Growing up, I was pretty sure I’d move to California, meet Zach Morris, make him fall in love with me over an order of fries at The Max, get married on the beach as the sun set behind the Pacific Ocean, and live happily ever after with Screech, Lisa, and Slater as our room mates.
The only problem was that I’d never been to California. And it wouldn’t be until 20 years later that I stepped foot in the Golden State, and by that time, Screech was on a sex tape, Lisa Turtle became unrecognizable, Slater got rid of the mullet, and Zach, well, hung up his toaster-sized cell phone for good.
But that’s OK. The California I got to experience was better than any Bayside pep rally.
For months, I’d been checking in on flights to make a quick trip to the coast work. I wanted to soak up some sun, feel the sand between my toes, and just spend a long weekend California dreaming. So, when cheap flights cropped up on Southwest from Denver to San Diego, I pounced. Pulling the trigger on flights was easy; next I needed to decide where we’d stay.
Skinny Jeans had never been to the Pacific Ocean. And, while I’d been to Napa, San Fran, and L.A., I’d never really done the whole West Coast beach thing either. Being landlocked in Colorado makes me long for the sand and saltwater, so I knew I wanted to book a place right on the ocean. After some research (Pacific Beach? La Jolla Cove? Mission Bay?) I settled on Coronado, mostly because I’m lazy. I wanted to roll out of bed and be on the beach. With such short time (4 days) to spare, I wanted to make the most of every minute and not spend my days in cabs or on public transportation just trying to get a glimpse of the sea. I wanted to be ON the sea. On an Island. Surrounded by water.
A Ride With Royalty
Coronado is across the bay from downtown San Diego and is home to, arguably, the best beach in the United States. The sand literally sparkles (thanks to the Mica). And with its sparkling shores, sprawling mansions, cutesy stores and restaurants along Orange Avenue, and jaw dropping sunsets, it’s no wonder it’s called “The Crown City.” But the real gem on the island is the Hotel del Coronado. Built in 1888 as the first seaside resort on the West Coast, the hotel has played host to presidents, royalty, celebrities, and ghosts. Guests can choose between the historic charm of the Victorian building or the bigger, more contemporary rooms of the Ocean Towers. With several ocean-view restaurants and bars, the famous Sunday brunch in the Crown Room, full-service spa, 24-hour fitness center and classes, beach services, several pools, the DelVenture kids program, PeDels bike rental, and 17 shops and boutiques on site, there is no need to ever leave the Del. And, except for a day at the zoo, we didn’t.
Free Drinks Fix Everything
We arrived in San Diego during a heat wave. Temperatures were topping out over 90, unseasonably warm for October. But we didn’t mind. As soon as we were granted early check-in and got to our room, we immediately changed into our swimsuits to hit up the beach. Our room was a coastal view room in the Ocean Tower with a partial view of the ocean. From our balcony, we could watch and hear the Pacific waves crash against the sand. We had two queen beds, a table and chairs, a refrigerator, and all the amenities one would expect from a AAA 4 star resort. There was plenty of room for the three of us, and it would easily be spacious enough for four. Within an hour of landing, we were chasing waves along the shore and searching for seashells.
After our initial plunge into the ocean, we went to the pool. They keep it at 70 degrees and there are complementary towels, lounge chairs, and water toys. If you forget sunscreen or goggles, there’s a little shop where you can buy them. You can also rent a poolside cabana for up to 8 people. On our way to the pool, we did have to step over a used maxi pad and later found a Band-Aide hanging out on the side, but when I called the front desk to let them know, they quickly cleaned up and comped our poolside drinks. All was right with the world.
The rest of the evening was spent exploring the resort. Skinny Jeans was given a scavenger hunt at check in (along with a bag and some tools to help with her search). As we wandered through the 28-acre resort looking out for the etched crowns that would lead us to our next clue, we were able to discover the shops, take in the massive black-and-white photographs of Marilyn Monroe on set at the Del for Some Like it Hot, and earn a treat from the old-timey candy shop at the end. Then, it was on to dinner at ENO for pizza and the famous Pacific sunset.
A Bird Does the Dirty Work
The next morning, we had breakfast at Sheerwater where our server was salt of the earth solid. Sure to please Skinny Jeans at every turn, he brought her specially made smoothies and offered up made-to-order pancakes. Over the next couple of mornings, he remembered exactly where we liked to sit (inside corner, but looking out at the ocean), how we took our coffee, and how we liked our eggs. We couldn’t have asked for better service.
After breakfast, Skinny Jeans beelined it to a woman outside holding a hawk. It’s not every day you see a bird like that perched on the arm of lady. But, at The Del, Timber (that’s the bird’s name) is a mainstay. She keeps the seagulls away so the people eating outside can dine in peace. Mostly, she just intimidates the gulls, and her handler is there to help ensure the scene doesn’t turn ugly. The San Diego Union Tribune explains more here.
The rest of the day consisted of the beach, a picnic (we wished Timber had been there to save us then!), and a surrey ride around the island. Skinny Jeans and I got our nails done at the salon (she went Hello Kitty pink sparkle, I went turquoise blue), and Peter checked out the gym. I could not get him to sign up for the mermaid swim. Maybe another time.
There's a Ghost in My Room
Since we were at The Del just before Halloween, the place was abuzz with ghost sightings. Kate Morgan, a woman who checked into the hotel in 1892 and never checked out is the hotel’s resident ghost. A sandcastle tombstone was even resurrected in her honor. Now, I’m fairly susceptible to even the slightest bit of scary. If Peter would let me, I’d still sleep with a nightlight and check under the bed. I don’t do haunted houses or even like walking down the seasonal aisle in Target near Halloween. So, as you can imagine, I had to do some serious meditating to keep my anxiety in check about this whole ghost thing. It was going pretty well until the bathroom lights in our room kept turning on in the middle of the night. I don’t know if this Kate Morgan could be any more cliche, but an old trick or not, it was still scary as hell. And it happened EVERY NIGHT we were there. Granted, the lights were on a sensor and I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation...like a freaking ghost wandering through the bathroom...but it was enough to make me lose some sleep in an otherwise perfect resort.
This place fits: Families who love the beach yet still want to be close to a cool city.
Where to Stay: Hotel del Coronado, Curio Collection by Hilton, Coronado; rooms from $300/night, huge shout out to @Lajollamom at https://lajollamom.com who hooked us up! Follow her. She's magic.
Where to Eat:
ENO: Pizza joint on site overlooking the ocean.
Sheerwater: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, kids menu, and the best breakfast server you'll ever find.
Miguel’s Cocina: across the street from The Del. Great service, incredible patio.
Bluewater Boathouse Seafood Grill: fresh seafood, waterfront patio, historic site.
What to Do:
Lounge on the beach!
Rent bikes from PeDels for an island bike ride. It’s especially fun to test your strength (and your relationship) with the surrey.
Take an Uber to the San Diego Zoo, the naked mole rats were Skinny Jeans’ favorite. I'll save you from the awkward Google search. See right.
Shop along Orange Avenue
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