Nestled in the heart of the San Diego Bay, Coronado Island has won the hearts of locals and tourists alike for nearly 100 years. This vibrant community offers a rich history combined with a fun-packed list perfect for family-friendly vacation activities.
If you’re visiting the region, Coronado is well worth a day trip, or even an entire vacation in itself.
1. Visit Coronado Beach
Winning awards all around the country for best beach, Coronado’s shoreline takes priority when visiting the island. The mile and a half stretch of golden beach actually sparkles thanks to small pieces of mica embedded in the sand. With the protective Point Loma off in the distance, this beach enjoys mild waves, which are perfect for families exploring.
2. Tour the Hotel Del Coronado
While you’re on the beach, make sure to take time to visit one of the most iconic buildings in all of San Diego County, if not all of California, the Hotel Del Coronado. The living legend’s 130-year history weaves stories of dignitaries, celebrities and even royalty on the path to becoming a National Historic Landmark. There’s even a very intriguing ghost story laced into the saga.
Celebrating the enchanting history surrounding the luxurious hotel, the Coronado Historical Association hosts 90-minute walking tours through the property.
Whether you’re a guest of the hotel or not, it’s possible to take advantage of cabana, cabanette and lounge chair rentals at Del Beach (pictured above). Here, you can order food and fun drinks like the Del Margarita to the sand.
We love staycationing at this famous hotel which you can book right here. La Jolla Mom readers have access to value-added Virtuoso amenities that include:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability (room upgrades are not possible in Beach Village)
- Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
- $100 USD Spa Services credit (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
*If on a mobile device, scroll to the footer and click “Full Site” to access online rates and booking. Do not enter the number of children traveling as they’ll be priced as adults. Add them to the notes section and I’ll correct your reservation. Please read my detailed Hotel Del Coronado guide which stays up-to-date about their renovation and how it might impact your stay.
3. Go Tide Pooling
If it’s low tide, tide pools reveal themselves in front of the Hotel Del Coronado. Here, you might spy sea anemones, hermit crabs and more in addition to lots of sand dollars tucked into the sand along the shoreline.
4. Visit a Sunken Ship
The SS Monte Carlo, a ship famous for gambling and prostitution, was anchored off the coast of Coronado. During a storm in 1937, the anchor lost hold and the boat drifted to shore. Because both activities were illegal onshore, no one claimed ownership of the boat. During very low tides, the outline of the boat becomes visible in the sand. Its location is about a quarter-mile south of the Hotel Del Coronado.
5. Take a Walking Tour of Coronado Island
The famous Hotel Del Coronado isn’t the only structure worth seeing. In fact, Coronado has a rich architectural history that has resulted in an eclectic display of different style homes throughout the island. From decedent Spanish styled casas to Mediterranean villas, it’s hard to find another town with such a vibrant architectural display.
The Coronado Historical Association hosts Coronado Heritage Walks diving into both the history of the island as well the famous building and residents.
6. Give In To Your Sweet Tooth
Going on vacation always gives you a perfect excuse to give into your sweet tooth, and Coronado gives you a decadent list of different sweets to relish. From eating ice cream at the beloved Moo Time Creamery to biting into something savory at Coronado Cupcakery to exploring the pastries of Europe at Tartine, no matter your indulgence, you’ll find it on the island.
7. Master the Seas
It’s not only land activities that win Coronado constant fame. Their watersports lineup will leave any sailor or water enthusiast completely satisfied. From kayaking with the occasional dolphins and meandering sea lions to sunset sailing to embracing a surge of power with jet skis and powerboats, Seaforth Boat Rentals can help you with any water activity you’re looking to test out. This vibrant line up appeals to everyone from those answering the need for speed to the casual water goers looking for a relaxing day out.
If you’d like to explore other places to encounter native sea lions, check out our guide to La Jolla’s sea lions.
8. Learn Surfing or Test out Stand Up Paddle Boarding
While surfing may take more time to master than you have in a quick trip, a few lessons will have you up on your feet and feeling the rush of adrenaline when you catch that next wave. It’s also one of the most iconic Southern Californian sports to partake in. Taking a lesson with Coronado Surfing Academy can help you “hang ten” before you know it.
Should you be looking for a sport a little easier to master, consider tackling stand up paddleboarding (SUP). Typically requiring only a short lesson to master, even beginners can be exploring the bay on their first day out. SUP Coronado can help you get squared away and out on the water. While sightings are rare, the San Diego Bay is home to a group of sea turtles. A SUP board gives you the perfect vantage point to see the majestic creatures in the wild.
Coronado’s gentle waves or bay access provides a perfect launching point to learn either sport.
9. Bike Around the Island
Once you’ve seen the island from the water, it’s time to set out exploring from dry land. Enjoying the quintessential southern California town ambiance, few modes of transportation compare to the classic beach cruiser. The slow pace of the island combined with the flat terrain makes Coronado one of the most bike-friendly areas in the region.
You can bike along the coast all the way south to the Silver Strand bike path or meander to all the various parks on the island. Wheel Fun Rentals can help you and your family get set up on a variety of different wheel styles, including the classic beach cruiser.
10. Rent a Golf Cart
Between bikes, car services like Uber and the ferry, it’s possible to go carless in Coronado. It’s said that the best way to explore Coronado is by golf cart and it’s possible to rent one from 2 hours up to or 30 days (or longer) through Coronado Golf Cart Rentals. These golf carts seat from two to eight people.
11. Up Your Golf Game
No matter the time of year, the green is always open. This gives snowbird golfers a big advantage when wanting to keep their golf game fresh over the winter season. The Coronado Golf Course combines an immaculate course with a challenging design and slips in stunning views of the bay and occasional passing Navy ships for an epic game of golf.
112. Visit Spreckels Park
As crazy as it may sound now, you might find a day that you’re looking for a small reprieve from the beach. Luckily, there’s the charming Spreckles Park located right in the center of the island. With a big play area for children and large grass areas for picnics, this park is perfect for an afternoon out.
13. Stroll Along Orange Avenue
Filled to the brim with boutique shops, mouthwatering eateries and one-of-a-kind jewelry shops, strolling along Orange Avenue will showcase the best and most unique shops of the region. Coronado prides itself on celebrating the small business owner and promoting distinct shops you can’t find elsewhere. Retail chains are highly discouraged, so know that pretty much every store you encounter is a one-of-a-kind. That goes for eateries as well.
14. Take in a Show at Lamb’s Players Theater
Celebrating over 45 years of show biz, Lamb’s Players Theater entertains playgoers year-round. Through their plays, they create narratives that celebrate the traditions of communities, question contemporary culture, commend diversity and more. As one of Southern California’s leading non-profit performing arts organizations, they work with students throughout the county in addition to their performance lineup.
15. Enjoy the Summer Concert Series
Each summer, an entire series of musical ensembles engulfs Spreckels Park as bands present to an adoring audience every Sunday throughout the summer. Starting in May and wrapping up in September, Coronado’s Free Summer Concert Series is one of the most cherished events on the island.
16. Explore Art in the Park
Showcasing the creative brilliance of more than 50 artists, Coronado’s Art in the Park is a true gem of island life. This year-round event takes over Spreckels Park in Coronado Village the first and third Sunday of every month. From enjoying the delightful display of stained glass to admiring vibrant oil paintings to appreciating the fine details of an etching, this event highlights incredible talent in nearly every art field.
17. Start a Bonfire
After a lovely day soaking up the sunrays at the beach, you might not be ready to give into the night quite yet. Keep the festivities alive with a beach bonfire. Coronado has several fire pits free to the public. Add in a few marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers to add a tasty s’more element to your evening.
From an oceanside bonfire in Coronado you can catch the fireworks Sea World sets during the evenings of the summer months.
18. Savor Flavors at the Tuesday Farmers Market
When it comes to fresh and bursting with flavor, few eateries can compare to the freshness of the Coronado Farmers Market. This year-round festivity brings baskets upon baskets of fresh produce, local wares and scrumptious bites to Ferry’s Landing. As one of the longest-standing markets in the county, this Tuesday marketplace pulls produce from some of the 6,000 farms in the region. Make sure to ask for the certified organic growers.
19. Dive into History
Curious about the series of events that led Coronado to become the cherished island it is? From its beginnings under the Spanish flag to the experiments growing barley to its thriving whaling industry to growing into a beloved American military town, Coronado’s rich history can keep you captivated for an entire afternoon at the Coronado Museum of History and Art.
20. Enjoy the Ferry Ride
Whether you are looking for the most scenic transportation to Coronado or taking the afternoon to explore San Diego’s Gaslamp District, you can’t beat the Coronado Ferry. This short twenty-minute ride showcases the beauty of the San Diego skyline and provides breathtaking views of the sweeping Coronado Bridge.
For a real treat, plan your journey near sunset.
Have you ever explored Coronado?
Let me know what your favorite activities were or if I missed any!
See also: Best Coronado Restaurants