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Review: The Andaz San Diego Boutique Hotel

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TO THE POINT: Our four-night stay at the Andaz San Diego was a great opportunity to use Citi Prestige’s 4th night free benefit, as well as a leftover Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrade. The pros: a great location at the edge of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, a real front desk at check-in and an overall great Andaz experience. The cons: none, we loved staying here!

TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen and his family recently stayed at the Andaz San Diego. Here’s his review. (All photos are by the author.)

After a less-than-perfect stay at the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort in Hawaii, it was time to start the trek home to Florida and wrap up our trip booked with the companion fare benefit on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. Rather than taking back-to-back five-hour flights with an 18-month-old — a big you’re welcome to my fellow passengers! — we decided to stop in San Diego on the way back to Orlando. Fortunately, the Andaz San Diego delivered a much better stay than its Maui brethren.

Booking

Having never been to San Diego before, my wife and I were very intrigued by the Andaz’s location at the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter. The hotel is classified as a Category 5 property in the Hyatt Gold Passport program, requiring 20,000 points for a free night (or 10,000 points + $125 for Points + Cash redemptions).

When we checked availability for our desired dates, however, I saw that paid rates were just $180 per night. When you factor in the taxes and fees, redeeming points would’ve only gotten me a value of ~1 cent per point, well below TPG’s valuation of 1.8 cents.

Paid rates were just $180 per night for our stay, though we somehow wound up with an even lower rate than that!
Paid rates were just $180 per night for our stay, though we somehow wound up with an even lower rate than that.

Making this even better was the fact that I hold the Citi Prestige Card and that we’d be staying for exactly four nights, opening up the option of the card’s fourth night free benefit. Even better? These bookings were eligible for Diamond Suite Upgrades, and I had a leftover certificate from last year (before Hyatt changed its policy). The property did have suite availability for all four nights, so this seemed like the best option. I called the Citi Prestige concierge and had my reservation confirmed within a few minutes.

I then called Hyatt Gold Passport and upgraded my room, which actually set in motion a strange chain of events. Because Hyatt modified my reservation, I actually got a call from the Citi Prestige agent who booked my room to see what was going on. I told him that I had requested the changes to upgrade my room — he understood and said he would send a new confirmation to reflect the updated reservation.

Amazingly enough, when the confirmation arrived, I saw that my base rate for the room had somehow dropped to just $119.10 per night ($134.23 with taxes and fees), and this rate stuck through my stay and was reflected on my final invoice as a “Package Room.” It’s still unclear whether the mistake was made by Hyatt or Citi, but either way, it was a terrific rate for a room that would’ve normally cost $280 per night.

Check-In

Our flight from Maui landed around 8:00pm and we opted to take the 992 bus from the airport to the downtown area. I highly recommend this option, as it took less than 20 minutes and cost just $2.25 per person — note that you must have exact change and can’t pay with a credit card. We hopped off at 5th Avenue and Broadway, and the Andaz San Diego was just a few blocks away, located right on the edge of the Gaslamp Quarter.

The lobby was typical of Andaz properties in that it was contemporary, luxurious and altogether different than any of the others we had visited before.

The open lobby of the Andaz San Diego.
The open lobby of the Andaz San Diego.

Unlike our past Andaz haunts, however, there was an actual front desk where a friendly agent quickly greeted us and began the check-in process (the others we’d visited before have a front desk “area” but roving agents complete the check-in process using an iPad).

An actual desk to check-in!
At long last, an actual check-in desk.

The agent thanked me for my loyalty and confirmed that my Hyatt Diamond status gave me free breakfast either in the RoofTop600 Restaurant or via room service. I pressed for exactly what that covered and he essentially said anything, though I assume that ordering six entrées would be frowned upon. He issued our keys and we were on our way — well, after a quick stop for some fruit-infused water, a welcome refreshment after a five-hour flight from Hawaii.

The Andaz Suite

We were assigned Room 229, an Andaz Suite on the second floor just to the right of the elevator. Covering 515 square feet, the Andaz Suite isn’t a true suite (in that there aren’t separate rooms). Instead, there’s a partial wall between the bedroom area and sitting area, though this amount of space was more than sufficient for our needs.

The room actually had quite a large entryway, and immediately to the left was a large counter space that housed the mini-bar and glassware.

The well-illuminated mini-bar.
The well-illuminated mini-bar.

The food items were sitting on top in a basket and included a variety of snacks.

Snacks galore, though not all were complimentary!
Snacks galore, though not all were complimentary.

The refrigerated items were housed in a small fridge inside the cabinet and were quite extensive, including beer, Red Bull, Gatorade and multiple types of wine.

Many types of drinks, though also not complimentary.
Many types of drinks, though also not complimentary.

It’s worth noting that not all of the snacks and non-alcoholic beverages were complimentary, as is the Andaz brand standard. The only free snacks were the chips and granola bar in the small basket above, while the free drinks were restricted to water, juices, coffee, tea and soda — not a deal-breaker by any stretch, but I’m sure glad I read the price card before going a little too crazy.

On the opposite side of the entryway from the mini-bar area was a decent-sized closet that was perfect for storing our luggage. It also housed two of the three robes in the room. Evy was immediately intrigued.

The large closet near the door.
The large closet near the door.

Just past the entryway was the living area of the room, which consisted of a couch, glass coffee table and desk underneath the flat screen television mounted on the section of wall that separated the area from the bedroom.

Evy was also fascinated with the glass coffee table.
Evy was also fascinated with the glass coffee table.

The sleeping area was relatively compact but comfortable, with a king-size bed and two end tables.

The comfortable king-size bed.
The comfortable king-size bed.

Evy thought the bed was comfortable as well, especially after a day at the San Diego Zoo.

A day at the zoo meant Evy couldn't even make it to her crib before falling asleep!
A day at the San Diego Zoo meant poor Evy couldn’t even make it to her crib before falling asleep.

We especially enjoyed the reading lights above each side that were on a switch, dimmer and pull chain when we were ready to go to bed. There was also another TV mounted on the dividing wall facing the bed.

The bathroom was off the right of the bedroom and was split into two sections, both of which were tiled in the same dark gray that I have come to associate with Andaz decor. The first section included a glass pedestal sink with the towels and the third robe.

The chrome and glass sink wouldn't be my choice but worked well in the room.
A chrome and glass sink wouldn’t be my first design choice, but worked well in the room.

The second area housed the toilet and a glass shower.

The shower was quite large.
The shower was quite large.

The shower also included one of the simplest yet most unique innovations I’ve seen in a hotel room. If you hate having to contort your body to turn on the water in a shower without getting wet, the Andaz San Diego is for you, thanks to the small glass cutout that allows you to stick your hand through and turn the water on without even setting foot in the shower.

An ingenious invention to turn the water on without getting wet!
An ingenious invention to turn the water on without getting wet!

The bath products were from an unfamiliar brand called Lather but were perfectly suitable for our needs.

Simple yet functional bath products.
Simple yet functional bath products.

Unfortunately, since we were in an interior room on the second floor, the windows provided a view of an interior courtyard that appeared to be under construction. Since several other rooms shared this view, we kept the curtains closed for the majority of our stay.

Amenities

Since the Andaz San Diego is more of a boutique hotel, it didn’t offer the array of services found at most larger city properties. The main amenities were actually located on the roof, including the on-site restaurant/bar/club RoofTop600 (named for the hotel’s address of 600 F Street). The restaurant served breakfast, weekend brunch and lunch, while the lounge stayed open until midnight during the week and until 2:00am on weekends, hence the earplugs that were proactively offered in our room.

Fortunately we never had to use these.
Fortunately we never had to use these.

While we didn’t get a chance to have a meal on the roof, we did venture up for happy hour early one evening and enjoyed the casual setting and terrific views of downtown.

Happy hour on the roof.
Happy hour on the roof.

The bar itself was relatively nondescript but did offer discounted drinks and snacks from 5:00pm-8:00pm Monday thru Friday.

The simple bar at RoofTop600.
The simple bar at RoofTop600.

This multipurpose area also housed the pool and recreation facilities, though sadly I wasn’t able to fit in a game of Jenga or cornhole this trip.

The rooftop area was empty when we visited, though I'm sure it fills up quickly on weekend nights.
The rooftop area was empty when we visited, though I’m sure it fills up quickly on weekend nights.

As I mentioned above, this property allows Diamond members to enjoy room service breakfast in the comfort of their rooms. When traveling with an 18-month-old, this is an absolute godsend. The agent at check-in indicated that there wasn’t any published limit to what I could order, though we did try to stick to a modest couple of entrées plus a glass of milk for Evy each day.

The room service menu for breakfast.
The room service menu for breakfast.

Just about every dish we tried was terrific, though I was partial to the breakfast burrito and my wife loved the So-Cal benedict.

Two of our breakfast entrees, delivered hot to our room.
Two of our breakfast entrées, delivered hot to our room.

We also utilized room service for dinner on our first night, as we arrived relatively late and wanted something quick. Fortunately, the kitchen didn’t disappoint, as the steak frites and carne asada burrito were quite tasty.

Service

Unlike our experience in Maui, we found the service at the Andaz San Diego to be very polished and professional. A perfect example was room service. On the first morning of our stay, the lady delivering our breakfast got to meet Evy and was so excited to interact with her. She must have realized that the glass of whole milk we had ordered was for her, so the next day when she arrived, the milk was in a plastic cup with a straw, and she pointed this out as she set down the tray. It honestly wasn’t a huge deal, as Evy had her own cup with a lid that she could use, but the fact that she took notice of our situation and then adjusted her service proactively speaks volumes.

To me, it’s these little (yet significant) gestures that go a long way toward making a guest feel welcome, and all of our interactions with the Andaz staff were similarly fantastic. The check-in agent was more than happy to store a suitcase we didn’t need when we checked in, and he deliberately assigned us a second floor interior room to keep the baby away from the noise of the club on the roof and other establishments in the Gaslamp Quarter. The bell stand attendants were always quick to grab the door when we were leaving or returning to the hotel, and they always knew exactly where to send me when I needed to run out for something. Again, these things don’t make or break a stay, but they do help create an atmosphere of service that was notably lacking at the Andaz Maui.

Bottom Line

We can't wait to go back to the Andaz San Diego.
We can’t wait to go back to the Andaz San Diego.

My wife and I absolutely loved San Diego, and I’d be hard-pressed to find a better hotel than the Andaz. It was in a terrific location, just blocks from fantastic restaurants, and a short bus ride to the San Diego Zoo, USS Midway and the airport. I’m still unsure of how we came into the incredible rate we ended up paying, but even at the original rate of $180 a night, it was a great use of an expiring Diamond Suite Upgrade certificate. Here’s hoping we’ll have a chance to make it back sometime soon!

Have you stayed at the Andaz San Diego before? Tell us about it, below.

Featured image courtesy of the Andaz San Diego.

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