Immediately eliciting vacation visions of fish tacos and toes tucked carelessly into the sand, sun dappled San Diego needs no introduction. If any So Cal locale speaks perpetual getaway, annual and always, this might be our winner.
I found this amplitude of ambiance harnessed in a Shelter Island beachfront with a Polynesian name and a Spanish Colonial hardscape. Kona Kai Resort & Spa revealed itself to be a most wonderous secret of the San Diego scene. A private petite beach, a duo of pools (one family, one adult), cruiser bikes, private cabanas, bonfires and an on-site spa, it’s a little insane. How spoiled we are to have blisses as this, still undiscovered.
Located on the southern end of Shelter Island, the recently refurbished Kona Kai Resort & Spa resides in that coveted space between the marina and the main bay. Got a dog? Throw him in the car. He’s welcome. There’s an ease to this place, an openness that is enhanced by the marina breeze, the seagulls, the sailboats, and the overall scene that just generates a renaissance of recreation.
The rooms resonate with a tropical whimsey. Rich woods, orange accents, bold leafy patterns, nothing too serious (unless you take your deep soaking bathtub seriously, in which case, game on). Every room is a room with a view, be it a marina or a bay or an ocean or Coronado, every balcony overlooks a little lovely in the distance. Rainfall shower heads, marble finishes. Ambiances are outfitted in oceanic homages. The whole place kind of sings of it.
If you’re traveling with young ones, the Camp Kona Kai offering gets a big yes. Complete with an in-room tepee and toy campfire, and a resort credit to go to town on some Dippin Dots ice cream or other poolside pleasantries.
And measures of health and safety, those are serious too, but you don’t have to mind them much, because they’ve done their due diligence for us. Seating and lounging all situated at least six feet apart, plexiglass dividers at the front desk, sanitation stations at every turn, and a staff mindful of distancing at all times. It’s like they spent all of 2020 planning this for us.
For a resort, it is an accessible one. Nothing over the top, overly elaborate, or excessive. The rates are reasonable, and mood is merry. Location wise it’s centrally excellent. Getting to Little Italy, Old Town, and of course the amusements, super easy. Someone somewhere knew how badly we all needed this vacation.
Be it beneath a canary cushioned cabana or the turquoise tarp of a canvas umbrella, the vibe is summer as far as the senses can reach. Just to live inside the layers again, the sun and the sea and the bay and the beauty of disconnecting and reconnecting – I cannot encourage it enough. To remember not just the benefits of vacating, but the awakening of wellness that is one with it, if it’s not vital, it feels that way. At least here it does.
Kona Kai Resort & Spa, 1551 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, California 92106, United States.
Tel: +1(619) 452-3138 / +1(800) 566-2524 (Reservations)
Take Hwy 5 towards downtown San Diego and get off at Rosecrans. The resort has plenty of self-parking available for guests.
Type of Hotel: Beachfront Resort & Spa
Number of Rooms: 170 luxury guest rooms, 41 suites (Junior and Executive) and complimentary Wi-Fi. Looking to live a little extra-large? Request a Coastal Revival Suite or an Endless Summer Suite and get up to 645sq ft of fun.
Price Band: Medium
Insider Tip: If you’re looking to situate yourself close to all those famed San Diego attractions (The San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND), this is a fantastic home base. Also, if you’re bringing a dog, know they’re not permitted at the pool or the beach.
Reviewer’s Rating: 7.5/10
Jolie Loeb is a Luxury Lifestyle columnist based in Los Angeles.
Photographs courtesy of Kona Kai Resort & Spa