How to Spend a Perfect Day on Coronado Island

San Diego's best beaches are 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 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. It's not Frank Baum's Oz House, Wallis Simpson's home or the Coronado Island Museum, either. It's not even the famous Hotel del Coronado.

Most people go to Coronado for the white, sandy beaches that have earned it 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 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

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 walking 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 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 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. 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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

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 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.

Skip the bridge and take the Coronado Ferry from the San Diego waterfront to Ferry Landing. It departs from the Broadway Pier at 990 N. Harbor Drive or the San Diego Convention Center at 600 Convention Way. You can also call a water taxi to make the trip: 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 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 a good way to get around town without driving and parking hassles.

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Plan Your Perfect Day on Coronado Island