The iconic Hotel del Coronado has been drawing visitors to San Diego’s Coronado Island since 1888. The hotel’s beachfront location and classic Victorian architecture are a magnet for tourists, presidents, royals and celebrities. But the hotel is often crowded and with rooms starting at around $280 a night ($450 if you want an ocean view) way overpriced for travelers on a budget.
My wife and I discovered Marriott’s Coronado Island Resort about ten years ago. It’s located on the “other side” of Coronado Island – the eastern side – away from the tourists heading to the Hotel del Coronado. We’ve stayed at the Marriott several times and found it to be comfortable, reasonably priced and a great place to serve as a base while we explore the rest of Coronado. There’s a lot more to the “island” (actually, it’s a peninsula) than its famous namesake hotel.
But first, the nuts and bolts about the Coronado Island Marriott:
The Pros: We stayed there for two weekday nights in December using Marriott’s “Stay Here, Fly There” promotion. Our room cost just $129 a night and came with a $100 resort credit, along with a voucher for a free companion airline ticket. Even if we never use the airline voucher, it’s still a great deal. When we checked in we asked for an upgrade from a “resort” view to a “bay view” which was cheerfully given to us by the hotel clerk with no extra charge.
The hotel has over 300 rooms and suites, indoor and outdoor dining, three heated pools, tennis courts and a health spa. The resort’s 16 waterfront acres, just across the bay from downtown San Diego, are worth exploring. Tucked away in one corner is a walk-in aviary. You can also visit the flamingos near the main entrance. The rooms, while not luxurious, have oversized bathrooms, down comforters, rich linens, flat screen TV’s, and internet access.
The Cons: If you drive to the Marriott, be prepared to pay $22 a night for the privilege of parking your car in the hotel’s underground garage. The hotel’s spa is a nice feature, but the ancient equipment in the exercise room is in serious need of an upgrade. Nightlife? Forget it. This is a quiet, family oriented resort, not a singles spot. The most action you’ll find at night is a few lonely souls gathered around the hotel bar watching ESPN.
What To Do: The bike path outside the Marriott is a good place to start. It offers spectacular views of downtown San Diego, and it’s an easy stroll to several gift shops and restaurants. We had dinner our first night in town at Il Fornaio Cucina, an elegant and upscale Italian restaurant. The entrees are reasonably priced and delicious, but if you want to share a bottle of wine, as my wife and I did, it can get costly. The cheapest bottles start at around $30. That said, the view alone makes Il Fornaio a 5 star restaurant.
Coronado’s downtown district is about a mile away, with many shops and restaurants along busy Orange Avenue. The closer you get to the Hotel del Coronado, the busier it gets, so make reservations or plan on eating early.
We did just that on our second night in town, having an early dinner at the Costa Azul, a family style Mexican restaurant. Then we walked across the street to the Lamb’s Players Theatre to see the charming production “Festival of Christmas.” The words “intimate” and “amphitheater” usually don’t go together, but they do at Lamb’s. Many seats in this small theatre are within a few feet of the main stage. Our seats in the third row cost $32 apiece.
They are many things you can do on Coronado. You can rent a bicycle or Segway, spend a day at the beach, rent a boat or play a round of golf. About half of the island is a U.S. naval base and home port of two aircraft carriers. The base is off limits, but military history buffs can take a ferry or drive to San Diego for a tour of the historic U.S.S. Midway at the Navy Pier.
You can also just stay on the island and explore. Did I mention the Hotel del Coronado?
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