Kona Kai Resort & Spa on Shelter Island, San Diego

Disclosure: This stay was provided for me free of charge; all opinions are my own.

At the far end of Shelter Island, across the harbor from downtown San Diego, sits the beautiful retreat known as Kona Kai Resort & Spa. This magical spot is perfect for relaxation and boasts amenities such as a fantastic restaurant, jet skis, and a full spa. I had the opportunity to spend a few days there and loved my time both rejuvenating and visiting a bunch of the popular attractions close by. Here is all the info if you want to explore it yourself.

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  • Book your stay here, or they also have a club you can join for use of the grounds, read more about that here
  • Amenities: Pool, Spa, Restaurant, Firepits, Water Activities, Reading Area, Spa Service, Club
  • Location: 1551 Shelter Island Drive, La Playa, San Diego, CA
  • Local attractions: Cabrillo National Monument, Sunset Cliffs, Liberty Station, Fig Tree Cafe, Ocean Beach
  • Information from my visit in 2016

The Hotel

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From the moment you arrive to check-in and wander into the recently remodeled lobby, you will quickly notice this is not like many of the hotels you have been too.

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The attention to detail shines through everything from the massive driftwood horse to the wall painted to look like a huge bookshelf. I spent time sitting and reading in the latter room during my time here.

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A trip down the hallway reveals the full spa and Vessel Restaurant. I didn’t visit the spa but more on the restaurant later in the post.

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Outside there is a large pool with a section to play around in and three full lap lanes for swimming.

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There is also a large adult-only spa, four cabanas that can be rented for the day, and a tiki bar.

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Continuing on from the pool, you will see the beach and three blocks of rooms, each with a separate balcony.

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The beach looks out over the many multi-million dollar yachts that dock in the harbor and features multiple firepits that can be rented for group relaxation or even to make s’mores.

The Rooms

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The rooms have been given the same attention to detail that you would expect based on the rest of the resort. They have large beds with comforters that my wife described as “swimming in clouds.”

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The room also has a chair to relax in, a table with two chairs and a flatscreen TV. The bathroom is equally amazing, with natural light mirrors and a massive tiled shower.

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Lastly, the balcony, or bottom floor for us, had two chairs and a small table that we drank coffee at each morning.

Vessel Restaurant

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Not to be left out by the rooms and amenities, the Vessel Restaurant is one of the best, if not the actual best hotel restaurant I have ever been to. The space was designed with a nautical theme, and the entire interior of the restaurant seems to orbit around the beautiful center bar. The staff that waited on us were fantastic and provided jokes and small talk while helping us pick from the extensive menu. Here are some of the things we ate:

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Lobster Mac and Cheese – The mac and cheese is incredibly rich but so amazing. The lobster is a lot more than you would expect, which makes the price worth it for such a tasty appetizer. Easy to share as well, and the flavorful sauce makes it a great option.

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Pork Chop – Thick cut of meat but incredibly juicy. Immense flavor with the spaetzle and cranberries on the side. Spaetzle is like bread crumbs, but in small pieces, it was an excellent flavor addition to the meal, and I was impressed.

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Scallops – The scallops were fresh with a buttery and blackened flavor that was surprisingly light. The compliment of the mixed vegetables went well with the taste of the scallops without overpowering it.

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We ended the night with Key Lime Pie, and having just spent a week in Key West. I can say it equaled the pie I had there.

Nearby Attractions:

If you stay at the hotel here are a few of my favorite nearby attractions:

Sunset Cliffs

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The Sunset Cliffs are in my top three favorite places to watch the sunset from in California. It is a beautiful spot, and it never gets old.

Fig Tree Cafe

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A fantastic spot for breakfast, I recommend the fun breakfast sushi, which is eggs and rice wrapped in candied bacon. So good!

OB Noodle House

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A good lunch spot that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and had fantastic pho (Vietnamese soup).

Cabrillo National Monument

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Right out on the point of the peninsula, about 20 minutes from the hotel is this national monument that has excellent hiking and fantastic views of San Diego.

Sunrise at the Marina

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Lastly, Shelter Island itself is a perfect spot to watch the sunrise from. I got up ten minutes before dawn and drove down to the east end of the island to take the above picture of downtown San Diego with the sun rising behind it.

As you can no doubt see I was a fan of my time at the Kona Kai Resort & Spa. It was a great spot to relax at and a great jumping-off point for exploring some of San Diego‘s better attractions. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments, and be sure to check it out for yourself.

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