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San Diego’s sunny climes inspire group wellness

For many, San Diego conjures an image of sunny skies and a shimmering oceanfront. Included in that image are, of course, healthy people running, biking and boating, which helps make the area a perfect fit for groups that want to add a wellness component to their meetings.

“It’s in our DNA,” said Margie Sitton, senior vice president of sales for the San Diego Tourism Authority. “People live outdoors here. They’re out bicycling or jogging or on the water windsurfing or paddleboarding or even doing yoga on a paddleboard. People expect us to be one of the healthiest communities and we like to provide that for our guests.”

Downtown San Diego

The main meeting venue in the downtown area is the San Diego Convention Center, which features 2.6 million square feet of space. Its location allows for easy access to walking, jogging and biking trails or a quick climb up the center’s exterior stairs for a spectacular view of the water.

“Thanks to our great weather, our location on the bay and having headquarter hotels, restaurants, shopping, parks and attractions within walking distance makes it hard not to get out and stay active,” said Barbara Moreno, executive director of communications for the San Diego Convention Center Corporation.

If it’s something desired by the group, wellness options can also be incorporated into the meeting itself, something the American Society of Hematology did when the organization held a meeting at the center.

“They installed treadmills for their attendees in our Sails Pavilion,” Moreno said. “It was a way for their attendees to watch training videos and keep moving.”

Moreno said that classes or breakout sessions regarding life balance, mental health and other wellness components are also popular.

“It’s about offering attendees opportunities to improve their overall quality of life, which then leads to more productivity in the workplace,” Moreno said.

The center also can create health-filled menus, something it did for the American Diabetes Association’s 77th Annual Scientific Sessions, held June 9-13, 2017.

“Our in-house catering team, Centerplate, created specialized cuisine for the event,” Moreno explained.

Daryl O’Donnell, executive chef at the San Diego Convention Center, said that he often works with planners on creating healthy menus that have the added benefit of helping to keep attendees alert.  

“We can do juice shots or tasting spoons with roasted beets and micro-greens for breaks as opposed to chips and other food,” said O’Donnell, who also noted that the center partners with local farms and tries to source as much as possible from within 100 miles.

Most of the downtown hotels are located within easy walking distance of the center, including the upcoming 400-room InterContinental San Diego. The hotel is scheduled to open in September as part of the BRIC (Broadway + Pacific) development that also includes the dual-branded Marriott SpringHill Suites-Residence Inn, which opened last year. When the new hotel opens, BRIC will have about 800 rooms,  60,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 50,000 feet of event and meeting space.

Wellness options at downtown hotels include bike rentals and a “Rock Spa” at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego. The Westgate Hotel recently opened a new wellness center. The new $14 million four-level AquaVie offers cardio training, strength coaching, a pool and the full-service Spa at AquaVie.

As a way to boost their wellness offerings, a number of hotels have created partnerships with established fitness companies. The Manchester Grand Hyatt has partnered with CorePower Yoga and StayClassy Bikes, while the US Grant works with On Demand Lifestyles to offer personalized workouts with elite athletes.


Just north of downtown in Mission Bay, the Paradise Point Resort & Spa launched a new teambuilding activity in partnership with Road Runner Sports where groups can receive custom running shoes and set up 5K runs or walks during breakouts. Paradise Point also has a full-service marina offering aquatic activities such as sailing, kayaking and paddleboarding.


For those who want to take their fitness up a notch, Coronado is home to the Navy Seals. According to the San Diego Tourism Authority’s Sitton, groups can book workouts with former Navy Seals through the local DMCs.

“It can be very intimidating,” Sitton said. “But they’re all very good looking.”

Perhaps not quite as intimidating are the activities offered by the historic Hotel del Coronado, though they still make for a challenging workout. One of the most popular options, according to Sitton, involves riding the stationary bikes overlooking the Pacific as the sun rises. The program is called Beach Spin and is set up on the resort’s Paseo Lawn.

“Whether groups are looking for high-impact fitness or wellness-inspired activities, The Del boasts an array of options for teambuilding like scavenger hunts and races, to fun workouts like boot camp, yoga and Beach Spin,” said Cheryl Ferguson, director of sales for the Hotel del Coronado. “Most recently, The Del relaunched Mermaid Fitness for the season, which is a big hit with both group and leisure guests.”

Other Coronado experiences include beach volleyball, sailing trips and surfing and kayaking.

La Jolla/Del Mar

While known for its water-related activities, San Diego’s varied terrain also includes desert, mountain and inland valleys that offer popular hiking and biking trails, such as those at Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve, as well as a lot of variety for attendees who want to hit the links. This is especially true in the communities of La Jolla and Del Mar, with the Lodge at Torrey Pines and the Fairmont Grand Del Mar among the top-rated golf resorts.

“We can play golf 12 months out of the year,” Sitton noted. “And we can offer groups access to public courses and private courses in four different microclimates: ocean, desert, mountains and inland.”

Along the coast, L’Auberge Del Mar offers easy access to the Del Mar Fairgrounds and recently completed a renovation. As a wellness addition, the hotel recently launched a “probiotics break” for groups, with housemade kombuchas, yogurts, kefir, granola, fruit and chia.

North County

For groups that really want to focus on wellness, it’s hard to beat the resorts found in San Diego’s North County area. The Rancho Bernardo Inn features a renovated golf course and a number of yoga and meditation classes designed for groups. Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in Rancho Santa Fe recently partnered with Lifewellness Institute to provide the Wellness Collective series of workshops and classes.

In Carlsbad, the Omni La Costa has been a top spa escape since 1965 and has served as the home for the Chopra Center for Wellbeing for the past 20 years. The resort recently broke ground on a new ballroom and lawn area.

At the Park Hyatt Aviara, the Aviara Wellness Academy can customize health and wellness experiences in four areas: Surfing with the Chef, Golf Academy, Tennis Camp or a Vera Via health and fitness retreat.  

“Carlsbad is a premiere wellness retreat, with many options to focus on the mind, body and spirit,” said Sam Ross, executive director of the Carlsbad CVB.

“Groups have many options, from water activities in the ocean to personally crafted experiences that help focus on long-term better living.”

As with many wellness offerings across San Diego County, the goal is not just to add to the productivity and mindfulness of attendees while at the meeting, but beyond.

“Carlsbad offers group experiences that will far surpass just the time spent here,” Ross said, “but offer learning and wellness practices that can extend long after returning home.”

San Diego CVB Contacts

Discover Coronado

San Diego Tourism Authority

Visit Carlsbad

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About the author
Ann Shepphird