How to Spend a Perfect Day on Coronado Island

Aerial view of high rise hotels along the beach

TripSavvy / Sharyn Umaña-Angers

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Coronado Island

Coronado Island, Coronado, CA 92118, USA

Coronado Island draws many 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. It's not Frank Baum's Oz House, Wallis Simpson's home, or the Coronado Island Museum. It's not even the famous Hotel del Coronado.

Most people go to Coronado for the white, sandy beaches that have earned numerous ratings as one of the top ten beaches in the United States. Visitors also like Coronado Island for its quiet, laid-back simplicity and 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.

What 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 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 to Coronado Beach, where you can walk along the ocean.
  • Check out Coronado Beach: It's one of the best San Diego beaches, flat and wide, with clean, fine sand. Walk along the water's edge, or keep the sand out of your shoes and use the paved path instead.
  • Go Bicycling: Fifteen miles of bike paths along the ocean give you plenty of places to go. Rent a bike downtown on Orange Avenue, at the Hotel Del Coronado or the Ferry Landing Marketplace. You can also rent four-wheeled, pedal-powered surreys, which are fun for families or groups of friends.
  • Stop at the Hotel del Coronado: "The Del" is a sprawling, rust-red-and-white, Victorian-style seaside hotel that opened in 1888. The National Historic Landmark has hosted the twentieth century's most famous and infamous celebrities. 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 that leaves several times a week from the Glorietta Bay Inn. This tour is wheelchair and stroller friendly and described as "not strenuous."
  • Go to Ferry Landing and Tidelands Park: Ferry Landing Marketplace has more than 20 shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Visitors and locals walk or bicycle along the shoreline path at Tidelands Park, enjoying San Diego skyline views. The park has accessible parking and restrooms; however, the picnic tables are located on a concrete slab elevated around five inches off the ground, making the picnic area potentially inaccessible for some.
  • Watch Dogs Surf: The annual Surf Dog Competition is a San Diego original so popular that there are multiple classes by size. And almost too cute for words.

Where to Stay on Coronado Island

Instead of looking at yet another tired list of Coronado hotels, use a local guide that tells you what those booking websites won't. Find the perfect hotel for you, and learn how to get the lowest rate.

Watch Now: 6 Essential Things to Do in San Diego

Getting There From San Diego

If you're driving, take the Coronado Bay Bridge. It's extraordinarily tall to allow the largest military ships to pass below, which scares the bejeezus out of some people, leaving them cowering in the floorboards. At the same time, their daring and fearless driver gets them across, but mercifully the trip is short. Follow the road as it curves left, then turn onto Orange Avenue.

Skip the bridge and call a water taxi or take the Coronado Ferry from the San Diego waterfront to Ferry Landing. The ferry departs from the Broadway Pier at 990 N. Harbor Drive or the San Diego Convention Center at 600 Convention Way. The ferries do have some accessibility limitations, so check their website for more information if you have questions on available disability accommodations.

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 the Ferry Marketplace. You can also take the San Diego Transit bus #901 to downtown Coronado.

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

The buses and trolleys are equipped with ramps and lifts to help mobility aid users safely board the vehicles.

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How to Spend a Perfect Day on Coronado Island