A recent stay at the L'Auberge Hotel in Del Mar, California showed me a beach hotel with good potential but not good enough to recommend to others for a variety of reasons. This is one of the hardest reviews I've ever written so please read through it all and make your own decision for yourself if you are considering this resort. A recent renovation has made the hotel look great with plenty of surface niceties to spare. Unfortunately the renovation brings it to the level of those corporate resorts where they charge a mandatory $25 a night parking fee and a $12 resort fee. So you need to add $37 a night onto however many hundreds you are spending for the room. Even if you get it as part of a package deal and think you have a final price, the fees are tacked onto that total price and you have another charge at checkout.
The lack of direction is surprising. It's near the beach but not relaxing. It tries to look relaxing but the staff has a touch of an attitude like they are a notch above customers and you are lucky to be there with them.
The hotel guests seem to be the last priority even though they spend hundreds of dollars per night. They added a restaurant and fancied up the courtyard area that has a small pool and a bar. This attracts a huge number of non-hotel guests every night. Are they a hotel or do they want to do parties and be a night club surrounded by rooms? If you'd like to join the party outside, you can wait about fifteen minutes to buy a really weak and watered down $12 drink. The restaurant food at Kitchen 1540 was quite good and even better than I expected. My $18 natural beef burger was certainly not cheap but it was very good and I would look forward to it again.
The room itself was nice and on the smaller side due to overall age of the complex. It has a couple of awkward spots where doors meet. You can't go in and out of the room and have the closet open. You have to be careful with the shower door and the bathroom door. The climate control system worked great and the bed was luxurious. I thought it was very comfortable upon feel but it may have been too soft for my back after four nights.
Housekeeping did a fine job on their main task of cleaning the room but went too far for me. They disobeyed the do not disturb sign which kind of kills the whole point of the sign in my world. I heard they did this to another guest as well. They are also eager to knock your door at 8:15am on a Saturday morning after a noisy party keeps you up the night before. Housekeeping tossed or removed some things that I left on the desk. Yes, I wanted that ziplock bag for my liquids on my return trip through stupid airport security. If I don't put it in the trash, it's not trash. They packed up my bathroom products and placed them close to the floor in a cabinet. I don't think that housekeeping should ever touch my personal hygiene items. They also left my balcony door unlocked after cleaning. The railings connect near others so this is not secure if someone really wanted to be a thief.
The hotel website laughably mentions sleeping with the windows open. With my doors and windows closed, my room was like being in the bathroom of a nightclub. Loud music and crowd noise outside the balcony that wasn't actually usable because it put you next to a crowd like you are on a stage. Loud noise in the corridor outside the room as service people yell back and forth to each other to supply the party outside. They do try to quiet the crowds down and you may be able to hear your own TV by around 11pm. Now in hindsight, I am curious about how they throw parties and weddings and then ask people to quiet down and leave. It doesn't seem ideal for either party goers or hotel guests.
After the party is over, you may be awakened by screaming and very foul language of drunk people hanging outside at 3am like I was most nights. Even if you took all those things away and left your windows open, you might then awake to think you feel asleep on train tracks. The road crossings go ding-ding and the trains rumble and blow horns from morning to night.
You may also want to consider arranging your own cab. My cab to the hotel from the airport was $60. On the eve of my departure, I asked the front desk to arrange a regular cab, not a private car, to the airport in the morning. They may have called it a cab but it was an unmarked car without a meter and the guy charged me $75. Was it a real service, a hotel service or a friend of the guy at the front desk? I don't know. $15 may not break the bank but if they do that over and over to guests, the whole thing is a bit shady.
Although this review has a lot of complaints, I still enjoyed the location and had a good time on my own terms. Experiences are what you make of them and you have to find a way to enjoy every moment of life. If you wander up the driveway and avoid the cars, (the layout hints that they really don't want you to easily leave the grounds) you can make it to the main street in town. There are some pricey restaurants nearby but there is also a nice pricey market across the street. For those that have pockets with a bottom, I stumbled upon a decent deli at the end of the L'Auberge block that let you eat and drink for less than $10. A one of a kind from what I found in the area.
I did not try the spa but I heard only great things about it. Like I said, the hotel has potential and would be great for a couple hundred a night. But if you are paying $400 to $500 a night in the end, it just doesn't totally add up.