At L’Auberge Del Mar, you can enjoy a casual beach side retreat that lands you in the lap of luxury.
BY: Cuyler Gibbons
Images courtesy of L’Auberge Del Mar
Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the 121 guest rooms, gourmet dining, and luxurious wellness spa of L’Auberge Del Mar provide the quintessential elegant and relaxing seaside repose. Recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the world’s foremost luxury resorts, L’Auberge more than lived up to its billing on a recent visit.
Arriving at L’Auberge Del Mar on a late-Friday afternoon, we were impressed immediately upon entering the expansive lobby. The hardwood floors, elegant seating, and copious natural light—flowing in through several large windows that also revealed views of the Pacific Ocean—set an enticing stage.
Located directly on the beach, in the Del Mar Village, L’Auberge provides easy access not only to the sea and the numerous restaurants and shops of this quaint hamlet, but it is also a short 20-minute drive away from the nightlife and attractions of San Diego. Even closer is Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, offering memorable hiking opportunities, and the world-renowned Del Mar racetrack, where, during the July through September season, you can play the ponies, or simply enjoy a day of equine spectacle from the iconic ocean-side grandstand.
On this visit we hoped to get to some of all that, but arriving hungry, we had other immediate priorities. We checked in, and dropped our bags off in the room. Designed by Barclay Butera, with a casual, yet sophisticated beachfront vibe, our standard guest room was cast in tranquil beige and was highlighted by a romantic fireplace, a spacious marble bathroom, 42” flat-screen TV, and separate sitting room, along with a coastal view from our balcony.
With luggage stowed, we headed to Coastline for a seaside al fresco meal at the patio restaurant. Overlooking a sparkling ocean vista, we began with the “Sunset Ceviche,” that was fresh and firm, with a hint of blood orange providing a delicious citrus twist. The casual menu is seafood-centric, and solid if not expansive. My companion and I shared the delicious sea bass in banana leaves and a perfectly cooked hanger steak. Tired and ready to retire, we nevertheless lingered long over our coffee, enjoying the peaceful seaside atmosphere before returning to our room for the night.
We woke refreshed the next morning, opened the balcony door, and let the sea air flow in while we got ready for a morning visit to the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. The hotel valet dropped us off at the base of the hike, and we grabbed a map and set off. The reserve encompasses 2,000 acres of unspoiled ocean-side chaparral, the rare Torrey pines, and pristine white-sand beaches. A “reserve” and not a “park,” the area is one of only 17 in the state specially targeted for preservation and conservation. And it’s obvious why. We spent a couple happy, exploratory hours in this truly amazing natural environment and returned to L’Auberge by valet feeling calm and content.
We had little time to waste, however, as appointments at Spa L’Auberge awaited. One of Condé Nast Traveler’s top 25 spas in the U.S., the herbal steam rooms, treatment rooms, and relaxation area promised a luxurious afternoon. The spa offers a plethora of ocean-centric full body treatments designed to exfoliate, hydrate, and rejuvenate you—body and soul. From the 50-minute hydrating scrub of the Marine Renewal to the 110-minute Peaceful Drift with its herb-infused body wrap, plus scalp and full-body massage, there is a treatment to suit you.
While my companion received the Jet Lag Massage, which blends acupuncture techniques, stretching, and lymphatic massage to relieve the aches, pains, and stiffness associated with travel, I went all in with the Ocean Body Indulgence. This full body massage, preceded by a ocean mineral exfoliation, and detoxifying body-wrap was very aptly named.
We returned to our room in the warm afterglow of our body treatments for brief rest and to dress for dinner. We had reservations at the resort’s signature restaurant, KITCHEN 1540. Helmed by New England native and Culinary Institute of America honors graduate Nathan Lingle, KITCHEN 1540 has been recognized as “Best Hotel Restaurant for Fine Dining” by the California Restaurant Association and received “Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence” among other numerous accolades. Inside, the restaurant is casually modern, with a high vaulted ceiling, but the real charm is on the adjacent patio.
Chef Lingle, who brings 23 years of culinary experience to the task, describes what he does as seasonal, coastal-harvest cuisine. And that’s exactly what we found on the menu when we sat down. With an emphasis on seasonal fare and fresh, quality ingredients, the menu options boasted a simple elegance. And from the starters like pork belly on creamy polenta and jamón ibérico with compressed melon and Manchego cheese, to entrees such as the Jidori chicken with chorizo and summer squash, spring lamb, and Skuna Bay salmon, it promised comfort. My straightforward New York strip with chanterelles, and my companion’s salmon with sorrel pesto delivered emphatically.
Deeply satisfied and worn out from a hard day of indulgence, we nevertheless lingered outside enjoying the fresh sea air. We’d be leaving the next morning to return to reality, but there was definitely no reason to rush now while we relished the tranquility of a delightful L’Auberge Del Mar evening.