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Destination: San Diego : SAN DIEGO HOTELS : The Best for Style and Value

April 23, 1995|Christopher Reynolds | TIMES TRAVEL WRITER

Loews Coronado Bay Resort (4000 Coronado Bay Road, tel. 800-235-6397 or 619-424-4000, fax 619-424-4400). 440 rooms and suites on a 15-acre isolated location, three miles south of Coronado proper; 80-slip marina and private tunnel under the road to Silver Strand State Beach. Three restaurants. Three pools, five tennis courts, bicycle and water-sports equipment rentals on site. Health club. Year-round children's program includes half-day, full-day and evening activities for ages 4-12. Free shuttles to Coronado shopping or connections with a water taxi service to downtown San Diego (10 minutes, $5 each way). Rack rates: $175-$225, more for suites. AAA and AARP members often pay $145. Entertainment cardholders often get 50% off rack rates.

The Pan Pacific Hotel (400 W. Broadway, San Diego, tel. 800-626-3988 or 619-239-4500, fax 619-239-3274). The most distinctive building in the downtown skyline, a 30-story honeycombed set of hexagonal towers of varying heights, the top floors outlined in neon green. Striking, 100-foot-high interior atrium suggesting a crystalline Emerald City. Next to a trolley stop a few blocks from Horton Plaza. 436 rooms and suites, two restaurants. Pool. Rack rates: $180-$200, more for suites. From May 15-Sept. 15, special rates often available at $125, including American breakfast for two.

San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina (333 W. Harbor Drive, tel. 800-228-9290 or 619-234-1500, fax 619-234-8678) . 1,355 rooms and suites (667 of which have balconies) in twin glass towers. Six restaurants, two pools (one with rock landscaping that looks as if it's part of a Hawaiian mega-resort), six lighted tennis courts, basketball hoop, bicycles and water-sports equipment rentals on site, adjoining marina. Health club. Concierge level. The Marriott (formerly an Inter-Continental) is the biggest hotel in the county, by room count. Same conveniences of location as its next-door neighbor, the Hyatt Regency, but the pool area seems more kid-friendly. Parking: $8-$12. Rack rates: $200-$225. "Two for Breakfast" specials often available at $139-$159. AARP members often pay $147-$167. Corporate rates (usually given to anyone who can produce a business card) of $180-$190.

Sheraton Harbor Island Resort (1380 Harbor Island Drive, San Diego, tel. 800-325-3535 or 619-291-2900, fax 619-692-2337) . Last month, the hotel completed a massive renovation that merged the ocean-adjacent, airport-convenient Sheraton Harbor Island East and Sheraton Harbor Island West (the east and west towers formerly operated as separate hotels). I have some reservations about service--on two different weekend afternoons, staff members claimed they were too busy to let me see a room--but you can't argue with the facilities: 1,050 rooms and suites, four restaurants, big aquarium in lobby, three pools (one elaborately landscaped with waterfall, spewing sea horses, etc.), a new spa and health club facilities. Bicycle and water-sports equipment rentals on site. Parking: $8-$11. Free airport shuttle. Parking: $8-$11. Rack rates: $200-$220, more for suites. AAA and AARP members often get a $150 rate, and Entertainment cardholders sometimes pay $100.

U.S. Grant Hotel ( 326 Broadway, tel. 800-237-5029 or 800-334-6957 inside California or 619-232-3121, fax 619-232-3626) . This is the city's landmark downtown hotel, dating to 1910. After years of lean times, it was revived with an $80-million restoration in 1985, about the time the Horton Plaza mall opened across the street. The Grant is still stately, with crystal chandeliers, tapestry wall coverings and a lobby with a grand piano and afternoon tea service. Financial footing has been uncertain. Last year, it was bought by Grand Heritage Hotels, which manages many other historic hotels across the United States. 280 rooms and suites, restaurant, no pool. Free shuttle service, depending on availability of the two-van fleet, to Sea World and other city sites. Parking: $10. Rack rates: $155 nightly. AAA and AARP members often pay 30% less.

The Westgate Hotel (1055 2nd Ave., San Diego, tel. 800-221-3802 or 619-238-1818, fax 619-557-3737). European elegance is the big selling point here. For the hotel's 1969 opening, then-owner C. Arnholt Smith and his wife traveled Europe and Asia for crate after crate of antique furniture and artifacts, which remain in the public areas and suites, bringing to mind a mildly musty Versailles. 223 rooms and suites, each with a balcony. Two restaurants, and a terrace dining area that is open April-November. 24-hour room service. No pool. Across the street from City Hall, one block from Horton Plaza, six long blocks from the convention center. Parking: $10. Rack rates: $164-$194. Weekend rates of $125 often available.

For Value

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