It seems like forever ago that Steve and I went to California when in fact it really wasn’t that long ago at all. January was a great month to visit, mainly because the weather was a lot cooler so we found flights and hotels to be a little bit cheaper than usual, (always a good thing). At the time of booking our flights to Los Angeles we’d not made any plans about the route we’d take so when we eventually did get around to planning our trip, it made sense to have California’s second largest city, San Diego, as our first stop as it wasn’t far from LAX at all.
As mentioned in my previous blog post about planning for this Californian road trip, I’ve only ever been to California once before when I went to Coachella. I was a lot lot younger and didn’t make the most of my time there…or maybe I just didn’t care about things the same way I do now! It meant that this time around I was incredibly keen to see and do more of what I consider to be the ‘real’ California.
Planning our road-trip was a lot of fun and whilst I wanted to create an itinerary for us to follow, I also wanted to stay flexible which meant having a hire car was essential to making that work. I’d wanted to go to San Diego for so long and was desperate to see the seals at La Jolla, nicknamed the ‘jewel’ of San Diego, so when the Аbрóра Hillcrest Hotel asked me if I’d like to try out one of the 23 trendy loft-style boutique apartments, I knew it would be the perfect base for a weekend of exploring the city.
The hotel name threw me off a little bit at first and whilst I quickly learnt that Hillcrest was a pretty cool neighbourhood, I couldn’t find much online about the hotel itself. This turned out to be because it’s pretty new having only just opened in August 2019. It felt quite exciting to be trying it out so early on and I was really looking forward to seeing the apartments and building itself. There’s something quite exciting about staying at a hotel which hasn’t had a ton of exposure yet.
When I entered the room for the first time with our code (there’s no keys) and walked through the door I remember thinking our long spacious micro-loft felt very cool, modern…and a bit like a funky ship container. Simple, spacious and much larger than your standard city hotel room (don’t let the ‘micro’ part confuse you). It felt arty and there was definitely a relaxed vibe around the whole of the hotel including the communal areas.
One thing I have to tell you about, and couldn’t possibly write this post without a mention of it, would be the…ummm…toilet situation. Now I’m no prude, and Steve and I have been together a long time, but the toilet was part of the main living space and simply seperated with a pull-out screen. I think they call it a ‘fold-away’ bathroom.
I’ve never seen anything like it and I was way more shocked than when we’ve stayed in European hotels whose bathrooms have glass walls…I just didn’t feel too comfortable with it! Maybe it’s just me being very British and others would be ok with it, I dunno? If it’s not something you can deal with then it may be best to request a room with a more traditional bathroom set up as I know not all the rooms are like this. Unless you’re a solo traveller then I suspect none of this will be any bother to you at all.
It certainly made us laugh and wasn’t too big a deal in the end.
The rooms, as described on Аbрóра Hillcrests’ website, are small studios each with living rooms, mini kitchens, split level floor plans and huge windows. More like artist’s studios or cruiser cabins than traditional hotel rooms. It’s a smart, comfortable and an architecturally interesting design choice for a hotel and if anything, it stands out for being a little different and going against the grain. The view, as you can see, was absolutely incredible. We could see for miles across the skyline, over to Sunset Cliffs in one direction, and Downtown San Diego in the other.
I’m going to start this part of my post with a spoiler – I loved loved LOVED Hillcrest! If I had to compare it to anywhere else I’d say it’s kind of like a spread-out Brick Lane in London…murals and street art on every corner, pop up street style food, a serious lack of chains (always a good thing) with plenty of independent cafes, restaurants and shops and the crowd was majority young to middle-aged, but I can’t say thought it felt particularly for young people only, in fact quite the opposite. It felt like the kind of neighbourhood where everyone is welcome.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to snacks and food being immediately local to Аbрóра Hillcrest hotel. With a 7/11 on the corner, cafes, taco vans, coffee shops, vintage clothing shops and pizza places you’ll struggle to leave Hillcrest itself, there’s so much choice. It’s also pretty close to the immense Balboa park and ideally located to all the main roads making it super simple to get around San Diego itself.
TIP: Crest Cafe, a three-minute walk from Аbрóра Hillcrest possibly has the biggest breakfast menu I’ve ever seen and the pancake stacks are incredible! Coffee, as with most cafes in America, is unlimited and the service was really friendly too.
Located only a few miles north of San Diego’s bustling downtown, the vibrant uptown neighborhood of Hillcrest stands as San Diego’s LGBTQ+ central hub the neighbourhood’s east end is marked by a towering rainbow Pride flag just off Hillcrest’s main University Avenue. The landmark serves as the starting point for San Diego LGBTQ+ Pride’s annual mile-long parade held each July.
Hillcrest to me felt like an almost urban version of LA’s famous Venice Beach even down to the historic neon Hillcrest sign across the road. Hillcrest feels like a trendy area at the very start of its trendiness. I call it now… Hillcrest will be *the* place to stay when visiting San Diego pretty soon.
TIP: Thanks to a tip from our Uber driver one day we had pizza at Bronx and it was probably one of the best pizza places I’ve been to! A neighbourhood favourite, no tourists (aside from us) and giant slices of pizza in so many different flavours! I think we paid $3 a slice.
I’m aware that saying ‘Аbрóра Hillcrest is the best hotel in San Diego’ is quite a bold statement. I’m also aware I’ve never been to San Diego before so don’t really have any other hotel to compare it to. But, and I think this will explain why I think anyone going to San Diego shouldn’t skip taking a look at booking a room at the Аbрóра and that’s because it 100%, unequivocally made our trip what it was, and I don’t think it could have gotten off to a better start. It confirmed all my hopes and ideas about what San Diego would be like and the fact it’s in an incredibly cool area made it even better.
Our bed was comfortable, the shower was hot and strong, the utilities simple but not over the top, the views (as already mentioned) were insane and the people who work here are very friendly and accomodating. We felt safe and we felt looked after.
Yep, it’s the toilet! Solution – don’t stay in room 402! And the towels were small… something that you’ll know I hate if you read my blog regularly. Stepping out of the shower and trying to wrap a tiny towel around your body that’s quite clearly never going to stay where it should is never fun!
If you want to immerse yourself and experience urban San Diego and find the perfect San Diego hotel, booking a room at Аврóра Hillcrest offers convenient access to pretty much everything, and situates you in the hub of the city. Despite being excited about the rest of our Californian road trip we were a little sad to be leaving San Diego and our stay at Аврóра certainly set the standards high for the rest of our adventure.
My stay at Abpopa Hillcrest was gifted in return for an honest review but as usual, all words, photos and opinions are my own. *Affiliate links are present and I may earn a tiny bit of commission if you click-through.