Unique Places to Stay in San Diego: 12 Quirky & Unusual Accommodations

by Flora Backup
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Are you looking for unique hotels in San Diego, California? Our guide is here to help. We’ve handpicked 12 of the coolest places to stay in San Diego, each with quirky and distinct offerings.

San Diego is more than just sunny skies and beautiful beaches. It’s one of the best places in California to live if you’re a fan of endless summers and outdoor adventures. This city is brimming with incredible places to stay that can turn a simple trip into an unforgettable experience. From the historic charm of the Hotel del Coronado to the adventurous allure of Alter Experiences Tree Tents, each spot offers something special. Whether you’re looking for luxury at the Kona Kai Resort & Spa or the cozy vibes of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, there’s a place for every taste and budget.

In this guide, I’ll take you through 12 of the most unique stays in San Diego. You’ll find out why Paradise Point Resort & Spa is a must for families, or why Magic Mountain Retreat is perfect for a romantic getaway. I’ll share insider tips, like the best room to book or the ideal time to visit, to help you make the most of your stay.

So, if you’re planning a trip and looking for cool places to stay in San Diego, you’re in the right place. Let’s explore the city’s hidden gems and find the perfect spot for your next adventure!

The unique places to stay in San Diego right now

12 Unique Places to Stay in San Diego, CA

Are you eager to uncover the most unique hotels in San Diego? This city is renowned for its diverse and distinctive accommodations. From historic hotels to modern retreats, San Diego offers a range of stays that cater to every taste and preference. Ready to find your perfect San Diego getaway? Here are the best unique stays in San Diego that are sure to make your visit extraordinary!

1. Hotel del Coronado

​​When you stay at the Hotel del Coronado, you’re not just booking a room. You’re stepping into a piece of San Diego’s history. This hotel, a standout among unique places to stay in San Diego, combines the charm of the past with modern comforts. It’s right on the beach on Coronado Island, perfect for early morning swims or evening walks along the shore.

I recommend staying in the Victorian Building for a taste of history. These rooms have a classic feel you won’t get in newer hotels. If you’re with family, the Ocean Towers and California Cabanas are great for extra space and pool access. Tip: Get a room with an ocean view. The sunset views here are incredible.

Hotel del Coronado in San Diego blends historical charm with contemporary comforts, a standout unique accommodation.
Hotel del Coronado in San Diego blends historical charm with contemporary comforts, a standout unique accommodation. | Image Credit: Booking.com

What I love about the Hotel del Coronado is that there’s always something to do. Beach bonfires and movie nights make every evening special. For dining, try Serẽa for amazing seafood. And don’t skip the Sunday brunch at the Crown Room – it’s a real treat!

The hotel’s history is fascinating. Opened in 1888, it’s seen its share of famous guests. Take the hotel tour to hear all the stories, including the one about Kate Morgan, the resident ghost. It’s these stories that make a stay here so unique.

2. Ocean View Gem Mine & Inn

If you’re after a truly unique experience, the Ocean View Gem Mine & Inn is a must-visit. Located in the mountains of San Diego County, it offers a rare opportunity to mine for gems like tourmaline, quartz, and morganite. The experience of digging for your own gems is not only fun but also incredibly rewarding.

The accommodations here are cozy and intimate, perfect for those who love the outdoors but still want comfort at the end of the day. Each room has its own rustic charm, with comfortable beds and basic amenities. It’s the perfect place to unplug and enjoy nature. Make sure to bring a good book and soak in the peaceful mountain atmosphere.

A unique stay in San Diego, the Ocean View Gem Mine & Inn offers a true adventure
A unique stay in San Diego, the Ocean View Gem Mine & Inn offers a true adventure | Image Credit: Oceanviewmine.com

What sets the Ocean View Gem Mine & Inn apart is, of course, the gem mining. You don’t need any experience, and the staff are incredibly helpful. They’ll guide you through the process, which makes it a fun activity for everyone, whether you’re a solo traveler or with family. The thrill of finding your own gemstone is unbeatable!

After a day of mining, the surrounding area offers beautiful trails for hiking and exploring. The starry nights here are also something you shouldn’t miss. It’s a place that combines the thrill of adventure with the beauty of nature, making it one of the coolest places to stay in San Diego.

3. Westgate Hotel

The Westgate Hotel in downtown San Diego is where luxury meets history. This hotel is a slice of European elegance in the heart of the city. From the moment you step into the grand lobby, with its exquisite chandeliers and artful decor, you know you’re in for a special stay. It’s like being transported to a Parisian palace, right in the middle of San Diego.

The rooms at the Westgate are spacious and beautifully decorated, with a touch of old-world charm. The beds are incredibly comfortable, perfect after a day of exploring the city. If you can, upgrade to a room with a view of the San Diego skyline – it’s worth it. My personal favorite is the rooftop pool. It’s a great spot to relax and take in the city views.

At Westgate Hotel, experience a Parisian palace ambiance, a luxury in the heart of San Diego.
At Westgate Hotel, experience a Parisian palace ambiance, a luxury in the heart of San Diego. | Image Credit: Booking.com

Dining at the Westgate is an experience in itself. The Sunday brunch here is famous in San Diego – think endless gourmet options and live music. For a more intimate dining experience, the Westgate Room offers delicious dishes in a sophisticated setting. And for a unique evening, check out the Plaza Bar for live jazz.

Located in the heart of downtown, the Westgate Hotel is steps away from some of the best attractions in San Diego. It’s one of the best hotels in San Diego for those who want to explore the city by day and retreat to luxury by night. If you’re a history buff, a foodie, or just love luxury, the Westgate offers an experience you won’t forget.

4. Kona Kai Resort & Spa

Nestled at the tip of Shelter Island, Kona Kai Resort & Spa is a tropical getaway in San Diego. This resort is a blend of luxury and laid-back island vibes, which makes it perfect for those seeking relaxation and adventure. The private beach here is a highlight, offering a serene escape with stunning views of the San Diego Bay and marina.

The rooms at Kona Kai are bright and airy, decorated with vibrant colors that reflect the resort’s island theme. For an extra special stay, book one of the suites with a balcony overlooking the marina. I recommend trying the rooms on the upper floors for the best views. The resort also offers unique activities like beachfront yoga and paddleboarding, adding to its charm.

Kona Kai Resort & Spa in San Diego offers a tropical escape, offering relaxed island vibes.
Kona Kai Resort & Spa in San Diego offers a tropical escape, offering relaxed island vibes. | Image Credit: Booking.com

Kona Kai’s spa is a haven of tranquility. Their treatments, inspired by the island’s natural elements, are perfect for unwinding after a day of exploring. The outdoor pool, with its cabanas and fire pits, is another spot where you can relax and soak up the San Diego sun.

What makes Kona Kai Resort & Spa one of the best spa hotels in San Diego to stay is its blend of relaxation and activities. Whether you’re lounging on the private beach, enjoying a spa treatment, or dining at their waterfront restaurant, Vessel, every moment here feels like a slice of paradise.

5. Cosmopolitan Hotel

In the heart of Old Town San Diego, the Cosmopolitan Hotel offers a unique glimpse into the city’s past. This hotel is a beautifully restored 19th-century inn, blending historic charm with modern amenities. Staying here feels like stepping back in time but with all the comforts of the present.

Each room in the Cosmopolitan has its own character, adorned with Victorian-era furnishings and decor. For a truly authentic experience, I recommend the rooms with the original wooden floors and period furniture. Plus, the hotel’s location in Old Town means you’re surrounded by some of the best Mexican restaurants and historical sites in San Diego.

Cosmopolitan Hotel: a beautifully restored 19th-century inn, blends historic charm with modern amenities.
Cosmopolitan Hotel: a beautifully restored 19th-century inn, blends historic charm with modern amenities. | Image Credit: Booking.com

What I love about the Cosmopolitan is its intimate atmosphere. It’s smaller than your typical hotel, which means you get a more personal experience. The staff are friendly and full of stories about the hotel’s history. Don’t miss dining at their restaurant, which serves up delicious dishes in a quaint, old-world setting.

The Cosmopolitan Hotel stands out as one of San Diego’s best places to stay for those who appreciate history and charm. It’s a peaceful retreat in the midst of the bustling Old Town, offering a unique stay that you won’t find anywhere else in the city.

6. Alter Experiences

Have you ever dreamed of sleeping among the trees? Alter Experiences Tree Tents in San Diego’s backcountry offers just that – a unique Airbnb experience that elevates camping to a whole new level. Situated in the high mountain forests, these tree tents are a blend of adventure and comfort, perfect for nature lovers seeking something out of the ordinary.

The tree tents, suspended between the trees, are cozy and surprisingly spacious. They come equipped with comfortable sleeping pads and warm sleeping bags, ensuring a good night’s sleep in the heart of nature. My favorite part? Waking up to the sounds of the forest and the gentle sway of the tent. It’s an experience that truly connects you with nature.

Alter Experiences' tree tents offer adventure and comfort, perfect for nature enthusiasts seeking something extraordinary.
Alter Experiences’ tree tents offer adventure and comfort, perfect for nature enthusiasts seeking something extraordinary. | Image Credit: Alter Experiences website

You can choose from various locations, each offering unique views and experiences. Whether it’s the secluded Lion’s Den or the family-friendly Eagle’s Nest, there’s a spot for every type of traveler. And the best part? No need to bring camping gear; they’ve got you covered with state-of-the-art equipment.

For those looking for more than just relaxation, the area around the tree tents offers plenty to explore. Hiking, mountain biking, and wildlife watching are just a few activities you can enjoy. At night, the absence of city lights makes stargazing an unforgettable experience. Hands down, Alter Experiences Tree Tents is one of the most fun places to stay in San Diego for an authentic connection with nature.

7. Paradise Point Resort & Spa

If you’re looking for a tropical oasis in the heart of San Diego, then Paradise Point Resort & Spa is the place for you. This stunning resort, located on its own 44-acre island in Mission Bay, offers a luxurious escape with a laid-back beach vibe. It’s a place where you can enjoy the best of both worlds: resort-style relaxation and the excitement of San Diego’s attractions.

The bungalow-style rooms at Paradise Point are nestled among lush gardens and meandering lagoons. Each room offers privacy and comfort, with patios perfect for enjoying the warm San Diego evenings. For families or groups, the bungalows with multiple bedrooms are ideal, providing plenty of space and amenities.

Paradise Point Resort & Spa, a 44-acre island in Mission Bay, provides a laid-back beach escape.
Paradise Point Resort & Spa, a 44-acre island in Mission Bay, provides a laid-back beach escape. | Image Credit: Booking.com

What sets Paradise Point Resort & Spa apart is its array of activities. You can kayak or paddleboard in the bay, cycle around the island, or play a round of mini-golf. The resort’s five pools and beach bonfires in the evening add to the fun. For a touch of indulgence, the on-site spa offers a range of treatments to rejuvenate the body and mind.

Dining at Paradise Point is a delight, with options ranging from casual beachfront eats to upscale dining experiences. The resort’s location also means you’re just a short drive from San Diego’s famous attractions like SeaWorld and the Gaslamp Quarter. Paradise Point Resort & Spa is one of the best places to stay in San Diego for those seeking a luxurious yet fun-filled vacation.

8. Magic Mountain Retreat

Ever wondered what it’s like to stay in a hidden mountain retreat, just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of the city? Magic Mountain Retreat, located in the picturesque hills of San Diego, offers just that – a tranquil escape that feels worlds away from the everyday. It’s one of the best retreats in San Diego that perfectly blends natural beauty with comfort.

This retreat is all about connecting with nature. The accommodations are cozy and thoughtfully designed to complement the surrounding environment. Whether you choose a charming cabin or a more luxurious suite, each option provides a serene setting to unwind and recharge. My personal recommendation is to book a room with a mountain view. Trust me, the sunrise here is breathtaking!

Magic Mountain Retreat in San Diego is among the finest, blending natural beauty with unparalleled comfort.
Magic Mountain Retreat in San Diego is among the finest, blending natural beauty with unparalleled comfort. | Image Credit: VRBO

Magic Mountain Retreat is ideal for those seeking peace and quiet. The grounds are spacious, offering plenty of spots to relax and enjoy the natural scenery. For the more adventurous, there are hiking trails nearby, perfect for exploring the local flora and fauna. And at night, the lack of light pollution makes stargazing an incredible experience.

What truly makes this place special is its atmosphere of tranquility. It’s a space where you can slow down, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and simply be. Whether you’re on a solo retreat, a romantic getaway, or a family vacation, Magic Mountain Retreat is a hipster hotel in San Diego best for families, offering a unique opportunity to connect with nature and find inner peace.

9. Horton Grand Hotel

The Horton Grand Hotel stands as one of the most unique places to stay in downtown San Diego, offering a blend of historic charm and modern comfort. Located in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, this hotel is a beautifully restored 19th-century building, where each room tells a story of the city’s rich past.

Walking into the Horton Grand, you’re greeted by an ambiance that harks back to a bygone era. The rooms are elegantly furnished, maintaining their historical character while providing contemporary amenities. For a truly unique experience, ask for a room with a balcony overlooking the courtyard. It’s a perfect spot for a quiet morning coffee or an evening glass of wine.

Horton Grand Hotel lets you experience the city's pulse amidst timeless elegance.
Horton Grand Hotel lets you experience the city’s pulse amidst timeless elegance. | Image Credit: Booking

The hotel’s location is ideal for exploring downtown San Diego. You’re just steps away from some of San Diego’s best restaurants, shopping, and entertainment options. The hotel itself has a cozy bar and a restaurant that serves up delicious meals in a setting that feels both grand and intimate.

As one of the best hotels in the Gaslamp Quarter, the Horton Grand Hotel is more than just a place to sleep. It’s a piece of San Diego’s history, a place where you can feel the pulse of the city while enjoying the elegance of an earlier time. If you’re in town for business or pleasure, the Horton Grand offers a unique and memorable stay.

10. Bahia Resort Hotel

Next up on our list of San Diego’s best hotels is the Bahia Resort Hotel, a hidden gem situated on a 14-acre peninsula in Mission Bay. This resort is a haven for those seeking a blend of relaxation and recreation in a scenic beachfront setting. Its unique location offers both bay and garden views, providing a serene backdrop for your stay.

The rooms at the Bahia are spacious and well-appointed, with a focus on comfort. Many rooms offer balconies or patios, ideal for enjoying the gentle bay breezes. For a special experience, book a room facing the bay – the views are particularly stunning at sunset. The resort also offers bayside villas for those wanting extra privacy and space.

Bahia Resort Hotel's unique location offers serene garden views, creating a tranquil backdrop for your stay.
Bahia Resort Hotel’s unique location offers serene garden views, creating a tranquil backdrop for your stay. | Image Credit: Booking

The Bahia stands out with an array of on-site activities. You can enjoy a leisurely cruise on the Bahia Belle, a turn-of-the-century sternwheeler boat, or relax by one of the two heated pools. The resort also has tennis courts, a fitness center, and direct access to the beach. For families, the secluded beach and playground are perfect for a day of fun.

Dining at the Bahia is a treat, with options ranging from casual to fine dining. The Bahia Café offers a relaxed atmosphere with views of the tropical gardens, while the Dockside 1953 bar and grill serves up delicious meals with a side of bay views. Without a doubt, the Bahia Resort Hotel is one of the coolest places in San Diego to stay.

11. The US Grant

The US Grant in downtown San Diego is a piece of history, built by the son of a former US president. This hotel is one of the most unusual places to stay in the city, offering a unique blend of historical charm and modern comfort. It’s a standout option for those looking for accommodation in San Diego.

The interior of the hotel is both grand and inviting. Rooms combine old-world elegance with modern amenities, providing a comfortable and luxurious experience.

The interior of The US Grant Hotel seamlessly combines grandeur, creating a captivating ambiance.
The interior of The US Grant Hotel seamlessly combines grandeur, creating a captivating ambiance. | Image Credit: Booking

What I particularly admire about The US Grant is its commitment to the environment. With recycling in the rooms and electric car charging, it’s impressive how this historic hotel embraces modern sustainability.

Located near the Gaslamp Quarter, The US Grant gives you easy access to the best of San Diego’s vibrant culture and nightlife. Staying here offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in the city’s rich history while enjoying all the modern conveniences.

12. La Valencia

La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla is a standout choice for San Diego lodging, especially if you’re looking for a boutique hotel experience. Known as “The Pink Lady,” its distinctive Spanish-style architecture and pink exterior make it instantly recognizable.

What sets La Valencia apart is its blend of old-world charm and modern amenities. The hotel’s location is perfect – right in the heart of La Jolla, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This means you get stunning sea views and beach access, which is a huge plus for anyone who loves the ocean.

La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla stands out as an exceptional choice for lodging in San Diego.
La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla stands out as an exceptional choice for lodging in San Diego. | Image Credit: Booking.com

The rooms at La Valencia are more than just places to sleep. They are designed with a touch of elegance and comfort, which makes your stay both luxurious and relaxing. You’ll find that each room has its own unique character, which adds to the boutique feel of the hotel.

La Valencia boasts incredible outside space. The outdoor pool is a great spot to unwind and soak up the California sun. You’ll even find a poolside cabana with food and beverage service. Plus, being in La Jolla, you’re close to some great dining and shopping options.

Staying at La Valencia is a unique experience that combines luxury, history, and a fantastic location. It’s a great example of the kind of unique San Diego lodging that makes a trip memorable.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Unique Places to Stay in San Diego, California

Are you looking for more content about where to stay in San Diego? Here are some common questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about San Diego’s most unique hotels.

What is the best part of San Diego to stay in?

The best area of San Diego to stay in really depends on what you’re looking for. If you love the beach and want a laid-back vibe, areas like Mission Bay or Pacific Beach are ideal. For those interested in nightlife and dining, the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown offers a lively urban experience. If you’re into history and culture, Old Town provides a charming and historic atmosphere. Each area has its unique charm, so think about what kind of experience you want to have.

What is the best month to visit San Diego?

San Diego is known for its year-round pleasant weather, but the best time to visit is usually from March to May and then September to November. During these months, you’ll find fewer crowds, and the weather is still warm and sunny. September is particularly nice, as the summer crowds have left, but the weather remains almost perfect.

In San Diego, each option provides a unique experience capturing the vibrant essence of this dynamic city.
In San Diego, each option provides a unique experience capturing the vibrant essence of this dynamic city.

Can you stay in San Diego without a car?

Yes, you can stay in San Diego without a car, especially if you choose a central location like downtown or near major attractions. San Diego has a decent public transportation system, including buses and the trolley, which can get you to most major areas. Rideshare services are also widely available. If you plan to explore more distant areas like the beaches or mountains, a car might be helpful, but it’s not essential for enjoying the city.

Why are hotels in San Diego so expensive?

Hotel prices in San Diego can be high due to several factors. The city is a popular tourist destination with beautiful weather year-round, leading to consistent demand. Additionally, San Diego hosts several large events and conferences, which can drive up prices. The cost also varies by location – beachfront and downtown hotels tend to be pricier. To find better deals, consider visiting in the off-season or staying a bit further from the main tourist areas.

How many days do you need in San Diego?

To really experience what San Diego has to offer, I recommend staying for at least 3 to 5 days. This gives you enough time to explore the best things to do in San Diego. This includes Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, and some of the beautiful beaches, as well as to discover the city’s diverse neighborhoods. If you have more time, you can also enjoy day trips to nearby areas like La Jolla or the Anza-Borrego Desert.

Final Thoughts on San Diego’s Unique Places to Stay

Reflecting on the unique places to stay in San Diego, each offers a distinct experience that captures the essence of this vibrant city. San Diego deserves to be recognized as one of the best places to visit on the West Coast

My personal favorite? Alter Experiences Tree Tents. There’s something magical about sleeping suspended among the trees, immersed in nature, yet still comfortably close to the city’s attractions. It’s a rare blend of adventure and tranquility that you don’t often find. This unique stay stands out for its ability to connect you with the outdoors in a way that traditional hotels simply can’t match

Whether you’re seeking luxury, history, or a touch of adventure, San Diego’s unique accommodations are sure to provide an unforgettable experience.

The best places to stay in San Diego for all types of travelers
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