How to Spend a Perfect Day on Coronado Island

San Diego's Best Beaches are on Coronado Island

Hotel Del Coronado
••• Hotel Del Coronado. Betsy Malloy Photography

Coronado Island draws a lot of tourists, and you may be wondering why. It's home to a Naval Air Station and the U. S. Navy SEALS center, but it's not the military that attracts tourists to Coronado Island. It's not Frank Baum's Oz House, Wallis Simpson's home or the Coronado Island Museum, either. It's not even its most famous hotel.

The best thing about Coronado is the white, sandy beaches that have earned it many ratings as one of top ten beaches in the U.

S. I also like Coronado Island for its quiet, laid-back simplicity and for its beautiful views of the downtown San Diego skyline.

Here's a plus if you hate breathing in someone else's smoke: The entire city of Coronado - including its streets, alleys, sidewalks and parking lots - is smoke-free.

Things to Do on Coronado Island

Your Coronado visit can be laid-back or action-packed. These are some of the best things to do while you're there:

Take a Walk: Downtown Coronado is a cute, little lived-in small town with some fun shops to browse and places to eat. After you see it, take a walk through some of the nearby neighborhoods, filled with lovely houses and flower gardens that will have you pulling out your Zillow app to find out how expensive they are (hint: very!). When you're done with that, it's only a couple of blocks over to Coronado Beach, where you can walk along the ocean.

Check Out Coronado Beach: It's on my list of Best San Diego Beaches and the Travel Channel also named it the Best Weekend Getaway Beach and one of the Best Beaches for Families.

It's flat and wide, with clean, fine sand. You can walk along the water's edge or keep the sand out of your shoes and use the paved walking path instead.

Go Bicycling: Fifteen miles of bike paths along the Coronado coast give you plenty of places to go. You can rent a bike downtown on Orange Avenue, at the Hotel Del Coronado or at the Ferry Landing Marketplace.

You can also rent four-wheeled, pedal-powered surreys which are lots of fun for families or groups of friends.

Stop at the Hotel del Coronado: The "Hotel Del" is a sprawling, rust-red-and-white, Victorian-style seaside hotel, opened in 1888. The National Historic Landmark has hosted the twentieth century's most famous and infamous celebrities, from Marilyn Monroe to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Some say it also has a resident ghost. Even if you're not staying there, you can browse through the history exhibits and photographs downstairs, or enjoy a meal on the terrace.

Take a Tour: One of the best ways to get to know Coronado Island and pick up some fun gossip at the same time is to take the most excellent Coronado Island walking tour which leaves several times a week from the Glorietta Bay Inn. If you'd rather glide than stride, try a very cool Segway human transporter tour with Segway of Coronado.

Go to Ferry Landing and Tidelands Park: Just below the Coronado Bay Bridge's western end lies the Coronado Island Tidelands Park and Ferry Landing Marketplace, with more than 30 shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Visitors and locals walk or bicycle along the shoreline path or picnic, enjoying San Diego skyline views.

This is a great place to be at sunset, with views of the bridge and downtown.

Watch Dogs Surf: The annual Surf Dog Competition is a San Diego original that started in 2005. It's so popular that there are multiple classes by size The photo says it all - how cute is that?

Where to Stay on Coronado Island

Instead of giving you yet another tired list of Coronado hotels, I put together a guide that tells you what those booking websites won't:  What you need to know, how to find the perfect hotel for you, and how to get the lowest rate for it in the How to Find a Place to Stay on Coronado Island

Getting to Coronado Island from San Diego

If you're driving, take the Coronado Bay Bridge exit off I-5. The bridge is extraordinarily tall to allow the largest military ships to pass below. It scares the bejeezus out of some people, leaving them cowering in the floorboards while their intrepid and fearless driver gets them across, but mercifully the trip is short.

Follow the road as it curves left, then turn left onto Orange Avenue. 

By water, take the Coronado Ferry from the San Diego waterfront to Ferry Landing. It departs from the Broadway Pier at 900 N. Harbor Drive or the San Diego Convention Center at 5th Avenue. You can also call a water taxi to make the trip at 619-235-8294.

The walk from the Ferry Landing to the Hotel Del Coronado is about 1.5 miles, or you could pedal it: rent a bike or a four-seater surrey from Bikes & Beyond at the Ferry Marketplace. You can also take the San Diego Transit bus #901 to downtown Coronado.

San Diego Trolley Tours stops at the Coronado Ferry Landing, in downtown Coronado, and at other city sights. It's a good way to get around town without driving and parking hassles.