San Diego’s Sleek, Sexy New Hotels

The city’s hipness factor gets a bump from three stylish properties

By: By Mark Rogers

If the current hotel trend continues in San Diego, the city will soon need to add, “sexy and hip hotels” to its list of attractions. During a recent visit I stayed at three of the city’s hippest hotels to see how they stacked up.

Hotel Indigo San Diego

Hotel Indigo San Diego // (c) 2009

 Hotel Indigo San Diego

Hotel Indigo San Diego opened this summer in downtown San Diego just one block from PETCO Park and only steps away from the Gaslamp Quarter. On arrival, I was immediately impressed by how airy and open the lobby was. There was reggae music playing in the background and the blue and gray color palette was enlivened by sunshine streaming through the lobby’s eight-foot-tall windows.

The hotel has 205 guestrooms and five suites. You can reserve a room by view — asking for one that looks out on the city, mountain or ballpark. Nice touches in the rooms are the 37-inch, high-definition, flat-screen television; an iHome/MP3 alarm clock radio; a Keurig coffeemaker; and Aveda products in the bathroom.

There’s also complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the entire hotel. Some of the rooms and all of the five suites look out on the baseball diamond, a real plus for baseball fans.

Hotel Indigo San Diego is the flagship property in the boutique Indigo brand, which is owned and managed by IHG InterContinental Hotels Group. Instead of taking the easy cookie-cutter route, each hotel in the Indigo brand will be unique.

“We’re a comfortable four-star, upscale but not stuffy, property,” said J. Patrick McTigue, director of sales and marketing for Hotel Indigo San Diego. “You’ll get great service, but you don’t have to walk on glass.”

The hotel’s Phi Bar and Bistro in the lobby uses seasonal ingredients and local products in the preparation of its contemporary American cuisine. The ninth-floor rooftop Phi Terrace Bar has a reflection pool, fire pits, lounge seating and views of the city and baseball games at PETCO Park.

One of the things I really liked about this hotel is its openness to the local community, an ethos that extends to their pet policy.

“We have no pet fees and we’re really pet friendly,” said McTigue.

Every Tuesday evening from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., the hotel hosts a Canine Cocktails happy hour on the rooftop lounge. The gathering is open to guests, locals and their pooches. It was a success right out of the gate and the first night that the hotel ran the happy hour they had 100 dogs in attendance.

McTigue introduced me to the concept of the Fibonacci sequence, which is utilized in the design of the hotel. Fibonacci is based on a universal design constant and mathematical ratio found throughout nature, art and architecture. I’m still trying to wrap my head around feng shui, so Fibonacci was a little difficult to grasp. I turned to Wikipedia and found this explanation: “By definition, the first two Fibonacci numbers are 0 and 1, and each remaining number is the sum of the previous two. For example, the sequence plays out as 0, 1, 1 2, 3 5,8,13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144…” In nature, the Fibonacci sequence is found in the mating habits of bees, while in popular culture you’ll find it popping up in the novel “The Da Vinci Code” and in rap lyrics by Mos Def.

Hotel Indigo San Diego is also the first in IHG’s portfolio to achieve LEED certification.

“We’re the only LEEDS-certified hotel in San Diego,” said McTigue and to amplify his assertion he pointed to the floor. “This is made from crushed porcelain from recycled materials.”

During my tour of the hotel I learned that the 12th- floor roof has drought-tolerant plants that will reduce energy consumption by cutting the need for heating and air conditioning; that the hotel’s Phi Terrace Bar and ninth-floor meditation deck is made of MoistureShield composite decking consisting of recycled polyethylene plastic and recycled wood fibers; and that the hotel holds reserved parking spaces and parking discounts for guests who drive to the hotel in low-emitting and fuel-efficient cars.

The Hotel Indigo San Diego guest is hip, young (or young-at-heart), outgoing and convivial and turned on by a property that goes the extra green mile.

The Ivy

Hotel Ivy Guest Room // (c) 2009

Premium Guestroom at the Hotel Ivy

The Ivy opened a few years ago and quickly earned a reputation as the most sizzling hotel in San Diego. Think Las Vegas, Hollywood and Miami (with a little Manhattan cool thrown in) and you have the Ivy.

The 159-room hotel is located right in the lively Gaslamp Quarter, although if you’re booked into The Ivy on a weekend you’re already in the epicenter of the action. Ivy’s Envy Nightclub and Eden rooftop bar (with pool and cabanas) are hot enough to be drawing A-listers down from L.A. If you have your heart set on a night at Envy, make sure you book a room for a Thursday through Saturday night — that’s when the club is open.

Room amenities include personal butler service, free Wi-Fi, MP3 docking stations, 42-inch, HD-plasma televisions and full in-room bars. The high-end minibar was stocked with such items as Grey Goose vodka and Ghirardelli chocolates. The room’s floor-to-ceiling mirrored walls made the room seem even more spacious than it actually was.

This visit was actually my second overnight stay at The Ivy. My first visit I’d been flying solo but this time along I was accompanied by my girlfriend, Sophy. The Ivy calls itself “Zen-sexy” and I definitely recommend it as a romantic getaway. One of the most arresting features in the Premium Guestrooms is the 360 degree glass-enclosed bathtub and shower that is on view to those sitting on the couch or lying in bed. It makes quite a statement. Sophy and I also liked the hooded, terry-cloth robes; wearing them I felt like a somewhat dangerous stuffed animal.

The Ivy’s Quarter Kitchen has been stacking up accolades since it opened. Guests can enjoy views of the exhibition kitchen while dining in a space lit by natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows. The menu leans on locally sourced produce although some of its signature dishes are enhanced by imported ingredients. Definitely try the QK Signature Caviar Tacos, and the Japanese Kobe “on the Rocks,” meaning you cook your own thinly sliced Japanese Kobe beef on a hot Ishiyaki stone at your table. If you have a small group of six to eight guests, consider booking the Quarter Kitchen’s wine cellar. You’ll be surrounded by 3,200 bottles of wine while dining under a funky, red-glass chandelier in a space kept a cool 58 degrees.

The Ivy guest is cutting-edge, sexy and sensual, wired and not afraid of something new.

Se San Diego

Rooftop Bar at Se San Diego // (c) 2009

Rooftop Bar at Se San Diego

While Hotel Indigo has a puppy-like appeal, and The Ivy has loads of sex appeal, the Se San Diego is sophisticated to the max. Arriving at the Se San Diego is a dramatic experience. You enter through huge solid doors that glide open soundlessly at the touch of the doorman’s hand. Once inside you’re seated in a comfortable lobby chair and handed a cucumber-infused cocktail. A seamless, sans-reservation-desk checking-in process takes place and before you know it you’re in your room.

The hotel has 161 rooms, including 37 suites and three Penthouse Suites. Se San Diego is also in the Gaslamp District and its billing itself as the only five-star property in San Diego.

I was knocked out by the interior design, which features dark Brazilian wood throughout, Shanghai paving stones in the elevator and black and white stingray skins covering the base of the lobby bar.

A nice touch in my one-bedroom suite was the dual sink carved from a single piece of stone. One-bedroom suites also come with a balcony overlooking either the city or the hotel’s pool deck, which has a distinct Miami Beach ambience. If you take things a notch higher and book one of the Luxe One-Bedroom Suites, you’ll have sunset views overlooking downtown San Diego, San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

Once you make your way to the pool deck you’ll find an infinity-edge pool sporting its own underwater Bose sound system. You can also enjoy a cup of sake at the adjacent VIP Wine & Sake Bar. When it was time for dinner, I tried the hotel’s restaurant, The Suite & Tender, where James Beard Award-winning executive chef Christopher Leech works his magic. I especially liked the option of building my own customized seafood appetizer. The waiter handed me a pencil and pad and I jotted down how many oysters, how many clams or how many shrimp I desired. Another unique touch was being presented with a knife menu — a selection that included a choice of eight knives from a sleek little number by Porsche to a Victorian-looking blade with an ivory handle inlaid with auburn rosettes.

The Se Spa presents a really unhurried spa experience. You not only take your time before your treatment with an Elixir of Life cocktail (honey nectar, lime and pomegranate juice and cucumber-infused vodka), you’re also not hustled out afterward. Instead you’re invited to sit back on a chaise lounge and relax with a cup of herbal tea. The spa has nine treatment rooms, and the Studio Sutra treatment room is geared toward couples and even has its own soaking tub.

The Se San Diego guest is well-traveled and sophisticated, accustomed to great service, but with a hip sense of fun.

Hotel Indigo San Diego

The Ivy

Se San Diego


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