Visiting the greater San Diego area would scream, at least on paper, for a lodging property on the coast with views of the Pacific Ocean and all that comes with that experience.
Unless, of course, you find a resort that really brings to life the feel of the region where it resides. Such a place is the Rancho Bernardo Inn. Located just 25 minutes north of downtown San Diego and 90 miles south of Los Angeles, the picturesque Inn is situated in the heart of San Diego North amid the San Pasqual Mountains.
The Rancho Bernardo Inn is owned by JC Resorts. JC Resorts also owns Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach, and Temecula Creek Inn in the Southern California wine Country. The property is reminiscent of a country estate, the resort’s early California design features a network of facilities connected through a series of landscaped walkways and bowered patios. Lush gardens, Mexican sculptures, Mediterranean fountains, and perfectly placed benches and alcoves complete the exterior. Inside, wood beam ceilings, oriental rugs, fireplaces, a mix of custom furniture and a variety of hand-collected antiquities from the Americas.
There are 287 rooms, including 15 suites on the property that spreads over 265 acres. The Rancho Bernardo Inn promotes the property as being designed with relaxation and comfort in mind and they absolutely knock the ball out of the park in this area.
The moment we walked into our room, the vibe of relaxation overtook us. We were in the block of rooms that overlook the golf course. Looking through the sliding glass door to our balcony, we had a great view of the tree-lined course, setting the tone for the stay.
The rooms received a $1 million soft-goods renovation in 2014 that included new bathrooms that feature double vanity areas. They also have 42-inch flat screen televisions, ample work space, free WiFi and comfortable chairs to relax.
If you don’t get one of the rooms overlooking the golf course, you have the beauty of one of the three pools, the numerous fountains, or the abundant plant life around the property to view.
Whether it’s lounging on your balcony or in your room, comfort and relaxation are at the forefront.
The golf course opened in 1962 and fits the old-school description that applies to the entire resort. It is an enjoyable round.
There was a $1 million renovation in 2014 that includes a complete bunker renovation and well as irrigation system improvements. Recently a 24-month renovation of all the greens was completed.
Being an older course means fully mature trees throughout the round, adding to the traditional course feel. Despite being surrounded by homes through much of the course, the trees help mask the residential feel.
The course plays 6,667 yards from the championship tees, but packs a slope of 133 and a rating of 72.4. As is the case with most courses, playing the proper tee box makes for an enjoyable round of golf. For instance, the white tees play to 5,879 yards and a rating of 68.3.
While the tee boxes and fairways may not be as immaculate as some of your high-end daily fee courses, the greens are as good as any course I have played in the last couple of years and that includes Torrey Pines.
A beautiful, elevated tee shot starts your round on the first tee and my favorite hole ends the round at No. 18.
The closing hole on both nines are fun. The 9th is only a 306-yard, par 4, but the approach comes over a pond and if the pin placement is from the right-half over, it’s a dicey shot as bunkers guard the back and the pond the front.
The 18th is the signature hole. At 544 yards, the par 5 calls for the driver, but there is trouble left and a forced carry. There are two forced carry shots on the hole that make it questionable to go for the green in two.
The green is elevated which adds length to the hole and even when on the green, your work is hardly done. The three-tiered green demands accuracy with the approach. Even playing on a rainy day, the greens were rolling quick.
It is a sensational closing hole, one which meets my criteria of posing the capabilities to alter a match easily.
Avant is the signature restaurant and has become a go-to place for not just guests at the resort, but local residents area as well.
Relatively new after undergoing a $2.5 million renovation to pay homage to El Bizocho, the original restaurant, Avant sources ingredients from their on-property garden as well as local purveyors.
The design of the restaurant – bar, patio, lounge and dining room – are designed with a comfortable, social environment in mind. Our waiter Jonas made us feel right at home and his knowledge of my wife’s adverse reaction to spicy food shows the attention to detail the staff brings.
We started with a charcuterie plate of Jonas’s recommendation and it was excellent. It didn’t seem like the usual suspects were on the plate, offering a honey comb, a pear-mustard dip, olives, candied nuts, fruit and two types of salami.
We also enjoyed a glass of wine from the bar that features wine on tap, one of the signature parts of the restaurant.
“It keeps the wine fresh,” offered Jonas. “Instead of just sitting in the bottle, we have it on tap. It’s mostly the house wines, but it’s kind of the hip thing right now.”
For an appetizer, we had Fried Brussels Sprouts, which for anyone that knows me is a stretch. These were sensational as they were served with bacon, a medjool date syrup, cardamom crema and pomegranate.
For the main course, I went with the Grass-Fed Bone-in Ribeye. It has always been a favorite and it did not disappoint. Served medium rare with Yukon gold potatoes, wild mushrooms and a red onion confit, it was first-class.
Avant was crowded on the Thursday night we dined, but at no point did we feel crowded, nor overwhelmed by noise. We were able to converse, not just with each other, but with Jonas as well in a relaxed atmosphere.
There is also the Veranda Fireside Lounge and Restaurant, a more casual dining option that overlooks the 18th green on the golf course. The Veranda features a Mediterranean menu with a southern California twist.
The bar is a casual sports bar with five plasma TV’s and shuffleboard or Café Granada, located just off the lobby where you can get coffee, a quick breakfast or lunch on the go.
There is also a highly-rated spa, a fitness center, three pools and 21 – that’s right, 21 – distinctive fountains located throughout the property. The resort offers a tour of all the fountains.
There is plenty of shopping available and just plenty of scenic property to roam and relax.
As I have said in previous stories, I love the coast so for me to leave a place like Torrey Pines and head inland, it will take a special place to win me over.
With the Rancho Bernardo Inn, you have such a place. Dining, lodging, relaxing and golf–all with an old-school California feeling. This is a perfect place for the couple or for the entire family.
I could not give a higher recommendation. Since we returned I have run into people who have been and go back to the property regularly be it for business or pleasure.
The Rancho Bernardo Inn is now on our list of must-stay properties.
For more information go to http://www.ranchobernardoinn.com/