by Amanda Geronikos
Rancho Bernardo Inn is easily San Diego’s — and maybe even Southern California’s — most inviting resort for families. We loved it so much, in fact, that upon departure, we discussed a return trip to the resort — a rarity for us, as we usually set out to stay at new hotels each time we travel.
San Diego offers a plethora of must-visit attractions, including SeaWorld San Diego, Balboa Park, PETCO Park and the San Diego Zoo, along with a plethora of family-friendly hotels that allow quick and easy access to all the fun. If you want a truly fine experience in “America’s Fine City,” however, and you’re willing to be a 30 minute drive from most of the action, treat your family to a stay at Rancho Bernardo Inn. Heck, even if you spend two nights at the hotel (one isn’t enough — trust us), your group will be overjoyed with the decision.
Set atop a hill — only reached after you drive through a quiet, residential neighborhood — and nestled amongst perfectly manicured gardens and winding walkways (charmingly complimented by strings of white lights at night), the hotel’s exterior closely resembles a series of luxurious villas in the Spanish countryside. Even the inside of the hotel delivers a European vibe — many rooms and suites feature over-sized balconies that look out onto pristine putting greens and fountains.
With such a picturesque setting, however, it might seem difficult to envision children running around the resort, but here’s where things get really good: Rancho Bernardo Inn offers a Kids Rule – Parents Drool program in the summer, which includes scavenger hunts, mini-golf, access to the kid’s club (housed in its own colorful building), and poolside movies and popcorn by a designated family swimming pool (the resort features an Olympic-sized swimming pool, too). The hotel also offers kid-friendly fare (which is FREE with the Kids Rule program) at Veranda, an onsite restaurant that doubles as a romantic evening retreat for mom and dad.
Our Editor Loves
- Plethora of children's activities
- Spacious suites with balconies
- Picturesque location above San Diego
- Children Programs
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Rancho Bernardo Inn offers a plentiful array of accommodations, which include rooms and suites. Each unit is simply, yet elegantly decorated, with shades of beige, tan and brown, accented by gold palettes.
Rooms are perfect for families, with two queen beds (as well as single king beds) and spacious balconies that overlook the surrounding valley, golf course or gardens -- you really can't go wrong with any of the variations and views. Plus, they offer larger-than-average bathrooms with separate showers and deep-soaking bathtubs, along with bath amenities by Aveda. The rooms have flat-screen TV's, though they don't have cable (pay-per-view movies and sporting events are available)... but who needs TV when you're at a beautiful resort like this one? Rooms also have work desks and Keurig machines.
Obviously, suites offer more space, but they also feature fireplaces, private balconies and dining areas (in most). They come in four variations: Palacio, Castillo, Presidio and Valencia. The smallest (and most standard) is the Valencia Suite, which includes a separate bedroom with a king bed, and a sleeper sofa in the living area. The Presidio Suite offers the same bed setup, but with two full bathrooms, a large dining table and more luxurious dÃ©cor, such as hardwood floors and wood beam ceilings, as well as a golf course view. The Palacio and Castillo Suites are best for big groups, as they offer a master bedroom with a king bed and two bedrooms with two queen beds, totaling six beds and enough sleeping room for 10. These units have two and a half baths, and overlook the giant swimming pool.
If you choose to stay in one of the villas, you'll enjoy access to hot tubs, which are perfectly secluded.
The rooms here are mediocre at best - our AC never worked (after being fixed) and toilet had to be fixed three times (still didn’t work at check out). The room was covered in dust, so had not been cleaned!
by Cheryl P
I came here last week with a few girlfriends for lunch and was so impressed with Emily D at the Veranda! She was incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and her service was excellent! I am currently on the keto diet and wasn't sure about one of the salad dressings and she confirmed with the chef what the ingredients were! She went above and beyond and I'm so grateful for this experience!
The hotel caters to adults with a golf course, spa and several lounges, so it's only fair that it also offers a program for children, appropriately named Kids Rule - Parents Drool. The program includes a welcome gift (a sand shovel and bucket full of stickers, crayons and more for children age 2 to 9, and puzzles, a disposable camera and card games for ages 10 and up), access to the hotel's Wii Lounge, free meals at Veranda (for kids age 12 and under), a free pizza party, mini-golf, poolside movies and free snacks on Saturday evenings (at the Santiago Pool), and an in-room camping experience for ages 2 to 8, complete with a tent and all the makings for S'mores (big kids aren't excluded either -- they receive a throw blanket and glow sticks, as well as a S'mores kit).
Together, families can partake in a Family Fitness program, held from 10 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. They can also embark on a free Walking Fountain Tour, which showcases the resort's beautiful fountains (there are 21 total!) and provides a piece of history, too.
Rancho Bernardo Inn offers four dining options, all of which welcome families (though some more than others, based on food offerings).
Veranda Fireside Lounge & Restaurant
At this outdoor eatery, which particularly evokes the resort's Mediterranean feel, breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert are served. Daily specials are offered, and kid-friendly meals include burgers and pizza.
Recently updated, AVANT offers a slightly upscale dining atmosphere with not-so-upscale (but extremely delicious) food. Dinner is served, but we suggest the brunch.
Parents can expect to find flat-screen TV's, beers and quick bites (lunch and dinner) at this sports bar, which touts vintage-inspired furnishings. Try the Oatmeal Cookie, a dessert cocktail with Fireball whiskey, Bailey's, and a dash of cream and cinnamon, served on the rocks.
This small cafe serves as the perfect grab-and-go spot for breakfast before a busy day in San Diego. You'll find pastries, breakfast sandwiches, fresh fruit and Starbucks coffee. Cafe Grenada is also a good spot for lunch, as it offers deli sandwiches and salads.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Wi-Fi is available for an extra fee. Also, Rancho Bernardo Inn doesn't have a babysitting service, but recommends guests to Marion's Childcare (619-303-4379), a local, reputable service.
Both self and valet parking is available at the resort, but the first time you get there, you'll want to utilize the complimentary golf cart valet that takes you to your door (just don't forget to tip your driver).
The Art of Smart Timing
San Diego offers beautiful weather year-round. If you visit in the summer months, the city's busiest tourist season, expect highs in the upper 70s, and in the winter, lows in the 50s. And speaking of the winter, Rancho Bernardo Inn celebrates the holidays, including Christmas, with decorations and events, such as kids' arts and crafts and visits from Santa Claus. Even if you visit at Halloween, there will be opportunities to trick or treat around the property, so don't forget to bring your costumes!
Rancho Bernardo Inn is located about 30 minutes from San Diego International Airport. The airport provides service desks for just about every car rental, as well as taxi services, both of which will be your best bet for transportation to and from the hotel.
Since Rancho Bernardo Inn isn't within immediate proximity to central San Diego, you'll need to drive a car or order a taxi to get into the city.
For Mom and Dad
There's really no need for parents to leave the resort, especially since there's a state-of-the-art, more-luxurious-than-ever spa. Seasonal specials are offered (try a Cranberry Almond Escape in the winter, for example), as are couples' massages.