Who wouldn’t like it here on Coronado Island, home to an idyllic, sunny climate a quick drive or boat ride across the water from San Diego? Once you get past the million dollar entry point for a single family home, you have sunshine, clean air and miles of beaches so plentiful that the friendly lifeguards patrol them, not on foot or by dune buggy, but by car.
While having lived on an equally idyllic cul-de-sac named for the island may have implied a predisposition for being receptive to this locale, I’d return to Coronado Island in a heartbeat. After spending my first night in town joining the city’s Mardis Gras revellers and snagging more necklaces in a single evening than during my first two decades of marriage, day two found me looking for a bit of space and quiet.
Taking the morning ferry over from San Diego to Coronado Island was a great start, and the return ride costs roughly $8.00. Blue skies, calm waters and fellow travellers from France and Seville made for a quick and pleasant trip before we were deposited in the heart of a cluster of shops and restaurants ripe for visitors bent on spending. Not this visitor, though; I was keen to find the Hotel del Coronado and then some sand. Making my way to the dockside information kiosk, I was told that, if I liked walking (yes), a mere 30-minute stroll along the waterfront walk, past the golf course and some beautiful shacks would lead me to the red-roofed establishment.
Perfect. I set out along a walk that was as pleasant as promised, winding my way underneath the bridge-with-no-barricades, pausing to admire vibrant flowers and even more vivid butterflies during what was still technically winter. The senses soaked up both the fragrant and the visual treats, all the more so since all this was set against the backdrop of boats – pleasure craft and, over on the San Diego waterfront, mammoth naval beasts – that ring the shoreline. Passing the tallest and more creative weather vanes I’d yet seen, I rounded the corner to find a manicured course strewn with palm trees and primarily male golfers. Next, approaching the moderately elite of Coronado housing, I had no difficulty understanding why people of means or aspirations choose to live here. The gardens, even in March, were nirvana to someone who likes to play in the dirt.
By this point laughing at the notion that it was a 30-minute stroll to the hotel, I decided to pick up the pace by putting away the camera and resisting the urge to snap shots of more quaint or otherwise impressive homes and even more enticing landscaping. The sun was rising higher and, by the time I reached the hotel, it was time for water and reapplication of sunscreen.
It was soon apparent that I was not alone in having made my way to the Hotel Del Coronado – or, the Del, as it’s known. Ironically, I’d been aware of this Victorian sprawl primarily for its bleach-white wooden buildings and red, red roofs, but not – until I returned a second day – for one of Billy Wilder’s movies, or for its otherwise impressive history.
Make Yourself at Home
While the sand, water and a good book were beckoning this visitor, those would hold until after a stop for brunch and a nice cold drink. I made my way past the oceanfront bar to the grill with which it shares a generous raised deck, outfitted with plenty of comfy soft seating clustered ’round low tables with propane powered fire pits nested at knee level, as well as tables and chairs for those wishing to dine.
My take is that the roughly $24 I paid the gracious Omar, who is a real credit to the hotel, for a burger, fries and ice cold pop was actually the price of kicking back and enjoying the spectacular views as long as I wished, from the comfort of a lounge chair. Yes, indeed; after a day of air travel capped off by Fat Tuesday fun, this was the life. Until, that is, the reality set in that some people have yet to learn that cigar smoking within inches of fellow diners is, independent of unhealthy, simply rude.
Ah, well. The smoke also served to nudge me into mobility again, and so it was a treat to explore the expansive sandy beach. Breakwaters, meanwhile, served as outposts of privacy for the wave watchers whom I soon joined. Here was the perfect antidote to an intense workload.
Having enjoyed the afternoon of sun and sand so greatly, I nixed the original plans for the following day in order to make a return visit. This time, I made time for a tour of the hotel and strolled by its myriad of beach villas and cottages. In Babcock and Story Emporium, a shop named for the original developers of the hotel, Amy and Linda provided sincere welcomes and stellar customer service; this was a nice stop for some souvenirs for those I’d left at home in the rain.
In a nutshell, Coronado Island was a gentle blend of sunshine, clean air, and miles of beach, where the sounds of the waves are interrupted only fellow beachgoers and the military aircraft that regularly pass overhead.
About the Hotel Del Coronado’s History
The Hotel Del Coronado celebrated 125 years in 2013, all thanks to the aforementioned Babcock and Story, who had no history in resort development but were no dummies. They were so enamoured of the area that they bought the entire island and created the Coronado Beach Company and the town of Coronado in 1886. That year, Babcock and Story sold 350 housing lots for the princely sum of roughly $100,000. Today, room rates begin at $300 nightly, slightly higher than the average lot price of 1886, and rise significantly higher.
As may be imagined given the beauty of both the hotel and its locale, it’s opened its doors to numerous political and artistic people of means, as well as honeymooners and families. The exterior shots for the move Some Like It Hot, honoured by the American Film Institute as the all time number one comedy film, were filmed here and it’s easy to imagine Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Munroe scrambling down a pier to get away from shore.
The next time we have occasion to visit southern California, we may well make time for a stay at the Hotel Del rather than stopping in as day visitors. If the Del and its beach are California beauties by day, they’re simply magical in evening’s light.
Perspectives Perspectives are entirely those of the Exceptional EA, who visited Coronado Island and the Hotel Del in March 2014.
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