Situated across downtown San Diego is the affluent beachfront city of Coronado, California. First discovered by the 17th century explorer Sebastian Vizcaino, Coronado’s name is derived from Spanish, and means “the crowned one.” Hence, Coronado is known not only by its local nickname of “Nado” but also as The Crown City.
Coronado rests on an island measuring roughly 13.5 square miles. The island was a safe harbor for whalers in the 18th and 19th centuries, and was eventually bought by a group of financiers in 1885. They transformed the island into a storied beach resort destination. Since the late 1880s Coronado has been drawing visitors to its shores. The Mediterranean-style climate that graces Coronado all year round makes this sophisticated island escape a must for any Southern California itinerary.
Here are the Top 5 reasons to visit Coronado, California:
Beaches. Ranking consistently amongst America’s finest beaches, as voted by The Travel Channel, Coronado lures in beachgoers aplenty throughout the year. The island is an idyllic getaway for romantics of all ages, for families seeking a fun-filled beach break, and even for pet owners who seek a canine beach. Gentle waves, balmy breezes, clean sand, and wide open spaces can be found in the island’s five main beaches. Running along Ocean Boulevard is Coronado Central Municipal Beach, which is free of charge and has the backdrop of a line of mansions. Surfers, paddle boarders, and sunbathers love the opportunities of enjoying themselves on the soothing sand while crossing paths with celebrities traveling incognito. Then there’s Silver Strand State Beach, located south of Coronado central. It has access to the bayside area as well as the Loews Coronado Bay Resort. Kitesurfers tend to frequent Silver Strand State Beach. Meanwhile, Glorietta Bay is a favorite for those in the sailing community, and even provides the unique view of the soaring San Diego-Coronado Bridge. North Beach is the first-choice for those with canine companions because it is a dog-friendly beach where all manner of pups and hounds can frolic to their hearts’ content. Finally, Ferry Landing Marketplace offers a lovely sweep of the San Diego Bay and the downtown skyline. Restaurants and eateries at the Ferry Landing Marketplace give visitors a chance to dine with a picture-perfect view of San Diego and the Bay.
Iconic Resort. No visit to Coronado is complete without a visit to the Hotel del Coronado. It was the reason the island became a resort town in the 1880s, thus making the “Hotel Del” an attraction all on its own. A beacon of grandeur, the Hotel Del was the inspiration behind the Wizard of Oz’s Emerald City. Author Frank L. Baum often stayed at the Hotel Del, and wrote some of his Oz books while sojourning there. The Hotel Del also boasts a Hollywood Connection, with the Knights of Pythias Camp being the first movie to have been filmed there in 1901. The 1958 film Some Like It Hot gets the most attention simply because the Hotel del Coronado hosted stars Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, and Tony Curtis. But even the Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis 1957 film, Hellcats of the Navy (the only film starring both the President and First Lady during their acting heyday), has a connection with the Hotel del Coronado. In fact, numerous film and television stars have flocked to the Hotel Del for over a century, making this historic resort a must-see for anyone hoping for a celebrity sighting. Indeed, the Hotel Del has likewise attracted heads of state. Eleven US Presidents are known to have stayed at the Hotel del Coronado, for instance. As for royalty, Hawaii’s King Kalakaua was the first to visit the Hotel Del, back in 1890. Other royal visitors have graced the Hotel del Coronado, some of whom include Prince Akihito in 1938 (the then-five-year-old son of Emperor Hirohito of Japan); Nazli, Queen Mother of Egypt, in 1955; even Sarah, Duchess of York, in 2000. Perhaps one royal visit to the Hotel del Coronado that is full of intrigue concerns that of Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward). It is believed that during his 1920 visit he met Wallis Simpson, the American he would eventually abdicate his throne for in order to marry her. Wallis Simpson at the time was a Navy wife living on Coronado. In any case, the rich history of the Hotel del Coronado is sure to entice any history buff. What’s more, the resort was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977, and has continued to inspire many with its refinement and iconic appeal.
Naval Aviation History. Coronado has strong historical ties to naval aviation. American aviation pioneer Glenn Curtiss in 1910 decided to make the island of Coronado his base of operations. He founded an aircraft-building company that won contracts with the US Navy and the US Army before WWI. The experiments he performed on seaplanes took place on Coronado, and for that reason led Coronado to be widely known as the birthplace of naval aviation. While the original site of Curtiss’ operations and military flight school are now within the US Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) base located on the northern part of the city, nonetheless, Coronado’s Historical Association has created a program wherein “Home of a Naval Aviator” signs are placed on the front yards of certain military veterans’ homes. A walk through the affluent neighborhoods of Coronado means visitors might cross paths with senior citizens who were naval war heroes or even Navy aces from previous generations. Historical walking tours are hosted by the Coronado Museum of History and Art as well as the Coronado Historical Association. Moreover, during certain times of the year the US Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) base opens its doors to the public for events like an air show; the public is welcome then to visit designated areas on base that are steeped in the rich naval aviation heritage that Glenn Curtiss bequeathed Coronado island. The Coronado Visitor Center and the Coronado Chamber of Commerce are great resources to help plan for a walking tour of Coronado as well as to find out dates of public events at the US Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) base.
Training Ground for US Navy SEALs. The SEALs are the US Navy’s elite special forces unit. They have several training grounds around the country, and one can be found on Coronado. While the public cannot tour the SEAL base, there are times during the year when SEAL trainees can be seen running in formation up and down Coronado beaches, especially near the Hotel del Coronado. Active SEALs, of course, guard their identities, but Coronado is also home to several veterans. Visitors can never tell if the person right next to them is someone from the active or the veteran SEAL community. However, there are two restaurants to visit if one wants to learn more about the US Navy SEALs and their history. Besides offering a great burger menu, Danny’s Palm Bar & Grill on Orange Avenue commemorates the US Navy SEALs with a wall dedicated to those who have sacrificed the most for our country. Visitors often remark at how touched they were to see the memorabilia on display to honor the SEAL brethren. Another restaurant to visit that supports the US Navy SEALs is McP’s Irish Pub, also on Orange Avenue. McP’s is a hopping place with live entertainment and a wonderful crowd, and not just during happy hour. They even have a children’s menu, thus making this Irish pub restaurant a very family-friendly establishment. The proprietor is a veteran of the SEAL community, and actively supports the families of Navy SEALs. You just might be lucky enough to find some SEALs around you when you visit McP’s.
Meeting the Canine Mayor. Part of Coronado’s charm is that it is one of the few places in America that has a canine mayor. Famous for being a pet-friendly community, Coronado began the tradition in 2010 of hosting a canine mayor election to fundraise for animal rescue efforts and medical care for animals at the local humane society. The canine mayor serves two-year terms and represents the pets of the community during major island events. The canine mayor’s role includes appearances with his human counterpart, Coronado’s human Mayor, at ribbon-cutting events, opening ceremonies, various local functions, and particularly Coronado’s parades. Hence, a visit to Coronado might include a chance meeting with the city’s canine mayor.
All images in this article are in the Public Domain.