La Jolla is a picture-perfect seaside village nestled along a stunning stretch of Pacific coastline just 40 minutes from the bustle of downtown San Diego.

La Jolla has long been a favorite Southern California vacation spot. The coastal community’s natural beauty, temperate climate and thriving arts scene is a magnet for visitors around the world.

On the West Coast, reference La Jolla and the discerning descriptive feedback is most often “playground for the privileged”.

La Jolla Cliffs and CavesLa Jolla is Southern California’s Riviera.

A mecca not unlike Rodeo Drive, La Jolla’s streets are dotted with upscale boutiques, galleries and restaurants.

Life in La Jolla was not always a thriving upscale tourist destination. The village evolved from humble beginnings.

La Jolla’s destiny was set centuries ago by a New York stockbroker named Frank Botsford.

Now remembered fondly as the Father of La Jolla, Botsford bought 400 acres and moved forward with an ambitious plan to create a resort paradise. And, so La Jolla, the “Jewel of the Sea” was born.

Development soon expanded beyond a few cottages to hotel apartment buildings with the arrival of the railroad and new investors.

La Jolla’s present day Grande Colonial Hotel is deeply rooted in La Jolla history; it is the town’s oldest original hotel. The property first opened in February 1913 as an apartment hotel, boasting the finest sun parlor and lobby complete with ocean views. At that time, rooms cost a mere $1 per night and offered modern day conveniences like steam heat, electricity and long distance phone service.

The Colonial charmed locals and visitors alike, in an era of continued growth and prosperity. Tourism exploded as the word got out. More expansion was imminent.

By 1925, work began on a new Colonial Hotel – a grander hotel that “would rival anything in the West”. The original hotel’s two Prairie-style buildings would be relocated to the back slope of the property grounds to make room for a multi-story concrete building featuring 28 apartments and 25 hotel rooms. The new hotel was completed in 1928.

Fast Fact: The Colonial Hotel, designed in 1928 to be fire-proof, had the first sprinkler system west of the Mississippi.

Rave reviews reverberated from coast to coast. The hotel was considered an impressive feat in design and décor which included crystal chandeliers, marble trimmed fireplaces, lush carpets and drapes, elegant furnishings and new technology – a refrigerator. Guests were treated to central heating and exclusive golf privileges at the fashionable and prestigious La Jolla Country Club.

The Colonial’s reputation for upscale modern accommodations in a relaxed beach setting would garner the attention of Hollywood. A-Listers flocked to La Jolla for sunshine and serenity.Pool

In 1947, actor and native son, Gregory Peck founded a summer stock theatre with a few friends. The theatre blossomed into The La Jolla Playhouse which changed the cultural landscape of the town and further elevated La Jolla’s celebrity haven status.

My visit in early May 2016, transported me back in time. A time when Grande Colonial guests enjoyed the celebrity fanfare and soaked in life’s simple pleasures. I imagined women with their sun umbrellas strolling the bluff side walkway, arm in arm, with their gents enjoying the expansive coastal views.

Today, the Grande Colonial Hotel continues to exude an air of quiet sophistication and provides the same distinctive accommodations and gracious service as it did in its golden years. After a 2007 renovation, guests will find all the conveniences and amenities of a 20th Century resort – from high speed internet to iHome docking stations.

The standard rooms are bright and inviting, dressed in a seascape palette of color -blues and greens with sunburst gold accents. The suites offer the same casual elegance. Located in two detached  historic wings of the property, Little Hotel by the Sea and the Garden Terrace, the suites are designed for pampered privacy, family vacations or extended stays. All suites have sitting areas and kitchenettes. Little Hotel by Sea features one bedroom suites with a special perk – a fabulous private rooftop patio.The Garden suites have an apartment feel; the units are larger with two bedrooms and King junior suites that can sleep up to four.

La Jolla is truly a seaside gem that will easily find its way into your heart. Be forewarned, you will be tempted to extend your visit a few days or pine for a speedy return. Not to worry, The Grande Colonial will welcome you with open arms as it has done so for over 100 years.

Location:  910 Prospect Street. In the heart of the shopping/dining district. One block south of the beach.

Rooms & Rates: 

Rates are Seasonal/Village, Garden or Ocean Views.

Deluxe Hotel Rooms: $229-$500 per night

Deluxe Suites: $259-$600 per night

Little Hotel by The Sea/ Garden Terrace Suites: *$249-$1500 per night. (*includes full kitchen or kitchenette)

For more information and special packages, visit the hotel website or call 888-828-5498.

Hotel Highlights:

  • 93 Rooms (Includes Suites)
  • 8 Handicap Accessible Rooms & Suites
  • Complimentary High-speed Internet & WiFi
  • HD TVs with premium channels
  • Keurig coffee makers & complimentary bottled water
  • Luxe bedding featuring goose down comforters
  • Gilchrist & Soames bath products
  • Daily laundry valet service
  • Room Service
  • Workspace/Desk
  • Minibar
  • Whirlpool & Outdoor Heated Pool
  • Bike & Beach Rentals
  • NINE-TEN – an award-winning restaurant/bar (American Farm-to-Table Cuisine)
  • In-room Massage & Spa Services
  • Retrofitted London Courtesy Cab

Best Bets:

Mary, Star of the Sea: Dedicated in 1937, this beautiful little Mission-style Catholic church on Girard Avenue offers a sanctuary setting for meditation and prayerful thought. A view of the striking entrance mosaic and exquisite interior murals are alone worth the visit.

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego: The original building, now part of the museum grounds, was the residence of Ellen Browning Scripps, La Jolla’s noted benefactor. Featured art work covers several centuries -from early 1950 to present day. MCASD also offers lectures, films, and special events. Save a hour or two to catch the spectacular ocean views from the museum galleries and browse the bookstore that is brimming with unique gifts.

Old Town Trolley & Seal Tours: The absolute best way to explore San Diego and La Jolla. On and off privileges give visitors the freedom to discover top attractions from Balboa Park to Coronado Island at their leisure.

San Diego Beer & Wine Tours/La Jolla Wine Tours: No designated driver needed. Travel and taste in style and comfort – by train, by bike, and by chauffeured van. Visit some of the oldest and best local wineries and celebrated craft breweries in the region. Daily Tours. Open Year Round. Custom private group tours available. Diva Favorite: The Winery Train Tour.

Children’s Pool: A seawall protects this beach cove. This small bay area was once a  popular protected swimming area for children; today, it is sanctuary for a colony of harbor seals and a favorite tourist spot.

BOBBOI Natural Gelato: The perfect place for a refreshing traditional Italian treat. The gelateria is located on picturesque Girard Avenue just minutes from the Grande Colonial. The gelato incorporates fresh and local ingredients. Bobboi Natural Gelato earned Yahoo Food’s No. 2 pick for “Best Ice Cream Shops in America”. Decadently delicious, the Pistachio della California, made with roasted organic pistachios from Santa Barbara, was my top pick.

Sugar and Scribe: Owner/Chef and Food Network Holiday Baking Champion, Maeve Rochford shares her Irish legacy and love of cooking in this now famous La Jolla foodie landmark. Sugar & Scribe serves up authentic Irish specialties, from scones to stew, made from treasured family recipes. Open for Breakfast and Lunch. Gourmet-to-Go menu items also available.

Surf Diva: La Jolla Shores based boutique surf shop offering swimwear, surf gear and 2-5 day surf and stand-up paddle board camps for daring divas.

The La Jolla Historical Society (LJHS); Since 1964, the LJHS has kept La Jolla’s illustrious past alive with free self-guided walking tours, special events and exhibitions. Don’t miss the annual Spring Secret Garden Tour for an exclusive glimpse of private estate gardens not accessible to the public. More information and tour maps can be found on the website.

Photos courtesy of S. Gaspers and The Grande Colonial Hotel.