Catch a wave or simply catch some rays from the ocean-facing deck at San Diego’s Tower23 hotel, a mod surfside stay a few paces from the ocean. You can practically toss a pebble into the Pacific from your room’s private balcony or the hotel’s beachfront sundeck. Take a seat at local’s favourite JRDN restaurant, and nibble on the catch-of-the-day as you witness the sun melt into the sea.
Right on the beach
Welcome glass of sparkling wine and a sweet treat, plus breakfast vouchers for SilverSmiths and GoldSmiths
In the know
Also need to know:
The hotel is completely non-smoking. Relax with in-room spa services or schedule a beachfront yoga class. Guest passes for a 24-hour gym one block from the hotel are available for purchase.
Leave the sun cream at home. You’ll find sunscreen and sporty baseball caps in your room to buy that will keep you looking sun-kissed – not sunburnt.
Roll in from the beach in board shorts or simple sundress during the day. In the evening, swap surf togs for a more polished look – khakis and a light jacket for him, and designer jeans or a light wrap dress for her.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
You come here for the beach. San Diego is a military town (it plays host to the largest naval base in the West), a college town (University of California San Diego, San Diego State, University of San Diego and National University are just four of many here), a town of retirees, of Mexican influence, of eclectic wildlife and telecommunication headquarters.
But it’s the beach you’re after: one of the sandy inlets – Mission, Coronado, Ocean, Imperial – that stretch south from Encinitas nearly 50 miles to the Mexican border. And, just 100 feet from one these grand swaths of sand – Pacific Beach – is where you’ll find Tower 23 hotel.
Far from a tower, the hotel is three low-slung stories laid out like a modernist sphinx. A deck area, named Tower Deck and containing sunloungers and a miniature pool, lies on the second floor between the sedimentary hybrid’s paws. It's ideal for taking breakfast, cushioned sunbathing or for having an intimate drink by the fire at night.
Mrs Smith and I have a quick glance around the room; bright and servicable with shiny Koehler fixtures in the showers and downy beds. The hotel’s decor – white with blue trim, tiles wherever possible, and angled mid-century style chairs – is certainly minimalist. Bags dropped, we head downstairs for a cocktail.
‘Do you know how Tower 23 got its name?’ a waiter asked me at the bar of the JRDN restaurant. ‘No,’ I replied, putting down my martini and readying myself for a good yarn. ‘It’s named after a nearby lifeguard tower.’ Oh? Not nearly as involved as expected, but beach-related.
As is everything with this hotel that’s conveniently set steps from the boardwalk, which is where Mrs Smith and I head out towards to explore the local restaurants and taverns. At the Fishery (a 15-minute stroll away) we gobbled down tuna poke – raw chunks of ahi combined with tuna, avocado, soya and cilantro – and grilled hamachi that, until just hours before, had been swimming wild only a few miles from our plates.
We followed our server’s recommendations on the local nightlife, first to Duck Dive: a rowdy post-collegiate bar, where people get so drunk they literally fall off chairs. Next, it was over to PB Ale House populated with undergraduates more interested in vodka and Red Bull concoctions than the dozens of local brews on offer. As neither were quite our style, we made it an early night (we were later told that for a more sophisticated cocktail scene, head a 15 minute Uber ride downtown to the Gaslamp Quarter).
The next morning, we had some trouble ringing up room service, but after a negotiation with the front desk, tea did arrive. The in-room menu is beyond reasonably price, but it should be noted that the room service menu and the menu at JRDN have little overlap. For example, the in-room menu offers lemon ricotta pancakes; the restaurant does not, and no amount of gentle pleading would result in pancakes on my plate when at JRDN for breakfast.
Better to keep me bathing suit svelte, I suppose. And a hop, skip and a jump later, we were on the beach, which was gorgeous. The hotel has surf lockers, board games, beach towels and bikes you can borrow (we suggest riding south along the promenade; bring some cash for agua fresca, ice cream, a beer or a taco).
Mrs Smith brought her own board (the hotel does not have those on loan, but there are surf shops nearby), and spent the morning amusing herself in the waves, which were manageable and devoid of the territorial surfers who can turn a day at the beach into an exercise in brinkmanship. As for me, I ran a few miles and then took in a deliciously trashy novel.
Having spent some calories, we headed a few miles north of the hotel up to La Jolla for lunch, specifically to Bahia Don Bravo, for their fish taco. Like poutine in Montreal, or po-boys in New Orleans, claims of supremacy for this local delicacy can be fighting words. Save it to say that Bahia Don Bravo’s was sublime. Here, for less than the cost of a Happy Meal, your mouth can witness a meeting between the delicate nuggets of white fish and an excellent crunch of cabbage, all of it overseen by a soothing crema, measured with a spike of salsa. It was a testament to balance, and I’ve thought about it often since.
Wanting to see even more beach, we traveled 30 minutes north, to Carmel, where the rolling green hills meet with beaches so beautiful you’d swear, if it weren’t for the occasional pup, or family strolling by, you had found the end of the world. Similarly gorgeous, and even more isolated is Carlsbad, another half-hour north. Sharing a name with the ancient Czech town, famous for nearly 700 years for its healing baths, this sparse, gorgeous beach scene is just as restorative.
Of course, that’s what a SoCal coastal retreat is for, no big city thrills need apply. Back at the hotel that night we listened to the crashing waves and drifted off to sleep with visions of fish tacos dancing in our heads – yep, it's definitely all about the beach.
4551 Ocean Boulevard, San Diego, California 92109, United States
7.7 mi / 12.4 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Internet services
- Aerobics instruction
- Room service
JRDN restaurant is a sophisticated floor-to-ceiling enclosed glass beach lookout that's as well known for its inventive California coastal cuisine as it is for its ocean-facing views. Chef David Warner’s menu highlights the local bounty with generous green salads, locally raised beef and of course, fresh seafood – including nearly still-squiggling raw bar items. It's one of the area's hottest restuaraunts, so be sure to reserve your table in advance. Set on the second floor of the hotel, the Tower Deck is open to guests only and serves snacks and drinks from the in-room dining menu. The teak sunloungers and teal-cushioned sectionals overlook the boardwalk and water for prime people watching as you snack on a balckened mahi mahi sandwich or kale salad.
Bask in the warm SoCal breezes and salt-tinged air at an intimate outdoor table for two.
JRDN is open for lunch Monday to Friday 11:00am to 4:00pm. Sunday to Thursday dinner is served 5:00pm to 9:00pm. On Friday and Saturdays, breakfast, lunch and snacks are available 9:00am to 4:00pm, and dinner is served 5:00pm to 9:00pm.
A limited in-room dining menu from JRDN is available 24-hours a day.
There is a small bar area and JRDN, and you can sip cocktails – such as the spicy jalapeño margarita on the rocks – from a sunlounger on the Tower Deck. Far more comfortable than a bar stool any day.