Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa | Hotel Review

by Julie Cohn
Relaxation on the bay

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When it comes to family travel time, hotel location is everything.  A hotel too far from activities means valuable vacation time wasted in the car, but a hotel too close to an attraction can oftentimes be overcrowded, overpriced, and noisy.  In San Diego, the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa is an affordable luxury resort option, offering the perfect location to San Diego family activities without sacrificing time or comfort.

{I was hosted for a stay, but opinions are 100% my own.}

Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

The Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa is a beautiful 18-acre hotel resort located directly on Mission Bay, just north of downtown San Diego.  All 357 guest rooms and 16 suites feature garden or waterfront balcony or patio views (with fire pit), king or two queen beds, WiFi, 42-inch LCD television, coffeemaker, microwave, small refrigerator, and in-room safe.  Bay views are available from most of the resort, including waterfront dining and pool.

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Sunset over Mission Bay


The Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa is centrally located in San Diego near many San Diego attractions and activities, including Sea World, the San Diego Zoo, beaches.  The resort has easy access to I-8 and I-5, so guests can get almost anywhere in the San Diego area in 30 minutes.   Because it is a resort, families can stretch out and relax in oversized rooms, with a balcony or patios with fire pits for s’mores, and easy access to walking/bike paths, garden grounds, and beachfront.

  • Sea World – 2 miles
  • Old Town San Diego – 2.3 miles
  • University of San Diego – 2.5 miles
  • Balboa Park – 8 miles
  • San Diego Zoo – 8 miles
  • Seaport Village – 8 miles
  • La Jolla – 9 miles
  • Legoland – 28 miles
  • Coronado – 11.5 miles away


I stayed in one of the King Waterfront Studio rooms, a 485 sq. ft. room with sitting area and wet bar with refrigerator and coffeemaker.   The room was decorated in soothing browns, creams, and plum, with wicker and leather accents.  The bed and linens were clean and comfortable with plenty of pillows.  The living areas were clean and well-maintained. The bathroom was clean as well, except in the shower,  where the edges of shower tile could use a little extra scrubbing; also, the wallpaper near the shower was peeling at the edges.  The room had easily accessible outlets for phone jacks and other electronics.   My outdoor patio, with two lounge chairs, table, and a fire pit, was about 50 yards from the water, with a breathtaking view of Mission Bay.  Note:  For people with allergies, my room had wooden floors with no carpeting.

King bed in room

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LCD television and desk area

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Peter Roth toiletries in bathroom

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Patio with fire pit and bay view

Grounds & Facilities

Garden paths lead guests from the guest rooms to the main lobby, restaurants, pool, and lounge areas.  The main lobby, open 24 hours, is indoor/outdoor, with oversized wicker lounge chairs and potted plants.  There are several pool areas, including a children’s wading pool and lagoon-style pool, all overlooking the marina and Mission Bay, with poolside dining available.  Poolside cabanas can be rented for the day, with lounge chairs, flat-screen television, and VIP food and beverage services.  Paths for biking, jogging, and walking along the bay are steps away.  Three dining areas, including a coffee shop, are just off the main lobby area.  The fitness center is open 24 hours, and five championship tennis courts are available to rent on-property.   Jet skis, paddle boards, and other water sports can be rented at the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa private marina.  An on-site gift shop sells travel and beach accessories, souvenirs, and resort clothing.  Guests also have access to board games, volleyball, ping pong, badminton, and sand toys and other play accessories from the front desk.

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Lobby Area

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Pool Area

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Outdoor Area

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Cabanas at the pool

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Pool Area


Acqua California Bistro is known for its fresh seafood and California-style cuisine, with gorgeous waterfront views.  The Olive Lounge bar has seasonal cocktails, craft beers, and wine in an elegant yet relaxed atmosphere.  Aroma Coffee House features fresh brewed Zoka coffee, muffins and breakfast pastries, and lunch-on-the-go sandwiches.  I did not have a chance to eat at Acqua, but did have coffee and a muffin from Aroma.  The coffee was just okay but the muffin was fresh.  I also sampled the room service menu, with dishes coming from Acqua, including a Grilled Shrimp wrap.  My wrap was flavorful and refreshing, with shrimp, mango, spinach, and cucumber wrapped in a spinach tortilla, with a ginger-lime aioli.

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The Olive Lounge

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Acqua California Bistro


Aroma Coffee

Grilled Shrimp Wrap


Spa Brezza offers a variety of face and body treatments.  I do not use the spa services during my stay.

Things to Know

  • There is a $30 resort fee that covers access to the pools, fitness center, beach, and sports and beach equipment.
  • The resort fee does not include parking, which has an additional charge of $38 per day for self-parking.
  • The resort is dog-friendly with a $100 (nonrefundable) fee per dog (for a 3 day stay), with a limit of two dogs up to 75 pounds each.  Stays beyond three days incur a $25 per day fee, per dog.
  • Complimentary concierge service is available for all guests, offering a variety of services, including dining and entertainment ideas and reservations. The concierge is located in the main reception area.
  • Room rates vary from $150 – $388 depending on availability and season.  Guests with Hilton Honors membership have access to lower rates and additional benefits.

Final Thoughts

Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa was a lovely stay and exceeded my expectations.  Hotel staff was friendly and accommodating, going out of their way to make my stay relaxing and enjoyable.  Some of the common areas, including hotel hallways and some areas of the grounds were a little neglected, taking a little bit away from the luxury feel, but my room (except for areas noted above) was stylish and well-maintained.  The parking and resort fees are a little more expensive than some of the other resorts in the area, but still not unexpected for a popular Southern California beach resort.  It would be nice to see the resort fee include self parking to make the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa an even more affordable luxury destination, yet the location, easy convenience to get to area activities, and competitive average hotel rate still make this a smart choice.

Tip:  Be sure to ask for Gordon Berry, the best concierge in San Diego and the west coast.  Gordie is awesome!

Note: All photos are property of A Cork, Fork, & Passport® and copyright protected.

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