By Ann Nelson
Coronado, a picturesque
island situated just across the bay from San Diego, is reached by a bridge that
seems to float just above the surface of the water. This seaside village is
steeped in history and feelings of nostalgia are everywhere.
When The Hotel Del opened in
1888, it was the largest resort hotel in the world. The guests were treated to
every luxury imaginable. In 1891 Benjamin Harrison was the first of ten
presidents to visit Coronado, joining a list of celebrities including the
Prince of Wales, Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn
Monroe, Jack Lemmon and many more sports and political greats. Room
rates at the time were $2.00 to $3.00 a night. To help put the cost of a room
into perspective, the average salaries in the late 1800’s were $.22 an hour, or
$12.74 a week.
The upstairs rooms were less
costly because elevators were a rarity in the late 1800’s and carrying luggage
up the steps was no easy task. Even though the hotel did have elevators, the
lower-level rooms were larger, more expensive and more desirable. According to
Chris Donovan, the hotel historian, it was a standard practice to include three
meals a day with the room rate.
When The Del was built, only
the very wealthy could afford to stay in the hotel itself. The middle class
(consisting mostly of doctors, lawyers and small business owners) stayed in
tents close to the hotel. Several hundred tents and cottages covered with palm
leaves were set up each year on June 1st and taken down after Labor Day. Coronado
Tent City lasted through 1941 and was considered one of the premier vacation
spots on the west coast.
Other wonderful places to
stay in Coronado include the Crown City Inn & Bistro and the El Cordova
Hotel. The Crown City Inn is a quaint, family-owned establishment built in the
1940’s. Complimentary bi-cycles and beach cruisers are offered to guests and
Coronado is the perfect place to ride through the streets or take advantage of
the bicycle paths. A dedicated bicycle path runs along the Silver Strand for
miles to Imperial Beach. There is also a path from Tidelands Park, under the
bridge and along the edge of the golf course.
The inn is centrally located,
only three blocks from the downtown business district. Breakfast at the bistro
is excellent. The Inn was voted “Best Budget Accommodation” in Coronado by the
Travel Channel. The El Cordova Hotel is located across the street from the
Hotel Del. This 1930’s beauty is a picturesque complex of Spanish architecture.
The hotel features unique suites, wood floors and Mexican, handcrafted tile.
The courtyard includes a garden area and Miguel’s, a popular Mexican
The island itself was a
barren peninsula with jackrabbits being the major population until it was
purchased for $110,000 in 1885 by Elisha S. Babcock, Jr. and Hampton L. Story.
They often rowed over to the island from San Diego to hunt rabbits and decided
it would be the ideal setting for a luxurious resort hotel.
Coronado is a city of charm
and relaxation. Average temperatures range from 55 degrees in July, with an
average rainfall of about ten inches. Miles of white sandy ocean beaches
stretch along the southwest edge of the city, providing good surfing and
swimming. The Coronado Golf Course, with its panoramic view of ships at anchor
in the harbor, lies within easy walking distance from many hotels. Coronado is
a year-round outdoor paradise for everyone, offering fishing, swimming,
picnicking, golfing, bicycling, tennis, lawn bowling and community concerts.
Visiting Coronado is
reminiscent of visiting a small town in America before we became “Walmartized’ and before mom and pop stores slowly
disappeared. People came into town with the expectation of seeing friends,
shopping and having a soda at the local drug store. Sometimes I long for the
days of feeling community pride, where each person really mattered and
supported their local community. There was a certain simplicity and easiness. I
should point out, there are no shopping malls in Coronado.
Though often referred to as
the Enchanted Island, Coronado is actually situated on a peninsula attached to
San Diego by a thin strip of sand, the Silver Strand. Within the
five-square-mile radius of Coronado, there is lots to see and do. I’ll mention
a few ideas:
Coronado Beach Historical
Museum – This three-story Victorian house dates back to 1898 and has a unique
history. Here visitors have the opportunity to learn about the island’s
aviation history and the old ferryboats that connected Coronado to San Diego.
Step back in time as you view the historic photos dating back to 1887. Open
9-5, daily. Free. (619) 435-7242.
Walking Tour – Features 90
minutes of highlights about the Coronado history. Starts at the Glorietta Bay Inn (across from the Hotel Del). Includes
historical mansions. Open 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
$12.00 (619) 435-5993.
Coronado Golf Course – Public
18-hole course with a gorgeous backdrop of Glorietta
Bay Marina. Must book two days in advance. Fees are reasonable. Located at 2000
Visalia Row, south of the Coronado Bridge. (619) 435-3121.
The Old Ferry Landing – Delightful
collection of shops, galleries and restaurants on Coronado’s waterfront. Rent
bicycles, stroll along walkways on San Diego Bay. Located on First Street at B
San Diego Bay Ferry – Sails
to Seaport Village, where you can catch harbor excursions, dine with a view, or
shop in boutiques. Enjoy live music, clowns, mimes and street performers. Hop
on a horse-drawn carriage and tour the embarcadero. The trip is 15 minutes. The
ferry leaves from the San Diego Broadway Pier every hour on the hour and
returns from the Ferry Landing in Coronado every half hour. $4.25 each way.
Boating – South Bay, Coronado
off of Loews Marina. Rent paddleboats, sailboats, yachts or go deep sea fishing
in Glorietta Bay. Paddleboards - $25.00/hr., kayak -
$18.00/hr. (619) 437-1514.
Crown City Inn & Bistro –
(800) 422-1173. Weekday rates starting at $99.99.
El Cordova Hotel – (619)
435-4131. Weekday rates starting at $105.00.
Hotel Del Coronado – (619)
435-6611. Weekday rates starting at $300.00.
Coronado Visitor Center –
Ann Nelson is a freelance
writer residing in San Diego, CA