By Jeff and Stephanie Sylva
As we sit home bracing for a winter storm predicted to be of “historical proportions,” we long for the warm, sunny climes of San Diego and Coronado Island from which we recently returned. When we planned a visit to these Southern California gems for January, we weren’t sure what to expect for the weather. But San Diego’s claim of more than 300 days of sunshine and year-round temperate weather didn’t disappoint.
We opted to stay on Coronado Island because we had heard about the small-town, village atmosphere of the island, its fabulous beaches, and outstanding views of the San Diego skyline. We found a perfect way to explore and experience the island with the “Coronado Biking Adventure to Secret Spots” tour led by owners Marc and Darlynne Menkin of Where You Want to Be Tours. They provided a wealth of information about Coronado and its fascinating history, and the 2 ½ hour tour took us to all of the island’s best sites and attractions. And with no hills to climb, the biking was a relaxing way to see the island.
We found it fascinating that L. Frank Baum, author of the “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” found inspiration in the fairyland-like surroundings of Coronado, which is evident in the Oz books that he penned while wintering in Coronado.
One of the tour’s highlights included a stop at Coronado’s national treasure, the Hotel del Coronado, the Victorian masterpiece located directly on the beach. Marc and Darlynne related a multitude of interesting facts about the “Del” as we walked the grounds marveling at this magnificent resort. Our tour also took us on bike paths along the bay and the beach, offering great views of the beach, San Diego and the Coronado Bridge.
On bikes we were able to check out the scene on Orange Avenue, downtown Coronado’s main street loaded with shops, galleries, restaurants and lounges, and the many shops and restaurants at the Coronado Ferry Landing, which has ferry service and water taxis to downtown San Diego. Where You Want to Be Tours offers a variety of other tours as well, including Biking Tours to Hidden San Diego Gems, customized Culinary & Wine Tours, customized Walking Tours to Secret Spots, and Urban Challenger Scavenger Hunts.
Some of the best views we had of San Diego were right from our hotel room at the outstanding Loews Coronado Bay Resort. Loews Coronado Bay Resort is situated on a private 15-acre peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and Coronado Bay. Located just minutes from the charming downtown area of Coronado and just a short drive to San Diego’s world-famous attractions, Loews is perfectly situated to give you that feeling of being away from it all, yet close enough to enjoy all of the area’s many hot spots and attractions.
The resort is great for families as well as couples looking for an upscale resort that offers a wealth of activities, or the perfect locale to just relax and take it easy at the beach or adults-only pool. Families will love the exciting supervised activities offered by the Kids’ Club for kids ages 4-12. Teens will love hanging out together at the well-accessorized Teen Lounge. The Loews Hotel also prides itself on being pet-friendly.
All sorts of water sports, such as jet skis, sailboats, kayaks, wakeboarding, water skiing, stand-up paddleboards and more, are available at Action Sports Rentals at the Resort Marina. The Coronado Surfing Academy is available for group or private surf lessons.
A unique way of exploring the enchanting canals and waterways of the Coronado Cays is by gondola. The Gondola Company, located at the Loews Marina, offers romantic cruises from 3:00 p.m. until midnight. The Gondola Company provides soft blankets, a complimentary appetizer or dessert plate, and glassware and ice buckets for those who wish to bring their own beverage.
Loews’ Sea Spa offers a full array of treatments and Salon services, and the Fitness Center has a full line-up of Group Exercise Classes including yoga, aqua fitness, Pilates, spin, and body sculpting.
Dining at Loews Coronado is a treat, as its signature restaurant, Mistral, offers a menu that reflects Chef Adam Cho’s penchant for Mediterranean flavors and love of seafood. From the outstanding cuisine to the fabulous views overlooking the Pacific and the San Diego skyline, our dining experience was quite memorable. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the resort’s other full-service restaurant, Market, which is also a great choice for lunch or dinner and has great views of the marina.
As much as you may want to just stay on Coronado and enjoy the island’s charm, it is only a few minutes to drive to San Diego and the many attractions of one of North America’s top vacation destinations. We enjoyed the 2-hour harbor tour with Flagship Cruises, which includes a tour of the entire harbor and offers numerous details about the city and the immense presence of the U.S. Navy in San Diego. Navy vessel buffs will find this tour especially interesting.
Outdoor enthusiasts looking for some great hiking and beautiful scenery will find Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve a majestic wilderness in the middle of an increasingly urban area. This area of high, broken cliffs and deep ravines overlooking the sea is home to one of the world’s rarest pine trees – the Torrey pine, which grow naturally only on this small strip of coastline and on Santa Rosa Island.
We enjoyed a full morning of hiking the park’s trails, highlighted by the sight of a magnificent grey whale breaching just as we hiked down to the park’s beautiful beach. Although grey whales migrate south during this time of year, seeing one breach so close to shore is rare. We realized just how special this moment was.
Kayakers will enjoy exploring the rocky coves, high cliffs, and intriguing sea caves of La Jolla. After a day of paddling La Jolla’s coastline, check out the area’s many fine dining spots and luxury shops. San Diego’s other neighborhoods offer a wide variety of shopping and dining locales as well, such as the hopping Gaslamp Quarter, Seaport Village, and East Village in Downtown; and the historical Old Town near Point Loma; or Mission Beach for some of that iconic SoCal scene.
One must-see in San Diego is Balboa Park, home to 17 major museums, renowned performing arts
venues, beautiful gardens, and the world famous San Diego Zoo, as well as some outstanding examples of Spanish-Renaissance architecture. A great way to enjoy many of the attractions in the park and save some money on admissions is with one of the Explorer Passes. Visit the website for information on the various passes available.
In addition to the San Diego Zoo, animal lovers may want to take in the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in nearby Escondido or the shows and thrilling rides at Sea World. Families will also love Legoland Resort in Carlsbad.
For us, San Diego and Coronado were the perfect sunny getaway from the frigid East Coast. But it seems that summer never ends in the city that experiences only one season – sunny and warm.