Originally opened in 1970 as the Sea Lodge Hotel, the three-story 128-room family-owned and -operated La Jolla Shores Hotel is one of the few in San Diego situated directly on the beach. Like they say, location, location, location—and that is the best way to describe this hotel. La Jolla is renowned for its picturesque beaches, and this hotel abuts the San Diego/La Jolla Underwater Park, a 600-acre ecological and 533-acre marine life refuge that draws ocean enthusiasts to kayak, surf, snorkel, scuba dive or just revel in the beautiful sights and sounds of the waves.
Imagine going to sleep each night listening to the sound of the ocean. The first and foremost amenity, if you are wise enough to splurge on one of the 30 full ocean front rooms, is a room with a balcony with a view so close to the sand and surf that you may choose not to leave your private perch. Or if you venture out to the beach, depending on the time of day and tide, it’s a mere 50 or so steps from the lobby. The hotel provides complimentary chairs and umbrellas or will even set up a barbeque on the beach for a modest fee.
Other perks are a beautiful courtyard with fountains, blooming foliage and ping pong table; two tennis courts; a fitness center; sauna; heated swimming pool with jacuzzi; free Wifi; room service; secure gated underground parking; and large flat screen TVs and DVD players in every room and a library of movies that can be checked out for free.
For dining, in addition to its on-site restaurant, nearby is The Marine Room (more on that later), and there are more than a dozen eateries just two blocks away, with a variety of pizza, Italian, Mexican, sushi and sandwich shops.
The Shores Restaurant
Like the hotel, the views from its The Shores Restaurant are hard to beat, with large arched floor-to-ceiling windows which run the length of the dining room and lounge providing a bird’s eye view of the sand and surf just yards away. With dining both indoors and outdoors the sound and sights of the surf are beckoning as you enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner. And, if you time it right, you can dine while watching the sunset from one of the most advantageous spots in Southern California. In addition to the tremendous view, the room is attractively adorned with sea green seats, dark wood tables, bright white walls and comfortable booths.
The restaurant is overseen by Executive Chef, Director of Food and Beverage Bernard Guillas and the menu is ably executed by Chef de Cuisine Percy Oani. Chef Percy, born and raised in Los Angeles, came from a family that loves cooking and his father was a Navy cook. He began his career as a waiter and bartender, and after he constantly found himself spending time in the kitchen, decided to follow his passion and attended the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. After graduating he worked as a sous chef at Peohe’s in Coronado and as executive chef at Roy’s, for 13 years, and brought his talents to The Shores Restaurant in 2013.
Chef Percy and Chef Bernard work together on crafting a family-friendly menu that fuses Pacific inspiration with seafood and seasonal ingredients. The breakfast menu offers healthy options such as the Green Goddess smoothie with cactus, cucumber, celery, spinach and parsley and Tropical Madness with mango, banana, papaya and yogurt; or Spa Omelet with egg white, wilted kale, sun dried tomato, fennel and feta. More indulgent entrees include Eggs Benedict with Canadian bacon, arugula and citrus hollandaise; Bloomsdale Spinach Omelet with butternut squash, mushrooms and goat cheese; or Signature Baja Omelet with crab meat, avocado, cheddar, scallions, cilantro cream and pico de gallo, all of which come with hash browns, choice of toast and the unforgettable organic Jackie’s Jam.
The lunch and dinner menu includes a mix of shareable plates, salads and soups, burgers, tacos and ocean & land entrees. Worthy plates to share include Local Sea Bass Ceviche, Ahi Tuna Poke and Citrus BBQ Chicken Lettuce Wraps. A must-have salad is the Toasted Quinoa Kale, with a variety of textures and crunch compliments of toasted quinoa, almonds, orange, blueberries, manchego and sweetness from a honey lime vinaigrette. Some unique entrees are the Firecracker Yellowtail served with forbidden rice, rainbow chard and sake sesame sauce; Seasonal Vegetarian Risotto, which during our visit was a mix of carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, mushrooms and mascarpone; and Angus Braised Short Ribs served with scalloped potatoes, vegetable medley and shiitake cabernet sauce. Desserts are equally creative, with Banana Split Mud Pie composed of chocolate, strawberry, banana ice cream, marshmallow and almond crunch; Chocolate Crème Brulee with papaya, macadamia shortbread and brown sugar; and Cappuccino Tiramisu with candied pecans, chocolate shavings and Amaretto syrup.
The prices are quite reasonable, especially considering that the view is free, with most breakfast dishes ranging from $6 to $13 and lunch and dinner from $10 to $25. Show up on a Wednesday and a selection of bottles of wine are half priced, such as the outstanding Edmeades 2013 Mendocino County Zinfandel from Santa Rosa, CA that I enjoyed. Other great deals can be had during happy hour, available in the lounge Sun.-Fri. from 3-6 p.m. Drink specials are craft beer drafts for $6 and glasses of wine, mojitos, margaritas and sangria for $7; and several EATS priced from $6.50-$12.95 include fish tacos, pork pot stickers, calamari and Cajun wings.
The Marine Room
Another dining option located a short three-minute walk or free shuttle ride away, is The Marine Room, located in the sister property La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. In 2016 the landmark restaurant celebrates the 75th anniversary of its opening in 1941. Its unrivaled awe-inspiring view with the surf only feet away is especially dramatic during high tide when waves splash onto the windows, making dining here the epitome of ocean-front dining. The world-renowned restaurant has obviously stood the test of time and is its stellar reputation as a culinary gem in the San Diego community has made it THE place for fine dining in the region. The expertly crafted menu features items such as Lobster Bisque, Togarashi Sesame Spiced Ahi Tuna, Ume Plum Wine Braised Kurobuta Pork Cheek, Chimichurri Rubbed Mary’s Farm Chicken with marsala reduction, Center Cut Black Angus Filet Mignon with mountain berry chutney, and Pistachio Plugra Basted Maine Lobster Tail; and is complemented by a wine list so extensive it spans 34 pages.
The executive chef is as legendary as the restaurant. Maitre Cuisiniers de France and Award-winning Chef Bernard Guillas joined La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club Inc. as executive chef in 1994 and oversees the group’s three restaurants and all catering operations. The French-born chef is regularly featured on local and national programs including The Today Show and co-authored Flying Pans, a self-published cookbook that was awarded two IACP book of the year awards. Chef has also been invited as guest chef to the prestigious James Beard House in New York on many occasions.
Longevity and Loyalty
One thing I was struck by was the attitude of the hotel and restaurant employees, all of whom seemed to genuinely like their place of employment, such as Lupe, who has been a server at The Shores Restaurant for 16 years and several others with more than 30 years of service at the hotel. And, everyone I spoke to claimed they never get tired of looking at the incredible view.
In conclusion, it would be hard to find a hotel with closer beach access where, as the hotel’s motto states, “The beach is your playground.” A stay at the La Jolla Shores Hotel offers the best of the California beach lifestyle with choices of snorkeling, lounging poolside, oceanfront dining, beach barbeques or lounging on the beach.
La Jolla Shores Hotel
8110 Camino del Oro
La Jolla, CA