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Family Hotels in California: Fairmont Grand Del Mar Experience 2016 - San Diego Family Travel Guide


Hosted Stay/Media Rate

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel review

Fairmont Grand Del Mar Overview

Nestled in the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve and built into the side of a mountain, Fairmont Grand Del Mar offers a romantic Mediterranean-inspired retreat for families with enough to do, see and eat to keep most families (in our opinions) content for the duration of their stays.  We recently flew out to San Diego and had the opportunity to stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, which we are happy to say we found to be a fabulously family-friendly experience.


Fairmont Grand Del Mar at a Glance:

  • 3:1 staff to guests ratio (this blew us away!)
  • Five Star/Five Diamond service
  • AAA Five Diamond Award
  • Five-Star Forbes rated Spa
  • Trip Advisor's #1 Luxury Resort in California
  • Tom Fazio Golf Court
  • Five-Star Spa
  • Supervised Explorer's Club (ages 5-12)
  • 4 Saline Pools (1 adults-only, 3 family)
  • 6 Dining/Drink Options (ranging from casual to fine dining)
  • 24/7 Workout Room
  • Accommodations range from nicely appointed guests rooms to spacious suites (up to 3 bedrooms) and villas
  • Activities for children and adults include golf, tennis, horseback riding, hiking, swimming, beach service (transportation/setup to and from hotel) and more 
You can book your stay or learn more on Fairmont Grand Del Mar's site.
 

Main Resort Building Layout: 

1st Floor - Spa & Dining
2nd Floor - Explorer's Club & guest rooms/suites
3rd Floor - Lobby (centrally located), Cent'Anni Cafe, shopping (Grand Gifts & The Collection) & guest rooms/suites

We thought it might be helpful to note the locations of some of the places we believe our readers will most likely wish to check out as it took us a day or two to memorize the layout of the main resort building. Once you understand that the resort is actually built into the side of a mountain and therefore the main entrance is on the 3rd floor, it's easy to navigate your way to and from different areas.


Location

Though we found it was conveniently located near a number of San Diego beaches, dining and shopping spots, the resort property was large enough that it felt as though we were far removed from the rest of the bustle of the large southern California metro that is San Diego. On average, we drove 20 minutes to most places we wanted to see outside of the resort, though a family could easily stay on-resort and still have plenty to do.

We rented a car while in San Diego and found it gave us the freedom to see the many sights we had on our list, but for a family that doesn't hop around as much as we tend to while traveling, one could easily do without and enjoy a very relaxing stay as a family at Fairmont Grand Del Mar for an extended period in our opinions.


Palazzo Suite & General Guest Room Impressions

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel review

We have always found that our accommodations can make or break our travel experiences. Too small and we trip all over each other during our "chill out" time. Not enough amenities and we often don't feel drawn to spend any time at our resort or hotel. We're happy to share that we found the Fairmont Grand Del Mar's accommodations (specifically the Palazzo Suite) were absolutely wonderful for our family of 4.

When traveling we tend to look for suites that offer a separate living room and at least 1 bedroom--preferably with 2 bathrooms. This gives us all some privacy when we sleep while also allowing the boys to "crash" and have some down time without being limited to the same beds they sleep on to do everything.

The Welcome 

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

There is almost no quicker way to our hearts than a warm welcome and Fairmont Grand Del Mar certainly delivered that! After check-in we were soon greeted by a lovely treat for the boys and for us. Ironically, pandas are my youngest's absolute favorite animal, so both he and our oldest were dying over these cookies! The fruit was fresh and such a nice way to begin to unwind after such an early, long flight from the east coast. Thanks again, Fairmont Grand Del Mar!

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

The Living Space

The Palazzo Suite we stayed in had a large living room complete with a large sleeper sofa, fireplace, flat screen TV, dining area and plenty of floor space. A large balcony could be accessed through sliding doors off of this room as well.

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

The Kitchenette

Our suite did come with a kitchenette, which had plenty of cabinets, a mini fridge, sink, coffee maker, microwave and dishes/flatware. While there was no dishwasher, housekeeping took care of all of our used dishes each evening--what family doesn't enjoy not having to do the dishes? Water and non-alcoholic drinks in our kitchenette mini fridge were complimentary and were meant to be restocked daily--fantastic for big water-drinking families like ours. We often bring cases of water with us or purchase them once we arrive, so this was a great perk!

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
We always appreciate a resort that is generous with complimentary water!

The Master Bedroom

The master bedroom had a king-sized bed, sitting area, dresser, flat screen TV, desk and vanity with its own private balcony.

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review


fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
We thought this mirrored window between the vanity in the master bedroom to the master bath was really unique! It proved to be quite convenient when trying to discuss our plans for the next day while one was of us was getting ready to go to bed and the other was already in bed. Can we have this setup for our house?

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

The View

Our suite offered sweeping views of both the grounds near our area of the resort as well as the valley and distant mountainside. The balcony was spacious and easily fit all 4 of us lounging on it with plenty of room to spare.

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

 

The Bathrooms

Complete with a master bathroom and equally large guest bathroom, we found that this suite in particular had one of the largest guest bathrooms we'd seen in any of the resorts we've stayed in recently. The master bathroom had a large soaking tub, dual vanity, standing shower, water closet, dressing bench and closet with safe. The second bathroom had a small closet, dual vanity, standing shower (with bench and multiple shower heads) and large soaking tub.

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
The bath products were amazing and didn't irritate anyone's sensitive skin--they were free of a lot of nasty chemicals.

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review 
fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Plenty of counter space - Master Bath

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Plenty of storage - Master Bath

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
The master closet was in the master bath and had enough room to store a large suitecase and quite a few shopping bags over the course of the week.


fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
The soaking tubs were some of the largest/deepest we've seen in any of the resorts we've been to - Master Bath

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Master Bath

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Guest Bathroom

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Large soaking tub - Guest Bath

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Large standing shower with multiple shower heads and bench - Guest Bath

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Closet - Guest Bath

Additional Amenities

Our suite had 2 cash bars (one in the kitchenette and one in the hallway between the master bedroom and bath). We didn't sample anything, but they seemed to offer a variety of snacks and alcoholic beverages.


We'd also like to note that this suite in particular had a wealth of closet space including a large closet near the entryway in addition to the others in both bathrooms.

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
There were fresh, live flowers in several areas in our suite--a lovely touch!


Things to Do

In addition to wonderful accommodations, we were drawn to Fairmont Grand Del Mar because of its unique and extensive list of available activities. We've highlighted some of the ones we found to be the most appealing for families:
  • Swim (4 pools: 1 adults-only and 3 family)
  • Golf (including lessons for kids)
  • Tennis (including lessons for kids)
  • Horseback riding (including lessons for kids)
  • Explorer's Club (see below)
  • Beach Service (complimentary transportation to/from the beach and setup)

 

Explorers' Club

At a Glance:
  • Cost: $15/hr per child; 4 hours @ $50; 8 hours @ $90
  • Ages: 5-12 (younger than 5 must be accompanied by adult or babysitter)
  • Requirements: Children must be potty-trained if left independently
  • Children can be accompanied by a nanny
  • Self-guided and staff-guided activities
  • Seasonal/holiday activities
  • No pool time during Explorers' Club
  • Willing to accommodate children with developmental and physical challenges to the best of their ability (we suggest contacting them ahead of time with any specific questions if concerned)
  • *Complimentary Explorers' Club services with spa services and/or dining at Addison (such a fabulous perk!)
  • Secure with only 1 entrance/exit for visitors (cannot enter Explorers' Club without passing by the check-in desk; door opening sounds bell)
  • Lunch and/or dinner is served at scheduled times and included in price if child is present during that time
  • Vetted staff
  • Read more about Explorers' Club on their site

Like most family-friendly resorts, Fairmont Grand Del Mar had its own program for kids called the "Explorers' Club". I had a chance to check it out and speak with the lovely director that gave me insight into what they offer, how it's run and how they work to keep little guys engaged and busy while parents enjoy some R&R.

The Explorers' Club is located on the 2nd floor and if you're visiting it for the first time and not traveling directly from the lobby, we strongly suggest asking one of the many courteous staff in the halls for directions as it can be a bit confusing if your room is near the perimeter of the main building like ours was.

The club itself consists of two large main areas with a broad variety of activities ranging from videos to painting; sand art to air hockey; video games to guided activities; visiting the horses to scavenger hunts and more. Additionally, Explorers' Club hosts seasonal and holiday-related activities such as a massive Easter Egg hunt for children that participate in the program! The Explorers' Club itself was brightly light, colorful and chock full of fun activities and things to play with.
 
We left our boys there for a little bit and they had an absolute blast! The director of Explorers' Club is incredibly sweet and clearly very caring. Even as helicopter parents with kids that happen to have some additional challenges we felt extremely safe and at ease letting our guys enjoy some time to themselves in such a safe, kid-enticing environment!

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Our oldest spent the majority of his time doing crafts and making little mincraft diamon swords at the bead table--he was so proud!

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
These plasma displays were really neat!

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review 
fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review 
fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Excuse the boxes in the shot--they are full of Easter goodies for Explorers' Club's massive egg hunt!

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
This is where our youngest camped out for the majority of his time here! He believes the mark of a good resort is the availability of good game systems and games--he gave Fairmont Grand Del Mar 2 thumbs up.

The Junior Golf Academy

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

Our boys love to try new things and were really excited to try their hands at golf. In addition to the ability to schedule time on the course, Fairmont also offers golf instruction--including sessions for kids! Our boys were able to take lessons for 2 of the mornings we were there and they absolutely loved it. We had 2 coaches during our stay and our experience was fantastic! Both coaches were incredibly kind and encouraging, able to work with both our oldest and youngest. Our oldest was fully attentive and soaking in every moment. Despite the fact our youngest struggled a bit physically with coordinating his body, his coaches were very kind and patient. The boys learned quite a bit about gripping their clubs, the types of clubs to use, hitting the ball, taking care of the course, etc. The entire time, their coaches kept cheering them both on and it was a very positive experience. Both boys have since decided they need to continue taking lessons once the weather warms up at home and we look forward to seeing how they progress.

I was not present for their first lesson, though Dad was. During their second lesson I only intended to stay long enough to grab some great shots then head with my husband to grab a coffee while they played. They were so cute and doing so well that I ended up staying the entire time and took enough pictures to nearly fill up a very large memory card.  Next time I will try to peel myself away to take a little break, but I'm so thankful I was able to watch their last lesson!

We were very impressed with the junior golf lessons we observed overall and would absolutely recommend any family visiting consider scheduling sessions to get their kids out and burning off some energy! If golf is not appealing to your ADHDers there was also tennis, horseback riding, etc. We will be posting a separate feature on their lessons in the near future, so keep an eye out for that!

The Saline Pools

Yes, you read that right! The pools were all saline, which is fantastic for those that cannot stand chlorine like us.

We did not personally go in the adults-only pool, but we did see it and it looked so peaceful and lovely! It was located near the spa on the 1st floor and being a clever resort, Fairmont Grand Del Mar positions the guest rooms around it to best suit singles and couples, not families. If you have the opportunity to let your kids stay and play in the Explorer's Club, you may want to spend some time swimming or lounging in the serene, adults-only environment at this pool!

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Adults-only Pool Area

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
1 of 3 Family Pools

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Shaded cabanas were available to reserve.

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Lounging area for those that wished to relax with their toes buried in the sand without leaving the resort!

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Plenty of fabulously soft, thick towels available for swimmers in the structure between the two largest family pools where the bathrooms were also located.

Dining

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

Fairmont Grand Del Mar offers a number of absolutely fabulous dining options including:
  • Addison (Fairmont Grand Del Mar's Signature restaurant) - fine dining; Forbes 5-Star
  • Amaya - fresh, seasonal menu
  • Lobby Lounge - drinks/light fare
  • The Clubhouse Grille - relaxed and delicious
  • Cent'Anni Cafe (adjacent to lobby in main building) - sensational coffee (including milk alternatives such as almond milk), gelato, sandwiches, on-the-go breakfast, special offerings
  • Club M - nightclub; live music and guest DJs on the weekends
  • Afternoon Tea - offered in Library
  • Poolside Dining - snacks, drinks, light fare, fruit, grilled options
  • In-room Dining - impressive menus offered around the clock
We had the opportunity to check out Cent'Anni Cafe, The Clubhouse Grille and In-Room dining during our stay. As with most of our trips we were intentionally out and about scoping out local dining options, but we made sure to make time for on-resort dining as well! I'm happy to report all were delicious and all were more than willing to accommodate multiple dietary restrictions.

In-room Dining was fantastic. Everything was delicious and they were very accommodating with changes we made due to my allergy to wheat and my husband's diabetes. The lovely server that brought our food was so friendly and set it up beautifully.

The Clubhouse Grille offered some of the most accommodating and exceptional service we've ever experienced when it comes to on-resort restaurants. We had spent an entire day out the day we dined with them and were absolutely exhausted. We'd attempted to eat out for dinner, but the restaurant we'd gone to had failed to deliver half of our meal, so by the time we got back to our suite we were famished and anxious to eat. We called The Clubhouse Grille and they were so kind, making adjustments to our orders to suit our dietary restrictions and quickly letting us know they could deliver it to our room if we didn't have the energy to head down to grab it. We were so grateful and can't say enough about how perfectly wonderful they were! Truly exemplary in every way. Our meal was fresh, delicious and a great value. Thank you, The Clubhouse Grille!

Cent'Anni Cafe may be the last I'm about to mention, but only because I saved the best for last! Cent'Anni Cafe holds a special place in our hearts. We are serious about our coffee and it can be a struggle in even the most lovely of resorts to get a cup of coffee on par with our favorite third-wave coffee shops back at home. We also find that lots of cafes don't keep almond milk on-hand and I don't eat dairy and dislike soy and coconut milk in my coffee. Thankfully, not only did Cent'Anni brew a phenomenal cup of coffee, they offered plenty of milk alternatives and the manager of Cent'Anni was one of the most friendly, bubbly and helpful guys! He made quite the impression on all of us and when we think back on our time at Fairmont Grand Del Mar he is one of the people we think of first. Truly a remarkable individual that made our time all the more pleasant! If you stay at Fairmont Grand Del Mar you absolutely must take the kids for a gelato and grab some coffee or tea for yourselves--you will not regret it!


The Grounds

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

 

The grounds at Fairmont were absolutely stunning! When we mentioned above that Fairmont Grand Del Mar felt far removed from the bustle of San Diego, we truly meant it. Fairmont Grand Del Mar felt like its own relaxing little world--lush grounds framed by rolling mountains and vegetation. It's always nice to find a quiet refuge for your ADHD family when visiting a hyper-stimulating city!

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
If at Fairmont Grand Del Mar look for this stage coach to the rear of the main resort buildings by the tennis courts as it is a great marker for finding the horses!

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
I thought the detail on the ceiling of the gazebo was beautiful!

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
The perfect spot for a wedding, perhaps?

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
I feel in love with this particular structure, which you may notice as we get further into this post! It was beautiful at night.


We did find that it took a decent amount of walking to get from place to place given the size of the resort, so plan ahead for any little ones that have any physical challenges. Our youngest did tire and we found his lack of stamina/low muscle tone did come in to play at some points during our stay, but we simply rested or carried him at times. If you're not in a rush, which hopefully you aren't while there, there are plenty of places to stop and relax.


The Beauty of the Exterior

Fairmont Grand Del Mar was incredibly unique in its style from the inside out. The exterior beautifully displayed its Mediterranean influence and the interior was gorgeous from the largest to the smallest detail. We found we spent some of our time simply exploring the resort, stopping to take in the stately structures and beautifully ornate fixtures. 


fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review




The Beauty of the Interior

We noticed very quickly that every detail of the inside of the Fairmont Grand Del Mar had been carefully and considerately chosen--from the fresh flowers in the lobby to the gentle lighting throughout the resort; the gold detailing on the grand staircase to the marble floors. The Fairmont Grand Del Mar embodied so much character, yet showed no signs of wear, which was lovely to see in an established resort. We would also like to mention that their signature scent (you'll notice it the moment you step out of your car into the main lobby) is the absolute most delicious, lovely smell--a perfect greeting when you arrive or return! We were told it was sold in candle form in one of the shops, but sadly did not have a chance to look before we left--I'm still sad about that! I'm very scent-sensitive and there was nothing synthetic or heavy about this scent--pure olfactory bliss.

If you have time and your little ADHDers are in the mood, we strongly suggest taking the opportunity to meander through the halls on your way to or from your suite to take in some of the details. Our boys enjoyed looking at the paintings on the walls, checking out the substantial doors (they reminded them of castle doors) and looking out the windows at the surrounding grounds below.

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Main Lobby
 
fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review

fairmont grand del mar san diego family travel guide review
Not only was this staircase absolutely stunning, but the ornate gold was real 18k gold!

Fairmont Grand Del Mar - Nighttime Romance

Yes, this resort was absolutely fantastic all day long, but there was something particularly romantic and magical about it at night! The lighting, architecture and fires really changed the warm relaxed atmosphere of the day into a romantic, intimate experience at night. Whether your little ones tag along or you treat yourselves to babysitting and adult-only dining, we wholeheartedly recommend taking a night time swim or stroll around the grounds at night!

Everything changed the moment the sun began to set--so lovely!



I cannot describe how much I personally loved this particular structure. It was simply gorgeous, especially at night!


Our first evening at Fairmont Grand Del Mar we took an evening swim and I was able to catch some fabulous shots of my boys! The pool was heated, though a tad chilly in March. Definitely still worth a dip in our opinions!


The large structure between two of the family pools housed bathrooms and an entire wall of plush towels.

Towels as far as the eye can see!


I could have sworn we were in Europe not San Diego at times!


Fairmont Grand Del Mar Final Thoughts

When we did our research about Fairmont Grand Del Mar prior to our stay it set our expectations quite high and I'm happy to say our experience was phenomenal! Everything from our suite to our dining experiences were amazing. We were beyond impressed with the resort itself, grounds and junior golf academy. We found our dining experiences to be delicious and super accommodating!

We also looked for small things like the way valet interacted with guests and the responsiveness of concierge. We truly tried to assess Fairmont Grand Del Mar from as many angles as possible and in almost every way they exceeded our expectations.

We've had the opportunity to mention so many different aspects we loved above, but I'd like to take a moment to mention that their valet was probably the best we've ever seen. They were quick, insanely helpful and so willing to go above and beyond to make our return to the resort and departures from the resort wonderful! During our departures we were consistently asked if we wanted water, directions (they quickly printed out google maps directions to requested destinations), beach chairs/towels/umbrellas, etc. Upon our returns we were always asked how our time away was, if we needed assistance with bags and if we'd be wanting our car later than day/night. We often find valet to be the weak link at so many resorts--often rushed and a bit gruff. Fairmont Grand Del Mar's valet was smooth, seamless and so willing to do anything necessary to assist. We even had a nice chat with one individual who was going to be heading to the Boston area and noticed our boys' Red Sox caps. He was so friendly and really interested in our opinions on the best things to do/see/eat. Always nice to chat about home. Overall, really well done in the valet department!

Housekeeping was the one area we found to be the tiniest bit inconsistent compared with the first-class service we received throughout the rest of our stay at Fairmont Grand Del Mar, but it was primarily minor things like not restocking the paper towels when they were out in the kitchenette or not restocking the waters in our mini fridge. Our room was always left very clean and turn-down service was great. There was a discrepancy on our final bill that showed we had eaten food and drank some of the alcoholic beverages from the cash bar, but as we have dietary restrictions in our family and neither my husband nor I drink, the front desk was quick to rectify it. Again, just small minor things with housekeeping while the rest of the service we received from the cafe, valet, in-room dining, golf instruction, concierge, etc. was absolutely outstanding!

Overall, we were very impressed with Fairmont Grand Del Mar and it's clear that the staff really took pride (and rightly so) in the level of service they offered their guests. The entire resort was as beautiful outside and in as the staff were knowledgeable and courteous. If ever in the San Diego area we highly recommend looking into Fairmont Grand Del Mar if you're looking for a family-friendly, luxury resort that offers a wealth of things to do while stilling giving you the flexibility of seeing the rest of San Diego without driving too far! 

If you still have unanswered questions or you're ready to book your stay you can do so directly through Fairmont Grand Del mar's site.


Note: Our stay at Fairmont Grand Del Mar was partially hosted and we received media rates for the remainder. This has in no way influenced our opinions, which we've stated above, based on our experiences. 

18 comments:

  1. What a gorgeous place and it looks like you had an amazing time! I'd love to vacation there.

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    Replies
    1. I think you'd have an amazing time!

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  2. What a beautiful, serene space!

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    Replies
    1. It truly was, you can really tell that so much thought went into the entire property. :)

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  3. Oh my gosh, this place looks so stunning!! I would have been in heaven staying there!

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    Replies
    1. It was truly beautiful! Definitely heavenly ;)

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  4. Wow! What a beautiful getaway! Looks like a wonderful place to escape!

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  5. OMG what a beautiful resort and the perfect getaway to escape to for sure. I am jealous!!!!

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    Replies
    1. It's definitely a getaway-type resort! Close enough to so many other things in San Diego that you can see what you like then retreat back to this lovely resort oasis. ;)

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  6. This is BEAUTIFUL! My husband just said the other day he wishes we could visit CA. Neither of us have ever been!

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    Replies
    1. We're big fans of California! You should definitely go! :)

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  7. Wow this looks amazing! Especially the pool area...I could spend all day there.

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  8. Okay, this place is gorgeous. I need to go there like now.

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  9. Looks like a lovely resort. We stayed at the Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui and found it to be super family friendly.

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    Replies
    1. Fairmont is definitely one of our favorite hotel families to stay with--so lovely and so great for families!

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