Classic by the Sea

The Del plans for an upgrade as it enters yet another century

By: Kathy Chin Leong

In 1958, while shooting “Some Like It Hot,” Marilyn Monroe paused for a publicity photo, flashing her smile in front of the red-shingled turrets of the Hotel del Coronado. Today, visitors around the world strike a similar pose at this national landmark, which continues to sizzle with rave reviews.

While this 31-acre beachfront destination echoes Old World charm, the 1888 icon has launched a 15-year master plan to update the premises, to “ensure that the hotel is just as breathtaking as it was when it opened,” said Todd Shallan, general manager.

This fall, The Del unveils a new spa with 22 treatment rooms and infinity pool. In addition, it will take the wraps off the new Beach Village, featuring 78 oceanfront guestrooms, check-in services, pools and hot tubs. The one- to three-bedroom units feature kitchens, living and dining rooms and oceanview balconies.

A fitness center will be completed in January. On the docket are improved locker facilities, steam rooms, whirlpools and private lounge. This overhaul is sorely needed as the current gym is a dwarf compared to the rest of The Del.

Today’s Del at a Glance
What to do until the projects are completed? Come anyway. Lauren Donoho, director of public relations, stressed that the majority of work will be confined to the northwest edge of the property.

“We will be working with the construction company to minimize any potential guest disruption,” she said.

Meanwhile, the plantation resort rates high on the what-to-see-and-do list. Meandering pathways lined with Mexican fan palm trees and flowers beckon guests to morning strolls. Ocean recreation includes Jet Skis, speedboats and water skis all available for rent.

Maintaining 679 rooms, 20 stores, five main restaurants, this place doubles as a mega- playground for shopaholics, food connoisseurs and outdoor enthusiasts. The Sunday buffet brunch held in the Crown Room is an event. Here in this gorgeous circular ballroom with a curved sugar-pine ceiling, crown-shaped chandeliers hang down like clusters of diamonds off a delicate chain.

Families will enjoy a boatload of kid-friendly activities. A Coast Club Teen Lounge offers a separate hideaway from parents. In the summer, a surf camp, pool party, Tent City Kid’s Camp and outdoor movie night will make the young ones feel that the vacation was tailored for them.

Rooms and Technology
Last June, a $10 million facelift infused new life into 381 guestrooms. With new soft goods and furnishings in tow, the Victorian rooms are dressed in deep golds, autumn reds and tapestry fabrics. The Ocean Towers and Cabana buildings, detached from the main hotel, brandish a Caribbean motif with wicker furnishings and a more modern feel.

Despite being a historic treasure, the hotel is 21st-century ready. Guestrooms have high-speed Internet access and over 100 suites feature flat-screen TVs. Special Cottage units even come with preloaded iPods and Bose SoundDock digital music amplifiers.

History buffs will also find this fascinating place worth the trek. Notable names associated with the hotel include “Wizard of Oz” author Frank Baum, who designed the crown-shaped chandeliers in the Crown Room.

No doubt, The Del is a revered treasure. Even the well-heeled traveler is wide-eyed seeing the lobby’s floor-to-ceiling mahogany paneling and King Kong floral arrangements. Even presidents George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton chose this locale when visiting Southern California.

The bottom line? The Del is a classic jewel that can sweep guests away with its historical significance, architectural prowess and modern-day luxuries.


The quaint beachside community of Coronado is the ticket to laid-back enjoyment, Southern California style. This island that blankets a mere 7.4 square miles is tethered to San Diego via Highway 75 and is so alluring that local San Diegans will come to spend the day at the white-sand Coronado Beach or devour a ravishing Mexican meal at the popular Miguel’s Restaurant, across the street from The Del.

For outdoor enthusiasts, renting a bike will provide an opportunity to meander down Orange Avenue, the main artery, and head toward Spreckels Park. Once there, visitors can shop for local goods at the farmer’s market or listen to a Sunday concert.

With racks throughout the city, riders can park their bikes conveniently and hoof it to the myriad of antique shops and stores throughout town. Once on the bike, adventurers can spin all the way to the Coronado Ferry Landing on First Street, park their wheels and board the ferry to San Diego. After 15 minutes, patrons disembark in the heart of the Gas Lamp Quarter, an eclectic, revitalized 16-block downtown district filled with major museums, shopping malls, food and entertainment.

Before they leave the island, visitors should go to The Del and stop for a drink at the romantic Babcock & Story bar. With views of the sunset over the ocean, it’s the way to toast the end of a perfect day in Coronado.

The Hotel del Coronado
1300 Orange Ave.
Coronado, Calif. 92118
Rates start at $235

For more info:
Coronado Visitor’s Bureau
1100 Orange Ave.

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