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What’s not to love about a spur-of-the-moment beach vacation? How about one that’s only two hours away? 

Enter San Diego. The loose collection of seaside communities is usually written off as a family destination. But this town has a sophisticated side that attracts an international crowd hungry for helicopter vineyard excursions, secret speakeasies and yacht trips. 

We’ve put together an itinerary that’s as cool as it is unexpected.

Stay at a Secret Resort Within a Resort

Everyone knows the Hotel del Coronado, the red-roofed resort built in 1888 and used as the set for the Marilyn Monroe film Some Like It Hot. But only jet-setters know that there’s a secret entrance, just past the porte cochere, that leads to Beach Village at the Del. This newer, more luxurious and peaceful resort-within-a-resort is made up of 78 rooms, suites and cottages built around an exclusive pool, all set beside a guests-only beach--and every room has its own deck or patio.

Beach Village at the Del, 1500 Orange Ave., Coronado; 619-435-6611 or

Dine at the Rooftop Hot Spot

At Kettner Exchange, the rooftop bar-restaurant is sensuous (there’s even a swing bed) and thronged, thanks to a French-trained chef who deploys Asian flavors, like fried chicken served with jasmine rice and hoisin sauce, and Japanese sweet-potato pancakes topped with seared shrimp. Get your concierge to make the reservation. 

Kettner Exchange, 2001 Kettner Blvd., San Diego; 619-255-2001 or

Hire a Private Yacht

Forget the group tours. Hire a private yacht from Seaforth Yacht Charter to take a spin in Coronado Bay, or head farther out to deep coastal water in order to spot the largest group of blue whales in the world, who cluster there to feed during summer.

Seaforth Yacht Charter, 1715 Strand Way, Coronado; 888-834-2628 or

Hit a Secret Speakeasy

Behind a wall of kegs at the craft-beer hall Neighborhood, there’s a hidden entrance to Noble Experiment, home to some of the city’s finest bespoke cocktails, like the Pisco Punch (pisco, lime and pineapple) or whatever the bartender whips up to your taste. Secure a reservation in advance for a booth in this glitzy spot, adorned with crystal chandeliers and a wall of gilded skulls.

Noble Experiment, 777 G St., San Diego; 619-888-4713 or


Helicopter to Fine Wine

Take an hour helicopter ride down the coast to a private tour of the vineyards of Valle de Guadalupe in Baja California, where Baja Wine + Food organizes daylong or overnight trips to generations-old vineyards that specialize in red wine. To request a tour, contact the Beach Village at the Del concierge.

Baja Food + Wine;

Hike Torrey Pines

Work off your indulgences with an easy hike through Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, where a rare breed of tree, gnarled from ocean breezes, thrives on winding trails. Follow them down to the quiet little beach, where you can take a refreshing swim. Bring a favorite vintage and a light picnic from the nearby Cliff Hanger Cafe for a sunset toast along the shore.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, 12600 N. Torrey Pines Rd., San Diego;`

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