Savoring San Diego
Time for summer sunsets, cinema, and s’mores
I have already enjoyed three great vacations this summer, and I’m looking forward to even more. The secret to this frequent traveling? Instead of faraway places reached on hot road trips and crowded flights, my husband and I are sampling some of the wonderful resorts right here in San Diego.
We arrived at our first destination, the landmark Hotel del Coronado. This was less than 30 minutes after pulling out of our driveway in La Jolla Shores. Of course, we’ve been to The Del before, but this was our first time staying in the Beach Village area. Essentially a gated community within the resort, this exclusive zone is comprised of 167 privately-owned luxury cottages and villas, as well as several pools and spas. Our cottage came with a well-furnished balcony, a 180-degree ocean view, and amazing SoCal sunset.
After dark, we sat around a fire ring on the sand and made traditional s’mores. They were good, of course, but the best part was the view of the iconic hotel, seen through our firelight, presiding over the event.
This experience is open to all hotel guests and day visitors, as is Del Beach, where super comfy beach day beds, lounge chairs, and fringed umbrellas are available for rent, and wait staff deliver food and adult beverages.
Roast, a toes-in-the-sand fireside experience, and Del Beach are consummate summer-in-San Diego experiences. The hotel also offers weekly movies on the beach, Mermaid Fit water workouts (complete with fancy tails), and Beach Spin classes on stationary bikes. hoteldel.com
From Beach to Bay
After our time at The Del, we headed to the Manchester Grand Hyatt on San Diego Bay. Less than six miles separate these five-star properties, but they feel a world apart. One is a renowned Victorian and the other is the tallest waterfront building on the West Coast. What they have in common are top-notch teams of caring staff members.
Our spacious suite on the 37th floor provided a gorgeous view of the Coronado Bridge, beautiful San Diego Bay, and the Convention Center marina. We could also see Embarcadero Marina Park, and soon headed there to hear San Diego Symphony’s Salute to the Padres, which was part of the Bayside Summer Nights series. And what a great night it was! We aren’t even baseball fans, but the music was wonderful, and there’s nothing quite as classic as a San Diego outdoor concert that finishes with fireworks. Bayside Summer Nights concerts conclude on September 1 with the 1812 Tchaikovsky Spectacular.
One of the best things about staying downtown is being able to walk everywhere. Petco Park is five minutes away, the hot restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter and East Village are just a bit farther. We strolled along the waterfront to Tuna Harbor, the USS Midway Museum, and the Maritime Museum, stopping only long enough to enjoy a fab bowl of clam chowder at The Fish Market.
Speaking of seafood, we both ordered the Chilean sea bass at Sally’s Fish House & Bar and it was world-class delicious. After dinner, we headed up to the Hyatt’s fourth floor for an open-air movie at the Rooftop Cinema Club. It was a trifle chilly, but there were plenty of blankets to go around, the seating was comfortable, and the personal headphones were great. I loved seeing San Diego’s colorful night skyline from this perspective. Rooftop Cinema Club will continue through September. manchester.grand.hyatt.com
Of the places we’ve been (so far!), the Kona Kai Resort & Spa is the most laid-back, low-rise, and family-friendly. Located at the end of Shelter Island, the resort’s 170 cheerful rooms offer views of San Diego Bay on one side and a beautiful marina on the other. Two pools, three bars, and an excellent fitness center are popular with members of the local Kona Kai Club as well as hotel guests. There’s also a pretty (non-swimming) beach with plenty of sand for wiggling toes and fire rings for making s’mores. Dive-in movies are offered at the pool during the summer, and beach cruiser bikes are available for exploring farther afield. Vessel, the resort’s restaurant, serves tasty meals.
We rented a kayak from Action Sports and had fun checking out the mega yachts in the marina and paddling over to Kellogg Beach in Point Loma. Guests can also rent a boat — power or sail — and explore the bay. And, the Kona Kai is a convenient place to stay when attending concerts at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay. Performances continue through early November.
But for now, it’s summer — time to enjoy gorgeous sunsets, outdoor cinema, and yummy s’mores. resortkonakai.com ■
Stay and Play
Take a vacation in your own backyard
By Andrea Naversen
If you live in North County like I do, downtown San Diego can seem a world away, especially during rush hour. So I like to make a weekend — or even weekdays — of it, with staycations at hotels and resorts around town. It’s a great way to sample everything the city has to offer — all without getting on a plane. Here are some of my faves.
“It’s no place like home,” is the motto at Moxy on Sixth Avenue in the East Village, Marriott’s experiential, millennial-minded brand catering to those who don’t like the pomp, circumstance, and price of luxury hotels. You realize something is definitely different when you check in. Not at a stuffy reception desk but at the lively lobby bar, where you are quickly handed “Got Moxy,” a signature cocktail of Bacardi dragon berry rum, fresh lime, and black cherry puree. Next to the bar, a two-story lobby living room offers contemporary furnishings and playful diversions including Giant Jenga, Twister, and Connect 4, as well as a glass-enclosed workspace.
The hotel’s 126 rooms have a contemporary, minimalist vibe. But they are small (two-person max). And don’t pack a big wardrobe because there are no closets, just a row of pegs to hang your clothes. Moxy is obviously aiming for a younger clientele given its slogan: “We like to play, but not by the rules. And we encourage our guests to do the same.” But Tim Billing, area general manager for Azul Hospitality Group, the property manager, says there are quite a few baby boomers who have been “flabbergasted with the atmosphere and the unconventional nature of the check-in process. The big thing is that they’re all young at heart.” 619.239.6699, marriott.com/sanox
For a luxe hotel on the waterfront without the massive conventions, check in to the InterContinental San Diego. Located on the storied grounds of San Diego’s Lane Field, the Padres played here from 1936 to 1957. But now, high above home plate, a glass tower with 400 rooms offers a sophisticated bayside setting. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide stunning views at sunset. After dark, lights from a parade of boats passing by in the bay. Vistal, the lobby-level restaurant, bar, and terrace helmed by well-regarded chef Amy DiBiase, focuses on local produce and fish, while Del Frisco’s Double Edge Steakhouse anchors the street level. (A 19th floor rooftop bar is also in the works.)
The InterCon is a short walk to The Headquarters, Seaport Village, Tuna Harbor, and the historic Midway and Maritime museums. The latter includes a Russian submarine and the majestic Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship. OK, admit it — when was the last time you toured this floating symbol of San Diego? How the Star ship came to moor here is as fascinating as its seafaring history. (Watch for opportunities, from time to time, to actually set sail.) You can also see San Diego the way millions of out-of-towners do each year, aboard a Hornblower cruise ship on one- to two-hour sails around the bay. Book a private yacht for a sunset sail, or take a ferry to Coronado. After a weekend’s worth of sightseeing, relax back at the InterCon, where the million dollar views make you feel that your own ship has come in. 619.501.9400, intercontinetalsandiego.com
The Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa, which recently concluded the final phase of a three-year renovation, offers sparkling views of the San Diego skyline and the Coronado Bay Bridge. The Coronado Ferry Landing, with shops, restaurants, a weekly farmer’s market, and weekend concerts, is just steps away. Also nearby is the 20-acre Tidelands Park with a small beach, playground, and picnic tables. Toss a Frisbee, bird watch, or sit on a bench and watch the wave of Navy ships, merchant vessels, fishing boats, and pleasure craft cruise the bay in the shadow of the bridge. Hop on a water taxi to entertainment in downtown San Diego.
The low-rise resort has tiers of oversized guest rooms in shades of sand and sea. Many have patios and balconies, and suites and cottages with living rooms and kitchenettes. Flop down on a floatie in the curvy, palm tree-lined pool (one of three on property) or settle into a chair by the fire pits. For more active pursuits, work out in the wellness center or play ball on the resort’s sports courts.
Albaca (derived from “alta” and “baja”) is the chic new “Cali-coastal” indoor-outdoor restaurant. It melds the cuisine and spirits of Southern California and Baja Mexico. Sample such fare as poke with local tuna, grilled octopus and chorizo tacos. Or try some clam toast, crispy local fish, or a seafood Cobb heaped with shrimp, crab, and avocado. The restaurant offers wines from Napa to the Guadalupe Valley, a range of tequilas and mezcals, and cocktails that include a smoky mule with mezcal, chipotle pineapple syrup, lime, and ginger beer.
The tranquil spa offers heavenly, ocean-inspired scrubs, wraps, and rituals with a private patio for lounging. After your treatment, order a bento box filled with a healthy, flavorful lunch and coconut water. Lucky for you, home is just a drive away. 619.435.3000, marriott.com/coronado ■
Why not take the time to rediscover the magic of San Diego?
By Deanna Murphy and Mia Park
Make a Splash at the Aquatic Park
Summertime means a natural migration to the beaches, and we’ve got a gazillion to choose from. A new option has arrived, offering fewer crowds and more options for fun — The Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA’s Aquatic Park. In Carlsbad’s Agua Hedionda Lagoon, the park was formerly only reserved for some (very lucky) summer campers. However, it has since been opened to the public. “It’s just another way for us to serve our community,” says aquatics director Janelle De Santi.
Offerings include on-the-water fun including kayaks, paddle boards, and inflatables as well as snack tables and fire rings on shore. It’s the coastal playground so many of us remember from summer camps of our childhood. iSingle- and five-day passes are available, as well as one to last the rest of the summer. Bonus: People are still discovering this little gem, so you might barely even have to share it. Open Monday-Thursday, 2-6pm, call for availability Friday-Sunday. firstname.lastname@example.org, 760.942.9622
Park & Play
Located on a 44-acre island nestled in Mission Bay, Paradise Point offers recreational family fun, top-notch dining, and plenty of ways to unwind. Its Park & Play package includes complimentary parking and covers resort amenities fees, giving guests unlimited use of five pools and the fitness center, Wi-Fi, and access to tennis, basketball, mini golf, and lawn games. An extensive list of included seasonal resort activities ranges from skateboarding with a pro, kite flying, crafting, and yoga to an adult tennis clinic, beer tasting, and more. Don’t plan on staying the night? No problem. A day-use pass starting at $25 per person ($10 for kids), purchased on resortpass.com, grants access to the activities and amenities, plus it gives day guests a ten percent discount on restaurant meals, bicycle and watersport rentals, and complimentary self-parking. 858.240.4913, paradisepoint.com
That Lake Life
For a total change of pace, folks from near and far migrate to the lakeside beauty of San Marcos’ Lakehouse Hotel & Resort. A destination that people in our ocean-driven community may find “a bit of a surprise,” as Stacy Warner, the resort’s director of sales and marketing, says, includes everything you want in a vacation on water or on land: pools, tennis courts, beach volleyball, fishing, and a championship golf course. A full-service marina offers fun on the water as well. Cruise around on water trikes, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, pontoon boats, and even a luxury Bennington that seats 20.
Its fabulous Decoy Dockside restaurant is already established on the North County dining scene. The resort’s Market to Table dinners allow guests to participate in an even more unique experience. Shop the farmer’s market, take a cruise on Lake San Marcos, and finally enjoy a three-course meal featuring the market’s seasonal ingredients on the third Tuesday of every month. Finally, for those craving the ultimate soundtrack for their lakeside experience, on Saturday, August 24, the resort wraps its summer concert series on the lawn with Yachtley Crew, a.k.a. the “Titans of Soft Rock.” lakehousehotelandresort.com
Home on The Ranch
A romantic country retreat in the heart of San Diego’s horse country since 1923, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe now offers a Home on The Ranch stay enhancement that immerses couples into that quintessential experience with a whiskey welcome amenity (consisting of a s’mores kit for two and a bottled, barrel-aged cocktail by Dutch House of The Inn’s Huntsman Whisky Bar), a room upgrade, and horseback riding at The Riding Club Academy.
“Horseback riding is part of Rancho Santa Fe’s cultural fabric and we wanted to bottle ‘The Ranch’ experience to give guests a taste of what we live every day,” says Jerome Strack, The Inn’s general manager and an Arabian horse breeder. “We partnered with The Riding Club Academy because they’re a true English riding and dressage school, providing our guests an authentic and representative experience.” Post-ride, guests can opt for the ‘Rancher Massage’ for men and ‘Inn-Tuitive’ treatment for women, full-body massages that integrate native, indigenous ingredients with special emphasis on muscle areas most affected by horseback riding. 858.756.1131, theinnatrsf.com
A Transformative (Local) Retreat
Wellness devotees are already familiar with Cal-a-Vie, tucked away in the nearby hills of Vista. However, first-timers will appreciate the feeling of utter escape upon setting foot on this luxuriously peaceful spa resort. The mantra here is “It’s all about you.” meaning every part of your experience is custom-tailored to your desires. The 500-acre site was chosen for its ideal climate. It has since drawn visitors outdoors to take advantage of ten miles of hiking trails and red clay tennis courts. You can even enjoy a round or two on the adjacent golf course.
Don’t mistake “wellness” for a lack of indulgence. Sumptuous spa treatment options abound, the food is gourmet. And with 17 acres of vines on-property, Cal-a-Vie bottles its own estate-grown varietals. Tastings in the resort’s 18th-century Parish House, imported, restored, and reconstructed on property from its original home in Dijon, France, take place Tuesday and Friday evenings. Additionally, stargaze from the resort’s state of the art observatory, which is host to a one-hour “Celestial Experience” of astronomical discovery on Monday evenings. cal-a-vie.com ■