Surf, Sky & Spirit at Tower23 Hotel San Diego

Surf, Sky & Spirit at Tower23 Hotel San Diego

As California’s southernmost metropolis, San Diego is a veritable coastal paradise that’s widely lauded for its fabulous climate. Often referred to as “Mediterranean” in nature, the region boasts moderate warm daytime and cool evening temperatures nearly year round that rarely reach the point “too hot” or “too cold.” This is just one of many reasons San Diego has been anointed “America’s Finest City.” Indeed, even beyond famed tourist attractions like The San Diego Zoo, Sea World, LEGOLAND, Petco Park and the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, the area also boasts a distinguished artistic heritage with a multiplicity of museums, music venues and performing arts theaters. This picturesque port city aptly blends world-class culture with the laid-back attitude of the beach life expected of a Southern California locale. Here, there are “no worries,” and “it’s all good.” This sensibility certainly extends to the city’s flourishing hospitality scene.

Surf, Sky & Spirit at Tower23 Hotel San DiegoOne noteworthy establishment I recently visited, the TOWER23 Hotel, embraces San Diego’s duality as both a premier vacation destination and a hub for business (noting that, in 2014, Forbes ranked it one of the best cities in which to launch a startup). This three-story, 45,000 square foot urban “Neo-Modernist glass lifestyle hotel” in the Pacific Beach area has the enviable distinction of being the only luxury hotel in the area that sits right on the beach, with just the pedestrian boardwalk separating it and the sand. Also strategically positioned in the county, the exclusive city of La Jolla sits just to the north, and the bustling downtown Gaslamp District rife with shopping, dining and nightlife is just a short drive away to the southeast.Surf, Sky & Spirit at Tower23 Hotel San Diego

Oceanside Escapism
Upon arriving at TOWER23 you can’t help but be struck by the architecture. The contemporary three-story building employs enviable aspects of modern design: bold lines, strong shapes and powerful contrasts. Even the fonts used on the building exterior (a smooth and ultra-legible sans-serif) evoke a modern, professional feel. Once inside, it cannot be mistaken that you are a mere stone’s throw from the beach. The white-heavy walls of the lobby and hallways are awash in unfiltered natural sunlight that’s fittingly interrupted by sea blue hues, and decorative genuine coral décor abounds—all making guests feel at one with the marine milieu. This as the abundance of saltwater-fragranced air readily soothes the senses.

The sleek, elements-inspired hotel features a variety of room and suite options, with many expectedly featuring their own unique, breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. The “Pads” as they are termed, are broken down in the Spirit, Sky, Serenity, and Surf subcategories. The Surf Pad—the room in which I stayed—being one with a particularly stunning direct view of the ocean and the bustling boardwalk that runs parallel. They all feature King and Queen sized beds, along with a sea of niceties: teak furnishings, Tempur-Pedic “Serenity” beds, luxurious foam mattresses and down bedding, Egyptian cotton linens, step-in rain showers, designer bath and spa products by H2O (of course), a premium beverage and nutrition bar and 24-hour room service. The rooms all have their own furnished, open-air private patio or balcony area, and in-room massage services are available at guest request.

The suite varieties are divided into the Sanctuary and Sweet options, both proffering upgrades. One of which is an innovative “chromatherapy” whirlpool Jacuzzi tub. These tubs have a unique functionality that simulates water falling from above, which adds to the immersive water-oriented atmosphere of the hotel at large. Suites also have spacious lounging areas, a wet bar and a view of the TOWER deck. The Sweet Suite has the option of adding a connecting Surf Pad if more space is desired.

As a decidedly contemporary property, TOWER23 offers guests many high-level technological conveniences, including wall-mounted LG flat-screen HDTVs with on-demand movies, XBox entertainment centers with CD and DVD play capability, and dual-line cordless phones (with VOIP abilities). Of all the tech upgrades, however, the expansive “Wi-Fi Everywhere” service is perhaps the most notable as the hotel has gone to great lengths to ensure that guests can stay connected at all times, having extended their network’s range to cover the adjacent beach area as well.

One of my personal favorite aspects of the hotel is the sunbathing and congregation area on the second floor, which is called the “Tower Deck.” It’s reserved for guests and invitees, and provides a prime location to gather, relax, enjoy some drinks and soak in the scenery and the sea breeze. In the evening, this comradery is enjoyed around glistening glass-laden modern fire features. Teak chaise lounges and upholstered beds are interspersed throughout, beckoning you to sit, sip and savor the moment.

As with any top-tier hotel, TOWER23 has a staff clearly devoted to prompt service and guest satisfaction. No more satisfying is the on-site spa team, which offers massages, body treatments, facials and more. The other hotel employees also seem to constantly be on their game, responding to guest enquiries and fervently facilitating for the many activities San Diego has to offer. Golf, ballooning and yachting are popular diversions, but the area is probably best known for the range of fantastic water sports like kayaking, water skiing, snorkeling and, of course, surfing and paddle boarding. In fact, from each ocean view room balcony hotel guests can observe the near constant clutch of surfers hanging ten—a quintessentially Californian vista, especially as they are silhouetted at dusk against the orange, red and otherwise polychromatic backdrop of the setting sun.

Sunset Sustenance
No luxury hotel today would be complete without its own elevated in-house dining experience and, on this front, TOWER23 definitely does not disappoint. JRDN, the hotel’s 10,000 square foot indoor and outdoor fine dining destination, sits on a bluff overlooking the Pacific in earshot of the waves rolling onto the proximate shore. The elegant steak and seafood house, from which to catch San Diego’s famed theatrical sunsets every day of the week, showcases unmistakably California coastal cuisine, all crafted under the expert guidance of executive chef Danilo “DJ” Tangalin.

Part artist, part dedicated craftsman, Chef Tangalin draws upon his extensive cooking background (forged at some of the nation’s best schools and restaurants) to create memorable dishes that stand out for their superlative quality and inventiveness. It’s no surprise that JRDN has won the California Restaurant Associations “Best Hotel Restaurant” award numerous times. “Nothing can compare to the joy I have when a guest tells me that our kitchen served them the best meal of their life. Chasing that feeling drives me to choose top ingredients and to let those ingredient shine. I always try to remember that nature is the star of the dish, not the chef,” says Tangalin.

There’s no shortage of things to do or see in San Diego and, when accommodations are in order, TOWER23 is a cool haven of haute hospitality—one that’s perfectly suited for any ocean-oriented traveler that appreciates relaxed style and comfort with a sophisticated beach chic spin.


“The Luxe List” Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at Follow her on Twitter here: and Facebook here:

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***