La Jolla’s beachfront Pantai Inn: a touch of Bali

The view of the mighty Pacific Ocean from our suite at the boutique Pantai Inn in La Jolla was spectacular; the roar of the surf through the open windows was soothing. We were in paradise. The aptly-named Balinese-inspired luxury property (pantai means ”beach” in English) offers one, two and three bedroom suites, villas, cottages, and bungalows whose interiors meld Balinese style and art with modern American amenities.  All accommodations have fully-equipped kitchens with reverse-osmosis filtered water, fireplaces and well-designed, though somewhat small bathrooms. Each is differend but, depending on the unit guests will enjoy design touches that include custom tile, rain showers, granite counters. and  copper One even sports a Jacuzzi. While there are common elements, each unit has its own layout and personality.

The boutique Pantai Inn

Pantai Inn La Jolla CA Steve Collins

Welcome to La Jolla’s Pantai Inn photo/Steve Collins

The Pantai is complex of series of restored cottages, bungalows and former small apartment buildings, dating from the 1800s through the 1930s, set around a verdant courtyard, the perfect spot to enjoy breakfast (which is included in the room rate), an afternoon up of tea (there’s an interesting selection in the small reception area) or a sunset glass of wine. The soothing sounds from fountains throughout the property contrast to the roar of the Pacific. For those chilly days and evenings there’s a gas fire-put.  Grilling fans can cook dinner on the outdoor grills provided.

One of the hallmarks of a luxury property is the level of service. The staff at the Pantai provides caring yet unobtrusive attention to guest needs. Unlike some hotels, they aren’t doing this for gratuities; the Pantai is a tipping-free property. The excellent staff seem to really enjoy what they do. We felt welcome and totally pampered during our stay.

Ocean front suite living area, photo/photo courtesy Pantai Inn

Ocean front suite living area, photo/photo courtesy Pantai Inn

Everything from Wi-Fi to parking to breakfast is included in the rate. On arrival, guests are welcomed with a card in their room and a tiny, but bright flashlight to keep as a souvenir of their stay. Celebrating a special occasion?  Book directly with the hotel and let the guest services agent know. You may find a surprise in your suite at check-in. There are always four bottles of water in the fridge and they’ll be replenished during daily housekeeping. Need more? Ask the staff and it will be replenished. Nightly turn-down service brings chocolates and more bottled water if needed.

One of my favorite amenities at the Pantai Inn is the complimentary “fluff and fold” same-day laundry service. If you get the wash to housekeeping 9am you’ll have it back by 4pm. If it comes in later you’ll get it back by the next day. We were able to pack a bit lighter for our trip knowing that we could get our laundry done.

Location, location, location

The view from our Pantai Inn Suite Steve Collins

The view out our suite window- Shell Beach is just steps from the Pantai, photo/Steve Collins

For hotels as with real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. The Pantai wins on three fronts:

  • It’s as close to the ocean as you can get on La Jolla’s Coast Boulevard; directly across the street from the ocean. It’s just north of the La Jolla Children’s Pool and a bit south of popular La Jolla Cove. The ocean views are superb. People gather across the road for the colorful, daily sunset show. We got there both nights we stayed at the Pantai.
  • It’s in La Jolla, an upscale area at the north end of San Diego  known for great dining, great shopping, outdoor murals, as well as proximity to a world-class golf course.
  • It’s a great jumping off spot for many of the attractions that the City of San Diego and San Diego County have to offer such as the San Diego Zoo, Point Loma, San Diego Botanic Gardens and Legoland.

A rich history

Because we are history buffs, Dan Priano, the Pantai’s General Manager, arranged for us to meet Bill Shepard, the hotel’s general contractor, the man overseeing all the renovation work at the inn. We spent over an hour talking to Shepard who grew up in La Jolla and knows the area’s rich history well. He also knows about the origin of the buildings that make up the inn’s compound.

1930 aerial view of La Jolla's Coast Boulivard and Prospect Street photo/Collection of La Jolla Historical Society

1930 aerial view of La Jolla’s Coast Boulivard and Prospect Street photo/Collection of La Jolla Historical Society

The original property was bought by a prosperous boot maker who wanted to build a big hotel. He ended up building his hotel “down the street” instead. The property passed to his children and his son turned it into the Shell Beach Inn (named for the beach directly in front of the inn), a collection of former beach cottages in the 1940s. During the 40s and 50s many movie stars made their way to La Jolla with their families. Many stayed at the toney La Valencia Hotel just up the hill from the Pantai. Some of the stars would install their girlfriends at the beachfront property down the street. Shepard, a discrete guy, declined to say who.

The oldest house at the Pantai and maybe the oldest house in La Jolla built circa 1850, is a small cottage that started as a beach shack. Roads weren’t yet names so each cottage was named by its owner as a way to identify it. Our suite was in a cedar-shingled cottage, originally named Contra Costa, dating to the 1890s. According to the knowledgeable Shepard, it was one of the original cedar shingle buildings in La Jolla. It was simply built; wooden boards were nailed together then covered in shingles on the outside and woven linen cloth, to keep the bugs out, on the inside.

Shell Beach Court, one of the old buildings at the beach 1937, photo/ Collection of La Jolla Historical Society

Shell Beach Court, one of the old buildings at the beach 1937, photo/ Collection of La Jolla Historical Society

Prosperous San Diego attorney John Mannix built Sea Cliff House from a kit in town, he converted a room in the house to a chapel. A priest would come down from the San Luis Rey Mission, a 12 hour horse-back ride, once a month to hold Mass.

Mr. Mannix’s daughter built a double cabin she called After Thought next to her parent’s cottage and also had four cabins (Casita San Juan, Aeroplane, Yankee and Blue Haven) built on the property. She also started a bakery at the site. She rented the cottages out to unmarried women who worked for her in the bakery. The bread was given to homeless people.

The most famous resident of Winnebago, a cottage built at 958 Coast Boulevard South, circa1915, was Lucile Jeardeau, La Jolla’s first policewoman. According to the La Jolla Historical Society she was hired in 1917 to “monitor visiting soldiers.” Shepard said that one of her duties was to prevent scantily clad bathing beauties from leaving the beach and going into town.

Panta Inn La Jollai in bloom Billie Frank

The Pantai Courtyard , a welcoming oasis Inn, photo/Billie Frank

The brick building that houses the lobby dated to 1939. Shepard called it, “one of the most beautiful and unappreciated buildings in La Jolla.” It was built as upscale apartments. He points out pyramids in the façade and other Italianate features that mark he design. Because the building was built after they began naming the streets so it doesn’t have a name, only a number.

If a boutique beachfront inn with excellent service appeals to you, you’ll love the Pantai Inn. It’s a truly unique property right on the ocean. Make your stay even more special; treat yourself to an ocean view room and let the sound of the surf lull you to sleep.

Author’s notes:  We were guests of the Pantai Inn. All opinions are our own.
                               Thanks to the La Jolla Historical Society for the use of their photos.

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19 Responses to “La Jolla’s beachfront Pantai Inn: a touch of Bali”

  1. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    May 31, 2019 at 10:53 pm #

    La Jolla is the jewel in the San Diego area’s crown, in my opinion. The Pantai Inn and its history are so fascinating. What a lovely encounter with Bill Shepard so you could get a glimpse of days gone by.

    • Billie Frank
      June 1, 2019 at 8:41 am #

      I totally agree, Betsy and the Pantai is the perfect place to use for a base.

  2. noel
    June 1, 2019 at 10:41 am #

    What’s not to like in gorgeous La Jolla, stunning! Please do share this on my link up for Travel Photo Mondays, love to have you join us today!

  3. Donna Janke
    June 1, 2019 at 3:50 pm #

    Pantai Inn looks and sounds wonderful. I love the history.

  4. Elizabeth Rose
    June 2, 2019 at 12:14 pm #

    Beautiful place! Loved the current photos and the history too.

  5. Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    June 2, 2019 at 3:57 pm #

    I’ve also stayed at the Pantai Inn in La Jolla. It is a delightful lodging. Your last few posts make me think you are following in my footsteps from about a year ago. Here’s my take on the inn, http://travelswithcarole.blogspot.com/2014/11/great-sleeps-pantai-inn-la-jolla.html

  6. The Gypsynesters
    June 2, 2019 at 5:20 pm #

    The Pantai in La Jolla looks fantastic. Gorgeous views and excellent service… what’s not to love?

  7. Irene S Levine
    June 3, 2019 at 5:59 am #

    La Jolla is such a beautiful place and the Pantai Inn looks like the perfect oceanfront perch to relax and explore. I love hotels with rich histories like this one!

  8. Paula McInerney
    June 3, 2019 at 2:15 pm #

    Pantai Inn has history and charm as does La Jolla from the looks of things. Need to get over that way one of these days

    • Billie Frank
      June 3, 2019 at 3:03 pm #

      La Jolla and the Pantai are both fab! Check them out.

  9. Michelle da Silva Richmond
    June 3, 2019 at 2:31 pm #

    Sounds wonderful! My bags are packed….I’m ready to go!

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