By Thomas Shess
HOTEL PRESIDENTIAL SUITES seem to come in two categories: cocoon (I vant to be alone) or saloon (Let the good times roll). San Diego is no exception.
Three hotels had grand openings in the past few years (W, Omni and Hilton) in downtown’s burgeoning entertainment areas —the Gaslamp Quarter, East Village and Little Italy. No surprise that the presidential suites, from a design standpoint, are contemporary to splashy. More-traditional hotels—those run by megainternationals like Loews and Four Seasons—cater to high-end clientele who value privacy over partying and prefer top-suite décor to range from contemporary to classic.
The top suites at Loews and Hotel W are a relatively modest $1,500 to $1,800 per night. That’s downright thrifty compared with the $4,300 price tag at Four Seasons Resort Aviara, or Rancho Valencia’s adobe hacienda, at $5,000. Most local presidential suites are occupied about 70 percent of the year. Since September 11, 2001, the presidential suite has become more symbolic than a potential presidential stopover. Most VIP suites are at the penthouse level, and the Secret Service frowns on putting the chief executive in a room at the top. In recent visits to San Diego, George W. Bush stayed at North Island Naval Air Station or aboard an aircraft carrier. While president, Bill Clinton overnighted at the “Baby Del,” a private residence in Coronado. So whether you’re a president or not, here’s a firsthand look at our in-town, top-shelf temporary digs.
DOWNTOWN’S NEW WAVE
Perks: The 1,250-square-foot WoW suite offers a 24-hour concierge, silk curtains, Italian leather seating, marble counters, bamboo floors and a 50-inch plasma TV with Bose surround sound in the living room. Translucent glass doors separate a modern workspace with wireless headphones, private phone lines, computer access, printer and copier. The master suite has a 42-inch plasma television equipped with Voom HD satellite service for HDTV. With a third plasma television and an Italian crystal double washbasin, the “Tea for Two” jetted bathtub/shower combo is filled by unoxygenated water to avoid splashing as it fills the tub from the ceiling.
Tab: $1,500 to $3,000 per night depending on the season and second-bedroom option.
Noteworthy: Furnishings by world-class designers and showrooms like Matteo Grassi, Cassina, Poliform, Philippe Starck and Zanotta.
Details: 421 West B Street, San Diego, CA 92101, 619- 231-8220; starwood.com/whotels/. General manager: Robert Gormley.
HILTON SAN DIEGO GASLAMP QUARTER
Perks: Sleeker and more urban contemporary than many, this Hilton has a boutique feel, as does its presidential suite, The Enclave, which offers 1,800 square feet, high ceilings, octagonal living room, dining room, two king-size bedrooms, two baths with oversize whirlpool tubs, spacious balconies and huge floor-to-ceiling bay windows that overlook the action-packed Gaslamp Quarter. The suite also features Frette linens, continental breakfast, daily cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres and private concierge services.
Tab: Up to $3,800 per night, peak season.
Noteworthy: Designed by Dalton Roberts Associates of Los Angeles; 4,500- square-foot Artesia Day Spa on premises.
Details: 401 K Street, San Diego, CA 92101, 619-231-4040; hilton.com. General manager: Renier Milan.
OMNI SAN DIEGO HOTEL
Perks: On the 21st floor of the new 32-story hotel, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Suite is 2,200 square feet, and its warm, contemporary design is by CSR, a Long Beach interior designer. The suite features two plasma televisions, DVD players, a Bose surround-sound entertainment system, a kitchen, dining room, living room, master bedroom and guest bedroom. A stunning view of San Diego Bay can be enjoyed from anywhere in the suite.
Tab: $2,849 per night.
Noteworthy: The suite was named after the first U.S. president to stay there. The Omni is connected by a skybridge to Petco Park. Hanging in the suite is the framed original 1932 contract between Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees, with a photo of Ruth signing the agreement.
Details: 675 L Street, San Diego, CA 92101, 619-231-6664; omnihotels.com. General manager: Ed Netzhammer.
LODGE AT TORREY PINES
Perks: At 2,000 square feet, the Blacker Suite offers a commanding view of the Pacific Ocean and the 18th hole on the Torrey Pines Golf Course (site of the 2008 U.S. Open). It has custom-designed, Craftsman-type furniture, fabrics and carpets featuring William Morris designs that give the two-bedroom suite historic, yet contemporary, elegance and warmth. There’s a granite-topped bar at each room’s entrance, a rich leather chaise lounge, Tiffany-style lamps and oil-rubbed bronze fixtures. The suite includes a central parlor, private balconies, full kitchen and three fireplaces, a large workspace with the latest high-tech telecommunications and a safe sizable enough for a laptop. Large bathrooms feature slab marble-and-granite floors and countertops, deep soaking tubs and separate water closets.
Tab: $3,500 per night.
Noteworthy: This AAA Five Diamond hotel adheres to architectural construction details true to the Arts & Crafts Movement. If you are a fan of Greene & Greene architecture from the early 20th century, you’re in for a treat.
Details: 11480 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, 858-453-4420; lodgetorreypines.com. General manager: Dan Fullen.
Perks: At 1,800 square feet, this European-décor presidential suite is on the top floor, offering expansive views of downtown and the harbor. There’s a living room with an antique desk, dining table, a sitting area, four balconies, a full kitchen, three dual-line phones, high-speed Internet access and a large bedroom with full marble-and-brass bath. Guests are greeted with fresh fruit, flowers and champagne. Security includes a private garage and elevator. Recent guests: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford, Rudolph Guiliani, Seal, Mel Gibson and Cindy Crawford.
Tab: $2,250 per night.
Noteworthy: Only 35 years old and in its prime. The classic design emulates and often surpasses the grand hotels of Europe. The Westgate’s lobby is a re-creation of an anteroom at Versailles Palace.
Details: 1055 Second Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101, 619-238-1818; westgatehotel.com. General manager: Georg Hochfilzer.
HOTEL DEL CORONADO
Perks: With 2,000 square feet, the Del’s Beach House—an oceanfront Victorian villa—has a spacious living room with fireplace, a dining area that seats eight, a kitchen and two bedrooms, each with its own bath. French doors connect the living room to a sun-splashed deck. Guests staying in the Beach House have gated beach access and all the services and amenities of the legendary resort.
Tab: $2,500 per night.
Noteworthy: Every living president except George W. Bush has stayed at the Del. Marilyn Monroe called the Beach House home during the filming of Some Like It Hot.
Details: 1500 Orange Avenue, Coronado, CA 92118, 619-435-6611; hoteldel.com. General manager: Todd Shallan.
THE GRAND RESORTS
FOUR SEASONS RESORT AVIARA
Perks: There are 3,240 square feet in this three-bedroom presidential suite, which includes a butler’s closet, kitchenette, dining room and living room. Each bedroom comes with a separate parlor, marble bathroom, walk-in closets, Web TV, Sony PlayStation, Internet access, two phone lines, hardwood flooring and a spacious balcony. Aviara has the only Arnold Palmer–designed golf course in the area, and there are panoramic views of the ocean and inlet lagoon. Tab: $4,300 per night.
Noteworthy: There’s a world-class, 15,000-square-foot spa and fitness center. The resort, which has received the AAA Five Diamonds rating for the past five years, recently had its rooms redesigned to include Rivota linens, new window treatments, carpeting and needlepoint accents.
Details: 7100 Four Seasons Point, Carlsbad, CA 92009, 760-603-6800; fourseasons.com/aviara. General manager: Brian Parmelee.
Perks: The hotel’s ultimate suite is a 5,000-square-foot adobe hacienda that features three bedrooms (each with a separate bath), central kitchen and living room, plus a private pool, Jacuzzi and a garden cabaña. The Spanish revival décor showcases arched double doors for an instant indoor/outdoor environment, beamed ceilings and tropical fans.
Tab: $5,000 per night.
Noteworthy: Tennis Magazine rates Rancho Valencia, with its 18 hard courts, as one of the top 10 tennis resorts in the United States. The resort has spa service and only 49 suites.
Details: 5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067, 858-756-1123; ranchovalencia.com. General manager: Michael Ullman.
Perks: At 1,800 square feet, this top-floor presidential suite offers one or two king-size bedrooms, Jacuzzi tub, his/her showers with eight showerheads, guest bathroom, large foyer, wet bar, oversized living room, fireplace, formal dining room with a service kitchen, a baby grand piano, four separate balconies, Sony electronics, Internet and wireless service. The hotel also provides a gondola service with a serenading gondolier.
Tab: $1,500 to $1,800 per night.
Noteworthy: Sea Spa facility, Azzura Point restaurant, yacht slips, biking, tennis, three pools (one for adults only) and rentals for Rollerblades, scooters, WaveRunners, sailboats and paddle boats.
Details: 4000 Coronado Bay Road; Coronado, CA 92118, 619-424-4000; loewshotels.com/hotels/sandiego. General manager: Kathleen Cochran.