Mediterranean Splendor and La Jolla Luxury Meet at La Valencia Hotel

La Jolla has always been the jewel of southernmost California. In fact, that was the Spanish name given by 19th century explorers. The landmark hotel of La Jolla is La Valencia (whose iconic pink color has been adopted by paint manufacturers). The hotel has been undergoing a steady renovation over the last few years, and the result is a perfect blend of charming history and modern appointments.

We recently paid a visit and were enthused about the results.

The 114 room hotel has never really closed its doors, so undertaking the $11 million renovation was a well-crafted strategy. Working with the protective city fathers, the hotel was able to maintain the crucial elements of the building while undertaking maintenance deferred by prior owners, bringing the hotel up to well-deserved luxury standards.

The terraced gardens overlook the Pacific, but without much effort it was easy to be transported to the Mediterranean. The lush foliage has been well-tended for decades, so it melds with the architecture in pleasing fashion.

Our suite peered down on the pool and the ocean beyond. The tall double doors opened onto a small balcony, perfect for sipping a morning cappuccino or a late afternoon Chardonnay. The bathroom was spacious, often a challenge in older buildings. The Frette linens and comfortable bed made it hard to get vertical, but with so much on offer at the hotel and within walking distance we soon got underway.

In La Sala Lounge we continued with coffees and perusal of newspapers. The breakfast offerings at THE MED were magnificent, we shared bruleed grapefruit with caramelized clover honey and stuffed brioche French toast with blackberry‎ marscapone, kaffir lime butter and a delightful strawberry and pink peppercorn compote. The ocean facing restaurant features New American Cuisine. Executive Chef Alex Emery gave us some background of his vision for La Valencia.  This native San Diegan, recently brought to the hotel, brings an innovative and fresh approach to the menu, with a focus on local and sustainable products. His background includes stints at Grant James Vineyard in Ramona, CA as well as Oceanaire Restaurant, Knotty Barrel Gastro Pub, The Pearl Hotel and the Hilton Bayfront in San Diego. Later at lunch I especially enjoyed a baby kale Caesar salad with smoked‎ bacon, brassicas, sous vide egg, shaved pecorino and English muffin croutons and then a classic lobster roll (snipped chives on buttered brioche with crispy shallots and a lemon sachet).

Early in the evening we had a marvelous paella in the street facing European bistro, Café La Rue. Tasty cocktails were welcome accompaniments. The hotel offers a series of weekly specials, including Paella Mondays, with unlimited Sangria.

Executive Chef Alex Emery working his magic.

La Valencia has eschewed overtures from large luxury conglomerates, preferring to maintain its individuality. Patrons seem to prefer it that way, rewarding the hotel with nearly consistent capacity. We were nonetheless able to get a peek at the venerable Sky Suite.  Unveiled in May 2015, the sky-high suite has sweeping views of La Jolla Cove and the Pacific and is located in the former footprint of the hotel’s Sky Room Restaurant, circa 1957 and the Sun Deck, circa 1928.  The 180 degree ocean views and art deco design echoes 1940s Hollywood. The retractable windows allow the ocean breezes to waft through the suite, begging the question why one would want to leave. Nonetheless, nearby attractions include La Jolla Cove, Torrey Pines State Park, Scripps Ocean Institute, the Birch Aquarium as well as UCSD / La Jolla Playhouse and the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art.

La V, as it is known by locals and savvy visitors from afar, has a delightful summer program of food and drink themed evenings. We will be back.







Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.