By J.C. Thomas, Travel Writer
SAN DIEGO, CA — Much like San Diego itself, every element of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar golf resort and spa is eminently appealing. In any season, for every kind of vacation – family fun, a romantic weekend or getaway with friends – the luxury resort and its spectacular surroundings promise perfection. Top among the resort’s notable features are its striking Mediterranean-inspired architecture, 249 plush and spacious guest rooms, a Tom Fazio-designed championship golf course, four heated pools and a range of top-notch dining options.
The experts agree, with the Grand Del Mar receiving Five Stars from Forbes and Five Diamonds from AAA, along with TripAdvisor travelers voting it the No. 1 luxury hotel in California. Further, the Fairmont Grand Del Mar’s signature restaurant, Addison, is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in San Diego, and its Center for Wellbeing is one of only 60 Forbes Five-Star spas in the world.
The Fairmont brand, known for its landmark properties, took over the Grand Del Mar in 2015. While it’s a contemporary resort that first opened in 2007, the Grand Del Mar fits suitably into a lineup starring such historic icons as London’s Savoy, Quebec’s Le Château Frontenac and the original Fairmont atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill. Such stature can be attributed in large part to the resort’s stunning architecture, all the more impressive in its harmony with the adjacent Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve.
I was thrilled to spend two recent days and a night at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. (The resort hosted my family – two adults, two small children – in a Fairmont guest room; all opinions are my own.) At the time of writing we are still amid the Covid-19 pandemic, so I must note the precautions in place. These include mandatory masks, a touchless temperature check for all guests, extensive sanitizing, and hand sanitizer stations throughout the property. All dining has moved outdoors, as have fitness stations and spa treatments.
If you’re comfortable with traveling at this time, are able to do so by car and follow all social distancing requirements, the Fairmont Grand Del Mar is an ideal spot for a luxury getaway. All the employees are vigilant in following protocols, and the property is expansive enough that it’s easy to keep your distance from other guests. With the range of fantastic amenities on site there’s also no need to venture off property – just check in and stay put.
The Fairmont Grand Del Mar makes a fabulous first impression. From the moment you drive through the gates the outside world leaves your view, replaced by lush fairways and immaculate landscaping. Moments down the driveway is the palatial, pinky-terracotta property fronted by a classical fountain. The scene evokes varied old-world inspirations, among them the Moorish palaces of Spain, renaissance Tuscany and the French Riviera, all perfectly in place in this ritzy section of San Diego. Architecture buffs will recognize the source of inspiration as Addison Mizner, the famed architect whose glorious Mediterranean-style resorts transformed South Florida in the 1920s.
The grandeur continues inside the soaring lobby with its classical columns, floors and walls in many hues of marble, along with formal seating areas, a grand piano and sweeping views over the reflection pool. Take some time to wander the resort and take in its exceptional style, a balance of flourish and refinement by way of wrought iron, topiary swirls, red-and-white striped awnings and soothing water features. The overall vibe is of an exclusive, secluded countryside estate. It’s easy to forget you’re so close to San Diego and its countless tourist attractions.
Grand Del Mar Accommodations
Accommodations at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar range from superbly spacious 500-square-foot guest rooms with one king or two queen beds to suites from 1,000 to 2,840 square feet. The resort also offers three-bedroom villa residences. All feature traditional European-style décor – think polished dark wood furnishings, layers of weighty drapes, fancy gold-framed oil paintings and all-marble bathrooms. All rooms and suites at the Grand Del Mar feature a furnished terrace or balcony with views of the grounds, pool or golf course.
The bathroom in our Fairmont room was almost as large as the living space, with room for an extra-deep soaking tub, separate walk-in shower and even a second TV mounted between the mirrors. At the rear is a dressing area with an antique-style hall tree and closet where you’ll find plush robes and slippers. The pillow-top beds are deep enough to reach hip-height, with goose-down pillows and Italian cotton bedding for supreme comfort.
The calming color scheme of taupe and sand tones lets the ornate accents and details shine. Even usually unnoticed areas are attractively enhanced, among them complicated crown moldings, fine metalwork vent covers and custom stitched leather cases for the plug units. Even the spare toilet paper roll is presented in an embroidered drawstring bag. Other features include a huge flat-screen HDTV, two work desks and a wet bar nook with a Nespresso machine.
Grand Del Mar Dining
There is a comprehensive range of onsite dining options at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. (At this time, dining options are affected by pandemic restrictions, so check for up-to-date details.) Addison, the resort’s signature restaurant, earned a coveted Michelin Star for its fine French cuisine. Amaya offers California bistro-style cuisine on its lovely shaded terrace, and also provides the in-room dining menu. Other options include Cent’Anni Café for coffees, light breakfast items and sandwiches; casual poolside dining; the Terrace Lounge for evening refreshments; and the Clubhouse Grill overlooking the 18th green of the Grand Golf Club.
We enjoyed dinner on the terrace at Amaya, as well as breakfast in our room the next day. The dinner menu is a showcase of pristine seasonal, local produce with a nice balance of lighter and more substantial items. We started with a half-dozen oysters, which came with a zingy pink peppercorn mignonette and an herbaceous sea bean salsa verde. The presentation of sweet, briny oysters on a bed of crushed ice strewn with sea beans was quite striking. Our other shared appetizer was from the daily specials list, a salad of butter lettuce with burrata that melded into a creamy dressing. Other tempting options included a summer beet salad with amaranth and horseradish yogurt, and a Channel Island hamachi.
To follow, I opted for the wild mushroom risotto, always a favorite. This one was umami-rich with porcini stock and a confit of cremini mushrooms, and an add-on of plump, expertly seared sea scallops. My husband chose the 52-hour short rib, which came with fermented cabbage and pickled mustard jus. In addition to its sophisticated main menu, Amaya also offers a kid-friendly comfort food menu, and those under 5 eat free. This is a thoughtful way for families to dine together and please all ages, and the comfort food menu has excellent casual offerings for adults too.
Do check out the cocktail list, which features a dozen or so original hand-crafted creations. I can report that “the Birds and the Bees,” a Grey Goose, honey, lemon and soda tipple, is a heady, refreshing treat on a warm evening. The Grand Del Mar also has its own IPA that is excellent. If you have room for dessert, we heartily recommend the super-rich chocolate marquise with berries and coulis.
Breakfast in our room also came courtesy of Amaya. Choices include several decadent Benedicts, including a surf and turf with filet mignon and lobster and a crab Benedict, both with a sauce boat of Hollandaise for custom dousing. The breakfast potatoes are a crispy delight, while an asparagus side is a lighter complement to buttery brioche topped with crab and soft-poached eggs. Our children devoured fluffy pancakes – a certain hit. Adults might prefer the deep-dish Meyer lemon pancakes from the sweeter side of the breakfast menu, or pick a savory item like avocado toast with Iberica ham and Carlsbad strawberries.
Things to do at the Grand Del Mar
Pools – The Fairmont Grand Del Mar has a fantastic pool complex. It comprises three family pools and an adults-only relaxation pool surrounded by large and spacious decks. Groups are led to loungers and provided with fresh towels and drink service, and cabanas are available by reservation. Underwater music is a fun feature.
The Grand Golf Club – the resort’s 18-hole golf course was designed by the legendary Tom Fazio, who worked with dramatic elevation changes to create a stunning, challenging course. Players (resort guests and members only) rave about the ocean breezes, rolling greens and waterfall finish on the 18th. PGA instruction and club and shoe rentals are available.
The Center for Wellbeing – The resort’s award-winning spa, which includes the fitness center, has designed an outdoor experience. A range of massages and other treatments are available. Guests also enjoy access to outdoor gym equipment and can take a complimentary Orangetheory fitness class on the front lawn.
Recreation – The resort also offers tennis courts, and there are three self-guided walking/jogging routes around the perimeter. Ask the concierge for a trail map.
Things to do Nearby
The Fairmont Grand Del Mar is 30 minutes from San Diego, where countless attractions include Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, Old Town, SeaWorld and Cabrillo National Monument. Also close by are Torrey Pines State Park and the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. (Check with individual establishments or the concierge for pandemic-related closures.)
Fairmont Grand Del Mar
5300 Grand Del Mar Court, San Diego, CA 92130
Disclaimer: California News Press and its contributors received goods, services and/or other professional courtesies to facilitate this review. All opinions are those of the author.