San Diego has grown into a major metropolis, but there is a part of it that remains small. Coronado Island is connected to the mainland by a bridge from the north and a narrow strand of land from the south, so it remains part of the city without being swallowed by massive development and traffic.
If you didn't know the homes were worth millions (and pretty much only passed on within families), you might think this was a small quaint community that has steadfastly stuck to its' small town ways out of stubbornness (instead of because of ordinances that strictly limit growth). All this just makes it more of a haven for those who love walking (or biking) from the Hotel Del Coronado (or the Del as most people call it) at one end of town to the Marriott, at the other end of town. Most people know the Hotel Del from the movies and television shows that have been shot here, so it is the official local landmark, and a good place to start your exploration of Coronado. Start inside the hotel itself, the lobby with its' massive mahogany bar, immediately transports to you another era. Go have a drink at the sunset bar on the terrace overlooking the Pacific, then head over to 1500 Ocean and have a lunch of kona kampachi (hawaiian yellowtail sashimi) with kumquat, radish, serrano, lemon oil, avocado mousse, and handmade black truffled pappardelle, with pancetta, morels, pea tendrils, mushroom buerre fondue. Both appetizers are more than enough to make a fantastic lunch; if you are here on a Sunday make sure to try the brunch at the Crown Room (reservations are a must). Make sure you have enough time to enjoy a walk around the hotel to explore the nooks and crannies that wind around the property from the pool to the beach before you leave.
Once you leave the property, you can either head towards the beach or town, so get some exercise as you explore by turning left out of the hotel and walk along Orange all the way to the other end of the island to the Ferry Landing shopping area. At a leisurely pace it will take about an hour if you don't stop along the way to check out the bookstore, clothing shops, and assorted restaurants along the way. Walking is my favorite way to really get to know a city because when you drive past a place, you will rarely stop to take a look inside, but walking by, you tend to stop and it's the only way to truly get the feel of a place. There are bike rentals available throughout the island, so if walking is not your style, rent a bike and enjoy the flat terrain and streets with almost no traffic.
The Ferry Landing, is as the name implies, where the ferry from the mainland lands (duh!), and it is a mini mall of sorts with restaurants and shops that have unique and kitschy things to suit every taste. Peohe's restaurant has a great view of mainland San Diego from it's outdoor patio, so come right before sunset and watch the lights of San Diego light up over the bay. The menu has a little of everything, but come for the view, not the food. Since this post is on July 4, it's worth mentioning that this is a fabulous place to watch fireworks with the San Diego skyline in the background!
When it's time to retire for the night I like the Marriott, right next to the Ferry Landing. Yes, it's a big chain hotel, but that means you'll earn points for your stay (or be able to use ones you've accrued), and this hotel was once the five star Le Meridien, so the original expenses put into the hotel have simply been polished by the corporate veneer. The rooms are spacious, the decor is understated, and the service is efficient. They usually offer a week-end getaway rate, so check before you book for any special offers.
At the end of your stay, take a drive down to the small hidden gem, Coronado Sunset Park, a three-acre patch of green on Ocean Boulevard near Naval Air Station North Island ‘s Gate 5. This park offers a fabulous view of sunsets over the Pacific, a fitting final scene as you leave this San Diego island.