Living the Lux Life at Kona Kai Resort, San Diego

Part of our great Southern California trip last month included a few days in San Diego, my old stomping ground: I got my undergraduate degree at the University of California, San Diego (in Computer Science, if you’re curious) and while the city’s exploded with growth since I was there, it’s still a great place to visit with its beautiful harbor and never-ending parade of laid-back beach communities. Not to mention some of the best Mexican food this side of the border!

For a few days in San Diego, the question was where we should stay. I wanted a place that was scenic, centrally located and well appointed because, well, that’s the lifestyle I should become accustomed to, right?

The Kona Kai Resort & Marina fit the bill, and then some. Located on the southwestern tip of Shelter Island, it was luxurious and very relaxing, even as we ended up spending far more time in the room than I ever expected because my son G- was feeling ill much of the time.

You can see it’s an amazing property, nestled on the very end of the island:

Kona Kai Resort & Marina, Shelter Island, San Diego
Aerial View of Kona Kai Resort & Marina, San Diego

Shelter Island was originally just a sandbar but was filled in and developed in the first half of the 20th Century. It’s directly across San Diego Bay from Coronado Island, which means that Naval Base Coronado is just across the water. Lots of interesting things to see, jets, helicopters, and tons of ships ranging from tiny craft to, early one morning, a full size destroyer quietly passing through the morning mist into the ocean.


We were there over Easter weekend so in addition to the resort, we also enjoyed a delicious Easter Brunch at the Vessel Restaurant, though it was obvious to me that my kids weren’t very experienced with brunch based on the surprisingly light meals they had. I certainly didn’t complain and it was a very nice way to start out our Easter sunday (and lest you wonder, I also stashed chocolate eggs all over our hotel rooms too).

vessel restaurant, kona kai resort, san diego
The View from the Vessel Restaurant Deck

Whether a beautiful hotel or a grimy dive, though, being stuck inside with a sick kid isn’t all fun and games. At one point I needed a break, grabbed my book and an iced tea and sprawled on a chaise lounge on their beach.

Interestingly, it’s one of the very few beaches in San Diego where alcohol is legal because it doesn’t actually lead right into the water, which you can just barely see if you look closely at the photo:

kona kai beach
Guest-Only Beach Area, Kona Kai Resort

It’s a very nice beach, and in fact the entire Kona Kai Resort property and amenities are lovely. I could get used to a place like that. Not to mention daily maid service. 🙂

Our Easter Sunday plans included a trip to the San Diego Zoo, but it was clear G- wasn’t up for that and it seemed pretty heartless for us to just abandon him for 4+ hours. By 2pm, however, I was ready for us to do something, anything, and convinced everyone that a harbor cruise would at least get us out of the room for a bit to enjoy the weather.

The cruise we opted for was the Flagship “South Harbor” cruise, and it was quite interesting, going under the majestic Coronado Bay Bridge (which is almost 300ft high at its highest point to allow the large US Navy vessels to travel freely underneath) and quite a few miles further south. We ended up within 9mi of the Mexican border before we looped around and headed north back to the dock.

I have a lot of respect and appreciation for those who serve in any of the military branches — and say a heartfelt thank you! — so I enjoy touring military facilities and seeing the state-of-the-art in vessels.

An added treat: a huge floating hospital, the USNS Mercy, that’s usually far, far away after a disaster helping out with medical relief. The ship includes 80 intensive care wards, 12 operating rooms, its own oxygen producing plant, on-board pharmacy and more. Someday I’d love to get a tour of the ship!

USNS Mercy Floating Hospital Ship
USNS Mercy Hospital Ship, San Diego

More interestingly were a few of the sci-fi looking ships the Navy has at the docks.

You can see one of them in the photo here, the USS Coronado:

USS Coronado, san diego, ca
USS Coronado combat ship, San Diego

Tell me that doesn’t look like something out of a thriller, the kind of ship you’d expect to show up and rescue James Bond after he HALO jumps and rescues the prime minister or something? It’s a US Navy ship, but I bet it’s actually from Q branch…

The harbor tour was a good move on our part and G- perked up (though, again, his food choices were less than stellar, candy and soda) and after a nice Easter sushi dinner from Umi Sushi, we watched a bit of TV and went to sleep, a day more or less well spent.

The next morning we jumped back into the 2014 Ford Escape [see 10 days with a 2014 Ford Escape] and drove back up to Dana Point for the last few days of our holiday.

Every time we visit San Diego, whether we go to SeaWorld, the Zoo, the harbor or Balboa Park, we have a good time. There’s something about the vibe there that resonates with this California boy. I grew up in Los Angeles so the whole surfer culture is something I’m not just comfortable with, but feel at home with.

I may live in Colorado and love it here, but some day I’ll be back on the beach…

Disclaimer: Thanks to the Kona Kai Resort for generously offering us two adjoining rooms at the Resort for Easter Weekend and a complimentary Easter brunch. We had a wonderful time and just barely squeezed our visit in before they began a huge renovation. Lots of cool things coming with the reinvention of this San Diego landmark, and we’re excited to see next time we’re in the area…
Kona Kai images are © 2014 Noble House Hotels & Resorts

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