History, Sharks and The Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla

The Grande Colonial if full of history, charm and great location Photos by Greg ARAGON

The Grande Colonial Hotel in La Jolla has it all: history, charm and an incredible waterfront location. Add to this a walkable town with good restaurants, and beaches with sea lions and leopard sharks, and you’ll know why the hotel is one of my favorites in the San Diego area. 

The family and I recently escaped to the Grande Colonial for three days and two nights of fun and relaxation. Our getaway began when we checked into a comfortable suite overlooking the hotel pool and the Pacific Ocean a block away. 

The third floor suite came with two queen beds, an office desk with free Wi-Fi, large HD TV, a huge bathroom and walk-in closet, and a memorable view of the ocean from vintage windows. Just outside the room was another cool feature – a balcony a few steps away overlooking the quaint downtown district of La Jolla. 

When not enjoying our room, we explored La Jolla’s stunning coastline. A block from the hotel is Children’s Pool where sea lions and seals relax on cliffs and rock outcroppings. The area has a large seawall protruding far into the water, which visitors can walk along to get a close look at the animals and also get spectacular views of the ocean. This place was recently named by Tripadvisor as one of the “Top 10 Wonderfully Unique Beaches” in the world.

The La Jolla coastline is highlighted by rocky coves, where sea lions, pelicans and people play.

During our visit, the rocks were crawling with giant sea lions – sleeping, barking and grunting – as waves splashed all around them. Besides these creatures, the spot offers picturesque photo opportunities. 

Near Children’s Pool is La Jolla Cove, a popular spot for swimming, scuba diving and snorkeling. The cove is surrounded by sandstone cliffs and has a small sandy beach with lots of rocks to climb and investigate. Those who arrive at low tide can also enjoy the clear tide pools. There is also a small rock island here where hundreds of large pelicans gather. 

After playing at the beach, we headed back to the Grande Colonial and explored the 93-room boutique hotel and grounds. Opened in 1913 as La Jolla’s first hotel, the Grande Colonial started as an apartment/hotel. It soon added a pharmacy run by the father of actor Gregory Peck, who grew up in La Jolla. In coming years, the hotel would host notables such as Charlton Heston, Groucho Marx, Jane Wyatt, Eve Arden, Pat O’Brien and David Niven.

The hotel’s awarding-winning NINE-TEN Restaurant serves creative California cuisine.

Throughout its 100 years, the five-story hotel has seen numerous upgrades and owners, but has always kept its signature Colonial revival-style architecture and prominent corner location one block above the ocean. The hotel’s most recent renovation was to its signature dining spot, the NINE-TEN Restaurant & Bar (www.nine-ten.com), which is located next to the lobby.

Recognized with MICHELIN Guide 2023 distinction, the NINE-TEN Restaurant & Bar offers California cuisine that emphasizes a farm-to-table philosophy. Led by award-winning Chef Jason Knibb and Pastry Chef Jose Alonzo III, the menu showcases seasonal foods dictated by the local harvest and unique cooking styles. Current dinner menu highlights include hamachi sashimi with marinated baby shiitake mushrooms, watercress and scallion vinaigrette; grilled prime ribeye with roasted sunchoke, king trumpet mushroom, kale, amaranth sprouts and black truffle demi; and pan seared Maine sea scallops, with braised turnip, romanesco cauliflower, caper-raisin puree, Meyer lemon sauce and herb oil. 

Another great food option at the hotel is room service for breakfast. Our first morning we ordered delicious Huevos Rancheros with corn tortillas, Oaxaca cheese, ranchero sauce, Rancho Gordo beans, guacamole, sour cream, sunny-side-up eggs and cilantro. We also tried shakshuka, which is two poached eggs baked in tomato sauce, onions, peppers, feta cheese, parsley and grilled bread; and blueberry and lemon pancakes, with powdered sugar and maple syrup.

Leopard sharks love swimming with people at La Jolla Shores Beach.

While eating breakfast, a curious seagull landed on our windowsill and wanted a bite or two, so I hand fed him some toast with butter. After this we drove a couple of miles to La Jolla Shores Beach, a one mile-long sandy beach located near the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve. 

La Jolla Shores is not only great for swimming and scuba divers, but is also popular with leopard sharks. In fact while I was playing in the waves, about a dozen of these sharks appeared out of nowhere and began swimming next to people. Harmless to people, the spotted sharks are about four feet long and have many of the characteristics of their larger, scarier cousins. 

Sunsets are magical at The Grande Colonial.

After swimming with the sharks and playing in the sand, we strolled through downtown La Jolla and found the Burger Lounge (www.burgerlounge.com) where we enjoyed great grass-fed beef burgers and fantastic dairy-free ice cream. Back at the Grande Colonial, we swam in the hotel’s round pool and then watched the orange sun fall into the ocean from our suite. 

The Grande Colonial Hotel is located at 910 Prospect St. in La Jolla. The hotel also offers 5,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, in-room spa treatments, concierge-arranged ocean activities, airport shuttles and more. For more information and reservations, call (888) 828-5498 or visit www.thegrandecolonial.com.