Sugar Barons ‘n Spice Cookies: The Glorietta Bay Inn
An historic Southern California mansion, built for an heir to a sugar empire, offers stunning Pacific Ocean and bay vistas, while boasting elegant accommodations. The Glorietta Bay Inn on Coronado Island was once the prize possession of San Diego industrialist and real estate mogul, John D. Spreckels. The manorial dwelling, at one time given the moniker “Happy Days” (actually Dias Alegres in Spanish), is guaranteed to lift the spirits of guests who book a stay here, either in the 11-room exquisite mansion itself, or one of the 89 contemporary guest rooms.
Nineteen-twenties period pieces abound throughout this celebrated structure, enriching one’s visual and tactile experience within this charmingly revived dwelling. On the main level, period furnishings enhance the Music Room, Verandah Room and lobby, restored to look exactly as it did in the 1920s when Spreckels owned most of Coronado Island, including controlling ownership of the famous Hotel del Coronado, right across the street from his mansion. With its iconic red turrets, the fabled Victorian “Del,” as it has come to be known, was built in eleven months, completed in 1888 at the then-cost of $1 million. Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis came here to film the 1959 movie Some Like it Hot, acclaimed by the American Film Institute to be the greatest American Comedy film of all time.
Once you ascend the marble staircase of the Spreckels mansion to the second floor, you find the guestrooms and suites, formerly the suites of John and Mrs. Spreckels, along with the former rooms of the Spreckels’ children and grandchildren. The Spreckels Suite was once the living room, sunroom and bedroom of John Spreckels. The adjacent Sugar Baron Suite was Mrs. Spreckels’ master suite. Both rooms have views of Glorietta Bay, while the Spreckels Suite also allows panoramic views of the ocean. The third-floor Solarium is now the 1,000 square-foot Penthouse, featuring outstanding 360-degree island views.
Finding the Inn is easy—it’s just a short distance from the majestic 2.12-mile long Coronado Bridge, linking the isthmus (locals refer to it as “the island”) with mainland San Diego. After checking in, we found our mansion room on the second floor, entering the cozy ambience of a legendary California circa 1920’s hotel. As we entered our room, ceiling fan blades spun lazily round above the king-size sleigh bed. Tiny black and white ceramic tiles adorned the retro floor in the bathroom where a second heat radiator (the first was in the bedroom) stood next to the wall. Thick, 100% cotton, extra-large bath sheets were folded neatly on bathroom shelves. A potted, flowering plant sat elegantly on the antique writing desk in the large living area. Except for the immediately identifiable modern features, for a brief moment it felt like being on a film noir stage-set or in an episode of The Untouchables.
Free bottled water was chilling in the refrigerator. All the rooms have abundant amenities: Air conditioning, coffeemakers, complimentary in-room high speed internet, iPod docking stations, flat screen TVs, and a safe deposit box. Mansion rooms have triple sheeting, featuring 300-thread-count sheets, deluxe, thick, terry-cloth robes, nightly turndown service with milk, cookies and mints at bedtime, and feathered pillows with down duvets. We arrived too late in the early evening to catch the complimentary afternoon refreshments of lemonade and gingersnaps–although a couple of overlooked cookies were eagerly snapped up!
Guests in the mansion may take advantage of deluxe continental breakfast delivered to their rooms, or they may choose to dine downstairs in the breakfast room. We filled out our menu card each night before breakfast and left the door hanger request form on the knob, indicating our preferred delivery time during the 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. service. A morning paper was delivered to our room’s door and, at the requested hour, our breakfast was also delivered. Hot beverages, juices, toast and pastries, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, oatmeal, fresh fruit, and other selections were piled high on our tray. Downstairs, complimentary coffee and tea are available around the clock. The strongly-brewed, rich-tasting coffee was something to look forward to each morning. Although there was an in-room coffee service feature, the hotel’s own brew was much to be preferred.
Outside, the hotel has a heated swimming pool and spa for guests. Towels are available for the beach, as are beach chairs, umbrellas and other beach items. Nearby are municipal tennis courts, golf at the Coronado golf course, boat rentals, bike rentals, and harbor sightseeing excursions. (See our accompanying review of our San Diego harbor sailboat excursion.) For lunch and dinner, there are dozens of restaurant options within easy walking distance. (See our review of Chez Loma Bistro for an unforgettable dining experience.)
The Glorietta Bay Inn is the perfect place to celebrate a bridal shower, honeymoon, reunion, birthday or anniversary. Gift baskets, wine, champagne, flowers, in-room massages and gift certificates are available to make anyone’s stay a special event. Our stay felt very much like a special event—even though we weren’t celebrating anything in particular. I guess that’s why it was once called “Happy Days!” Just staying here overnight brings a kind of happiness that makes you feel like you’re partaking of some kind of celebration!
Glorietta Bay Inn
1630 Glorietta Blvd.
Coronado, CA 92118
Phone (619) 435-3101
Fax (619) 435-6182
Toll Free (800) 283-9383