The best hotels in San Diego

10 March 2023

With beaches for surfers and families alike, a buzzing restaurant scene, myriad museums and cultural activities, not to mention kid-friendly attractions like its zoo, San Diego is one of the country’s most dynamic vacation destinations.

Whether it’s the first or final stop on a California road trip, the spot for a weekend getaway in the sun, or an extended SoCal sojourn, there are plenty of things to do in San Diegoand plenty of excellent hotels to choose from. 

Here are the 17 best hotels in San Diego, ranging from sophisticated city stays to more laid-back beach resorts.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”9070″ post-id=”1442306″]

Perched on a hilltop above the beachy hamlet of Carlsbad, a 30-mile drive from San Diego International Airport (SAN), the Park Hyatt Aviara feels like a classic California resort. Sure, the beach is a short drive away, but there’s plenty on the property to keep guests occupied.

The Splash Pool Deck is a great, boisterous spot for families, while the vibe is decidedly more laid-back at the 18-and-older Ocean View Pool Deck. Wellness seekers can take advantage of the expansive fitness center, tennis courts and rounds at the Aviara Golf Club (with a course designed by Arnold Palmer), as well as nearby hiking trails along the Batiquitos Lagoon. Be sure to book a treatment at the 20-room, 15,000-square-foot Aviara Spa, or check out the well-being programming and regimens at VeraVia.

Among the resort’s restaurants and bars are the classic steakhouse, Ember & Rye, from “Top Chef’s” Richard Blais and Ponto Lago for contemporary Baja-inspired menus, along with Aviara Market for grab-and-go items.

Rooms, meanwhile, range from the 540-square-foot Foothills View category (but book a Coastal View accommodation if you can) all the way up to individual suites, like the Fireside Terrace and Blue Heron suites with features like outdoor fire pits and expansive furnished balconies overlooking the coast.

Rates from $552 or 21,000-29,000 points per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”8668″ post-id=”1442335″]

Although Southern California isn’t short on coastline, very few hotels actually sit right on or above the beach. The Alila Marea Beach Resort, just north of the surfside village of Encinitas, is the exception to that rule, and claims pride of place on a bluff above the Pacific with private paths that lead right down to the sand of South Ponto Beach.

The resort opened in March 2021, so it still feels as fresh as a gusty sea breeze and brings a beachy aesthetic – think driftwood chic – to its casual decor scheme of natural timber flooring and furnishings and large outdoor spaces (balconies or patios, some with fire pits) along with prints by renowned surf photographer Aaron Chang in the hallways and public spaces.

Although the rooms offer some of the best coastline views (plus high-end amenities like Votary Skincare rosemary-chia bath products), settle in and then get out and explore. You could borrow one of the hotel’s complimentary electric bikes for a cycle to one of Encinitas’s coffee shops or bars, or north along the coast to Carlsbad.

Closer at hand, the pool is family-friendly and has prime ocean views along with food and drink service from the casual The Pocket bar (which also hosts live music on weekend afternoons). Speaking of food, chef Claudette Zepeda, a James Beard Award semifinalist, helms the hotel’s signature restaurant, Vaga, and her menu is a fascinating fusion of Mexican and Asian flavors to enjoy along with stunning sunset views.

Alila hotels are known for their spas, and the one here offers ocean-inspired treatments like the Splendor facial, which uses sea lavender and wakame seaweed to moisturize and soften the skin.

Rates from $689 or 25,000-35,000 points per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”8675″ post-id=”1442346″]

The idyllic coastal enclave of Del Mar, about 20 miles north of San Diego, has been attracting well-heeled beachgoers for over a century thanks, in part, to the presence of this hotel, which started life back in 1910 as the Stratford Inn and which began attracting Hollywood heavyweights soon thereafter.

These days, the vibe is more Tommy Bahama-meets-tech-boom-millionaire, with an exclusive-feeling patio and pool deck overlooking the Pacific and a lobby bar scene that gets pretty convivial on weekends thanks to the mix of friendly locals and sun-seeking parvenues here for a good time.

Although it used to have a more Victorian vibe, these days, the hotel is looking spruce thanks to a midcentury-inspired makeover with silver and gold Scandinavian-chic furniture and dramatic matte-brass light fixtures in the lobby, along with a more contemporary, neutral-toned look in the guest rooms and suites — though accommodations still boast beautiful garden and ocean views through classic white shutters.

While here, guests can grab cocktails at the Living Room Bar in the lobby or at the pool bar; casual meals (salads and burgers) at Adelaide, on the patio adjoining the lobby; or just coffee and pastries at Lyric Coffee. After a day shooting the curl at the beach, a Soulful Salt Stone massage at Spa L’Auberge is just the treat you’ll need.

Rates from $463 per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”8697″ post-id=”1442356″]

Designed in a grandiose Mediterranean Revival style that harks back to Hearst Castle (think ochre-colored facades and Moorish arches) and a tucked-away setting in one of the area’s quieter corners, the Fairmont Grand Del Mar offers a throwback style of luxury you don’t often find in California.

Unlike some of the other luxury resorts in San Diego’s North County, this one isn’t on the beach – it’s about 5 miles inland – but that means that the May gray and June gloom that can spoil stays at other hotels doesn’t get this far from the coast and you can count on sunny skies if you just want to lounge by one of the pools. 

But there’s plenty else to keep you occupied, including biking and horseback riding through Los Penasquitos Canyon,  a challenging Tom Fazio-designed golf course and two tennis courts you can rent for your own private tournament. The Fairmont Spa & Wellness is a state-of-the-art facility with a beautiful and tranquil outdoor pool and a range of treatments designed by spa education expert Anne Bramham and featuring a custom-created line of organic products.

The resort is also a magnet for foodies thanks to its Michelin two-star restaurant, Addison (named after an early 20th-century architect), where chef William Bradley serves nine-course tasting menus that highlight local ingredients and seasonal cuisine. There’s also the alfresco Amaya for more casual California cuisine, the Del Mar Social Club outdoor lounge for wood-fired pizzas and other nibbles, and Cent’ Anni Cafe for coffee, pastries, sandwiches and salads. The 249 guest rooms and suites, meanwhile, skew more classic than contemporary, with two-poster wooden beds, wall-mounted TVs set into gilt frames, and positively palatial bathrooms with marble finishes.

Rates from $622 per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”9124″ post-id=”1442369″]

Few hotels feel more Californian than this exclusive enclave set deep within what was once a eucalyptus grove. It lies near the horse-heaven hamlet of Rancho Santa Fe, just a few miles from the coast, yet leagues away from the beach-going hordes that throng this part of San Diego during the busy summer months.

Set amid citrus and olive groves, the 49 Spanish-style casitas and three villas start at a spacious 900 square feet and take on a Mission-style aesthetic with simple wooden furnishings, stone floors, sunken living rooms with fireplaces the staff will light for you on chilly nights, colorful bathroom tiling and wood-framed beds with 600-thread-count Fili D’oro linens among other touches.

The recently renovated spa is a draw thanks to the array of programming available in its yoga pavilion, Pilates studio and fitness center, as well as treatments like the exfoliating and rejuvenating citrus body polish and the Valencia Diamond Lift facial. Likewise, the resort’s world-class tennis facilities draw pros and events from around the globe.

But after a grueling match on the courts, settle in at one of the pool cabanas for a leisurely lunch from Rein, or refuel with a gourmet dinner surrounded by both locals and other guests at the equestrian-themed Pony Room, where you can sample tastings from the 100-plus tequilas on offer while considering standouts from chef Alex Bloom’s menu, like the hamachi crudo with ponzu and serrano chiles, or the mustard-glazed New Zealand lamb lollipops with tzatziki.

Rates from $809 per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”9117″ post-id=”1442378″]

Sometimes the best trips are the ones with the fewest hassles, and if you’ve got the little ones in tow for a visit to Legoland, you can’t get more worry-free than a stay at the Westin Carlsbad Resort & Spa.

The hotel was closed for much of the pandemic, only reopening in April 2021, so everything is looking fresh and fine again, including guest rooms that measure up to nearly 500 square feet with private balconies overlooking the ocean and the surrounding valleys. Thanks to its small size (just 208 keys total), the guest experience here is also more intimate than you might expect at first blush.

Just about 2 miles inland from the beach, the resort is still within easy distance of the Carlsbad coast and many beaches farther south. But the main attraction is its proximity to Legoland. In fact, guests can simply walk to the park via a private path, which makes it extra convenient for families here for that reason.

Amusement parks aside, guests can golf at the nearby Crossings at Carlsbad course, pop down to the public beaches, enjoy some outlet shopping at name-brand stores at the Carlsbad Premium Outlets, and visit the famous nearby Carlsbad Flower Fields, which are abloom with various plantings throughout the year. 

The hotel also has a large fitness center, a huge outdoor pool area and both the casual Marketplace for coffee and grab-and-go meals and 20Twenty, a contemporary American grill serving local beers, handcrafted cocktails and coastal cuisine like seared diver scallops with parsnip puree and cider-glazed Brussels sprouts.

Rates from $287 per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”8631″ post-id=”1442388″]

Also located near Carlsbad and about 30 miles north of San Diego International Airport (SAN), this upscale family-friendly resort has kid-pleasing features. The Kidtopia kids club will watch little ones from 6 months to 12 years of age as well as host special activities like arts and crafts and movie nights. The resort has a whopping eight pools, including several for families, along with two 100-foot waterslides. 

Active travelers should get a lot of use out of the 17 clay and hard tennis courts at the Cliff Drysdale Tennis facility, while golfers can swing their clubs on the Legends Course (though it’s currently being redesigned by architect Gil Hanse). The Spa at Omni La Costa offers seasonal and group packages, and treatments incorporate high-end brands like Eminence and Osea.

The guest rooms and villas are bright and spacious, starting at 425 square feet, with French or patio doors leading out to private balconies or lanais. As for dining, guests can take their pick of eateries, from the straightforward but elegant menu at Bob’s Steak & Chop House to Mediterranean share plates at Bar Traza and grab-and-go wraps and pizzas at Marketplace, among other options.

Rates from $349 per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”8704″ post-id=”1442395″]

Dubbed the Pink Lady of La Jolla due to its distinctive hue, the La Valencia Hotel has been around for over 95 years and continues to be one of San Diego’s most popular hotels, thanks to its unparalleled perch on the bluffs above the Pacific along a bustling stretch of Prospect Avenue, which is packed with luxury shops and galleries.

With just 114 rooms, suites and villas, accommodations are on the small side (rooms start at a mere 250 square feet) thanks to the historic nature of this property. But the interiors have been recently redone in a palette of sandy gold and royal blue, inspired by nearby La Jolla Cove, and when you have huge windows overlooking an azure stretch of ocean, you won’t be focused on what’s inside.

The focal point of the hotel is the small but welcoming pool surrounded by cushioned loungers, where food and beverage service is available as well as complimentary Coola skincare products for avoiding sunburn. It’s also just a short walk downhill to the beach.

The hotel’s all-day restaurant, the Mediterranean Room, serves specialties like chorizo eggs Benedict with chipotle hollandaise, and coriander-persimmon scallops with charred carrot puree and pepita dukkha in a Spanish colonial-inspired dining room with colorful tiles and a roaring fireplace. For something more casual, La Sala serves cocktails and small bites under its distinctive handpainted ceiling.

Rates from $349 per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”9139″ post-id=”1442404″]

Although it looks like one of the world’s best examples of California’s Craftsman-style architecture – with post-and-beam buildings, stained-glass light fixtures and green-tiled, copper-framed fireplaces – it is, in fact, only 20 years old. But that makes it no less atmospheric as you wander the lantern-lit grounds at dusk listening to the crash of the Pacific on the shore below.

The hotel has just 170 rooms and suites, ranging from 500-1,500 square feet, and all with views of the golf course or the hotel’s central court from private balconies and patios as well as Stickley-style wooden furniture and large bathrooms tiled in granite and marble.

One of the main draws is the Torrey Pines Golf Course, which is actually public and managed by the City of San Diego (though Lodge guests can request priority tee times), and offers some of the most stunning coastal views in the country from its two 18-hole championship courses.

The spa complex comprises a fitness center along with 14 treatment rooms and men’s and women’s locker rooms plus a relaxation lounge with a fireplace. The experiences include a massage using warmed basalt stones, and an organic seaweed body scrub and wrap. Named after a famous American painter and ceramicist, the hotel’s much-lauded signature restaurant A.R. Valentien overlooks the pool. There, chef Kelli Crosson whips up specialties like Dungeness crab spaghetti and roasted pork loin with grilled peach and Swiss chard.

Rates from $613 per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”8918″ post-id=”1442415″]

Originally opened on an island (connected to the mainland by a strip of sand) across the harbor from downtown San Diego in 1888, the Hotel del Coronado – or the Hotel Del, as locals refer to it – has to be one of the most famous resorts in the country thanks to the parade of luminaries it has hosted over the years, including Charlie Chaplin, Bette Davis and Ronald Reagan, not to mention the hotel’s own star turn as the setting in “Some Like It Hot.”

These days, the property comprises several “neighborhoods,” including the original Victorian wing, a gated community of villas and cottages dubbed the Beach Village, and the recently opened residence-style suites at the Shore House. Basically, there’s a price point and accommodation type for most budgets.

Families with kids and teens can splash around the Cabana Pool as well as at the beach, take surfing lessons, watch movies on the beach and attend educational sessions through the Ocean Explorers program. Adult guests can take beach yoga classes, book a private pool cabana or indulge in a day at the spa (which has a Marilyn Monroe-inspired beauty bar), where treatments like the sea salt stone massage take their cue from the healing powers of the ocean.

The resort is home to a handful of dining venues, including the seafood-focused Serea for romantic dinners out, artisanal pizzas at Eno Market & Pizzeria and classic cocktails and small bites at the mahogany counter of Babcock & Story Bar.

Rates from $374 or 95,000 points per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”9101″ post-id=”1442438″]

This luxury upstart made a splash when it opened in downtown San Diego’s nightlife-focused Gaslamp Quarter back in 2017, bringing a bit of luxury to an otherwise party-hearty district.

That’s not to say the hotel is staid or buttoned up, though. Guests can take advantage of excellent on-site amenities like a relaxed but vibing, lounger-lined rooftop pool and an assortment of dining and drinking establishments. Those include the moodily lit Fifth & Rose for refined bar bites and creative cocktails like the Little Leaguer, with peanut butter-washed Angel’s Envy bourbon, strawberry, bitters and a Cracker Jack garnish as a playful nod to nearby Petco Park; seasonal fare at the palatial Provisional; elevated coastal cuisine at Lionfish; and craft brews and burgers at the dog-friendly Nason’s Beer Hall, named after an early 20th-century farmer’s market that once occupied this spot.

After a night out on the town, guests can recharge with a visit to the well-equipped fitness center and a bit of pampering at Spa Pendry with a green coffee and lime body treatment that includes an agave fiber exfoliation.

Rooms embrace a sumptuous, clubby aesthetic with oversize wood-framed beds with tufted leather headboards and throwback wooden bankers chairs along with plaid-upholstered chaise lounges, and ornate, Spanish tile-inspired wall coverings and marble-topped sinks in the bathrooms, among other touches.

Rates from $302 per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”9093″ post-id=”1442446″]

Although it only opened in 2019, the 162-key Guild Hotel actually occupies a building dating to 1924, when it was the Army-Navy YMCA (the basketball court has been transformed into a ballroom where the mezzanine is the former running track). Both the interior and exterior have been carefully restored, including the ornate terracotta facade, lending both a bit of mystique and sophistication to the setting in San Diego’s swinging Gaslamp Quarter.

In keeping with the hotel’s name, room categories are named after various guild designations – Master, Journeyman, Apprentice, etc. – and embrace original structural features such as high ceilings and enormous arched windows, plus playful locker room-like tiling in bathrooms stocked with C.O. Bigelow body products. Some rooms are a bit tight and have exposed mirrors and hanging racks in lieu of actual closets, but you’ll still sleep well on hand-stitched Stearns & Foster mattresses.

Although fitness isn’t the focus these days, guests can stay healthy by taking advantage of the (completely modern) fitness facility, or with classes at OG Yoga along with treatments at the next-door AquaVie Spa thanks to the hotel’s partnerships with them.

The focal point of the hotel is its sunny courtyard, where guests can enjoy coffee and pastries from the Guild Cafe or libations from the Guild Bar. Better to have those plus tasty dishes like shrimp risotto in the bar space itself, though, which has curvy art deco-style banquettes and bar stools, and is anchored by a dreamily lit quartzite bar.

Rates from $135 or 40,000 points per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”8982″ post-id=”1442450″]

Opened in 2018, the 400-room InterContinental San Diego occupies one tower of a multiuse development right on the San Diego waterfront called Bric (a combination of Broadway and Pacific Highway, the intersection at which it lies).

The location is ideal for visitors in town for a quick overnight since it’s just a block from the city’s main train station, a 10-minute drive to the airport and a 10-minute walk from charming Seaport Village, though it’s a full mile to the convention center, so you might want an alternative if you have events going on there. You can also walk to Little Italy and the Gaslamp Quarter easily.

Guest rooms are large and bright, though somewhat spartan, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the harbor and skyline, crisp white linens and a taupe-and-blue color palette in the other soft furnishings. Large bathrooms have half-glassed walk-in showers stocked with citrusy Agraria products. 

When the day’s meetings are done, guests can work out in the enormous and well-equipped gym or take a dip in the outdoor pool, both located on the fourth floor (the Layover bar out here is open from noon to 5 p.m.). 

For a morning jolt, there’s a Starbucks outpost on the first floor. Open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and across from reception on the third floor, Vistal serves locally sourced produce and seafood, like Baja shrimp cocktail and California spiny lobster with kabocha risotto, though many guests gravitate to the Sardinian-inspired, alfresco restaurant, Garibaldi, where specialties include grilled octopus with squid ink spaghetti in an arrabbiata sauce.

Rates from $222 or 32,000 points per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”9131″ post-id=”1442460″]

Don’t let first impressions fool you. Though the Westgate Hotel’s exterior screams drab ’70s, the interior was inspired by Versailles. Indeed, Louis XIV would look quite at home under the enormous Baccarat crystal chandeliers and amid the French and Flemish tapestries adorning the walls, enormous Persian carpets padding the parquet floors and plethora of European antiques artfully placed here and there.

As you might expect, this hotel attracts a sophisticated, if somewhat older, clientele because of its aesthetic as well as its proximity to Copley Symphony Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art, though it’s also a quick stroll to the Gaslamp Quarter’s bars and clubs.

Like the public spaces, the 223 guest rooms and suites, which start at 400 square feet, are more filigreed French than contemporary chic, though classic wooden beds, traditionally patterned carpeting and bathrooms with marble countertops and glinting brass faucets are sure to please most. Guests can access the AquaVie Fitness + Wellness Club, which has over 200 cardio and weight machines as well as a lap pool. Speaking of pools, the hotel has its own rooftop one where guests can enjoy food and beverage service for most of the day.

In an ornate setting with gilded wall sconces and plushly upholstered club chairs, the Plaza Bar serves three meals a day plus the hotel’s ballyhooed afternoon tea while the Westgate Room is meant to feel more like a bistro … if Marie Antoinette patronized bistros, that is. The menu includes staples like Dungeness crabcakes and steak frites.

Rates from $199 per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”8637″ post-id=”1442464″]

With a name change (from Kimpton Hotel Palomar) and a $25 million makeover, the Kimpton Alma is one of San Diego’s hottest (and pet-friendliest) hotels.

The public spaces and guest rooms now project a more SoCal midcentury vibe with colorful Mexican-inspired textiles, geometric chandeliers, Scandinavian-style wooden wishbone chairs, a profusion of succulents and other plants scattered about, and pale pastel accents.

The 211 rooms and suites are looking quite refreshed and provisioned with a style hodgepodge of furnishings, from woven fiber deck chairs on the private balconies (in rooms that have them), to diminutive art deco velvet armchairs and slimline desks along with tattoo-inspired wall art. But you can still count on those much-loved Kimpton touches, like Frette bed linens, Atelier Bloem bath products and in-room yoga mats and – an addition – Japanese tea sets.

The hotel has a 24-hour on-site gym with a Peloton as well as bespoke Public bikes that guests can borrow. The rooftop pool deck has both loungers and cabanas from which guests can order drinks and nibbles from the hotel’s seasonally open restaurant, L.O.A.

The Cafe serves a full breakfast menu plus healthy dinner items along with wine, beer and cocktails, while L.A.-based chef Jason Neroni oversees the full-service, fin(er) dining restaurant, The Desmond, where the menu includes specialties like hiramasa crudo with Asian pear and yuzu consomme, and koji-marinated hanger steak with salsa verde and barbecued romanesco. 

Rates from $269 or 37,000 points per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”8841″ post-id=”1442471″]

Occupying two of San Diego’s most recognizable towers, and hot off a six-year renovation of its public spaces and 1,628 guest rooms and suites, the Manchester Grand Hyatt is a great choice for folks coming to town for business or pleasure.

Speaking of the rooms, many feature panoramic views of San Diego’s harbor and the rest of the downtown skyline. Starting at a spacious 340 square feet and ranging up from there, they look fresh and chic thanks to their color palettes of white, cream, taupe and blue, along with new patterned carpets and fabric headboards. Technophiles should love the 65-inch high-definition TVs while others will appreciate the fragrant June Jacobs bath products. 

The hotel boasts not one, but two rooftop swimming pools – one for adults ages 21 and up on the third floor and one for families on the fourth floor that also has an area for lawn games – plus a StayFit fitness center. 

The hotel also fields seven restaurants and bars. Among them, Seaview Breakfast Buffet Restaurant serves, as you might imagine, a sumptuous breakfast buffet daily, while Market One is a more casual grab-and-go affair throughout the day. The hotel’s GrandEats is sort of like room service, only items are packaged in eco-friendly containers and delivered to your room. The 40th-floor Top of the Hyatt has some of the city’s best sunset views through its floor-to-ceiling windows and serves cocktails and small plates such as ahi poke and bison sliders. Sally’s Fish House & Bar, meanwhile, is the place to come for fresh fish and craft cocktails.

Rates from $189 or 12,000 points per night.

[roundup-affiliate type=”hotel” capi-id=”9162″ post-id=”1442478″]

One of San Diego’s grandest and most historic hotels, the US Grant originally opened in 1910 after its construction was overseen by the eponymous president’s son, and since then, over a dozen U.S. presidents have stayed here.

Though it fell into disrepair and was nearly demolished in the 1970s, multiple renovations by a rotating roster of owners saved the property and got it back to its original grandeur … with a few eye-catching design updates as well. Though the imposing Classical Revival facade is still very much intact, and enormous crystal chandeliers light the public areas, guests will also find more art deco-style furnishing – jewel-toned velvet chairs and divans, art nouveau-inspired sculptures – in the extravagant lobby.

The 270 guest rooms and suites, which start at 280 square feet, have art deco touches as well, but a more contemporary look thanks to pared-down Louis XV-style chairs and custom abstract drip-painting headboards by artist Yves Clement, not to mention 49-inch high-definition TVs and modern amenities like Remede bathroom products.

The hotel’s dining venue, Grant Grill, serves elegant, locally sourced seasonal fare, so the menus change frequently, though you might find delicacies like ricotta gnocchi with foraged mushrooms and wild boar chop and belly with pumpkin-sage risotto. The accompanying Grant Grill Lounge is a more casual setting for creative cocktails like Fannie’s Old Fashioned, named after Ulysses S. Grant Jr.’s wife, with 90-day house barrel-aged Malahat rye whisky with lychee bitters.

Rates from $259 or 40,000 points per night.

Related

The 15 best things to do in San Diego
Planning a family trip to San Diego
12 stops to make on your Southern California family road trip
Beachside chic in California: A review of the new Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas
Understated luxury: A review of the newly renovated 5-star Park Hyatt Aviara

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