If you’re looking for an enchanting seaside vacation getaway to cure your stressed out life, put Coronado Island at the top of your list of choices. The nautical ambiance and small town simplicity of the island will charm you into a carefree state of mind in no time. Plant your chair and umbrella on the best beach in America and fish that novel you’ve been putting off out of your straw bag. This is where you come for a taste of the good life. Pristine white sand beaches, unbelievable shopping, and a touch of historical magic will make this vacation one to remember.
Coronado Island History
Coronado means the crowned one in Spanish. The Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino named the cluster of islands in the early 17th century. Later, whalers used the island as a safe harbor. After Mexico gained independence from Spain, Don Pedro Carrillo owned the island via a land grant. It was subsequently bought and sold several times until finally a small group of entrepreneurs with a vision of a resort island formed the Coronado Beach Company. They bought the island, hinted at a coming grand resort hotel, and began selling lots; in a single day in 1886, the group auctioned off 350 lots and recouped their entire investment in the island. They built and opened the Hotel Del Coronado in 1888, and a vacation destination was born. When John Spreckels gradually became the sole owner of the hotel, he created Tent City with a summer fair ambiance that gave everyone access to the island’s recreational activities, firmly establishing Coronado Island as a popular vacation destination.
Coronado Island Highlights
Coronado Island is just what the doctor ordered; Dr. Beach, that is. Stephen Leatherman, geoscientist and America’s premier beach expert, named Coronado Central Beach the best beach in the U.S. in 2012. It’s the only California beach to win this distinction. The Travel Channel also consistently rates Coronado’s glistening beach among the best in America. Once you set eyes on its pearlescent beauty and feel its powdery texture between your toes, you’ll understand why. You can thank Mother Nature for the mica in Coronado’s white sand that makes the magic. Coronado Central Beach provides year-round lifeguards and beach wheelchairs at the lifeguard station.
Visitors can spend an entire vacation lounging on Coronado’s vast and uncrowded Central Beach, or enjoy all the beaches the island has to offer. Ferry Landing Marketplace on the opposite end of the island offers a small bayside beach next to the ferry landing. Glorietta Bay Beach is a smaller family-friendly beach with a playground and excellent views of the Coronado Bridge. Silver Strand State Beach caters to RV travelers and campers and is actually a tombolo between the mainland and the island. North Beach is the island’s dog-friendly beach where you and your pooch can freely romp and make new friends.
Coronado Island is so much more than its beautiful beaches. Many Coronado Island visitors come for the shopping. There are several high-end boutique shops in the Hotel Del Coronado where visitors can buy anything from name-brand apparel to unique home accent decor. There are over 100 boutiques and shops along Orange Avenue that offer everything you’d expect from a resort town – beach apparel, sunglasses, water sports items, tee shirts, and souvenirs. Other shops carry everything from books to antiques. Interspersed among the shops are theaters, art galleries, restaurants, cafes, and bistros.
The famous Hotel Del Coronado, built in 1888 and a National Historic Landmark, is another big draw to Coronado Island. It’s storied past includes murder, famous and infamous guests, hauntings, and a long-held celebrity status. The hotel has hosted a king, eleven presidents, and countless movie stars. Often referred to affectionately by locals simply as Hotel Del, it is a true neighborhood treasure. There are plenty of luxury, boutique, and great value hotels on the island, but a visit to Coronado is much more special when you have your own story to tell of the time you stayed in this Victorian seaside legend. If you can’t swing it or don’t have the time, at least stroll through the high-end hotel shops, get a spa treatment, dine on the beachfront terrace, or sip cognac at the mahogany bar. You’ll be glad you did.
Coronado Island Things to Do and See
Besides the two magnificent architectural marvels of the island – the Coronado Bridge and the Hotel Del Coronado, visitors can also bike or stroll along Ocean Boulevard to view the architecture of Coronado seaside mansions or along F Avenue’s historic mansions. Try the guided Heritage Walking Tour or the Coronado Walking Tour for a narrated experience. Dig into the history of the island at Coronado Historical Museum on Orange Avenue. Coronado Island offers almost every imaginable kind of tour to visitors; try the Coronado Bike Tour, Segway Tour, or Tree Tour, to name a few.
Golf on the stunning 18-hole Coronado Municipal Golf Course, play tennis or pickleball at the Coronado Tennis Center, or try your hand at lawn bowling. Surf, stand-up-paddle , or kayak the waters around the island. Check out the displaying artists at Coronado’s Art in the Park, or take in a performance at Lamb’s Players Theater or Coronado Playhouse. For a truly unique experience, take a gondola cruise through the canals of the Coronado Cays.
If you only have a short time to visit Coronado, take the San Diego Bay Ferry from Seaport Village to Coronado Ferry Landing. The Ferry Landing Marketplace has over 20 charming island shops, including a year-round Christmas boutique. Grab a fabulous pure Vienna beef hot dog from Carts in Paradise, or enjoy the Mexico City style cuisine of Candelas on the Bay with a view of the San Diego skyline. For an intimate dinner for two, make reservations at the romantic French bistro, Chez Loma. Rent a bike or surrey for a quick trip across the island to capture a photo of Coronado Central Beach and the Hotel Del Coronado. Don’t miss the Coronado Bridge photo opportunity as you ferry back to Seaport Village.