Rancho Valencia, Grand Del Mar among U.S. News’ top-ranked hotels

Rancho Valencia yoga pavilion.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Rancho Valencia No. 9 on its annual best hotels list for 2021.
(Todd LeVeck/Rancho Valencia)

The Rancho Santa Fe resort was No. 2 in California, while the Grand Del Mar ranked No. 5 in the state


A nearly year-long pandemic that sharply curtailed travel in 2020 didn’t keep U.S. News & World Report from releasing its annual list of the country’s best hotels, which includes two luxury properties in San Diego County that made it into the top 20.

Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in Rancho Santa Fe was ranked No. 9 in the 2021 list while the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, located in Carmel Valley, nabbed the 20th spot in U.S. News’ 11th annual list of top-rated luxury hotels.

Released on Tuesday, the publication’s ranking reflects the top tier of luxury properties, defined as those hotels that consistently fall within the 4-, 4.5- or 5-star “hotel class” ratings. More recently, U.S. News has included 3.5-star hotels that have received industry accolades and other 3.5-star hotels in select U.S. destinations.

The final rankings take into consideration the opinions of both experts and users. U.S. News also evaluates the number and prominence of awards and recommendations a hotel has received from expert travel industry sources.

Among the other San Diego County hotels that received gold-level rankings from U.S. News’ 10th annual Best Hotels list were The Lodge at Torrey Pines, at 40th in the U.S (and No. 8 in California).; the US Grant, at 172nd; the Pendry, 239th; and L’Auberge Del Mar, 363rd.

Local hotels also fared well in U.S. News’ separate Best Resorts ranking. Within California, Rancho Valencia is No. 1, followed by the Grand Del Mar at No. 2. The Lodge at Torrey Pines is ranked fourth and the Park Hyatt Aviara is sixth.

“The travel industry has faced numerous challenges over the past year, emphasizing the need to support and recognize hotels that continue to maintain exemplary standards,” said Zach Watson, travel editor at U.S. News. “This year’s list offers a reliable guide for travelers to use when planning their next getaway, whether that’s in a few months or next year.”

In San Diego County, hotel occupancy rates dropped dramatically last year amid state orders that at various times barred the lodging industry from accepting leisure guests. Some hotels, like Rancho Valencia, closed for several weeks early in the pandemic. U.S. News noted in its methodology that it did not include COVID-19 data in the rankings but pointed out that major industry awards that it relied upon for its list took property cleanliness into account.

“Properties that closed temporarily due to COVID-19 were still evaluated and included in the rankings,” explained U.S. News spokeswoman Sarah Javors. “With the latest vaccine developments and vaccine rollouts, more and more consumers are looking ahead to book their next trip. U.S. News Travel has also recently seen an uptick in traffic, with more people conducting vacation research on hotels, resorts and destinations.”

— Lori Weisberg is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune