Best San Diego Family Hotels, by Age Group

From dine-in movies to rock concerts, San Diego hotels offer a plethora of kid-friendly experiences.


San Diego is a popular family destination, and the hotels in town have long recognized the need to cater to guests with children. I live just north of the city, but often spend weekends in the city with my family. Below are my favorite San Diego picks for families, broken into categories according to age. Note that all the hotels mentioned will take care of older kids (and parents) just as well as the age group specified.

For Kids 4 and Older

Hilton San Diego Resort (tel. 619-276-4010; 1775 East Mission Bay Dr.)

This newly renovated property sits on prime real estate directly on Mission Bay, a quiet man-made body of water surrounded by acres of grassy grounds, punctuated by a half dozen playgrounds, and ringed by miles of wide, level bike paths. Although the water in Mission Bay isn’t pure enough for swimming, the calm waves make it ideal for aquatic toys like water trikes, kayaks and small sailboats—all of which can be rented at the Hilton’s own marina. Rooms are large enough for families; I particularly like the bi-level suites, which offer a separate upstairs bedroom and a living space downstairs. All guestrooms offer spacious patios (some with gas-burning fire pits) or balconies—a nice retreat for mom and dad after the kids go to bed.

During summer, the Hilton’s kids’ club offers afternoon supervised scavenger hunts, sports, and arts and crafts for children ages 5 to 12. Families will also find balloon artists in the onsite restaurants (ask for a penguin!), family beach volleyball, board game sessions and tennis camp on selected days. During evening hours, the hotel offers a kids’ night out, which includes a pizza and soda party and an age-appropriate movie shown poolside.

Hotel del Coronado (tel. 619-435-6611; 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado)

This lovely 1888 structure is considered one of the top destination hotels in the country—and the luxurious Victorian resort offers top-of-the-line amenities that will please the entire family. The sprawling whitewashed complex accented with bright red-roofed conical towers is on a sugary white sand beach, and waves here are gentle enough for even the littlest waders.

The Del (as locals call it) offers guest accommodations in three distinct locations: the historic Victorian Building, the mid-rise Towers and Cabana, and the brand new Beach Village condos. The newer guest accommodations in the Towers and the Beach Village are more spacious—but I prefer the ambiance of the cozy rooms in the historic building. (We stayed here with our daughter when she was in kindergarten, and years later she remembers only that the ceilings were so low that she could touch them when she jumped on the bed.)

Throughout summer, the resort offers its Tent-City Kids’ Programs, three-hour camps for children ages 4 to 12 with fun themes like beach Olympics, Hawaiian luaus and “pirates of Coronado.” All camps feature art projects that kids can do alone or with their parents, like painting a piggy bank, decorating a sun catcher or sand sculpting.

Paradise Point Resort (tel. 858-274-4630; 1404 Vacation Rd.)

This self-contained 44-acre island in Mission Bay has more than a mile of sandy beaches (a perfect vantage point to watch summertime fireworks over nearby SeaWorld); an 18-hole putting course; five pools, one of which boasts a sandy beach entry that is soft on little feet; championship tennis courts; sand volleyball courts; and a full-service marina that rents a wide variety of boats and water toys.

The resort’s Kids’ Kamp entertains little ones 4 to 12 with supervised sports, scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, and guided nature walks through the expansive gardens. On Wednesdays and Saturdays through Labor Day, families will enjoy “dive-in” movies (from the comfort of a dry pool lounge or floating atop a water raft). And in the evenings, guests can pull up next to a fire ring on the beach and whip up a batch of S’mores. Be sure to make reservations for children’s programs at least 24 hours in advance because if the resort does not have enough children, the camps may be canceled.

For Children 8 and Older

Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego (tel. 619-232-1234; 1 Market Pl.)

This is my favorite large property downtown because it offers the convenience of an urban hotel and the excitement of a resort. At 40 stories tall, the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego is the tallest waterfront hotel on the West Coast—and the views from guestrooms (especially on higher floors) are unparalleled. The twin towers sit on the lovely San Diego harbor, with views of Coronado, Point Loma, the glittering downtown skyline and the yachts in the marina (look for America’s Cup winner Stars and Stripes). The popular Gaslamp Quarter is a short walk away, and the quaint Seaport Village Shopping Center is adjacent to the resort. The fourth-floor, 25,000-foot deck has a huge pool, oversized spas and plenty of lounge chairs.

Throughout the summer, the hotel hosts children’s activities like cookie decorating, foosball tournaments and hair braiding. Look for a package deal that includes SeaWorld tickets and a plush Shamu toy.

Omni San Diego Hotel (tel. 619-231-6664; 675 L St.)

There’s no better place to take baseball fans of any age than this downtown hotel—in fact, I’ve taken nephews and nieces (ranging in age from 8 through 28) through the hotel even when we weren’t staying there. The clean lined high-rise is next door to Petco Park, the San Diego Padres’ home field, and the hotel has a sky bridge that will take guests directly into the park on game days. Scattered on various floors throughout the property are baseball artifacts like Joe DiMaggio’s spikes, a rare “lemon peel” baseball (one of the first baseballs ever made), and a collection of early Major League uniforms.

Look for Web site deals that include a bag of kids’ goodies at check-in, milk and cookies in the evening, or a baseball package with game tickets and a box of Cracker Jacks. This hotel holds a special place in my heart because of its truly premium service: Several years back, my daughter left behind a beloved stuffed animal. I was sure the housekeepers had thrown it in the wash with the jumble of linens, but when I called after discovering our mistake, the manager herself tracked down the toy, which she then shipped overnight to my relieved child.

For Teenagers and Older

Hard Rock Hotel San Diego (tel. 866-751-7625; 207 Fifth Ave.)

At the very heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, this chic new hotel pulses with youth and vigor. Photographs of music legends adorn the public walls, along with framed notes scribbled on napkins and hotel stationary by rock gods like Bruce Springsteen and John Lennon. As you might expect from the Hard Rock brand, there is no shortage of musical entertainment: Woodstock, a 9,000-square-foot outdoor venue, is the site of regular live concerts featuring some of the hottest regional and national acts.

Standard “studio” rooms are edgy and modern, and offer flatscreen TVs with streaming music videos, alarm clocks with MP3 plug-ins and a copy of Rolling Stone magazine. Seventeen unique “rock star suites” are decorated with modern style and offer spa-worthy bathrooms and wide decks with views across the harbor or into the Gaslamp. One suite was decorated personally by members of the Black Eyed Peas and features eclectic artwork and Fergie-licious furnishings.

Hotel Solamar (tel. 877-230-0300; 435 Sixth Ave.)

This hip Kimpton property in the artsy East Village neighborhood of downtown (walking distance from both the Gaslamp Quarter and Petco Park) will appeal to teenagers who appreciate style and design. Throughout the otherwise modern, edgy space you’ll find subtle nods to the San Diego beach scene, with shells as artwork, tropical ceiling fans, and a cabana in the lobby.

More than 200 stylish guestrooms boast free WiFi, complimentary yoga accessories and access to the Yoga channel via large flatscreen TVs. Décor is bold and straightforward, with luxurious fabrics in shades of coffee and aqua; funky glass accents; and richly textured oversized headboards. Bathrooms are equipped with upscale vanities and basin sinks, and many suites offer chin-deep soaking tubs. A fourth-floor rooftop pool is accented with three fire pits, moody lighting, and a premium sound system.

Editor’s note: The zebra-patterned bathrobes at Hotel Solamar are luxuriously soft, and the manager-hosted evening wine reception is a nice treat for adults after a long day of sightseeing. Also, don’t miss the hotel’s excellent restaurant, Jsix

Destinations: San Diego

Themes: Beach Vacations, Family Travel

Activities: Sleep

User Comments

Hilton San Diego Resort is a good one We stayed here with our 2 young daughters here a couple years back. Highly recommend it. Pool area is great. Don't plan on swimming in the bay though!

A good hotel for families near Legoland Last time we went to San Diego we stayed at the Grand Pacific Palisades Resort in Carlsbad, which is right across the street from Legoland. It sounds expensive and stuffy. It's not. It's definitely a family resort: all suite rooms, nice outdoor water play area, and great access to San Diego. One head's up: The do sell timeshares but are not pushy.

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