Monday, May 18, 2009


During the Victorian Era, it was de rigueur for land-locked "swells" to pack up their satchels and trunks to escape their unbearably hot and humid throat-gagging sooty and frenzied unpaved streets (escaping bitter cold winters was another excuse to pack-em up). With kids and servants in-tow, this was definitely the way to go, albeit no easy accomplishment, since this also meant taking one of the infrequent trains west to California, where the Gold Rush frenzy melded with a land where healthier climes restored the weary. Here was a place where travelers could soak in the warming rays of sunshine, breathe intoxicating and healthy Pacific Ocean sea salt air, while gorging themselves on a never-ending bounty of fresh produce and fruits de mar. Compared to points East, the pace here was definitely slower and more conducive to relaxation and restoration. Here was a land where wellness was key and available in large doses, merely for the taking. Ah, yes, those were the good ole’ days.

Overview - Nestled on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and set on twenty-eight acres of natures finest, the Victorian-era Hotel del Coronado (a short jaunt from San Diego, California) opened its doors in 1888. It quickly became the preferred destination for industrialist escapism and health seeker. Always innovative in offering the latest in premium guest care, The Del, as it’s affectionately referred to, offered exquisite amenities and accommodations, outstanding guest care, gloriously fresh food, and of course, endless sunshine and sea air year round. It wasn’t uncommon for guests to arrive in tow, along with their personal attendants and au pairs, with enough luggage to start a leather goods emporium. It also wasn’t uncommon for guests to stay for months, while their bitter winter subsided, melding into the promise of spring.

The Del even offered its guests a separate building, which housed the hotel’s curative bathing and soaking area pools. Seawater was pumped in from the ocean and then heated up, while guests enjoyed the revitalizing water. Guests at The Del swore to their doctors that the heated seawater cured them of aches and pains and other ills, imagined or real, with often the doctor’s immediate concurrence. It was a prescription for a newfound water cure, and much closer than a trans-Atlantic to Europe uncomfortable and long trek.

Since those early days, this exquisite destination has continued to provide a place of refuge and escapism for those weary and in need of an experience that is pleasurable, but also purposeful. The abundance of sunshine, seawater and fresh air, its fresh produce and fruits de mar, continues to attract the weary and frenetic traveler.

I recently visited The Del to experience its latest new additions to its immense property. One addition was the secluded luxury Beach Village, which opened up in the summer of 2007. Exquisite one and two-bedroom suites, complete with spacious living and dining spaces, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, offers the finest in décor, upscale bedding, leisure, entertainment, appliances, vanity and other accoutrement, such as indoor fireplaces, outdoor whirlpools, soaking tubs, fire pits and ocean view terraces. The overall architectural style carefully blends in with the hotel’s historic and beautiful Queen Anne style, neither of which is stuffy or over-stated. My room was luxurious, and staff care was outstanding; I looked forward each evening to turndown service, which included a lovely, thoughtful saying and a small seashell as a memento; the shells were culled from the ocean’s shore; a very sweet gesture. Beach Village also has its own Front Desk, Concierge, and the exclusive Windsor Club Cottage where guests can enjoy a leisurely breakfast, or an intimate aperitif before heading to one of the hotel’s outstanding dining establishments. Beach Village is beautiful and grand.

Another dining establishment guests enjoy is the upscale 1500 OCEAN, which serves exceptional Southland Cuisine; this style captures the pride of Southern California’s best in organic, locally grown fruits and produce, as well as premium cured meats and delectable fresh sea food. The creative menu offerings by gifted culinary artisans (like Chef de Cuisine Brian Sinnott), and when paired with eclectic wine selections, makes for an exceptional dining experience. Although a bit lower-keyed, guests can also delight in the romance of the ocean’s view and sunset in the aptly named new outdoor Sunset Bar; the light menu fare and a languid cocktail make this an ideal choice for a night cap. For a buffet to end all buffets, don’t miss the Sunday brunch in the stately and grand Crown Room. There’s plenty to do throughout this historic masterpiece for those of all ages; just walking down the boardwalk grounds you to the memories and stories made at the Del, including the story of ghost Kate Morgan, or the filming of “Some Like It Hot”. The must-visit eclectic gift shops, especially the hotel’s Signature Shop bring returning devotees back for more, almost as a pilgrimage and duty for the novice and veteran guest.

More Sensory Treats - As if this weren’t enough, now guests of the hotel and its Beach Village can luxuriate in The Del’s newly completed Spa at The Del. The Spa building houses the new Fitness Center, which is comprised of a separate workout studio and equipment area, as well as the Yamaguchi Salon.

Fitness Center - Classes offered in the studio include spinning, Yoga, Pilates, body sculpting and aerobics. Yoga and Pilates are offered indoors and oceanside; another popular outdoor class is the fitness walk. The indoor classes fill up quickly, while the oceanside classes enhance the fitness experience with its exhilarating vistas. The comprehensive equipment area offers the latest in weight and cardiovascular equipment, with certified personal trainers available to guide or train.

Yamaguchi Salon
– This is another huge draw for those in search of a Feng Shui beauty consultation and salon services with the eponymous designer and lifestyle master (or one of his esteemed stylists). Billy Yamaguchi was the first one to ever recognize the correlation between, and then apply the same philosophy and principles of Feng Shui to hair, beauty and aesthetics. His global demand and appeal makes his presence at The Del a major coup for hotel guests (and locals), who often combine their hotel visit with a salon appointment, and then top it off with a treatment or two at the beautiful Spa.

Spa at the Del - The Spa’s understated, yet beautiful décor compliments the elements of nature, sea, sunshine, and airiness. In addition to its popular retail area, the Spa offers twenty-one spacious treatment rooms, including one couple’s, two Vichy, two body, four facial and twelve massage. There are sixty-five staff members, including a manager and director to oversee this exceptional spa amenity. The Spa uses a variety of skin care and body care products. The gender-specific locker rooms come equipped with steam rooms and a meditation area where healthy and organic fruit and libations are plentiful. To further the experience, there’s also a private veranda and an outdoor infinity pool with fire pit; of course, a breathtaking view of the historic Windsor Lawn and Pacific Ocean are added bonuses for spa goers.

Spa Experience
- The Spa offers an impressive array of individual or package rituals of therapeutic and restorative treatments for skin and body, hair and nails. To further enhance the Spa's commitment to guest well-being. All treatment products are natural and organic-based. The highly skilled staff creates and sustains a calming, nurturing environment for the guest from the moment they arrive, until their departure. While there, I had the pleasure of experiencing one of the Spa‘s customized group sensory events that included reflexology treatments poolside; the treatment also included a revitalizing paraffin wrap and a final massage with an application of moisturizer; the Spa customizes other treatments for group events as well. Speaking of customized treatments, I wanted to experience a more in-depth body treatment compared to what was being offered on the Spa’s extensive menu. I made a suggestion for a customized adaptation of one of their restorative body treatments, the Seaside Enzyme Wrap. The treatment usually includes a gentle exfoliation, a sea enzyme wrap, and an application of lotion.

I wanted to advance some of the properties of the treatment, so I suggested to, and working with my exceptional therapist (Tammy), ended up receiving a super-customized body treatment that started with a body exfoliation using sugar and sea salt in a base of lemongrass essential oil; after this element ended, the exfoliant was removed using hot towels; this was followed by a body application of seaweed enzyme (Thalgo; I was then completely wrapped, with the exception of my feet, which were treated to an incredible foot reflexology massage; following this, I was escorted to a wet room that had a powerful multi-jet Swiss Shower for a thorough rinse; I was towel dried and resuming my “bed position”, my body was completely moisturized with an application of shea butter (Pure Fiji; To complete this exceptional customized treatment my hands, feet, neck and shoulder areas were thoroughly massaged. My therapist and I were very pleased with the way the customized treatment came out; the only change I would make next time would be to request that a lighter weight body moisturizer be used, since shea butter can seem a bit “heavy” and dense once the skin has been properly exfoliated and re-mineralized with a seaweed-based treatment product. Overall, my experience at the Spa was one of the better one’s I’ve had recently, and the Spa’s readiness to customize a treatment for me with such stellar results, is definitely the mark of an extraordinary spa. I give the Spa my five-loofah rating.

Accolades - The Spa has been receiving major kudos since opening in the Spring of 2007. It garnered the 2007 Conde Nast Traveler’s “Hot List” issue as one of the world’s up and coming seventy-five new spas in the world to watch, and in the August 2008 issue of Traveler + Leisure, it made its “World’s Best List” in the category “Top 20 Hotel Spas”.

Hotel del Coronado is a National Historic Landmark and one of the impressive KSL Resort properties. Whether for fun and sun, or a romantic rendezvous, wedding, or meeting, The Del offers its guests exemplary service and care, not too mention an indulgent sensory experience. Overall, The Del experience is a memory waiting to happen, and highly recommended. For more information on The Del, Beach Village or Spa, call 800-468-3533, or go to

By Terry Herman

Terry Herman is a recognized expert in the spa industry, and regularly covers issues that include business, management, operations, customer care, treatments, products, and trends. In addition to writing and reviewing, she is also a management consultant and motivational speaker. You can email her at

(Image by Hotel Del Coronado. View from Spa Terrace.)