A few hours before sunset on a cool, crisp winter day, my husband and I, accompanied by our two dogs, rolled through the entrance gate of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Situated approximately 20 miles from the hustle and bustle of downtown San Diego, this Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond resort covers 400 acres in Los Peñasquitos Canyon, a coastal nature preserve, 6 miles east of the Pacific Ocean.

Editors’ note: Although the COVID-19 pandemic has suddenly changed the face of travel, we hope our stories stoke your memories of past trips and kindle ideas for future adventures. 

Architecture buffs will recognize architect Robert Altevers’ Mediterranean-style design with Spanish, Moroccan and Italian influences inspired by visionary architect Addison Mizner. Interior designer Warren Sheets’ European influences, such as marble columns and imported chandeliers, lend an Old World feel to the hotel, belying its 2007 construction. Towering trees, meandering paths and quiet sitting areas add intimacy to the resort’s expansive grounds.

Guest bathroom at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar

Guestrooms feature European soaking tubs (Credit: Fairmont Grand Del Mar)

Each of the 249 rooms features a balcony or terrace, pillow-top beds with Italian cotton linens, and marbled bathrooms with European-style soaking tubs and Côte d’Azur bath salts. We immediately felt at home in our elegant and cozy space. The intricate crown moldings, dark-distressed wood furniture, and gold and blue accents contribute to the romantic and timeless theme of the entire resort. Plush towels, robes and slippers turned ordinary moments into feelings of simple luxury.

The Fairmont Grand Del Mar offers a wide range of amenities and activities. Guests may opt to play the Tom Fazio-designed, 380-acre golf course, take a guided nature hike, swim lazy laps in the pools, play tennis, work out in the gym, or be pampered in the full-service spa.

women's spa lounge in the Center for Wellbeing at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar

The women’s spa lounge in the Center for Wellbeing (Credit: Fairmont Grand Del Mar)

Relax and rejuvenate at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar

After a warm greeting at the Center for Wellbeing, I slipped into a plush spa robe and headed into the relaxation room. I sipped tea and breathed in the calming scents of jasmine and lavender while awaiting my treatment.

I chose the Collagen Firming Facial treatment and felt immediately relaxed in the strong and nurturing presence of Head Esthetician Julie Ann. This therapy enhanced the vitality in my face, and also left my entire being feeling soothed and nourished. I left the spa feeling a sense of peace and presence, recharged for the rest of my stay at the resort.

Relaxation pool (Credit: Fairmont Grand Del Mar)

The inviting relaxation pool (Credit: Fairmont Grand Del Mar)

At night, I swam in the resort’s lap pool, luxuriating in the quiet and stillness that surrounded me. My training as a yoga instructor reminded me to tune into the sound and quality of my breath, noticing it quicken with increased effort and allowing a slower and deeper breath to return with time.

Our breath is our constant companion, an opportunity to invite awareness and self-care to each moment, whether we’re in a five-star resort, gardening or playing with our grandchildren.

Tom Fazio designed golf course

Play a round at the Tom-Fazio designed golf course (Credit: Fairmont Grand Del Mar)

Getting active

Ratchet up your activity level at the Fitness Center at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. Besides golf, tennis and swimming, it offers personal training by reservation, as well as gym equipment and group classes like yoga and Tai Chi meditation.

Three walking trails ranging in intensity from easy to strenuous are accessible from the property. Guests may check out complimentary bikes from guest services, or consult with the concierge for assistance in arranging activities outside the hotel, such as horseback riding or kayaking.

On Saturday morning we joined other guests in the lobby and were driven to the trailhead for the four-mile guided hike through Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve. Our knowledgeable guide, Dylan Jones, educated us about the trails and the canyon ecosystem, as well as the greenery that thrives in this climate despite hot and dry conditions.

As one who is also in the over-50 club, Jones shares with guests his belief in finding “some delightful way to put your body in motion” every day.

He emphasized the importance of a movement practice that is fueled by excitement and interest: “I enjoy many activities but hiking carries so much intrinsic value for me… [it] provides excellent extended exercise with an endlessly curious backdrop like a movie set that is constantly changing.” This deep connection that Jones feels with nature is evident in the way he guides and leads. It inspired me to look more carefully at my surroundings, and at the end of the hike I felt more energized and ready for the day ahead.

New York strip steak with roasted carrots at Amaya

Feast on New York strip steak with roasted carrots at Amaya, one of six dining venues (Credit: Ann Nelson)

Dining options from casual to fine

In the evening we dined at Amaya, one of six dining venues on the property. The warm and inviting atmosphere is both casual and elegant, with quality glassware and European lamps, the setting punctuated by red and white accents. At nighttime, the centerpiece candles add coziness and comfort to this family-friendly dining option.

After inquiring about our tastes and preferences, our server, Ignacio, recommended excellent dishes. Chef Anthony Stagnaro blends local and seasonal elements of Californian cuisine with Italian influences. We shared an appetizer of pan-seared sea scallops with beetroot risotto, macadamia and apple. My husband ordered the Chanterelle Mushroom Risotto, made with Acquerello rice, Parmigiano Reggiano and truffles. Roasted carrots complemented my main course of New York strip steak with cognac-peppercorn jus.

Amaya offers seating either in a shaded terrace with stunning views, or in the relaxed dining room. For breakfast we opted for the outdoor patio, so our dogs could join us. Sipping our coffees while gazing out over the property in the early morning was the epitome of tranquility and peace.

Unfortunately, time didn’t permit us to dine at Addison, the only Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond restaurant in San Diego County. There, Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef William Bradley creates thoughtful and seasonal four-to ten-course menus. The dress code is smart and casual; men are asked not to wear open-toed shoes or shorts and jackets are encouraged.

Lap pool

Take a dip in the resort’s lap pool. (Credit: Fairmont Grand Del Mar)

Wile away an easy day at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar

Fairmont Grand Del Mar encourages guests to spend their days pursuing activities that bring joy and relaxation. Rather than responding to needs, the attentive staff strives to anticipate the needs of each guest. The Old World décor and attention to detail create a romantic environment that encourages each visitor to fully unwind. I was able to indulge in a spa treatment, lounge by the pool with my husband, read in my comfortable and tastefully-decorated room, and interact with other guests during the nature hike.

And, because the resort is close to San Diego, La Jolla and Del Mar, it’s easy to visit art galleries, Balboa Park and endless miles of beaches and shorelines. But then, you’d have to tear yourself away from lounging poolside.

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • This resort hideaway is a triple winner, earning Forbes Five-Star awards for the resort, the spa and the Addison Restaurant.
  • Guests may enjoy gorgeous swimming pools, gourmet dining at six different in-house venues, tennis courts, cycling, hiking and a Tom Fazio-designed golf course.

Take note:

  • Fairmont Grand Del Mar is located twenty miles from both San Diego International Airport and McClellan-Palomar Airport.
  • With reservation, courtesy transportation is available to and from Del Mar, La Jolla and Solana Beach.
  • The resort’s $45/day experience fee includes self-parking, fitness classes, use of golf clubs and access to the driving range.
  • The guided hike mentioned in this post is offered at no charge and available every Saturday morning.
  • Dogs are welcome; see the pet policy for more details.


Disclosure: The author’s stay was subsidized by Fairmont Grand Del Mar. All opinions expressed are her own.


Read about another Fairmont property, the Fairmont Empress.

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