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Top 4 Reasons Why Coronado Island Is Fabulous for Families

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I gauge my love of a destination with one simple question: Could I move my family there? Though I enjoy vacationing in California, my response to that question has always been, “It’s too hot, crowded and superficial.”

But then I met Coronado Island. Situated between San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean, Coronado is Spanish for “the crowned one,” and is nicknamed the Crown City. Take one look at its lush green canopy, jeweled waters, small-town charm coupled with big-city sophistication and you’ll know why.

Hotel del Coronado sand castle - Coronado Island

The beach at the Hotel del Coronado, the island’s signature hotel and attraction

Coronado Island – 4 Reasons it Ranks at the Top

Over the course of a few days, I paddleboarded for the first time, (over)indulged at brunch at The Hotel del Coronado, biked along the glistening bay, attended an amiable production at Lamb’s Players Theatre and was blown away by beauty during a photography safari along Coronado Beach, rated the top beach in America.

Epic? Yes. And for four good reasons:

1. Hotel del Coronado

You don’t have to be a movie star or U.S. President (though plenty have stayed there), or the resident ghost Kate Morgan to get swept away by this architectural icon. The Victorian crimson-roofed hotel, opened in 1888, is the star of Coronado Island and was named one of the 10 Best Beach Hotels for Kids by Travel Mamas. The best news? Anyone can visit, not just hotel guests.

If your family enjoys the sand and surf, Coronado Beach was named the Best Family Beach in America by the Travel Channel for its gentle waves and activities that range from surfing and boogie boarding, to renting a bicycle or surrey so you can explore the Coronado bike trail along Glorietta Bay. Or you can be a sand-castle overachiever, like The Sand Castle Man. His creation (pictured above) confirmed that my bucket-and-pail creations don’t measure up.

I was among the legions of tourists who toured the shops (kids will love MooTime Creamery and Spreckels Sweets & Treats) and if you’re lucky enough to stay there, The Del caters to children. In the summer, they have a V.I.K. (Very Important Kid Program) for ages 5-12 with plenty of perks and the teens will love their very own lounge and Teen Access Pass (ages 13-17).

Coronado Island sand dunes

The beach at the Hotel del Coronado, the island’s signature hotel and attraction

2. Outdoor Adventures

Numbers don’t lie: Coronado has 21 beautiful parks, 24 miles of paved trails and 28 miles of beaches along the San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Whether your family loves to swim, surf, sail, kayak, fish, kite-board or stand-up paddleboard—there is something for everyone.

As a Denver-dwelling, land-locked lassie, I was particularly intrigued by Silver Strand State Park’s Junior Rangers Program which offers free outdoor activities Saturdays from 3:30-4:30 p.m. for ages  7-12. The state park’s Campfire Program is also a big draw every Friday from 6-7 p.m.

My favorite activity of the trip was renting a beach cruiser at the Coronado Island Marriott & Spa and biking to the quaint shops and restaurants at Coronado Ferry Landing. From there, I raced through Tidelands Park—22  acres of bayfront fun with picnic tables, skatepark and a playground—before arriving  at the base of the 2.3-mile San Diego-Coronado Bridge, which connects San Diego to Coronado.

View from my rental bike - Coronado Island

View from my rental bike

3. Coronado Island’s History

I’m not a big history buff (understatement) but in a place dripping with history like this 5.3-square mile peninsula, it’s almost mandatory. The Coronado Museum of History & Art is FREE and provides the inside scoop on the quasi-island’s U.S. Navy presence, the story behind The Del and so much more. Author L. Frank Baum wintered at the Hotel del Coronado and rented a neighboring house where he wrote three of his famous Wizard of Oz books.

The Museum has a fantastic gift shop with an entire Oz section and displays three rare first-edition books by Baum. I bought my kids’ favorite souvenir ever: a beautifully etched 100-year edition of the Wizard of Oz.

"Secret Art of Dr. Seuss" on display at the Stephen Clayton Gallery - Coronado Island

“Secret Art of Dr. Seuss” on display at the Stephen Clayton Gallery

Insider Scoop: If your kids are Dr. Seuss fans, they will love the whimsical “Secret Art of Dr. Seuss” at the Stephen Clayton Gallery at Coronado Ferry Landing. The famous author’s widow has been slowly releasing his works of art over the years. Kids will enjoy his whimsical paintings while adults catch a glimpse of just how sophisticated and technically accomplished he really was.

4. The Memories

On my first morning, I awoke early to go for a run along the beach at Silver Strand State Park. As I was leaving Loews Coronado Hotel, I was stopped in my tracks with this view over the marina…

Coronado Island sunrise

Coronado Island sunrise

I tweeted: “What I woke up to on Coronado Island: PINK. And I’m not talking the hostile musician.”

I have finally found my California home; too bad the average house price is more than I’ll make in my lifetime. But they do say California is for dreaming…

Have you ever been to Coronado Island? What are your favorite activities? Let us know in the comments!

A Note from The Outdoorsy Travel Mama: A special thanks to the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau for hosting me!

About Amber Johnson, The Outdoorsy Travel Mama

Amber Johnson is a fun-loving mom of two. After a whirlwind career as an adventure-travel writer and publicist in Utah’s ski industry, she married and moved to Denver where her family loves skiing, biking, hiking and climbing 14ers (14,000-foot peaks). She is the founder of The Denver Post’s Mile High Mamas, writes a regular “Family Cents” column for the newspaper and has been blogging since 2005 (you can find her at Amber is excited to be a part of the Travel Mamas team and looks forward to chronicling her occasionally-painful but always-hilarious misadventures! You can connect with Amber on Twitter as @TheMileHighMama.

  1. We stayed at the Del almost 2 years ago over the New Year’s holiday and had a fabulous time. Unfortunately, late December/early January was too cold for the beach even for hardy Canadians! 🙂 We loved San Diego and can’t wait to go back and experience more especially on Coronado Island. We’re considering it for spring break this year and your article has got me even more excited about it!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Lisa – As a San Diego resident, I often host guests who are shocked to find San Diego is not toasty warm during winter. It may not snow here, but if you want to enjoy the ocean’s waves in Dec/Jan, a wetsuit is a must. Even though you weren’t able to laze away your days on the beach, I’m sure you’ll agree that The Del truly is gorgeous during the holidays with its huge Christmas tree and outdoor skating rink. Just thinking about it, I’m getting all psyched up for the holiday season!

  2. Amber Johnson, The Outdoorsy Travel Mama says

    I actually bought a picture of The Del’s outdoor skating rink at Christmas…I love the concept and it’s now my dream to return to skate (one of my favorite activities). Talk about surreal to do it beside the ocean!

  3. Jenna Stone says

    Thank you for writing thoughtful posts from family perspectives. I love love love Coronado Island. We leave Monday to have our family vacation there again this year. The beach there is absolutely gorgeous and surprisingly calm…which are perfect ingredients for a family retreat.

    All the best to you and yours!

  4. mike lavin says

    A unique characteristic of Coronado not mentioned has to do with the number of multi-generational families that live here . Living in Coronado is like hitting the double jackpot and certain that decades ago that was a motivation to live here and to raise you family in Coronado. Now what you have is many generations where grand kids, of course. live close to their families, but In Coronado, they live in proximity to their grand parents and in some cases, great grandparents. The Navy hos much to do with this close knit family arrangements. Children, parents, and grand parents benefit from each other knowledge and youthfulness.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Mike – Good point! Coronado is a wonderful choice for a multigenerational trip. Lucky you, that you get to live in Coronado!

  5. Kate Kent says

    I just returned from San Diego to my chilly hometown of Milwaukee….I was so sad to leave! It was a solo trip but I can’t wait to bring back my kids. They would just love everything, seriously. I battled back and forth in my mind if I could see myself living in California…and then, Coronado. Ah, Coronado Island. It sealed the deal for me. I’ve been back home for 2 days and am plotting our next vacation which will hopefully lead to moving (provided the kids love it as much as my husband and I). Great picture of sunrise on Coronado!! Thank you


  1. Summer Vacation Ideas | Best Family Beach Vacation Spots | Ciao Bambino Blog says:

    […] a bite to eat at one of the hotel’s kid-friendly restaurants or rent a surrey on which to tour Coronado Island with kids. In the winter, take a spin on the Del’s seaside outdoor ice skating rink, open to hotel guests […]

  2. Summer Vacation Ideas | Best Family Beach Vacation Spots says:

    […] a bite to eat at one of the hotel’s kid-friendly restaurants or rent a surrey on which to tour Coronado Island with kids. In the winter, take a spin on the Del’s seaside outdoor ice skating rink, open to hotel guests […]

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