Just over a sweeping bridge from San Diego, lies Coronado Island, where Balboa’s water playground stretches uninterrupted toward the horizon, shimmering like iridescent turquoise taffeta.
Coronado is technically a peninsula with a long, slender causeway parallel to the shore as it reaches ten miles almost to Mexico. The residents like to think of the large piece of land lying just off San Diego as an island because it’s accessed by bridge or ferry boat.
The "island" boasts a magnificent view of San Diego just half a mile across the water on one end and the Hotel del Coronado on the Pacific Coast side. In between is a grid of shops, restaurants, hotels, motels, some of the priciest residential real estate anywhere (nothing offered for less than $1 million) and a naval air base.
Coronado features 15 miles of glorious bike and in-line skating paths and two marinas (Glorietta Bay and Loew’s Crown Isle), both gateways to deep-sea fishing, water and jet skiing, paddle boating and sailing.
Begin your day at the Ferry Landing Marketplace-the place to shop while visiting Coronado Island. The area, defined by shimmering ponds, tree-lined walkways and palm trees, is home to numerous boutiques offering crystal, hand-blown glass, music boxes, whimsical wind chimes, antiques and fashions for all ages.
Next make your way to the heart of Coronado Island to the magnificent 18-hole 72-par Coronado Municipal Golf Course for a round of golf or just to take in the dramatic views of the bridge, San Diego Bay and, of course, the Hotel del Coronado, known to locals as The Del.
Afterwards, head to the Del. The hotel is such a special destination that non-guests are welcome to come for a day trip to enjoy of the amenities, as long as they refrain from venturing above the lobby and grounds level. Families, singles and couples come to wander and behold, eat and drink, shop in the hotel mall and have fun in the sun.
The red turrets are The Del’s signature. This is the place where L. Frank Baum wrote many of the Oz books and where "Some Like It Hot" starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe was filmed.
The hotel was built in 1888 by entrepreneurs Elisha Babcock and Hampton Story. The pair struck gold by selling housing parcels on the island wasteland they bought for a song. Up sprang Coronado, an exclusive address for those who could afford it and what Babcock and Story envisioned would be the "talk of the Western world". Just the place for a wood-frame, storybook style grand hotel bordering on ostentation.
The terraced grounds surrounding The Del invite strollers to bask in sunshine on the mica-flecked, golden sand beach or poolside while being catered to with food and drink. Massages are available in the spa where The Del stocks and sells its own special body lotion infused with almond and citrus oils. Bicycles, pedal-operated surreys for up to four passengers, surf and boogie boards are just a few of the amenities for the active set.
The magnetism to this special place is universal, for The Del has hosted countless presidents, sheiks, socialites, movie stars and jet-setters over its century-plus life span. Part of the allure is being able to walk where movie stars walked and stand where the scenes were shot for classics. "The Stunt Man," starring Peter O’Toole, was filmed at The Del in 1980, mostly with actors chasing each other over the rooftops. A custom-built tower was blown up just for the movie cameras.
The Del is an adventure to explore with its magnificent Crown Room adorned with striking, crown-shaped chandeliers designed by L. Frank Baum; Agatha Christie birdcage elevator; century-old dragon tree, the centerpiece among lush subtropical vegetation; the many underground boutiques, fitness center and restaurants and lounges.
Like many historic hotels, The Del has a resident ghost named Kate Morgan, a pretty woman in her mid-twenties. She checked in one day in 1892 and never checked out.
Coronado Island, The Del and everything surrounding this jewel in the sun is truly a place over the rainbow or, rather, bridge.
What & Where
Coronado Municipal Golf Course (2000 Visalia Row; 619-435-3121)
Hotel del Coronado (1500 Orange Ave; 800.468.3533)