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Del Mar
Destination Del Mar –
Opulent Luxury, or Beachy Vibe

by Mary McGrath

nother getaway was in order, and this weekend, Del Mar was our chosen spot. I hadn't been to this area in a number of years. My fond recollections only centered on my rich wild aunt who liked to test her skills at the track.

But Del Mar's got many charms besides gambling, and that's why we were here. It's a mere two hours south from Studio City, and well worth a visit.

Although there are several places to stay in Del Mar, two crop to the top for those wanting pampering, luxury and fine dining.

exterior view of the Grand Del Mar nestled in the rolling hills of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, San Diego County

The Grand Del Mar, an opulent resort nestled in the rolling hills of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, provides the ultimate in luxury. Whether it's top-notch golf you're after, the bounty of nature that is nearby, specialized spa treatments, tennis, or top-dining options, this resort has it all.

front entrance of the Grand Del Mar

If Hearst Castle were a hotel, this is the feeling you get when checking into the Grand Del Mar. The Mediterranean style of the resort permeates throughout its 249 rooms, the property lavishly appointed with gold and wrought iron accents. Erected in 2007, this place is San Diego County's only Forbes Five-Star AAA Five Diamond luxury resort destination. It's easy to see why.

Mizner Suite at the Grand Del Mar

We stayed in one of their suites, and it was larger than my condo. Sporting views of the golf course, the room contained two full bathrooms, each with sunken marble tubs. I could have easily done a few laps, the tubs were so large.

At the spa, my massage was one of the best I've encountered. I asked Jennifer if she could do anything with my golfer's elbow. She gave me a specialized treatment, and today, my three-year pain seems to have gone away.

Bring the kids and let them disappear for the day at the Explorer's Club, while you whittle away the hours among the many amenities of the property, including some fine restaurants.

the Amaya restaurant at the Grand Del Mar

grouper dish at the Amaya, Grand Del Mar

There are a number of dining options, but we dined at Amaya, one of their premiere restaurants, and we were impressed. Go for the Grouper, if it's on the menu, but save room for their Lemon Ice Cream Pie, designed to inspire divine dreams.

the L'Auberge Del Mar in the heart of downtown

If it's a beachy vibe you're after, then head to the L'Auberge Del Mar, right in the heart of downtown. This boutique hotel is a happening spot, bracing the Pacific and is a quick stroll away from the lovely Seagrove Park, where you can take your pooch, gawk at the surfers, or watch the trains whizzing by. Reminiscent of a private, coastal estate, this place emanates a cool relaxed vibe.

the balck cod at Kitchen 1540, L'Auberge Del Mar

We dined in their heralded restaurant, Kitchen 1540, with its eclectic wow factor that will rival many of the finer restaurants I've enjoyed in LA. This modern place infuses energy and intrigue into its many creations, thanks to Executive Chef Scott Thomas Dolbee. I love food that out of the box, and this restaurant has earned its chops. Check out the Wild Boar, if it's on the menu, or if you're game for less experimentation, you might try the cod. My tongue did somersaults with Scott's creations.

What else to do while you're in Del Mar? How about heading to the Del Mar Horsepark, a few minutes away, where you can watch the riders do dressage and jumps. It's free, and the kids will love it.

There's also Free Flight Birds, where a few bucks will give you a chance to encounter wild parrots, many which have been abandoned or are rehabilitating on the premises.

Breakfast is a must at the Americana Restaurant next to the hotel, the building erected in the 1930's. They even have a photo gallery of days gone by, with notables like Red Skelton, Lucy, Desi, Mickey Rooney and Jimmy Durante.

Del Mar's worth visiting, if you've never been. Immerse yourself in the opulent luxury of the Grand Del Mar, or head for the coastal vibe at L'Auberge.

It's your call.

The Grand Del Mar
5300 Grand Del Mar Way
San Diego, California 92130
(858) 314-2000

1540 Camino Del Mar
Del Mar, CA. 92014
(858) 259-1515

Related Articles:
Passport to San Diego; The Grand Del Mar: One Day, A Great Old Dame; Hotel Del Coronado; Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa; California's Central Coast; Fall Fun in Santa Monica; Sammy's Woodfired Pizza & Grill

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I enjoy your newsletters -and particularly Patti Nickell's article about the 'Pudding Club' in the Cotswold's. An old friend of mine is taking a holiday there this year and plans to try their Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick - amongst many!

--- John & Maggie - UK


The way I read this article, you stayed at the "Breeze and Waves". Do you have any pictures of the cottages, and would you recommend to some first time visitors to Caramoan?

--- Richard Simons, Stockton, CA

Hi Richard,

Breeze and Waves was still under construction when I stayed there in Feb. 2010. It should be finished by now. You can see pictures of the resort on this page. We got to stay in one of the small cottages in the picture. I'll recommend it to budget travelers but you might want to look at other options. We chose it because of its location right by the beach. You can try other resorts in the Caramoan town proper (you have to get a ride to get to the beach and the jump-off point to go island-hopping but it's a relatively short distance). There are also two higher end resorts located on a cove and very near the islands: Gota Village Resort (unfortunately there is something wrong with their website right now) and its twin resort Hunongan Cove. Caramoan is a relatively new tourism development so resorts are just now being built.

You can go to this site for a good list of choices for accommodations in Caramoan.

I should add that it might be good to go to Caramoan (and almost anywhere in the Philippines) during the dry season from December to May. June to November are the typhoon months and sometimes typhoons will still come during early December.


* * * * *

Hi, I'm planning to go to Caramoan this coming May. Would you know the number of Breeze and Waves Cottages? Thanks!

--- Ann, Manila, Philippines

Hi Ann,

Breeze and Waves' phone number is 0908-2911072. Look for Freddie. Hope you have a grand time at Caramoan!



For Nature's Playground: The South Island of New Zealand

Hi Wendy,

In winter, Heritage Heights Apts. now offers free shuttle service to and from Queenstown 24/7 to guests without cars. We own a 7-passenger 4-wd Toyota Highlander used specifically to taxi guests up and down the hill during winter months. We also run advance purchase winter promotions which include a 4-wd rental.

If any of your readers head over this direction, I will enjoy extending Heritage Heights hospitality!!


--- Ailey, Owner, Queenstown, NZ

* * * * *

New Zealand text and pix top drawer! Almost as good as making the trip. ( but one still wants to. . . ) Full of useful detail. Only trouble with the website: It's tough figuring out which feedback goes with which article, and the more there are, the tougher it gets!

--- Ken W., Camarillo CA

Thanks Ken..."álmost" is right, you really have to experience the South Island firsthand. Granted this piece is long, but still all I can think about is how much I left out! I agree abut the relevancy factor re the feedback--it can be confusing...sometimes I have a "Wait a minute...what?" moment myself.

Thanks for writing,


* * * * *

Okay Wendy, from now on whenever you book your travel, please reserve space for me. I will carry your luggage, bring you cold drinks, massage your shoulders, and change the film in your camera (oops, I guess you don't have to do that anymore). Wonderful ideas and recommendations. Can you get to New Zealand from Boston in less than a week?

--- Carl A., South Easton, MA

Ha ha ha Carl, you're quite the comedian! But you'd be surprised how short that flight feels. I suspect Qantas isn't the only airline who's figured out that 3 movies, 2 full meals, lots of snacks and a complimentary travel pack (eye mask, warm socks and neck pillow) equals a quiet, well-behaved cabin. It really isn't bad. Just fly direct--pick the shortest flight w/ no lengthy layovers and you'll be fine. Re: signing on as my Super Sherpa...why not? I think you know I seldom travel in anything less than Party mode. There's just that pesky background check...

Thanks for writing,


For Excellence Riviera Cancun:

Wendy, I truly enjoyed your info especially since we leave in a week to celebrate my 50th Birthday. Was it necessary to make reservations at the restaurants? Was there a dress code for the restaurants? What would you recommend not missing while there? Was the spa experience worth it? Did you travel away from the resort while there? Thanks,

--- Kim P. Fuquay, Varina, NC

Hi Kim.

Sorry for the delay in had heavy competition with the holidays. Reservations at Excellence restaurants are not necessary and you will not find a wait. The dress code is basically no bathing suits and flip-flops...with a decided a mix of atmospheres. Mostly the open-air beachside spots are super casual, the rest slightly more formal. Truly, as long as you are clothed, I don't think you'd be turned away anywhere, though most people seemed to enjoy dressing up at night...I suspect more for their own pleasure than any sense of decorum.

The spa experience was worth it, though my favorite part wasn't the actual massage. The precursor was a 45 min. or so rotation from sauna to a series of (kind of wild) water jets which was very different and very cool, not just for women. In its' entirety, and with the serenity of the beach/champagne/strawberries, it was memorable.

We did not travel away from the hotel this trip, but the hotel is very helpful in arranging day excursions to fit your desires and you do not have to book these until you arrive.

Have a great time!

--- Wendy


I enjoyed Nino's contribution, since we all read about the frightening terrorist attack. Having travelled somewhat through India years ago, I am continually impressed with this country and the gentle spiritual aspects of this nation. Some day I look forward to going back. Nino has encouraged me. Thank you!

--- Yoka Y., Westlake Village, CA


Dear Mr.s/counselors Brown and Koro,

Thank you for a very informed and succinct article on motorcycle accidents and the law. It inspired me to think about getting a motorcycle, but not have an accident. But, if I do I am now well informed with the basics of what to do providing I do not perish in the accident. Any tips about that too?

--- Unnamed

Dear Rush and Chuck,

I wish I had read your article before our camping trip the Friday prior to President's Day.

My wife and I were in a car accident on our way to a camp ground. We were "rear-ended" and the impact caused our car to crash into the car in front of us. The contents of the truck that we were riding scattered onto several lanes. It's a miracle our two dogs decided to stay inside the car. My wife and I were shaken up badly but despite the mess, I was still able to walk out of the car. I got the license plate of the driver in front of me but, to my surprise, after reviewing the little damage on his car, he then sped off. I didn't know you could do that! The driver who hit me from behind gave me his information and then he too left the scene without saying good 'bye. When the police arrived all I had to go by was the little information I had jotted down which I hope was truthful. What if it was bogus? What if I had written the plate number incorrectly? How would that affect my insurance? What if we were unconscious, who would have written down all that information?

I do have one suggestion if you are injured in an accident. The police asked if my wife wanted an ambulance to bring her to the hospital but we declined the offer. I remembered when I rode an ambulance years ago that it was not a comfortable ride. I was strapped to the stretcher and there were all sorts of medical equipment dangling noisily above me. As long as you are able, it is a more relaxful ride inside a car. Besides, isn't there a fee for ambulance service?

--- Dave S. of Pasadena, CA

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