With miles of sand, pounding surf and nearly endless sunshine, San Diego is an attractive destination any time of year. Just outside the city and bordering the serene Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, The Grand Del Mar is another praiseworthy draw. This sumptuous Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star resort offers lavish accommodations, top-notch spa treatments, world-class dining and championship golf. But now, thanks to the resort’s collaboration with Porsche, you can also get behind the wheel of an impressive, high-performing vehicle and take in some of the county’s best scenery in style.
The Porsche Destination Drives program partners with select Five-Star resorts to offer you the limited-time opportunity to experience a complimentary, two-hour test-drive in a Cayenne GTS sport utility vehicle, the plug-in Panamera S E-Hybrid or the sexy 911 Carrera S Cabriolet sports car. Participating properties include The Grand Del Mar (through August 23); Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco (September 13to October 11); and The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician in Scottsdale (November 1 to December 13).
As a San Diego resident and admirer of The Grand Del Mar, I was thrilled to take a Carrera out for spin. The Porsche concierge had some great driving itineraries to choose from, however, I elected to cruise my favorite path along the historic Pacific Coast Highway (the PCH, as locals call it, or the 101). Follow my lead for your own journey; I’ll take you through six classic North County beach towns, spanning from the quaint hamlet of Carlsbad to the well-heeled community of Del Mar. This route offers amazing coastal views and plenty of cool places to stop along the way.
If you choose the 911 Carrera, drop the top, raise the windscreen and tune the Bose stereo system to your favorite beats. Exit the resort grounds and turn right onto Carmel County Road. Pick up the 56 West then hop onto I-5 North and savor the Porsche’s power as you speed along the freeway to your exit at Carlsbad Village Drive. Head west through the village and then turn left onto the PCH. Free parking along the PCH is ample here. Pull over and snap an enviable selfie by the sea or just kick back and enjoy miles of on-level beach and lagoon panoramas.
Next, go south on the PCH for a closer look at the beach towns you passed on the way to Carlsbad. Take it through funky Leucadia and then on to Encinitas, which will be marked by a soaring sign arched high across the PCH. The ambience here summons endless-summer nostalgia, which makes it a popular gathering place for classic car cruise-ins. Be on the lookout for old-school woodies, finned Bel Air Nomads and vintage muscle cars. To see surfers in action, park on K Street. Visit the Self-Realization Center’s Meditation Gardens on Second Street for lofty views of the famous Swami’s surf break below.
Resume your cruise along the PCH into Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Pull over just before the intersection at Manchester to snap a picture of “Cardiff Kook” (officially named Magic Carpet Ride), the beloved bronze sculpture of a young surfer that’s celebrated for the themed costumes local pranksters dress him up in. After a good laugh there, pass through the small seaside town of Solana Beach. Keep an eye outfor interesting mosaics, sculptures and other artful touches that dot the promenade.
With time winding down, it’s best to start heading back. Proceed south on the PCH toward Del Mar, home of the famous Del Mar racetrack, where the surf meets the turf. Stop by The Brigantine for a quick seafood fix and views that span from the tracks to the sea. Hot-air balloons, which launch from inland Del Mar, are often visible from this perch as well. Continue south on the 101 through the village of Del Mar, or take a fun little detour down to Powerhouse Park and local hangout Jake’s Del Mar by turning right onto Coast Boulevard. When you finish your maple-bacon tiramisu there, simply turn left on 15th to return to the PCH.
Just before you leave Del Mar, make a left onto Carmel Valley Road, then get on 56 East. Take the Carmel County Road exit to get back to The Grand Del Mar. Hand the keys to valet before checking in with your Porsche concierge. Cap off your journey with a handcrafted cocktail on the patio at The Clubhouse. I recommend the Broken Heart — the sweet-tart tequila drink won’t quite alleviate the sorrow of returning the 911 Carrera, but it’s the perfect libation to sip after your scenic San Diego road trip.