The Spanish explorers obviously knew a good thing when they saw it.
When 17th century explorer Sebastian Vizcaino happened upon the sandy strand that juts into the Pacific Ocean off the southern-California coast, he promptly named it Coronado, or “the crowned one.”
I think he nailed it. Even then, the intrepid entrepreneur must have seen the potential of the lovely beaches and shining bay.
Because there is no disputing the fact that the slender finger of land that lies just across the San Diego Bay was “crowned” with more than its share of natural attributes.
On my recent first-time visit to Coronado Island, I couldn’t decide which I loved more: The soft-sandy beaches on the Pacific Ocean side, or the mirror-like waters of the bay, with the San Diego skyline as a backdrop.
Thankfully, you don’t really have to choose, because the two sides are literally within walking distance of one another. Along portions of the narrow Silver Strand, the two sides of the peninsula (it’s not actually an island, but a “tied peninsula”) are separated by no more than the width of a highway.
Along one of those stretches lies Coronado’s most iconic feature: The Hotel del Coronado, an insanely photogenic beach-side hotel that dates back to the late 1800s.
I say ‘insanely photogenic’ because the hotel complex doesn’t seem to have a bad angle. It looks great from the beach, from the wide sidewalks that run alongside the beach, and from the shops and restaurants that dot the lush grounds.I didn’t stay at the hotel, but I spent a lovely afternoon exploring the grounds, and stopped for lunch at one of the ocean-side eateries, the Sheerwater. I couldn’t resist the crab reuben, a grilled sandwich stuffed with jumbo lump crab, shaved pickles, and yes, sauerkraut. Delicious!Another of Coronado’s gems is the Bayshore Bikeway, a 24-mile trail that circles the San Diego Bay – taking in Coronado’s bay side and San Diego’s western edge. Featuring a wide paved pathway, the trail offers an easy and scenic way to take in the sights.
I walked a section of the bikeway at dusk on my first evening on the island, and rode a bike along the southern section during a sunny Saturday morning. Both were enjoyable, and offered a variety of sights. I recommend starting at the Coronado Ferry Landing and heading south toward the Silver Strand State Beach.
Although the bikeway doesn’t run directly along the beach on the Pacific side, the state beach is easily accessible for bikers and walkers. A bonus: On the day I visited, more than a dozen kite surfers were out taking advantage of the brisk breeze with their colorful kites.
Coronado is accessible either by ferry from San Diego, or by driving across the San Diego-Coronado bridge – a soaring 2.1-mile structure that spans the bay. In my opinion, Coronado is a definite do-not-miss attraction for visitors in the San Diego area.