Coronado Island is the small piece of land directly off San Diego, which houses a massive naval base on one-half and a quaint town with beautiful beaches on the other. The island has become an incredibly popular tourist spot due to its beauty and its proximity to San Diego. While it is not technically an island as it is connected, that is what it is referred to and what I will be using in this post. I got a chance to spend a few days in Coronado and came up with this guide, which features a bunch of great spots you can check out while on the island. Here is all the information.
- Everything on the island is generally more expensive than the mainland
- It can have a lot of traffic as there is only one quick way to drive there from San Diego
- This information is from my visit in 2016 and 2018
The island is accessed via the Coronado Bridge, which was completed in the late 1960s and is a beautiful bridge. All of the main shops and restaurants are located on Orange Ave, which runs about 1.75 miles down the center of the island.
Street parking is available all over for about $.50 an hour, but on the weekends, it can fill up fast. There are a few lots which range in price near the beach and multiple spots with valet around as well. If you go on a busy summer weekend you can always take the tram if you have to park far away, it runs through downtown every 15 minutes, and it is free.
Of course, the main reason to come to Coronado is for a beautiful day spent at the beach. I love Coronado Beach because it has picturesque white sand with small dunes and a lot of land; so it doesn’t feel too crowded. The beach is close to Hotel Del, so if you get hungry, you can always walk over and grab something to eat. Downtown Coronado is only about 5 minutes walk as well, so there are a lot of great options.
Silver Strand Beach
This state beach goes along pretty much the entire peninsula part of Coronado. Yes, Coronado is not a traditional island, and you can drive from the south along the land to get to it. This beach is beautiful, and it has large sections of sand for you to enjoy with different spots to park along the way.
There are a couple of really great parks on Coronado Island that you can explore as well. Here is a little information on each.
Centennial Park is my favorite park as it has a lot of history to go along with the beautiful little area. This is where the first Coronado ferry landed from mainland San Diego, and it ran all the way until the bridge was completed in the ’60s. They still have the ticket booth sitting in the middle of the park. It is a great spot to get a beautiful view of the city skyline as well.
Star Park is a little circle of grass right near Coronado Beach that has a few memorials to the military and a couple of cannons. It is not big, but it is fun to stroll by, and you can see L. Frank Baum’s old house (more on that below) from the park as well.
Another small park with a big view, Bayview Park is a great shaded spot to relax and look out over the harbor. This is the closest park to the naval base too, so you can see some massive ships from here.
Tidelands Park is the biggest park of the ones I visited, and it is popular because it is right at the base of the bridge, so it provides the best photo opportunities. You can also launch a kayak from here if you have one of your own.
Historic Houses & Buildings
Downtown Coronado has a lot of houses that are on the historic register, and as you are walking around, you will see plaques that note this. Here are a few of my favorites:
One of the notable works of Richard Smith Requa, a famous San Diego architect instrumental in designing Balboa Park, this large house is located right near Star Park.
L. Frank Baum’s House
L. Frank Baum, the creator of Wizard of Oz, is a famous author who lived on the island. His house is right next to Star Park as well, and it has a few little pieces that pay homage to the author sitting on the porch. It is said that Hotel Del was his inspiration for the Emerald City in his novels.
Old City Hall
Built in the early 1900s, this building is no longer used as a city hall, but it is a historic landmark on the national register of historic buildings.
There is no shortage of places to eat on Coronado. I have not tried that many, so be sure to leave your recommendations in the comments as well. The island has all of the standard stuff like Starbucks, Panera, Which Wich, etc. but here are my favorite non-traditional spots.
Clayton’s Coffee Shop
This is a great little spot in downtown Coronado for breakfast and coffee. I especially love the old building with the large coffee shop sign painted on the side. I recommend grabbing a cup of coffee and some waffles.
High Tide Bottle Shop
High Tide Bottle Shop is a small beer store with an excellent pizza parlor stuffed inside. It is one of the most cost-efficient places to eat on the island; I am often able to get a slice of pizza and a drink for less than $6. I like the breakfast pizza they have here with eggs and bacon on it, as well as the craft sodas from the soda machines.
If you have been to Coronado, then you have probably gotten ice cream at Moo Creamery. It is the fun spot with the ceramic cow and Elvis outside. The ice cream here really is top-notch, so I always make it a point to stop by. I recommend the butter pecan.
Coronado Island Brewing Company
The Coronado Island Brewing Company is a famous craft brewery in San Diego. The main restaurant and brewing area is on Coronado though, and it is a fun spot for a meal or just for a drink. It is located close to Centennial Park as well.
If you are a fan of seafood, then be sure to go to Islander. They have a board outside that shows the fresh fish of the day, so you know it’s good. I recommend the fish and chips, which come with your choice of multiple types of fish, hand-cut fries, pumpkin seed slaw, horseradish tartar sauce, and house-made curry ketchup. I recommend the local yellowtail as it is fantastic with so much flavor. The fish practically melts in your mouth, and the sauces that go with it are both perfectly crafted. It’s an expensive spot for sure (more than $20 a person), but it’s perfect for dinner. Unfortunately, it is now closed though.
Current at the Marriott
Current at the Marriott Coronado is also a great spot for dinner in the city. They have a unique menu and a beautiful view from the outdoor tables. I have been quite a few times, and the chef always has something unique to try.
If you want to see the island and be active while doing it, then consider renting a bike from one of the many downtown establishments and taking the six-mile trail around the island. It is a lot of fun, and they have bike parking areas all over so you can stop and spend more time at any of the spots.
I like to kayak, so I always jump at the option of taking one out on the water. When I went, I rented a kayak from the boardwalk over near the Marriot Coronado, and I took it past Tidelands Park and over to the Coronado Bridge, where it was fun to marvel at the bridge from below.
There is a play theater and a movie theater on the island. Both are old and historic in appearance, and both provide a way to relax if you are into the theatrical arts.
Walk the Boardwalk
Along the southside of Coronado, there is a boardwalk on both sides of the island (same as the bike path). This is a great spot to walk and just explore the area as it is peaceful and wide open.
At night this area becomes even more amazing as it has stunning views of the San Diego skyline lit up across the water. It is one of my favorite things to do if I am staying on the island.
Hotel Del Coronado
Of course, Hotel Del is the one everyone knows about on the island. I haven’t stayed there myself, but I imagine it is a beautiful spot. I especially like that they have a lot of seating on the beach that you can take advantage of if you are a hotel guest. Even if you don’t stay here, take some time to walk around it and take it all in.
This is my go-to hotel as it is right on the boardwalk, but in the southeast section of the island, so it always seems less busy and more relaxing. You can read about my time there here.
You can find more spots to explore in Coronado in this video I made on the island.
So there you have it, my recommendations for where to explore in Coronado. Be sure to let me know what I left off in the comments.