The Best Boutique Hotels in San Diego

September 28, 2022

Tablet is your source for discovering the world’s most exciting boutique hotels — places where you’ll find a memorable experience, not just a room for the night. For over twenty years we’ve scoured the earth, evaluating hotels for every taste and budget, creating a hand-picked selection that’s proven and unforgettable. Now, we’re the official hotel selection of the legendary MICHELIN Guide.

Here are the top 10 boutique hotels in San Diego, California.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines

Designed in a remarkably authentic Arts and Crafts style, and patterned after some of Greene and Greene’s historic Pasadena houses, the Lodge at Torrey Pines shows a respect for history that’s rare on the prefabricated Southern California coastline. And all the more impressive is the fact that despite the century-old look, it’s brand new; this hotel was completed in 2002, and hewed strictly to traditional tongue and groove methods of craftsmanship, as well as modern building regulations.

The Lodge at Torrey Pines
The Lodge at Torrey Pines

The site, as well, is something to behold—adjacent to the Torrey Pines State Reserve, the hotel sits on a bluff overlooking a rocky coastline, surrounded by stands of pine trees and acres of sagebrush and sandstone. You’re just north of La Jolla, and just south of Del Mar, with the hotel’s cars available to chauffeur you to destinations in town; yet within the resort’s grounds, the feeling of seclusion is nearly total.

Pendry San Diego

The Montage resorts are known for their no-expense-spared luxury and for their near-total seclusion from their surroundings. Which makes their brand-new line of Pendry hotels a fairly dramatic departure. The first one, the Pendry San Diego, is an urban boutique hotel, through and through — from the loft-apartment styling in its guest rooms to the six restaurants and bars, all of them intended not just to serve hotel guests but to tempt the locals who frequent the city’s Gaslamp dining and nightlife district. And while it’s no bargain-basement operation, it’s rather more affordable than its Montage cousins, to suit a wider and perhaps more youthful audience.

Pendry San Diego
Pendry San Diego

You’ll still get a luxurious experience, with custom furnishings, Fili D’oro linens, MiN New York bath products, 50-inch televisions, and Bluetooth sound systems, whether you’re in a standard Superior room or a 1,500-square-foot Luxury Suite. There’s a fairly expansive spa as well — if it’s not quite as large as a full-scale Montage spa, it’s certainly above and beyond the ordinary city boutique. And the common spaces are what really make the Pendry, from dinner at Lionfish, helmed by one of San Diego’s most promising young chefs, to posh cocktail bars Fifth & Rose and the Oxford Social Club. And if your Southern California experience is limited to Los Angeles, you’ll be delighted to find out that San Diego is compact, even walkable — the Gaslamp District has most of what you need, and is close by to everything else.

The US Grant, A Luxury Collection Hotel

Lately San Diego has stepped up its act insofar as providing urbane boutique accommodations for a new, younger breed of sophisticated tourists, as well as the throngs of sun-seeking Midwestern convention-goers who make up a goodly part of the downtown action. The US Grant remains stalwartly indifferent to this current foray through its sheer historical gravity. Actually built by Ulysses S. Grant Jr. in 1910, this is one of those hotels that intended to put San Diego on the map, but instead created its own zip code. In short, it’s a Beaux Arts castle, rich in lore and fable, though thankfully not tweed or toile.

The US Grant, A Luxury Collection Hotel
The US Grant, A Luxury Collection Hotel

Thanks to an award-winning overhaul in 2006, and expert management by the Starwood Luxury Collection, the current incarnation of the Grant matches both the grandeur of the building and the globally seasoned traveler’s eye. Rooms and suites are supremely comfortable, finished in neutral colors with a punch of robin’s egg blue. On-site spa services add another level of luxury with a bevy of in-room treatments. To keep things from getting too sedate, the popular Grant Grill serves up a stylish atmosphere that’s perhaps a bit more Old Hollywood than new San Diego — here you’ll be put in mind more of Cary Grant than of old Ulysses.

Rancho Bernardo Inn

Twenty-five minutes north of San Diego in the San Pasqual Valley, the Rancho Bernardo Inn offers the sort of secluded and tranquil experience that’s hard to come by in overbuilt and hyperactive Southern California. Still, this is no austere eco-retreat; focusing on top-notch recreation facilities and fine dining, Rancho Bernardo is rather more like a country club with a full-service luxury hotel attached.

Rancho Bernardo Inn
Rancho Bernardo Inn

As for style, though, it’s anything but the anonymous golf-resort standard—here, whitewashed stucco walls, exposed ceiling beams and Moorish-via-Spain columns and archways mark the public spaces, and guest rooms are rich and elegant in browns and whites, meticulously decorated and looking more like residential interiors than hotel rooms.

Tower 23

Poor overlooked San Diego — not even California’s second city, it’s long been overshadowed by Los Angeles, San Francisco, maybe even Orange County. Of late, however, overlooking San Diego means overlooking some ever more stylish hotels — Tower 23, for example, would turn heads even in the fashion-forward L.A. scene.

Tower 23
Tower 23

Don’t go imagining some kind of Tokyo-style skyscraper hotel. Despite the name, Tower 23 is no high-rise — this 44-room compound is named after a lifeguard tower on Pacific Beach. Inside it’s more fashionista than beach bum, however, with the sort of pared-down minimalist décor we’re more accustomed to seeing in Hollywood or Miami.

Solamar San Diego

Located in the booming Gaslamp quarter, nightlife and entertainment district that’s driven San Diego’s city-center renaissance, Hotel Solamar is a funky yet accessible boutique hotel that’s suited for business travelers, vacationing families, baseball fans, and would-be hipsters, all in equal measure. The interiors are just stylish enough, never off-putting, in playful browns and blues, furnished in a manner that’s contemporary but short of avant-garde.

Solamar San Diego
Solamar San Diego

In terms of comforts the Solamar comes out ahead of the average design boutique: rooms are spacious, beds robust and plush, desks more than functional, bathrooms modern and well-equipped. Like all the best American boutique hotels the Solamar is dog-friendly to the extreme, and humans aren’t neglected either — there’s a rooftop pool and a 24-hour fitness center.

La Valencia

Perched on a cliffside in La Jolla, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, La Valencia has been the grand dame of the San Diego area since 1926, its pink stucco walls and mediterranean-style terraces playing host to Hollywood's biggest stars from the silent era to the present. There are more modern hotels in La Jolla, but there are no others with the history an elegance of La Valencia.

La Valencia
La Valencia

Besides the striking Spanish villa look of the place, La Valencia is notable for its exclusive feel — the location, though easily accessible from San Diego, feels secluded, like a private resort. The hotel is known for its high standard of service, balancing attention and privacy — the new Ocean Villas offer full butler service, a rarity in laid-back Southern California.

Estancia La Jolla

Estancia La Jolla started out as a horse ranch back in the 1880s, and at least in the broad strokes, the aesthetics really haven’t changed all that much. It’s a sprawling ten-acre estate, with low-slung, Spanish colonial–style buildings wrapped around sunny open-air courtyards, and grounds positively bursting with native flora. What has changed rather substantially is the level of comfort on offer, for beneath those classic red-tile roofs and behind those sun-drenched stucco walls are some rather spacious, richly appointed guest rooms and suites — plus a set of excellent restaurants, a massive spa and business facilities that stop just short of conducting your business for you.

Estancia La Jolla
Estancia La Jolla

Though the look is classic, it was only in 2004 that the estate was converted into a resort. The resulting rooms are airy and fresh in that particular California-coast sort of way, and have patios or balconies to help make the most of all the fresh air. The linens come with a provenance (Turkish cotton by way of Italy), the bath products have surnames attached (Gilchrist & Soames), and the furnishings, including wingback reading chairs and leather ottomans, simply complete the picture. It’s all naturally infused with the scents of the native herbs and aromatic plants outside — rosemary, sage, lavender and thyme planted amidst the 600 citrus, eucalyptus and pine trees. (Someone, presumably, has kept count.)

Grande Colonial La Jolla

It’s been a local fixture since 1913, back when the hotelier who built the place still had to be a little starry-eyed to believe that a grand European-style hotel could survive in a humble seaside hamlet like La Jolla. Today, of course, La Jolla is no longer a humble seaside hamlet, the charms of its beaches well-known, its famous ocean-side golf course (Torrey Pines) a golfer’s fantasy, its art and theater scenes all out of scale, in the right way, with the size of the town. And as La Jolla grew up around it, the hotel matured, too. Over the years it has undergone more renovations than we can count, each one adding another layer of polish, yet never distracting from the elegant, old-fashioned luxury hotel that the Grande Colonial has always been.

Grande Colonial La Jolla
Grande Colonial La Jolla

French doors, chandeliers, a crackling fire in the gorgeous lobby: this is the stuff the Grande Colonial is made of. The rooms are furnished in similarly classic style, with rich fabrics and a palette of beiges, creams and golds that comes off especially well when bathed in coastal California sunlight. For every nod to tradition, however, there’s a reminder that the hoteliers have been intent on keeping the place up to date. Small details like complimentary wi-fi that works all throughout the property (so you can check email by the pool, if you must), goose-down pillows and comforters, and Keurig coffee machines all make it as comfortable a hotel for a 21st-century business traveler as it would have been for the Hollywood stars who hid out here in years past.

The Pearl

It’s an apt name for a hotel like this. The Pearl, in contrast with the rather more ostentatious boutique hotels of San Diego’s Gaslamp district, stands on Rosecrans, on the other side of the airport — the better to avoid the stretch Escalades and valet stands, one supposes. But in these inauspicious surroundings (that’s the oyster part, if you don’t mind indulging the metaphor) is a pleasant surprise: a classic, terribly dated and kitschy mid-century motel, renovated and reimagined as a pocketbook-friendly boutique hotel, the sort of place that’s full of vibrant young people enjoying themselves in that glamorously unheeding way in which vibrant young people sometimes will.

The Pearl
The Pearl

The central point is that this is one those vibrant young people can actually afford to stay at. This is bargain real estate, and the hotel is designed to match: though the furnishings are sleek and modern, and the conveniences up-to-date, the rooms are smallish and far from indulgent. Nor are they terribly quiet; this is San Diego, not Geneva, and those vibrant young people aren't exactly known for their early bedtimes.

Popular Questions

Which boutique hotels in San Diego are best for families?

For a family getaway in San Diego, we recommend the following boutique hotels:
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
The US Grant
Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa
The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe

Which of the best San Diego boutique hotels have pools?

When it comes to San Diego, you have plenty of boutique hotel options with swimming pools. Here’s a handful:
L’Auberge Del Mar
The Lodge at Torrey Pines
Rancho Bernardo Inn
Estancia La Jolla

Which of the best Napa or Sonoma valley boutique hotels are the most romantic?

When it comes to a romantic spot for a special occasion in Napa or Sonoma, we would urge you to consider the following boutique hotels.
Estancia La Jolla
Rancho Bernardo Inn
L’Auberge Del Mar
La Valencia
Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa

Which boutique hotels in San Diego are best for visiting beaches?

Hitting the beach is one of the must-do activities in San Diego. The following boutique hotels give a great home base:
Tower 23
Grande Colonial La Jolla
L’Auberge Del Mar
La Valencia

Which San Diego boutique hotels are the best to experience nightlife?

Many boutique hotels in San Diego set you up for a great night, whether through their own bars and restaurants or by function of their neighborhood. Here are several stand-outs:
Pendry San Diego
Tower 23
The Pearl
Solamar San Diego