Estancia La Jolla Is a Hidden San Diego Getaway
The real San Diego — less Sea World, more secret garden
The perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence our series, The Four-Hour Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.
As much as San Diego gets attention for its surf breaks, lagoons, and water sports, there’s a whole host of things to do inland as well. In fact, one of the city’s most-prized hotels, Estancia La Jolla, is a property centered around an incredible garden estate. Two and half hours from LA, this historic hotel is a great jumping off point for exploring a whole different side of San Diego.
The grounds are so magical, quiet, and removed from the city’s urban center, that there’s something of a “secret garden” feel to them. Though it’s still quite near the beach, the property doesn’t have an ocean view — just well over 10 acres of well-manicured gardens, quiet walking paths, and picturesque courtyards. Situated just north of La Jolla, this hacienda-style guesthouse is nothing short of idyllic, and as one of the oldest hotels in the area, originally built back in the 1880s, Estancia is the ultimate venue for a weekend getaway.
That’s probably why Noble Houses & Resorts recently assumed operation of the hotel, adding it to an already impressive roster that emphasizes experience-driven hospitality. If you’re in the mood for a complete escape from the noise of city life, without actually retreating to the country, Estancia is an incredible chance to unplug, unwind, and relax in nature — and yes, there is a pool, and nearby beach access, if you’re still craving watery adventures. For those who are up for a bit of land-based exploring, read on for a few of the property’s best features and nearby attractions.
Spend the afternoon wandering through the lush gardens, and taking in the botanicals
Considering this property is close to 150 years old, the attention to detail and care that has gone into preserving the flourishing grounds is impressive. Cool beige stucco and brown tiled roofs contrast nicely with the thick, grassy lawns and abundant flowers and shrubs. Down one of the property’s many walking paths, a Wishing Tree is equipped with blank tags, so guests can add their own hopeful notes to the decked out branches. Elsewhere, the Garden Courtyard houses over a hundred kinds of botanical flowers and plants, creating an environment that feels tropical and romantic, especially nestled against historic Spanish architecture features like adobe fireplaces and stone fountains.
Soak in the old world charm of Estancia’s historic Spanish architecture
As much as the outdoors are part of this hotel’s endless charm, the hacienda-style architecture functions exactly like it was designed to — keeping it airy and cool indoors even on the hottest days. The signature thick red tiles, massive Mediterranean-inspired archways and a welcoming courtyard gives the property’s common areas a roomy, spacious feel. Exposed wood beams emphasize the building’s high ceilings, which let in lots of light and add to the warm feel. Stop by the pool to get a sense of how thoroughly insulated this hotel is from the outside world by the rich plant life that sets it apart from other resorts in the city.
Shop, dine or heal in nearby local enclaves, before returning to the property’s little patch of outdoor magic
La Jolla is one of the many tucked-away suburbs that makes up the greater San Diego area, but its location is also wonderfully central. Just a stone’s throw from the nearby “urban village,” One Paseo (read: a fancy outdoor mall with elevated shops and lots of dining options), visitors can eat breakfast like locals at the health-conscious Parakeet Cafe, where green juice, gluten-free and organic are king. Peruse the oh-so-chic Shop/Good for any wellness needs and clean products, or, leave healthy behind and opt for a burger at the mall’s sprawling Shake Shack — point is, One Paseo’s got it all, and it’s less than a ten minute drive from the hotel.
Venture out to some of San Diego’s best restaurants
There are a couple on-site restaurants at Estancia, but the foodie scene in San Diego is so vibrant right now, it’s with exploring some nearby standouts. Herb + Sea in Encinitas is the perfect spot for a high-end seafood dinner that’s on par with the service level at a nearby Michelin honoree, Jeune et Jolie. For a classic, casual take on Mexican cuisine, arguably San Diego’s signature style, head into La Jolla and grab an outdoor table at the bustling Puesta, a local chain that’s so popular this outpost is one of three locations in the city. If you do want a rooftop, ocean view vibe, there’s nowhere better than The Holding Company in Ocean Beach, where all day snacks, drinks, and live music give it a quintessential beach town vibe. One more pick: Valentina in Leucadia is more bistro and wine than tacos or bands. Get the steak tartare with fries, a shrimp cocktail, and champagne for a sunny, boozy vacation lunch.
The real San Diego is more about holistic healing and botanical gardens than just the beach or Sea World
Life is all about balance, and vacation even more so. If you need a healing massage to get back into a meditative state after all that rich restaurant food, Saffron & Sage, a holistic health club, is just another 15 minutes down the road in San Diego’s Little Italy. (When it comes to massages, local healers always beat out hotel spas, these are just facts.) This standalone center offers everything from acupuncture and cupping to facials, massages, and sound baths, in case spending all that time in nature at Estancia is enough inspiration to get in touch with your inner spiritualist.
Between the outdoor cure of Estancia’s gardens, a bustling outdoor mall and this city’s slew of excellent restaurants that demand visiting, San Diego is a better place to spend a weekend than beach skeptics might’ve realized. There’s no need to fall back on tourist traps like Sea World when there’s this much to explore inland. And with Noble Resorts newly at the helm for this garden property, expect to see even more improvements and amenities popping up in the near future.
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