Coronado, which means “the crowned one” in Spanish, was founded in 1885 as a resort city. Between its world-renowned, white-sand beaches, hotel accommodations fit for royalty, and the curvaceous 200-foot tall blue bridge connecting the peninsula to Downtown, San Diego, Coronado has long lived up to its regal name.
Except for that time in 1936, when the SS Monte Carlo-an oil tanker converted into a gambling and prostitution cruise ship-docked 3 miles offshore in international waters and tempted everyone from sailors to civilians to climb aboard. Known for its “drinks, dice and dolls,” the boat, accessible by water taxi, was untouchable by local law enforcement. Yet, the Monte Carlo was short-lived; on New Year’s Day 1937, it crashed ashore during a storm, just south of the Hotel Del, where you can still see its 300-foot-long wreckage at low tide. According to witnesses, locals flocked to the scene of the disaster, where they proceeded to drink bottles of whisky that had washed up.
So the next time you think of Coronado, amid images of Marilyn Monroe at the Hotel Del in the classic film “Some Like it Hot” or cute kids over the holidays scattering across ice at the annual Skating by the Sea, just remember, this buttoned up resort city-white picket fences and all-has some serious history of rebellion behind it.
With spring in the air, it’s the perfect time to enjoy Coronado before the tourists flock in this summer. From the beach to picturesque bike paths, cute boutiques and an award-winning brewery in between, it has a little something for everyone.
Like a local
On your next free, sunny day, round up some friends and catch the Coronado Ferry at Broadway Pier. It leaves every hour on the hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The cost is $4.25 each way. It’s free for children ages 3 and younger, as well as for bikes and segways.
Once you’re there, head south toward the Coronado Bridge. Right by the golf course, you can follow the paved way even further, through neighborhoods, reaching Orange Avenue, or cutting straight across the peninsula to the Hotel Del.
If you plan for a picnic before boarding the ferry, parks are-a-plenty in Coronado, with the closest to the landing being Tidelands Park, where you can take in views of the bay, and look upward at the grand bridge.
Bask in it
Coronado is the ultimate beach to play tourist in your own town. Every year, 2 million people flock to its shoreline, paying top dollar to bask in San Diego’s sunshine. Aside from the gas it takes to get there-or a ferry ticket-Coronado Beach is free. Heck, there’s even free parking! That’s not the case at Silver Strand State Beach, though, where you must pay to park in its lot. The beaches in Coronado are a favorite among swimmers, and families, due to mild surf conditions. Aside from the wind kicking up in the afternoon, coating you and everything you own in a layer of fine sand, this is San Diego’s best stretch of beach, hands down.
Fun for Fido, too.
Why would you want to frolic with your pup anywhere else in town when there’s Coronado Dog Beach, smack dab in the middle of paradise? The entrance to the off-leash area is located at the northernmost end of Ocean Boulveard, with free parking. Score!
More neighborhoods to explore
Anza Borrego, Balboa Park, Coronado, Del Mar, East Village, Encinitas, Fiesta Island, Golden Hill, Hillcrest, La Jolla, Linda Vista, Mission Beach, Mission Hills, North Park: Part 1, North Park: Part 2, Ocean Beach, Point Loma, San Carlos, South Park, University Heights
Shopping for locals and tourists alike
Not all shops in Coronado have San Diego sweatshirts and kitschy keepsakes. Check out these businesses along the main drag on Orange Avenue the next time you’re looking for a unique gift, beachwear or a souvenir.
This cute boutique carriers everything from local, handmade jewelry (mostly in the $15-$60 range), amazing bags and purses from Will Leather Goods, scarves and a eclectic selection of books, like the hilarious Dads are the Original Hipsters. For a gift with character and style, this shop is a sure bet in the sea of tourist traps in Coronado. 1011 Orange Ave.
Stationary stores are few and far between, and Seaside Papery makes up for it with artful greeting cards and invitations. The next time an email or e-card won’t cut it, or if you’re shopping for a writer in your life, stop by this paper store for adorable desk adornments from pen holders to paperweights that are functional, too. 1162 Orange Ave.
Emerald City The Boarding Source
Every beach town needs a surf shop and Emerald City has everything you’ll need for a day in the waves or on the sand. With a large selection of men’s and women’s brands and styles, it’s easy to shop here even if you don’t need anything. 1118 Orange Ave.
Grab a bite, gulp a beer
Leroy’s Kitchen and Lounge
Global fare crafted with local ingredients is the name of the game at Coronado local David Spatafore’s casual Orange Avenue restaurant. The farm-to-table driven Leroy’s has been a breath of fresh air to the community since it opened in 2012; stop in for lunch, dinner or Social Hour for daily specials like $5 craft beers, $2 off cocktails and discounted bites from warm, citrus scented olives to the Bavarian pretzel and ahi tacos. Social hours run from 4-6 p.m. daily and 10 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
Coronado Brewing Company
Coronado Brewing Company is another venture by peninsula locals, this time, by brothers Ron and Rick Chapman, who threw open the doors to their brewpub in ’96. Located at the north end of Orange Avenue, the pub features both year round and seasonal ales, plus a food menu of burgers, pizzas and calzones. You can’t go wrong with the Orange Ave Wit, a Belgian style witbier with orange blosson honey, perfect to refresh with after a day at the beach. Happy hour runs Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m.