CHARMING CORONADO, CALIFORNIA
By Linda Kissam ‘Food, Wine & Shopping Diva’
Coronado, California is a unique high-end, small town destination in San Diego, just across the bay from Cabrillo National Monument. It certainly lives up to its Spanish translation as the “crowned one.” It has everything needed for the perfect getaway, a true diva with a contemporary sassy back history that makes those of us who in the hospitality industry, giggle just a bit.
Since I can remember – which certainly accounts for a number of year, I have called this destination “Coronado Island.” I just lately found out that was just its “fanciful” or “promotional” name. Who knew? Since the early 1980’s it has been mistakenly known as Coronado Island. The City Council renamed it in an effort to increase tourism. I get that and they certainly convinced me. But actually, Coronado is considered a tombolo, a tied island. By definition, a “tied island” (tombolo) is not an “island”. The tombolo is a landform which attaches itself to the mainland via a narrow piece of land such as a spit or bar. Once attached, the area is then known as a tied island. Coronado is connected to the mainland by the Silver Strand (a low, narrow, sandy isthmus 7 miles long.) By car, it is connected via the iconic San Diego-Coronado Bridge (California Route 75). A newer promotional tag line currently being used might be a bit more accurate, “Just a bridge away.”
That being said and more to the point, in 2012, Dr. Stephen Leatherman, Director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research, ranked Coronado Beach as the best beach in the United States and that is where the real story behind this charming destination really begins. It is a delight all by itself, a true treasure, but is positioned to make any vacation…San Diego inclusive. As a resort city located in San Diego County, California, across and around San Diego Bay from downtown San Diego, it is part of San Diego County, California and easily serves as a base to visit all the delights San Diego has to offer. If you use the sight-seeing trolley company, public transportation, bicycles or Uber you can easily have an inclusive “carless” vacation.
Walk: Ranked as a “Walkers Paradise” (with a walkability score of 98 out of 100) at www.walkscore.com. Downtown Coronado is just about 1 mile long and wide; with another 8 mile stretch down the Silver Strand/Highway 75 where the classic Loews Coronado Bay Resort is located. The sidewalks are well maintained, so tripping won’t be a main concern. Strolling the streets you’ll see unique seaside homes and businesses, beautiful gardens and views of water everywhere. It’s easy to get to all the businesses on Orange Avenue and access the Ferry Landing, as well as the pristine beaches.
Bike: Talk about a biking community! They’re everywhere, ridden by people of all ages — a true statement on the Coronado lifestyle. Bring your own, or rentals of all types and sizes, including tandems, surreys, and children’s taga-longs are available throughout town. Note that children are required to wear helmets. Good news for the walkers/shoppers (we can all get along) bikers are encouraged to keep off the busy shoppers paradise of Orange Avenue. Not to worry, there are 15 miles of dedicated bike paths that meander through historic neighborhoods and along the unspoiled coastline. Bicycle maps are available from the rental shops or at the Coronado Visitor Center. Not the bicycle type? There are also golf carts for rent.
Ferry: I love ferries! They just make the day seem so natural and peaceful. Visitors can take a short scenic 15-minute ride across the bay from San Diego to Coronado. The Ferry departs from two San Diego locations; Broadway Pier and the Convention Center. Departure and Landing in Coronado is at 1201 First Street. The ferry charges $4.75 each way, kids under 4 are free. The Ferry is accessible to wheelchairs and bikes are permitted. Highly recommend!
Public Transportation: Here’s something many visitors forget. This small destination has made sure that your experience will be great. There are 2 bus options for Coronado, MTS Bus 901 that travels off Island and MTS Bus 904 that travels along Orange Ave, to the Community Center, to City Hall on Glorietta Bay and to the Bayfront and Ferry Landing. Just make sure you map out your transportation plan on the MTS travel planning page before you purchase your tickets and relax.
Taxis/Shuttles/ Uber: Super Shuttle Service from San Diego Airport and Amtrak Station (800-974-8885), is easy and convenient to get you to your lodging. It’s about a 25 minute ride. Check prices, but should be under $25. Need your own space? Coronado Yellow Cab Company is a 24-hour taxi service, 7 days a week (619-435-6211), and there is always Uber or Lyft, using the app on your phone. Prices are joyfully small getting around Coronado once you are there using Uber or Lyft. Taxis are more. Prices increase dramatically when transporting to downtown San Diego Area.
Where to Stay, Eat and Play
Now that you know how to get around, here are some of my favorite places to stay and things to do when you are there for a couple of days.
Lodging: The $$$$$ quintessential Hotel del Coronado is within steps of shopping beaches and restaurants. Loews Coronado Bay Resort $$$$ epitomizes the true SoCal lifestyle. It’s a bit removed from the action, but is stunningly beautiful and a real retreat. The $$$$$ Marriott Coronado Island Resort & Spa is a high end freshly remodeled beauty. A bit away from some of the action, but who cares? Book your spa services here. Nothing like it on “the island.” Perfect atmosphere for relaxation and renewal. Features casa-like suites that are amazing. I’ve mentioned more of the luxury accommodations, but not to worry, there are several affordable options available.
Food: Get out of town for this iconic taste of San Diego. The Marine Room features mid to high-end dining featuring seafood in a well-dressed setting. Love the waves crashing against the windows at high tide. In town consider Del’s ENO Pizzeria & Wine Bar at the Hotel Del Coronado. Think outside, beachy dining. You MUST order the monster pizza which tastes like an In & Out cheese burger. May not be on the menu, but ask for it. It is a chef-driven and created item. If you have the time, go through catering to order a s’mores on the beach tasting. Nothing like it, and oh so California inspired.
Activities: Book a tour on the Old Town Trolley Tour of downtown San Diego. Do it when you first arrive so you can acquaint yourself with the area. It covers both San Diego and Coronado, so you get it all. This company allows you to “hop on and off.” A true memory making day. In town, check out what production Lamb’s Theatre is offering. This is local polished plays and musicals at its best. It’s on Orange Ave downtown Coronado. Afterwards, stroll over to Miguel’s Cocina restaurant for SoCal style Mexican food and cocktails. Superb!
There’s nothing more rewarding than planning a getaway where everyone has the time of their life. With legendary weather, beautiful beaches and a friendly laid-back vibe, Coronado is a destination that draws you in, demanding you relax and stay in the moment. I’d call it one of my top five “carless” getaways. Smile and enjoy the SoCal sense of being just who you are.