Just outside of San Diego, California, in the pristine Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, is the luxurious Fairmont Grand Del Mar. This 400-acre resort reminds me of a Gilded Age mansion with its old-world architecture and stunning gardens. Activities abound including a golf course that meanders through the fingers of the canyon, a wellness spa, four heated pools, horseback riding, tennis, pickleball, and hiking. Dining is over the top with the farm-to-table Amaya and the Michelin three-star Addison. Accolades abound at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar with TripAdvisor readers voting it the #1 Luxury Hotel in California. It is both a Forbes Five-Star and a AAA Five Diamond Luxury Resort.
Pro Tip: During check-in, make sure to pick up a map of the resort and hiking trails. Take the Resort Loop hike once you are settled to stretch your legs after traveling. This 0.7-mile loop is paved and an easy stroll. It allows you to see all the resort has to offer.
Here are the eight best things to do at this luxurious Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve resort.
The Fairmont Grand Del Mar hosted me on a press trip. All opinions are my own.
1. Self-Guided Scenic Trails
There are 37 miles of hiking trails through the beautiful Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve that can be accessed from the Fairmont Grand Del Mar. The lovely coastal canyon is home to a variety of wildlife including mule deer, great blue heron, coyotes, bobcats, red-tailed hawks, white-tailed kites, and much more. California live oaks, sycamore trees, ancient volcanic rocks, and Native American historical sites create a unique environment for hiking.
On site is the Grand View Trail, which is an unpaved, 0.7-mile trail accessed near the tennis courts. It takes you through the golf course to gorgeous views of the resort. For the more adventurous folks, the Shaw Trail is rated strenuous, but the payoff is stellar views. It is 2.8 miles unpaved. At the end of this trail, you can access the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve by continuing under the bridge.
2. Equestrian Center
The Equestrian Center at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar offers a variety of activities. Enjoy a 1-hour trail ride with reliable trail horses that can accommodate a variety of ages and experiences. Your horse will be waiting for you when you arrive to maximize your time. Explore the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve during your ride. Take a horseback riding lesson and learn how to groom and tack up a horse before your private riding. Finish up by untacking the horse, grooming, and cleaning the tack. Younger children can enjoy pony rides around the rink. Horses are available to visit during the day and love to interact with guests.
3. Summer Concerts
On summer weekends, plan to spend an evening at Grand Social. This lovely outdoor lounge has three levels. Guests gather in the late afternoon to enjoy bocce on new professional courts or games of croquet on the manicured lawn. In the evening, rent a private cabana and fire pit or dine al fresco under the stars. Wood-fired dishes and craft cocktails hit the spot while listening to a summer concert. A variety of artists are scheduled throughout the summer.
4. JetPeel Facial
Fairmont Spa and Wellness offers the revolutionary JetPeel Facial which guests can book as a 60- or 90-minute treatment. I recommend you splurge on the longer version. According to the brochure, this is “a non-invasive treatment that uses pressurized oxygen to deliver nutritive micro-droplets at subsonic speed to reach the dermal layers below the skin surface. Each JetPeel treatment includes a lymphatic drainage massage, gentle exfoliation, and customized infusion to address the appearance of fine lines, helps to restore firmness and boost radiance.”
It really does live up to the hype. I think it makes a great summer treatment because the oxygen is cold and not hot steam like most facials. Because there are no harsh chemicals, you can go into the Sun immediately after your treatment. I was slathered with SPF 45 and enjoyed the adult pool with no sunburn or sensitivity to the Sun.
Pro Tip: I recommend booking a signature poolside adult-only room if you plan to visit the spa during your stay. Located on the first floor, these gorgeous rooms have a landscaped private terrace with access to the adults-only relaxation pool. The rooms have an old-world charm with deep-soaking tubs, a marble bathroom, and plush beds.
5. Grand Activities
The Fairmont Grand Del Mar has a variety of resort activities with something for all ages. Located in a lovely coastal canyon, nature lovers will enjoy looking for wildlife along the sagebrush-lined trails or learning about more than 500 plant species. For guests who like more competitive activities, there is pickleball, tennis, and archery. Work out in the fully equipped fitness center or take a fitness class. Swim laps in the adults-only relaxation pool. Rent a Zybra e-bike and explore the resort and canyon.
6. The Grand Golf Club
Tom Fazio Championship Golf
Tom Fazio showed his true artistic genius when he designed this picturesque course. The natural beauty of the Los Penasquitos Canyon is highlighted with each hole. Golfers are cooled by breezes from the nearby Pacific Ocean and San Diego’s famed mild climate keeps this course open year-round. The 18th hole has a dramatic waterfall finish. After a round of golf, head to the Clubhouse Grill for lunch. Resort guests can utilize the practice facilities for a modest fee that includes complimentary rental clubs. The course is 7,160 yards long with an award-winning driving range and two small greens for your short game.
7. Amaya Restaurant
The Amaya Restaurant’s tagline is “Feels like Tuscany, Tastes Like California,” and it is so true. I dined on a Tuscan-inspired terrace with the gentle sounds of a gushing fountain and the lush scent of flowers. The farm-to-table menu lists the local producers who provide the ingredients for this delectable food. It features the best of the region’s fresh, flavorful food. Make sure to order the house-made Parker rolls served hot from the oven with Grand Del Mar rescue hive honey butter sourced from the resort’s own beehives.
Pro Tip: For a truly over-the-top dining experience, plan to dine at Addison, the only three-star Michelin restaurant in southern California. Culinary genius Chef William Bradley is highlighted in a nine-course tasting menu. Addison has a comprehensive wine program featuring small producers and discoveries from around the world.
8. Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve
The natural beauty and abundant resources found in Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve were home to Native Americans in the area over 7,000 years ago. Today, visitors come to enjoy this natural area to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities. The stream that flows through the preserve fuels a variety of life beginning with a freshwater marsh abounding with aquatic birds including mallard ducks, egrets, great blue herons, and many more. Giant California live oaks and groves of sycamore trees provide much-needed shade alongside the water source. Hikers take a trail that leads to a waterfall cascading through volcanic rock. Wildlife in the area includes raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, and mule deer.
Pro Tips: Download the trail map for the preserve and use caution when visiting. The terrain is rugged and home to rattlesnakes, mountain lions, and other hazards. Pay attention to your surroundings and bring plenty of water, sunscreen, and wear good hiking shoes or boots.