Review by Paul Williams, photos by Paul Williams, and courtesy Hyundai Canada.

After arriving in San Diego and asking about a good place for lunch, it was our driver from the airport who suggested we go to Hodad’s for a hamburger.

“World’s best,” he said. “You can’t beat it.”

I’ve noticed America is not short of superlatives. The longest pier; the oldest operating elevator; the world’s best hamburger; even the most humble of places or products becomes special with a well-chosen – if not necessarily verifiable – adjective.

“Of course,” continued our driver. “That means a visit to Ocean Beach.” (OB to the locals). “It’s, umm, different.”

The concierge at the Hotel Del Coronado agreed. Not at the top of list of recommended tourist hot-spots, he seemed impressed that we even knew about Ocean Beach.

“OB,” he chuckled. “Sure! Why not? It’s definitely different.”

That’s when we encountered country’s oldest operating elevator; an ornate, compact brass and steel affair in the hotel lobby. An elevator like that you want to ride, so we postponed Hodad’s for a while.

Hotel Del CoronadoHodad's patrons
Hotel Del Coronado & Hodad’s patrons. Click image to enlarge

The Hotel Del Coronado is itself a facility of many superlatives (“California’s Premier Pacific Resort”). Located on upscale Coronado Island in San Diego Bay, this luxury hotel celebrates 125 years of operation in 2013, which is all the more remarkable because almost the entire structure is made of wood. You’d think by now that a stray match would have taken it down long ago (apparently this was the fate of many similar resorts), but no, it thrives. It’s even a National Historic Site.

The “Del”, as it’s referred to by locals and regular guests alike, was the host hotel for the Canadian launch of the new Hyundai Santa Fe XL, which explained our arrival there. Furnished with a Santa Fe Sport 2.0T for the weekend prior to the event compliments of Hyundai, we intended to do some touring for a couple of days before it formally began. Continuing the “superlative” theme, by the way, the Santa Fe Sport is the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s 2013 “Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.”

Hotel Del Coronado
Hotel Del Coronado. Click image to enlarge

Being an American model, our Santa Fe Sport was not equipped exactly the same as the equivalent version we’d get in Canada. We were driving what would be a “Limited” model here, priced at $38,499. Basically, this means it’s loaded. Features include heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, 19-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, leather trimmed interior, eight-inch touchscreen display, navigation system (third generation), HID headlights and rear park assist with camera. To tell you the truth, I didn’t notice if our US model had a heated steering wheel. We certainly didn’t need it in San Diego, so I’d venture, “no.”

The “Del” has a Canadian connection in that its architect, James W. Reid, originally hailed from New Brunswick. But the vision for the grand Victorian building with its unique towers and turrets originated with the hotel’s developers, E.S. Babcock, Hampton L. Story and Jacob Gruenike back in 1880. They formed a company that bought the entire island, parceled it into lots, auctioned them off, and opened the hotel in 1888 with the proceeds. Now that’s enterprise.

To say this place has history is an understatement. Eleven US presidents have stayed there, as did Edward, Prince of Wales and Wallace Simpson (before they became an item, apparently). Movies and TV shows were shot there, perhaps the most memorable being “Some Like it Hot,” starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon (the Best Comedy of all Time, according to the American Film Institute). L. Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other stories there, and a ghost could yet reside in Room 3327.

Connect with