They say good things come in small packages, and the Pearl Hotel is here to prove it. Though this made-over 1960s motel may be compact, there’s no shortage of mid-century mojo and streamlined, SoCal style. Communal spaces are a pick-n-mix of original features (think sumptuous stone accent walls) and artisan re-imaginings (like the poolside salmon tiles by Clè), and rooms offer guests a masterclass in coastal cool, with vintage vibes supplemented by up-to-the-minute comforts and sleek, minimalist design. But the beating heart of this petite pearl is to be found in the courtyard, where the ghosts of old Hollywood join guests at the oyster-shaped pool for an all-American ‘dive-in’ picture show.
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Local Torres crisps and two mountain spring waters.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £129.82 ($158), including tax at 10.695 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional resort fee of $22.14 per room per night on check-out.
Rates don’t include breakfast, but on-the-move options and an à la carte weekend brunch can be purchased at the hotel for $6-30 a person.
The original hotel – The Sportsman’s Lodge – was built in 1959 by local architect Robert Platt, and while interiors have been lovingly re-imagined by Electric Bowery and Pow Wow Design Studio, his mid-century facade remains largely intact.
At the hotel
Beach cruiser bikes to borrow, salt-water pool, courtyard, loose leaf tea and coffee, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: digital newspapers, minibar, Smart TV, Bluetooth stereo, Mooncloth bath amenities.
Our favourite rooms
All rooms are alike with sandy beach tones, organic fabrics, woven rugs, acacia wood nightstands, sleek terrazzo bathrooms and a selection of local ceramics and vintage artworks. While the Classic rooms make a fine choice for weekend romps, movie buffs are best served by the Pearl Junior Suite whose private balcony is perfectly placed in front of the courtyard cinema screen.
Fittingly, the centrepiece of the Pearl takes the shape of an oyster. Illuminating the inner-courtyard, this heated, salt-water pool is the social hub of the hotel; around it you’ll find a splay of tables and hanging cocoon seats, as well as a crowning silver screen for splash-happy ‘dive-in’ movies.
Few have captured the Californian imagination quite like Joan Didion. Bring a copy of Slouching Toward Bethlehem (and a Didion-esque pair of oversized sunnies) for a poolside deep-dive into the mythic splendour and shadow-side chaos of the storied Golden State.
All public areas of the hotel are accessible. Guests with mobility needs should enquire about the Queen Pearl ADA room with a roll-in shower and other ADA features.
Welcome, though not particularly catered for. There’s no capacity for extra beds so families should opt for the Queen Pearl Plus, which features a sofa bed for little ones.
As a B-corp hotel, you can be sure that the Pearl Hotel has sustainability firmly pinned to the top of its agenda; all products are certified organic and come packaged in glass, compostable plastic or unbleached recycled paper. In the kitchen, 99 per cent of ingredients are locally-sourced, including all seafood, which is brought in fresh from nearby fisheries. As well as a robust recycling programme, the hotel partners with PlantPaper and Oceanbottle, organisations striving to minimise waste.
Grab one of the cosy sheltered booths out on the poolside deck for front-row seats to your favourite flicks.
In the spirit of cult cinema classics, go True Romance in super-saturated palettes, Hawaiian prints and a staple pair of colour-popping shades.
Named after the original owners, Charles and Dinorah pays homage to the hotel’s past while dishing out a distinctly forward-facing take on coastal Californian fare. The poolside restaurant is dinner only during the weekdays with a seafood-centric menu of sharing plates and mains. Start with the salt and pepper calamari with fried Szechuan peppercorn, caramelised ginger, buttermilk, red chillies and scallion, lead with the daily catch brought in fresh from local fishermen and round it off with a creamy affogato.
In the poolside restaurant, you’ll find the elegantly tiled hotel bar enveloped by a procession of salmon-hued velvet bar stools. Prop up with a local craft beer as the bartenders shake and stir their way through the evening or head out to the terrace for silver screen sundowners. Happy hour runs daily from 4pm to 6pm; opt for the signature Pearl Passion (don fulano blanco tequila, mezcal, giffard passion fruit and carpano bianco) or the fruity Helter Shelter (light rum, dom benedictine, pineapple, lime, mint, orgeat and absinthe mist).
Dinner is served from 4pm to 10pm Tuesday to Saturday and the bar follows suit. Come Saturday and Sunday they'll be slinging drinks from 4pm to 10pm.
Order anything from the menu straight to your door during the restaurant's operational hours.
The hotel is situated on the rugged Californian peninsula of Point Loma, surrounded by parks, harbours and a buzzy dining scene.
San Diego International Airport is a 10-minute car ride away with flights arriving from the US, UK and Europe. The hotel can arrange transfers for an additional charge, subject to availability.
Parking is available (though limited) and spots are available on a first come, first serve basis for $20 a night. There’s a Blink EV charging station for electric vehicles, too.
Worth getting out of bed for
Borrow a bike from the hotel and get cruising – you’re perfectly placed for all manner of trails. Beginners should take the smooth path that curves all the way from Shelter Island past the marinas and restaurants over to America’s Cup Harbour, while more seasoned cyclists can pedal it out from Catalina Boulevard up to Cabrillo National Monument – either way, you’ll be rewarded with postcard worthy views. While you’re in the neighbourhood, fulfil your cultural quota with a mooch around Liberty Station’s Art District or catch a show at Humphreys Half Moon Inn. A little further north, La Jolla is a quaint seaside village brimming with Mediterranean charm. Among its residents, you’ll find friendly groups of seals and sea lions who like to gather by the cove and plenty of arty types, too, including the surreal illustrator Dr Suess, whose cats in hats can be seen adorning the walls on Legend’s Gallery. Those looking to splash a little cash can do so in the village’s indie boutiques, while more serious spenders should look south to Fashion Valley’s designer promenade. For a taste of local life, don’t miss Little Italy’s Mercato Farmers’ Market where live music and straight-out-the-ocean seafood makes for a fine lunchtime pitstop.
Get a taste of the old country at Little Italy’s Pummaro, where no-fuss, wood-fired pizzas are primed the Neapolitan way. For dinner with a view, you can’t do much better than waterfront Island Prime, an upscale steak restaurant with sweeping views across the San Diego skyline. Chef Deborah Scott’s surf-and-turf dinner menu features dishes like Shrimp caviar and angel hair, American wagyu and fillet mignons topped with king crab, wild mushrooms, blue cheese and a side of sea-salt mashed potatoes.
Liberty Station’s Fig Tree Cafe is a firm favorite among Point Loma locals with beachy interiors, palm-flanked terrace seating and a menu of buttery pancakes, breakfast burritos, heaped-up sandwiches and indulgent french toast (with cinnamon raisins, fresh berries or fig jam and ricotta toppings, no less). For more health-conscious fare head to Northside Shack, an unpretentious vegan cafe where stacked acai bowls and fresh fruit smoothies double up as Pantone colour charts.
Shelter Island’s The Wine Pub does exactly what it says on the tin; head here for hand-selected wines, craft beer and great company, pooches and all. For throw-back decor, waterfront cocktails – and the most reliable hangover remedy in town – head to Club Marina, Point Loma’s oldest dive bar where the Bloody Mary’s come loaded with a little bit of everything.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this SoCal motel in Point Loma and unpacked their vintage wayfarers and sun-bleached Hawaiian shirts, a full account of their breezy break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Pearl Hotel in San Diego…
A love letter to the Golden State may include the following: a display of enthusiasm for old-Hollywood glamour, a penchant for all that's coastal, talk of warm al fresco evenings sipping martinis into the small hours and an enduring inclination toward streamlined design. A love letter to the Golden State may also take the form of a hotel – let us introduce the Pearl, a made-over 1960s motel on San Diego's rugged Point Loma peninsula where mid-century nostalgia is augmented with 21st-century trimmings. The petite two-storey hotel draws a discerning crowd, with SoCal minimalist rooms, contemporary coastal cuisine and delightfully sleek communal spaces; but the chorus of the hotel’s Californian ballad can be found in the inner courtyard where Saturday night at the movies takes on a whole new meaning and the best seats in the house are to be found in (or around) the heated salt-water pool.