Coronado Island, aka “Emerald City” is a small man-made “island” located right across the water from downtown San Diego. This charming and historic island is home to the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, which is THE place to visit on the island. Coronado is the quintessential beach town in San Diego oozing with character and small-town charm which makes it great for a family vacation, a sunset picnic, or a day trip to take in all the sights. In this guide, I will share all the best things to do in Coronado as well as some fun facts about Coronado to make your trip spectacular!
Coronado Island is technically not an island but a peninsula off of downtown San Diego. It’s a popular San Diego travel spot and you can reach the island by driving across the Coronado bridge, driving down the Silver Strand, or a ferry. There are two main hubs on the island:
The first is the Coronado Ferry Landing where there are multiple shops, restaurants, and panoramic views of downtown San Diego. Then there’s Coronado Beach (located in front of the Hotel Del). It was actually named one of the top beaches in the world because of the wide stretches of flat beach space and golden sand.
Orange Avenue is the main street of Coronado. Orange Ave connects the two hubs of town and is lined with shops, restaurants, and even a movie theatre! You can take Orange Ave through Coronado, and it eventually turns into the Silver Strand where the views will leave you speechless (you can even see Mexico from this beach).
Things to Know Before Visiting Coronado
- You can take a ferry from downtown San Diego tickets are $5 per ride and you can find the schedules here (children under 3 are free). It doesn’t operate all day so make sure you’re aware of the return times.
- The traffic can get busy during rush hour being that the navy base is located on the island.
- On the north end of Coronado beach, there is a dog beach to enjoy with your fluffy friends.
- Alcohol is prohibited on most beaches and the beaches have an 11 pm curfew.
Since the early 1900’s filmmakers have been coming to Coronado to use as a backdrop for movies. But in 1958 the iconic Hotel Del Coronado made Hollywood history by becoming the filming location of “Some Like it Hot”. Marilyn Monroe and the entire crew stayed at “The Del” during the duration of the shooting. You’ll notice most of the shops in the hotel will have Marilyn souvenirs. Learn more about the filming of the movie here.
Did you know Emerald City in the classic novel and film “The Wizard of Oz” was inspired by Coronado? The famous author L. Frank Baum frequently rented a home here from 1904 to 1910. During those summers, he wrote 3 of his Oz series books in said home. Finally, you can also visit the house! This quaint yellow historic home is located at 1101 Star Park Circle. You can still spot the wicked witch above the door (pictured above – it’s a private residence so be respectful when visiting).
Fellow book nerds: you can actually view the first editions of the Oz Series books located at the Coronado Library.
The Hotel Del Coronado
Constructed in 1888 The Hotel Del Coronado is one of the main reasons people visit Coronado. It is a premier destination for a luxury hotel experience and the locals call it “The Del”. In 1977, it was marked as a historical landmark, and its located right on the main beach in Coronado. It has more than 400 rooms, private suites to rent located right on the beach (named Baby Village), and five restaurants. Finally, Celebrities have been flocking here since the early 1900s. Some of the most famous are Marilyn Monroe, President Franklin Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, and Charles Lindberg.
Not only that but the hotel is suggested to be haunted. Back in the day a woman checked in under a fake name and was found dead a few days later. The authorities marked it as suicide but there was some skepticism surrounding that verdict. People have been known to experience some paranormal activity at The Del and in 1992 the hotel launched a 12-month investigation with a paranormal expert. You can learn more about that study here.
Dining at The Hotel Del
- Serea: Opened in 2019, offers sustainable coastal cuisine set against a coastal/boho decor.
- The Sun Deck: casual eatery located right on the beach with great cocktails and small eats.
- Babcock & Story Bar: featuring the hotel’s original mahogany bar.
- Taco Shack: located on the beach this casual shack serves cocktails and tacos.
- ENO Market & Pizzeria: Grab and go foods for the beach and delicious coffee.
Christmas at the hotel del
One of the most magical places during Christmas in San Diego is the Hotel Del Coronado. People flock here for the experience, ice skating rink, and winter village. There are multiple Christmas trees throughout the property, an actual ice skating rink on the beach, and artisanal stands selling hot chocolate and snacks. For more Christmas Activities in San Diego head to this blog post!
LOCALS FUN FACT: There is a historic home in Coronado that resembles the Hotel Del. The locals call it “The Baby Del”. It’s one of San Diego’s most historic landmarks. Located at 1144 Isabella Avenue.
Things to Do in Coronado
Visit the Hotel Del Coronado: Stating the obvious here but a visit to The Del is a MUST.
Rent Beach Chairs at The Hotel Del: The perfect summer activity chair rentals start at $25.
Visit the Ferry Landing: You can find loads of things to do at the Coronado Ferry Landing. From shopping to dining or just chilling at the little beach and watching the boats go by. Finally, it has the best San Diego skyline views.
Take a Gondola Ride: Cruise the Coronado Cays with this Venetian-style gondola ride. Packages start at $119 and you can find more information on booking here.
Take a Trolley Ride: The Old Town trolley tour goes throughout Coronado and is a great way to see all of the island in a short amount of time.
Rent Bikes: One of the best ways to experience the island is by renting bikes. Being that the island is only 1.5 miles long it’s super easy to view all of it within an hour or two on bikes and you truly get to see the charm of this island. Also, you can have the optimal beach cruiser experience.
Have a picnic in Spreckels Park: Spreckels Park is located on Orange Avenue and is a great place to post up with a picnic. In the summer on Sunday they have a concerts series and you can check out the schedule here.
Historic Walking Tour: If you want to really dive into Coronado History then consider a walking tour that shows you all the highlights.
Go to the beach: Coronado has tons of beaches to visit. The most famous one is Coronado Beach. Silver Strand State Beach, dog beach. and Silver Strand Beach.
Best Restaurants + Eateries
The Henry ($$): My favorite restaurant on the island that is great for brunch, walk-up coffee, or dinner! Get the french toast and thank me later.
Little Frenchie ($$): Parisian-style restaurant serving delicious cocktails and french inspired meals. Also great for brunch!
Miguels Cocina ($$): Delicious Mexican food – get the queso!
Il Fornaio ($$$): Italian fine dining with beautiful views of downtown San Diego.
Buona Forchetta ($$): Casual Italian restaurant serving Napolean-style pizzas and delicious pasta.
Best Photo Spots on Coronado Island
*photos above are in order of the list
- The Hotel Del
- Coronado Bridge Viewpoint
- Centennial Park
- Bayview Park
- Coronado Beach
Well, that about covers it friends! Thank you for reading my “Things to Do in Coronado: a Locals Guide” I hope you’ve found some useful information to use for your trip and if you have any questions at all, comment below!
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