Fodor's Expert Review
You can’t get much closer to the Convention Center than this Hilton. The 30-story high-rise -- which overlooks Petco Park, the Gaslamp Quarter, the Coronado Bridge, and beautiful San Diego Bay -- is just steps from a trolley station, making getting around a breeze. In addition to the stellar views, the hotel features striking public artwork, a saltwater pool, a spa, and a bright lobby bar that has iPads for guests to browse and an outdoor terrace with bay views.
You Should Know The airport is nearby but don’t fret: You can’t hear the jets as they fly low over the city.
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Standard rooms are clean and comfortable, with unobtrusive contemporary decor that feels just slightly dated. It’s no big deal -- the public spaces are airy and inviting and the views are some of the best in town.
Tip Hilton Honors members: Ask extra nicely and maybe you’ll get an upgrade. The suites are much swankier than the regular guestrooms.
Like the rooms, the hotel’s bathrooms are pretty generic: granite counters, stone tile floors, and a walk-in shower or shower-tub combo. The suite bathrooms are a big upgrade, with soaking tubs and windows that frame fabulous views.
Contemporary and stylish, the high-ceilinged lobby has floor-to-ceiling slatted sycamore wood screens that reference tidal sandbars and seating in cool blues that nod to the color of the ocean. As part of the Port of San Diego’s Percent for Art program, the expansive lobby includes several public artworks. A pair of 12’ x 14’ transparent wall sculptures feature abstract swaths of color inspired by the wings of the great blue heron and the seagull. A two-part, suspended sculpture, “Viento de Mar,” created by artist and architect John Portman, features stainless steel mesh pieces that swirl and undulate, evoking the ocean breeze and ocean currents, with shifting colored lighting that brings the ethereal artwork to life. Outside the hotel, throughout the grounds, there’s a series of large steel kinetic sculptures by sculptor Ned Kahn and 26 steel benches by artist Nance O’Banion.
But of course there’s a pool at this Hilton -- and it’s a nice, big one. Set within throwing distance of the bay, and lined by palm trees and contemporary chaise lounges and cabanas, the saltwater pool has a unique shape that caters to serious swimmers and splashing kids alike -- a long lap pool connects in the middle to a half-moon pool.
Tip Above the pool, the Pool Club has a contemporary beachy vibe -- think rattan furniture with cushions in boho prints, potted palm trees, and fire pits on a spacious outdoor terrace with views.
Eforea Spa features warm-modern decor, with wood slatting that echoes the lobby, and offers a menu of massages, facials, and body skincare treatments.
The spacious fitness center is like a real gym, with five treadmills, five elliptical trainers, and upright and recumbent stationary bikes, as well as weight-training machines, free weights, and mats.
Vela (“Vela” is wing in Latin) is the hotel’s signature restaurant, with bay views and California coastal cuisine.
Tip Vegans, you’re in for a treat. Vela is one of the first hotel restaurants to offer a selection of creative vegan entrees and wine.
Overlooking the waterfront, the airy Odysea lobby bar is all about the creative cocktails crafted with house-made infusions, bitters such as lavender tequila and strawberry rhubarb rum, and barrel-aged concoctions. The bar has iPads for guests to check out and browse while boozing.
With the Convention Center trolley station across the street, guests can see a lot of sights without a car. The Green Line services the Gaslamp Quarter, the Santa Fe Depot (home to Amtrak and the Coaster, which services coastal communities to the north), Little Italy, Old Town, and the world-class Fashion Valley shopping center. Interstate 5, a major north-south freeway, is about a mile from the hotel; I-5 connects to other highways that cover the sprawling region.
The nearby Hard Rock Hotel boasts a sleek outpost of the famous Japanese restaurant Nobu (10-minute walk) -- the miso black cod, the signature dish of empire founder Nobu Matsuhisa, is divine. Once you get into the Gaslamp, there are lots of dining options, including the flagship Seersucker location (10-minute walk from the Gaslamp trolley station), a restaurant (and now small chain) from local celebrity chef and “Top Chef” alum Brian Malarkey, who has an ever-growing national empire and a thing for seersucker suits. The 7,500-square-foot space features brick walls and eclectic decor.
There aren’t a lot of nightlife options right by the hotel, but all it takes is a short trolley ride to get to some of the city’s best nightlife. The Gaslamp Quarter has something for everyone, including bumping clubs like Omnia (5-minute walk from trolley stop), little sibling to the Las Vegas mega-club, which has blingy decor, multiple dance floors and a rooftop terrace bar, and Onyx (5-minute walk from trolley stop), a super-sleek lounge with two dance floors. The Tipsy Crow (5-minute walk from trolley stop) is an eclectic, very popular spot with a marble billiards room, posh oversized seating, a dance floor, and games like Connect 4 and foosball.