgrades of modern luxury that do not distract from the integrity of its 1913 beach resort construction. Commanding views of the California coastline, this 2009 AAA Four Diamond Award winner features newly renovated guest rooms and suites (some with fully-equipped kitchens and fireplaces) and the award-winning NINE-TEN Restaurant. The Grande Colonial-La Jolla is within walking distance of beaches, world-class shopping, dining and entertainment and is just a short drive from a an abundance of golf, recreation and visitor attractions.
La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club
The La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club has been one of San Diego’s most treasured oceanfront resorts since 1935 and boasts its own private beach. Guests experience the charm of the past combined with modern day luxuries and amenities set amidst an incredible beachfront setting. The hotel offers standard guest rooms as well as one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, some of which offer private bedrooms, a separate living area and full kitchen. Peace and rejuvenation are just steps away as a private beach is literally at the doorstep of many rooms. Also enjoy the perks of beach activities such as kayaking and surf lessons, and the resort life of on-site pool, championship tennis, par-3 golf, massage services, and award-winning dining at The Marine Room.
Where to Dine:
With hundreds of restaurants and every type of cuisine imaginable, San Diego offers something for individual tastes and all price ranges. From modest takeout establishments to four-star dining rooms, you'll find great food at every turn. Whether you’re in the mood for casual fish tacos, romantic oceanfront dining, local farm-to-plate fare, or authentic ethnic cuisine, you won’t have to venture far. Here are a few of our favorite spots that are just perfect for a leisurely meal after a day on the golf course.
After hitting the links at the Rancho Bernardo Inn golf course, enjoy award-winning cuisine at Rancho Bernardo Inn’s El Bizcocho, recently named the Critic's Choice for "Best of the Best" by San Diego Magazine and voted the city's highest-rated restaurant by the Zagat Survey. Special tasting menus showcase the modern French fare and contemporary California cuisine and are paired with wines from their 1,600 label list. The restaurant also offers Sunday brunch, afternoon tea, and other special food events throughout the year.
Conveniently located in The Grand Del Mar's luxuriously appointed Clubhouse is the resort’s signature restaurant, Addison, featuring acclaimed Chef William Bradley’s artisanal approach to contemporary French cuisine. A seasonal, four-course menu using local ingredients pairs with the highly lauded wine list from Wine Director Jesse Rodriguez to create Southern California's only five star and five diamond restaurant. The dining room features an elegant, European ambiance and magnificent arched windows offering beautiful views of the resort’s golf course.
A.R. Valentien, the signature restaurant at The Lodge at Torrey Pines, serves contemporary cuisine in an elegant timbered room overlooking the 18th hole of Torrey Pines Golf Course. The restaurant is a tribute to Southern California heritage and Craftsman architecture and the decor also includes an exhibit of original Valentien early 1900's artworks and personal memorabilia from the artist's studio and distinguished career in San Diego. Chef Jeff Jackson’s menu, featuring prime aged steaks, seafoods, pastas, and fine wines, draws inspiration from the best local provisions available each season and changes regularly depending on produce offered at local farmers markets and from small growers, ranchers and fishermen.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
Located in Escondido (just minutes from Rancho Bernardo’s golf courses), Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens is famous for making some of the best beers in the world and is a culinary adventure not to be missed. The restaurant features several dramatic elements, including a huge 23 foot high by 42 foot wide window wall that looks to the company's brewery vessels on one side, and on the other side an even larger 23 foot high by 71 foot wide dramatic slanted expanse of glass looking out to the patio and beer garden to the north. The restaurant specializes in locally grown, small-farm ingredients and features an eclectic menu of delicious world-inspired cuisine with a unique take on comfort food. There are 32 craft and specialty beers on tap as well as an extensive wine list. After your meal, take the tour of the on-site brewery (including beer tastings of course!) and visit the brewery shop.
Arterra Restaurant, Bar & Outdoor Lounge
Located at the Marriott Del Mar, Arterra is a can’t-miss dining destination. The culinary team brings to life the seasonal bounty of San Diego's finest farm-fresh product at the peak of each season while staying true to Arterra's “art of the earth” philosophy. Produce, meats, poultry, fish, game and other products are harvested or hand-selected by local ranchers, farmers and fishermen everyday exclusively for Arterra. The restaurant’s signature exhibition kitchen displays an obstructed view of chefs at work so guests may delight in seeing these delicious dishes from start to finish. While the cuisine will attract epicureans, the new outdoor lounge complete with poolside cabanas, plasma screens, and three fire pits is sure to be a hit with all guests. Offering a selection of fresh, seasonal cocktails and a delectable menu of California small bites, the lounge is an ideal destination for enjoying the beautiful San Diego weather.
Pacifica Del Mar
Experience award-winning coastal cuisine and stunning views in one of San Diego's most sought-after ocean view restaurants. Pacifica Del Mar's dramatic setting is a canvas for the highly acclaimed seafood cuisine, which has been awarded the prestigious Gold Medallion for "Best Seafood Dining in San Diego" and the "Award of Excellence" by Wine Spectator. A striking view of the Pacific Ocean is served alongside tempting selections of fresh seafood, steak, and pasta.
George’s at the Cove
Very simply, George’s at the Cove is for people who believe in enjoying the San Diego lifestyle to its fullest, including taking time to have a great meal in a great setting, with a spectacular ocean view and people that make you feel relaxed and comfortable. To top if off, there are three distinctly different ways to enjoy George's.
GEORGE'S CALIFORNIA MODERN:
If you want a sophisticated but casual experience with innovative, contemporary food at its peak of freshness, a memorable evening awaits, with an ever-changing, highly seasonal menu from one of San Diego’s most admired chefs, Trey Foshee.
OCEAN TERRACE & BAR:
When you want to eat outdoors, there’s no better place than the Ocean Terrace. That’s why it’s consistently voted “San Diego’s Most Popular restaurant” by ZAGAT. Whether you choose one of the many tables overlooking the Pacific, or just grab a seat at the bar, you’ll find the casual bistro menu perfect for a relaxed Southern California lunch or dinner.
With panoramic views of La Jolla Cove, George's Bar has balcony and indoor seating with the same menu as the Ocean Terrace. Whether you choose to dine for lunch or dinner, or just hang out and enjoy a signature cocktail at sunset, you'll find that conversation flows easy in this little piece of paradise.
Brockton Villa Restaurant
Brockton Villa is a true California original. The charming beach cottage dates back to 1894 and overlooks the world famous La Jolla Cove. Today, it is one the region’s most notable dining destinations, celebrated as much for its cuisine as for its views of epic ocean sunsets. With fresh seasonal menus and entrees prepared fresh for every order, Brockton Villa is a family-owned oceanfront restaurant dedicated to delighting your eyes as well as your palate.
This cozy café located in downtown Del Mar serves all-American food with a sophisticated twist for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The casual eatery is a popular spot amongst locals and is a must-try spot for visitors. Geranium-splashed outdoor patios welcome diners to eat a leisurely meal while socializing and people-watching. Make sure to stroll up and down the streets of historic Del Mar before or after your meal at Americana and browse the collection of unique shops, galleries and boutiques.
What to Do:
Spa at Rancho Bernardo Inn
Voted “Best Spa in North America” by Condé Nast Traveler magazine readers in 2008, the world-class Spa at Rancho Bernardo Inn is an oasis of relaxation. Unique among San Diego resort spas, the Spa Garden features treatment casitas, soothing water features, hydro spa, and relaxation area. Experience the outdoor treatment cabanas, where even the perfect weather can’t compete with temperature controls and a view of the new 2,500-square-foot saline spa pool. Surrounded by manicured gardens and seven cabanas, poolside is perfect for lounging or enjoying lunch after a spa treatment. The Spa also offers a full range of unique treatments, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and themed spa packages.
The Spa at The Grand Del Mar
The Spa at The Grand Del Mar is a luxurious haven, recently recognized as Spa magazine's “Favorite New U.S. Spa”. The Spa embraces the creative and rejuvenating spirit of the Renaissance, evidenced by the opulent interiors complete with crystal glass tiles and Carrera marble. Guests can enjoy European-style wet rooms, indoor whirlpools, fitness center, salon, luxurious relaxation rooms and a relaxation pool. The Spa’s movement studio offers resort guests a full range of complimentary classes, such as yoga, Pilates and spinning, and additional offsite fitness activities, among them hiking, biking and outdoor classes in the beautiful Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, are also available. Gleaning resources from the adjacent Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, a natural wonderland replete with an abundance of flora and fauna, the spa experts designed exclusive treatments to reconnect clients with enriching elements of the earth: warm mineral muds and clays, native herbs, soothing stones and calming botanicals.
The Spa at Torrey Pines
Located beside a world-renowned nature preserve and its forest of rare pine trees, The Spa at Torrey Pines celebrates La Jolla's coastal freshness. Central to the spa experience are treatments utilizing marine and botanical-based products, reflecting its location on the coast. Sage, known for its purifying and detoxifying properties, is used in The Spa's signature treatment, a Coastal Sage Scrub. In addition to the 14 treatment rooms, there are three lounges, dry saunas, aromatherapy inhalation rooms and herbal-infused steam rooms, and a fitness room. Group classes such as yoga, meditation, and mat Pilates are often offered outdoors on a wide grassy stretch overlooking the Torrey Pines Golf Course and Pacific Ocean beyond. An outdoor grand-scale pool and whirlpool take advantage of the year-round temperate weather and beautiful views.
Known as the “Rodeo Drive of San Diego,” Prospect Street in La Jolla is famous for its collection of designer boutiques, diverse art galleries and ocean view dining. The range of storefronts is dazzling. From high-end galleries and designer apparel to charming boutiques and antique shops, you'll be tempted by countless opportunities to bring a piece of La Jolla home with you.
Del Mar Plaza is a collection of fine shops, restaurants and services set in a European marketplace and located in the heart of historic Del Mar Village. Over thirty merchants offer unique clothing, accessories, fine art, ocean view dining and pampering, all set against the backdrop of the gorgeous Pacific coast.
The Grand Del Mar is turning Del Mar into a favorite new spot for nightlife with the opening of its brand new, on-site Club M experience. Part restaurant, part nightclub and part sports bar, Club M offers an eclectic blend of entertainment that’s bound to engage. Hear live music, dance, watch your favorite sporting events, sip a round of cocktails with friends and enjoy both casual and exotic fare, courtesy of Chef Ernest Lopez. Every Thursday through Saturday, live performers will grace the stage, ranging from jazz standards and lounge tunes to indie and classic rock, followed by dance music from guest DJs.
Located at the Marriott Del Mar, Arterra Restaurant, Bar & Outdoor Lounge features an outdoor lounge complete with poolside cabanas, plasma screens, and three fire pits. Come for happy hour, live sports, poolside cocktails, delicious food, and dance music from the area’s hottest DJs.
Belly Up Tavern
The legendary Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach has been voted “San Diego’s Best Live Music Venue” and heralded as “one of the hottest live music venues on the West Coast” by Rolling Stone magazine. The Belly Up brings the best in new, up-and-coming artists as well as established legends with genres ranging from alternative rock, rock, reggae, and hip-hop to blues, folk, jazz, Latin and more. Over the past few years, Belly Up's line-up has included notable acts like Death Cab for Cutie, Maroon 5, Black Eyed Peas, Blink 182, Etta James, Gwen Stephani, Ben Folds, Jack Johnson, Bo Diddley, Ben Harper, Aimee Mann and many more. The venue offers an intimate environment (600 seat capacity), as well as free coat check, free parking, ins and outs, reasonable bar prices, and affordable ticket prices.
La Jolla, Spanish for “The Jewel,” lives up to its name as one of San Diego’s most treasured coastal retreats. Characteristic of its natural beauty and dramatic ocean views, the coastal community contains grassy high bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, an underwater ecological preserve, and natural sea caves.
La Jolla Cove offers a cliffside coast walk, a sheltered cove for swimming, and parks for picnics. It is one of the most photographed beaches in the area, due to its extraordinary setting tucked beneath sandstone cliffs. The cove is within walking distance of downtown La Jolla.
La Jolla Shores is a long, flat beach ideal for families and surfers. The beach is approximately one mile long and stretches from the sea cliffs just north of La Jolla Cove to Black's Beach south of Torrey Pines State Park. The beach is a popular launch point for kayakers as it is one of the only beach boat launches in the La Jolla area. Once recognized by The Travel Channel as one of the most family-friendly beaches in San Diego County, it is fronted by an accessible boardwalk separating the beach from a large grassy park ideal for picnicking and volleyball games. Nearby local businesses include surf schools, scuba, kayak, and bike rentals, and a fun array of dining options.
Best known for its surf breaks created by underwater reef and beautiful scenery, Windansea beach in La Jolla is an ideal location for surfing or watching the sun set over the Pacific. The hard breaking surf at the shoreline and secluded atmosphere created by sandstone rocks provide a tranquil setting.
OTHER ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS
Uncovered daily with the rise and fall of ocean tides, La Jolla’s tide pools are one of the most diverse ecological marine systems that are best viewed during a low tide. With low tides typically occurring early to late morning during summer months, visitors can start their day by exploring tide pools at Shell Beach where they can observe some of La Jolla’s most delicate marine life in their natural habitat including sea stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and mussels.
After being immersed in the ocean and coming face-to-face with marine life, visitors can learn about oceanography at Birch Aquarium. The aquarium showcases marine creatures in all stages of life with educational interactive exhibits that explore the ocean world. While there, be sure not to miss the informative feeding demonstration during the aquarium’s kelp tank dive.
Torrey Pines State Park is a 1750 acre reserve dedicated to preserving its namesake, the Torrey Pine tree (which grows only here) and other indigenous wildlife in its native environment. The reserve contains a variety of hiking trails leading to and from Torrey Pines State Beach and along the rocky, jagged cliffs that provide dramatic and breathtaking views overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can partake in a guided nature walk or interactive educational presentations at the reserve’s Visitor Center.
Aerial adrenaline junkies should head straight for the Torrey Pines Gliderport, where glider planes, hang gliders and para-gliders launch themselves off the bluffs. Lessons, tandem rides and gear are available on-site. Or, take the plunge with one of San Diego's professional skydiving centers.
At the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego La Jolla, visitors can view rotating exhibitions and the outdoor sculpture garden, featuring Nancy Rubins’ gravity-defying sculpture work, Pleasure Point. Take in the fabulous ocean view from the Miles Terrace or lunch on the patio at the Museum Cafe. The museum is the region’s foremost forum devoted to the exploration and presentation of the art of our time, presenting works across all media created since 1950.
The Del Mar Racetrack is an American Thoroughbred horse racing track at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in the seaside city of Del Mar. Operated by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, it is known for the slogan, "Where The Surf Meets The Turf,” and was built by a partnership including Bing Crosby, the actor Pat O'Brien, Jimmy Durante, Charles S. Howard and Oliver Hardy. Each year, the track opens their 37-day summer racing season in July to crowds upwards of 40,000 people. The Del Mar Races have become a highly anticipated annual event featuring daily races, big wins, contests, and live music.
A visit to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (near Rancho Bernardo and Escondido) is a safari into adventure. Featuring huge open enclosures with herds of African and Asian animals, the Park is a unique experience that brings people thrillingly close to wild and endangered animals. The Journey into Africa tour brings visitors to eye level with animals such as white rhinoceroses, giraffes, Cape buffalo, Roosevelt’s gazelles, African crowned cranes and more. There are also some new, more adventurous ways to explore the Park, including the Segway Rolling Safari Tour or the Flightline zipline adventure.
WINERIES & BREWERIES
Located in Escondido (just minutes from Rancho Bernardo’s golf courses), Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens is famous for making some of the best beers in the world. The restaurant specializes in locally grown, small-farm ingredients and features an eclectic menu of delicious world-inspired cuisine with a unique take on comfort food. There are 32 craft and specialty beers on tap as well as an extensive wine list. Try a taster sampler of the brewery’s beers, take a tour of the on-site brewery (including beer tastings of course!) and visit the brewery shop for unique gifts.
Located on land that was originally a Spanish grant, Bernardo Winery is one of the oldest continuously operating wineries in California, established in 1889. The winery is located in Rancho Bernardo and features a tasting room, café, beautiful garden surroundings, a collection of shops offering unique gifts, and live jazz on weekends.
Winner of 1,300 medals since 1994, Orfila Vineyards is situated near the San Diego Safari Park and offers daily wine tastings, self-guided tours, gift shop and picnic areas.