Tower23 Hotel

Pacific Beach, San Diego, United States Book from

Reviewed by Nadine Mellor
Sleek and chic oceanfront hotel with groovy bar and restaurant, perfect for hipster surfers and romantics alike, 20 minutes north of downtown San Diego
California's third city, ever-sunny San Diego with its glorious Pacific Ocean setting, has spawned a generation of laid-back surfer types and a famously mellow and contented attitude. Visitors came for its climate and water-based activities, yet few found style and sophistication, which is why this former car park (rebuilt in 2005 as a neo-Modernist 'lifestyle hotel'), was such a delightful addition to the scene.

Designed to maximise its oceanfront location in rapidly gentrifying Pacific Beach (and named for a lifeguard tower), Tower23 sparkles with verve and reassures with cool composure. The colourfully lit upscale JRDN restaurant and bar with indoor/outdoor dining attracts a party vibe at weekends and gourmands anytime. Recline in comfort in the 47 minimalist rooms and suites (most with private balconies and ocean views) whose X-boxes and flat-screen HDTVs invite serious play for kids of all ages. Imbibe today's Martini special on the Zen garden Tower Deck with its deep loungers, water feature and crackling fire pit. And you're just steps from the beach - perfect.

Highs

  • Oceanfront setting overlooking 1940s landmark Crystal Pier; just around the headland from La Jolla
  • Inventive SoCal (southern Californian) cuisine and fun vibe in JRDN restaurant and bar
  • Hip and happening hotel, yet friendly professional staff are blessedly without designer attitude and provide impeccable personal service
  • Top notch fixtures and fittings in the spacious rooms and classy bathrooms
  • Soothing white with aqua colour schemes in rooms; funky lighting in common areas

Lows

  • No pool and the adjacent beach is primarily for surfing; there are swimming beaches to the north and south
  • Breakfast isn't included in the room rate
  • Can be noisy in the evenings if guests are partying on the Tower Deck late at night
  • Summer weekends are popular, book in advance
  • On the expensive side

Best time to go

San Diego is blessed with a sunny climate pretty much all year round, but July-September are the most popular months. New Year's Eve sees a big party on the Tower Deck; Valentine's weekend also gets booked up. Generally weekends are busier than weeknights - most stay 2-3 nights.

Our top tips

Beach attire, sun protection apparel, gear for your activity of choice. There is a surfboard and bike rack in the garage. Your favourite X-box game. Expect the clientele to be playful hipsters from LA and SoCal, and nearby states such as Arizona; locals on a getaway while New Yorkers visit in the winter months. The restaurant scene is trendy yet SoCal casual so you may want to show off your nattier clothes but plenty will be dressed down.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 47
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

Tower23 takes inspiration from the elements and the ocean. Contemporary and minimalist, decor is impeccably white with crisp lines, marine accented fabrics, teak headboards, desks and shelves, lots of space and a playful disposition. Picture windows and glass walls in the bathrooms allow light to flood in. Gadget-wise, you get a flatscreen TV, and an X-box with CD and DVD capability. There is a DVD library of titles to borrow but most guests prefer to download high-def films via the TV. Each room also has electronic door keys and do not disturb indicators, and a well-stocked minibar (personalised on request).

Bathrooms have step-in rain showers, piles of fluffy towels, Boca Terry bathrobes, a hairdryer and H2O toiletries.

Spirit Pads face onto the Tower Deck with its Zen garden and water feature. Sky Pads are slightly larger with a private balcony or cabana patio and have partial ocean views. Serentiy Pads (which we’re yet to see) and Surf Pads each have a full ocean view and a balcony (the difference being the angle of the view!).

Sanctuary Suites have a sitting area with a sofabed and wet bar, as well as a private balcony overlooking the Tower Deck and garden, with Pacific views. Sweet Suites have the bedroom and living spaces in 2 rooms, each with a balcony. Suites all have a whirlpool Jacuzzi tub in their bedroom in addition to rainfall showers in the bathrooms. These can also connect to a Surf Pad to create a 2-bedroom suite for larger groups or families.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

JRDN surf:sky:spirit restaurant makes the most of the oceanfront setting. Its 10,000 sq.ft. linear glass-fronted space is perfectly positioned for surf-and-sunset gazing, and the umbrella-clad patio that runs its entire length allows alfresco drinking and dining all year round.

Inside, the first section houses the buzzy Bar (which serves a daily special Martini and other excellent cocktails as well as the full gamut of beers, wines and spirits) and the Lounge (often heaving at weekends), with the raw food bar along the back wall.

The next area holds the sophisticated steak and seafood JRDN Restaurant whose wave wall continuously changes colour, theatrically setting the scene for a wonderful meal. For such a trendy spot, (menu options are entitled 'way cool', 'getting warm', 'burning up' and 'pure sizzle'), we were impressed with the excellent service, high quality of the food, the wine and the presentation.

We chose the delicately flavoured butternut squash soup and dungeness crab cakes to start, followed by a duo of duck breast and confit on a sweet potato and chard hash, and the pan-seared scallops on crab risotto with artichokes. And were well pleased with all our choices.

For a bespoke dining experience, choose a cut of meat of fish from the 'burning up' menu (Executive Chef David Warner only serves locally produced, hormone-free and humanely reared Meyer Ranch beef, organic produce and sustainable seafood), a rub (eg blackened, tri peppercorn, truffle butter), a sauce (such as bearnaise, salsa verde, beurre blanc) and 2 sides (perhaps haricots verts, fingerling potatoes glazed with blue cheese, mascarpone polenta or grilled asparagus).

We were full to the brim after two courses so opted to retire to our Pad and order an artisanal cheese plate from the room service menu, and enjoyed a nightcap watching the scene on the Boardwalk and listening to the sound of the surf.

Breakfast is a la carte, and during the week is served in-room only with brunch in JRDN at weekends. From the 'mornin' sunshine' selection we went for yoghurt and fruit followed by eggs benedict and the stuffed apple and cinnamon French toast, washed down with coffee and freshly squeezed juice.

At the far end of the restaurant is the private Wine Room which features a 1,000 bottle wall, and its own section of patio complete with another fire pit.

Other eateries in the 'hood include Gringos for Mexican fare, Moondoggies, an upmarket sports grill, and Kono's, next door as an alternative to in-house breakfast.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • If you're here to surf, paddle- or boogie board, you're in good company - join the throngs on Pacific Beach beside Crystal Pier. Lessons can be arranged and there's a surf shop opposite
  • Although the beach adjacent is for surfing not swimming, there are swimming beaches just north and south
  • Visit upscale La Jolla 5 minutes up the coast for its cliff walks and sea lions, galleries, shopping and San Diego's Museum of Contemporary Art
  • The Boardwalk is a popular spot for inline skaters, cyclists, families with strollers, joggers and walkers - there's a bike hire shop next door to the hotel
  • San Diego's many tourist sites include the zoo, Seaworld, San Diego Harbor and its Embarcadero, Legoland, Balboa Park and museums such as the Museum of Art and Natural History Museum
  • Laidback Pacific Beach is also one of San Diego's happening neighbourhoods, with dozens of bars, eateries and clothing stores; there's quite a scene in the JRDN bar and lounge at weekends
  • Go sailing in San Diego's main harbour or Sail Bay; kitesurfing and windsurfing are also popular pursuits; kayaking and fishing can be arranged
  • Just 5 minutes south in Mission Beach you can go waterskiing and jet-skiing
  • Go diving in La Jolla or off Point Loma
  • In season (mid-Dec-mid-March) gray whales can be seen on their extraordinary migration from Alaska
  • A yoga instructor can come to the hotel for private lessons, and there's a yoga studio close by
  • Enjoy spa treatments (such as the sea goddess salt scrub or the laughing buddha facial) in your room on request; spa menu in room
  • For nature rambles drive to Torrey Pines State Reserve just north in La Jolla; there's good birding all along the coast
  • 24 hr fitness is a block away; the hotel has arranged for a membership discount at Powerhouse gym nearby
  • For those enamoured of golf, the hotel can arrange for you to be taken to a course and a day's membership

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Well being
  • Whalewatching
  • Windsurfing
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are welcome and under 14s are free. It's a great location but bear in mind that the beach opposite is best for surfing, not swimming, and there's no pool.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Stump up for a Sweet Suite and Surf Pad combo if you have 2 or more children as they connect, forming a 2-bedroom family suite sleeping up to 8 (if they will share a double bed). Or if you don't mind sharing a room, all twins have 2 double beds which can each sleep 2 adults on request. All pads can fit an extra bed for a child or a baby cot; Sanctuary Suites can fit 1 child on the sofabed, while Sweet Suites can fit 2, both can fit an additional baby cot.

Baby equipment:

  • Cots

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Food is available all day through the room service menu; there are cafes nearby including Kono's, which is popular with families. None of the rooms have any self-catering options and if you're weaning or have a small baby, this might not suit you.

Kids Activities on site:

  • All rooms have an Xbox
  • DVD library and films on demand

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Mission Beach boardwalk for people watching and 1920s rollercoasters
  • San Diego Zoo and Zoo Safari Park (allow a day for each)
  • Legoland
  • The New Children's Museum, a dynamic arts museum for kids
  • Plenty of watery attractions: Birch Aquarium, Sea World, whale watching (Dec-Mar)

Families Should Know:

The bar can be loud at night - ask for a room away from it.

Distances:

  • Airport: 20 minutes
  • Hospital: 10 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
6/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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