UPDATE: This hotel is no longer a Hilton but has been transformed into San Diego Mission Bay Resort.

When a friend calls to ask if you’d like to take a last-minute staycation, the answer in our home is always yes. Except, in this case, it was really a baycation at Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa. Why? It’s because the resort is located right on the shores of Mission Bay, a scenic haven for water recreation. Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa’s Location

So now that you know it’s located on Mission Bay, let me dive into exactly where that is for those who aren’t familiar with San Diego. Mission Bay Park is a giant saltwater lagoon with 27 miles of shoreline located north of the airport and south of Pacific Beach. It was converted from a tidal wetland to a recreational park that is now popular for boating, camping, kayaking and other water sports.

The hotel is also an excellent choice for hotels near SeaWorld San Diego, because both are located on Mission Bay. It is easily accessible to the I-5 freeway, your gateway to almost anywhere you need to go in town.

See also: 8 Best Mission Beach Hotels

Arrival and Check-in

I pulled up to the resort entrance and did not see a valet so parked in one of the spaces near the lobby while I checked in.

Our room wasn’t ready (we arrived early) so we were given a key to the pool where we spent the next several hours. I had fully intended to test out some of the nearby water sports but… the kids were having a blast swimming and they serve excellent poolside drinks (and french fries).

The sun had finally made an appearance through the late May marine layer so I was keen to let them do as they pleased.

The pool at Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa on Mission Bay near SeaWorld

Ducks from the bay would occasionally waddle in which gave the guests a good laugh.

Once keys were in hand, I re-parked my car right outside of our room which wound up being convenient because we could take things to and from our car, if necessary. Self-parking at the time of this writing is $35 but it is your only option so just factor it into your room rate.

Our Studio Garden View Suite

To preempt what we refer to in our household as “hungry fussy”, we rousted the kids from the pool for quick showers before dinner. We hasn’t yet stepped into our studio suite which was quite spacious with two queen beds.

Our studio suite at Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa near SeaWorld

I would highly recommend this style of room on the ground floor because fidgety kids can tumble around the large grassy area outside that is accessible via a sliding glass door.

Did you know that Hilton HHonors members can select their exact rooms 24 hours before check-in online?

A kitchenette area had a microwave, sink, and a mini refrigerator which means you could easily store food. The onsite store offers an impressive range of options from wine to cereal to snacks. Our beds were very comfortable with crisp white linens. The room was perfect for our needs and some of the finishes looked recently refreshed. In the interest of keeping it real, I will say that our outdoor lounge chair pillows needed to be replaced and that the somewhat tired exterior of our building doesn’t really match the contemporary feel of the rooms. But none of this bothered me because we were busy there with friends and not focused on these kinds of details (though I realize some of you might so I mention it).

The bathroom had the usual Hilton Peter Thomas Roth bath amenities, which I like, but no hair conditioner so bring your own.

The best thing about this room? The outside fire pits provided unique entertainment after the sun set.

Fire pit at the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa.

They do host events on this lawn and there was one going on during our stay, but noise did not affect us.

Dinner at Acqua Restaurant

The resort’s signature restaurant is called Acqua and located on the bay side of the resort. The patio and some tables have spectacular water views. As there was a large group headed to prom that was keeping the kitchen busy, service was a bit slower than I would have liked, given that we were dining with kids, but we were graciously treated to a much-appreciated round of drinks for the slight inconvenience. The New American cuisine here is truly excellent and the wine list has been bestowed recognition by Wine Spectator.

I ordered the superb burrata and watermelon salad and scallops (the latter is not pictured — I blame the wine for forgetting).

Acqua restaurant's watermelon salad was outstanding.

I would definitely dine here again as the kids’ meal portions were generous and everyone enjoyed their meal.

S’mores for Dessert

While the resort hosts s’more roasting by the beach at 7:00 p.m., I called the hotel gift shop before dinner and had a s’mores kit delivered to our room since we were lucky enough to have a fire pit.

S'mores kit from Hilton San Diego Mission Bay Resort and Spa to use in our room's fire pit.

So, the Reese’s peanut butter cup s’more is pretty much life-changing. I’m not sure why it’s taken me 41 years to figure that one out. The kit came with everything you need to start a fire including matches and a little fire starter. It’s idiot-proof.

Roasting s'more at Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa

And then the sugar rush was burned off with cartwheels and such on the lawn while moms sipped wine. Not bad, right?

Breakfast at Acqua Restaurant

While there is a coffee shop on site, we opted for the buffet at Acqua since my daughter eats huge breakfasts in the morning.

Buffet breakfast at Acqua restaurant at Hilton San Diego Mission Bay

Everything she likes was represented between fresh fruit, pastries, eggs, french toast and more. Our server could not have been nicer and my daughter was included in the price of my breakfast so it became quite a deal.

We finished breakfast early, so we killed some time by shopping. This isn’t your average hotel gift shop. They carry the likes of TOMS SHOES, Billabong sweat shirts, designer bathing suites, jewelry, housewares, a variety of sundry items and food. It’s huge.

The gift shop at Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa

If you forget to pack something, really don’t worry about it.

Mission Bay Recreation at Your Doorstep

We just didn’t have time during our short stay to take advantage of all of the amazing water activities on offer at the resort. But, we live here so can make up for that during the summer.

Mission Bay beach in San Diego in front of the Hilton resort.

If you can tear the kids away from the resort pool (which we were not able to), the beach here is lovely with calm waters to launch a kayak and such.

Water sports area at Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa on Mission Bay

The good news is that you can take advantage of the rentals if you’re staying on the resort or not (and finish with lunch or dinner at Acqua). There is a branch of Action Sports Rentals right in front of the hotel offering jet skis, waterskiing, stand up paddle boarding, kayaks, aqua cycles and more.

Steps away, Sandbox offers bike rentals including kids’ bikes and surrey’s which would be perfect for cruising along the lengthy boardwalk. Kids who want to roller skate or bring their travel scooters, definitely should, because then you can jog along side them to burn off those s’mores and craft cocktails. The resort is also known for a very good tennis pro and spa. Residents can purchase spa memberships, too.

Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa on Mission Bay is excellent for families looking for a vacation or staycation.

Perfect for a Family Staycation

I can see Mission Bay from my house but we so rarely go there. It’s amazing how you can travel literally 15 minutes from home and feel like you’re actually on vacation because the scene is so different. The resort has everything that kids love… camp fires, beach, swimming pools, plenty of places to run and a casual vibe. Plus, adults can chill with good wine and not worry about cooking. Staycations are amazing and I can’t encourage them enough, especially in San Diego hotels.

A stay at Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa won’t break the bank as though our room was hosted by the resort, we would have been able to book in to a standard room for under $200 (exclusive of parking) which is good value for a four-star resort in San Diego in May.


Be sure to join Hilton HHonors loyalty program and then book directly through the Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa website to receive the Hilton HHonors, AAA or military discounts.

Have you stayed along Mission Bay recently?

*Thank you to Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa for hosting our room. Opinions are my own.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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  1. Thanks for your write up on this hotel. We are staying here all next week and its our first time in San Diego. We are travelling from Calgary with an 18 month old.

  2. I loved this article. I’ve always wanted to stay the night there and play in the bay. Did the rooms smell musty? I’ve had that experience in rooms close to the ocean at other hotels.