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California is blessed with hundreds of miles of stunning coastline and scores of charming beach towns, but few are as well-known and beloved by locals as Del Mar in San Diego’s North County. With its history as a playground for Hollywood’s golden-era elite and its thoroughbred racetrack where “the surf meets the turf,” Del Mar provides a unique setting for an upscale getaway that will appeal to a wide range of clients. And the luxurious L’Auberge Del Mar provides a stylish and charming base for visitors looking to explore this classic Southern California destination.
The Stratford Inn, built in 1910, became the Hotel Del Mar in 1926 and was a hot spot for Hollywood royalty such as actors Lucy and Desi Arnaz, singer Jimmy Durante and singer Bing Crosby, who was a co-owner of the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack. After World War II, the hotel fell into disrepair and was actually torn down in 1969.
In 1985, coinciding with Del Mar’s centennial, local resident Jim Watkins purchased the property and rebuilt the hotel with an intention to draw people back to Del Mar. L’Auberge Del Mar opened its doors in 1989 and was an instant hit with locals and visitors alike.
Del Mar recently benefitted from changes that took place farther up the coast. When Hollywood Park racetrack closed in late 2013, additional racing days were added to the Del Mar racing schedule. Today, in addition to the summer racing season, which this year runs from July 16 to Sept. 7, guests can also enjoy Del Mar from Oct. 29 to Nov. 29. The additional fall season is welcome news for visitors and travel agents, who sometimes found hotels sold out during the high season.
Regardless of when your clients visit, L’Auberge Del Mar is the standout resort and the clear upscale choice in the area. In 2008, L’Auberge Del Mar underwent a $25 million renovation, and the hotel exudes a sophisticated Southern California vibe that perfectly reflects its motto: “relaxing by day, stylish by night.”
On a recent visit, I was struck by how quiet it felt on property in the afternoon, making it a perfect time to curl up with a book or contemplate the ocean views. By evening, the resort was hopping — with locals and visitors mingling in the bar, celebrations taking place in the event spaces and a long line of satisfied diners coming and going from the award-winning Kitchen 1540 restaurant.
In addition to fine dining at Kitchen 1540, the property features Living Room Bar, with its popular L’Happy Hour from Sunday through Thursday and live music on Friday and Saturday nights. Waterfall Terrace offers a casual, outdoor setting with ocean views for breakfast, lunch or dinner, while the place to seen at night in Del Mar is around the fire at the hotel’s Bleu Bar.
There are 120 guestrooms, including seven suites, on property. Many of the rooms offer Del Mar Village views, ocean views or garden terrace views from private patios or balconies. I especially liked the in-room fireplace — perfect on a cool coastal night — as well as the full marble bathroom, plush bed with duvet and complimentary Wi-Fi access.
L’Auberge Del Mar offers guests a pool and whirlpool with ocean views and a heated lap pool, as well as a landscaped footpath for the short walk to Del Mar beach. There’s a 24-hour fitness center and two lighted championship tennis courts on property. The full-service, award-winning Spa L’Auberge offers massages, facials and body treatments, as well as waxing and nail services.
One of the main benefits of L’Auberge Del Mar is its location. The hotel is within easy walking distance of the racetrack (although there is also a frequent shuttle for guests) and in the heart of the quaint Del Mar Village, with its boutiques, nightspots and restaurants. It’s also 20 minutes north of the San Diego airport and 90 minutes south of Los Angeles, and a short drive from all of the major San Diego attractions.
Whether clients are looking for a quiet getaway or an exciting racetrack experience — or, best of all, a bit of both — L’Auberge Del Mar will be a clear winner.