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First Look: Margaritaville Hotel San Diego Gaslamp Quarter

The former Hotel Solamar gets a rock 'n’ roll revamp as the popular brand’s first urban location on the West Coast

When plans were announced that the latest outpost of the Margaritaville Hotels & Resorts would take over the former Hotel Solamar in the heart of the Gaslamp District, many wondered: How would the brand—beloved by some, mocked by others—translate its signature Jimmy Buffet-infused Florida and Caribbean escapism lifestyle to an urban setting in California?According to Andrea Sheehan, principal at Dawson Design Associates, the design firm behind the revamp, it was just a matter of looking at Buffett’s West Coast roots. “He used to hang out at Laurel Canyon, writing music,” she says, pointing to his sessions during 1967’s Summer of Love tour across California. That era of folk music and fancy-free living served as the inspiration for the building’s $31 million makeover into a laidback oasis in the center of the city.The property consists of 235 guest rooms and suites, plus three dining concepts: LandShark Bar & Grill, 5 O’Clock Somewhere Bar, and the Margaritaville Coffee Shop. Add to that the 7,000 square feet of outdoor space—which includes San Diego’s largest rooftop pool deck—and you’ve got a curated, immersive experience that takes the standard Margaritaville experience and kicks it up a notch, says Sheehan.“It’s a little more luxury, curated in a way that’s probably more thoughtful,” she explains. With an 11-foot-tall neon blue flip-flop in the lobby and giant parrot patterns splashed everywhere, it’s still Margaritaville, but with iconography that’s more surfboards and VW vans than fishing boats. “It has a Bohemian undertone to it, but lots of color and a casual California vibe,” Sheehan adds.Originally announced in 2020 and scheduled for completion in 2021, the property faced myriad pandemic delays early on. But despite the toll Covid took on global hospitality, Sheehan says the interruption only served to highlight the need for a little escapism.“[We knew] when we broke out of Covid, people would be really, really wanting to just have fun,” she emphasizes. “It was actually the perfect timing to make a ‘Summer of Love’ motif, because people were so much in need of it. There’s nothing serious about it. It’s not meant to be high-style. It’s high fun.”The fun begins upon entry to the lobby, where Mission-style architecture and bright Baja colors immediately transport guests into a relaxed state of mind. Murals and graphics by California-based art team Julie Coyle Art Associates tie the signature Buffett imagery like sandals and palm trees to Southern California’s Mexican-influenced aesthetic and 1960s vibes. Cheeky touches, like an Andy Warhol–inspired canvas in which Jimmy Buffett’s mug takes the place of Marilyn Monroe’s, are everywhere, designed to surprise and delight guests. Sheehan insists that even Margaritaville skeptics won’t be able to resist the change in latitude.“The ‘hang loose attitude’ is contagious after a couple margaritas,” she laughs. Plus, with two live music venues on the first and fourth floors, the property is designed to encourage exploration as well as escapism. “You get pulled through the space, all with Jimmy at the core.”This is not likely to be the last Margaritaville in San Diego, either. The company acquired Paradise Point Resort & Spa in Mission Beach in 2019, but the conversion hit a wall when the City of San Diego filed a request to postpone their application pending a Coastal Commission investigation (which is ongoing).Regardless, Sheehan is confident San Diego is ready to party Jimmy Buffett–style. “Everybody wants to go have a margarita in San Diego and listen to good music. Everybody needs to chill out and relax,” she says. “Don’t we all need that?”Margaritaville Hotel San Diego Gaslamp Quarter is slated to open August 24, 2023, at 435 Sixth Ave. Reservations and more information can be found on their website or by calling (619) 819-9500.Have breaking-news, exciting scoops, or great stories about San Diego’s food scene? Send your pitches to [email protected].

By Beth Demmon

Beth Demmon is an award-winning writer and podcaster whose work regularly appears in national outlets and San Diego Magazine. Her first book, The Beer Lover's Guide to Cider, is now available. Find out more on

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