Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Hotel Del Coronado: A Perfect Summer Vacation at the Perfect Hotel on the Perfect Beach

The "perfect beach" at Hotel Del Coronado

In The Endless Summer, Bruce Brown's timeless cinematic paean to sun, sand and surf, two eager young surfers, Mike Hynson, the legendary San Diego waterman, and Robert August set out on a worldwide adventure in search of the perfect wave. When I first watched that film in my teens, Mike and Robert's Quixotic hunt for perfection inspired me to embark on my own search. Not for the perfect wave, but for the Perfect Beach. It has proved to be an almost lifelong quest.

I've always been a romantic when it comes to the sun, the sand and the sea. For me, the beach is a place to celebrate your life. The beach is about laughter and friendships and romance and tan lines and digging your toes in the sand and tossing the football and hearing a song while soaking up the rays that reminds you of a time when you were 16 years old and ready to conquer the world. 

The beach is about renewal. It's about remembering and embracing everything good in your life. The beach calms. It soothes. It centers. It inspires. It brings you back to what matters in your life. And for me, now, the beach is above all else about family.

But it wasn't until this summer that I finally, mercifully found the Perfect Beach that I've been seeking all these years. And it was much closer to home than I had imagined. Maybe I knew it all along. But all I really had to do was check in with my family to the Hotel Del Coronado, the Victorian masterpiece in Coronado, California, not far from my San Diego home, then step out onto Coronado Beach. 

Hotel Del's Perfect Beach
And there it was! That Perfect Beach I'd been looking for most of my life was right here. The Hotel Del rests on arguably the most enviable piece of beach real estate of any hotel in the continental United States. The impossibly scenic 1.5 mile-long Coronado beach has long been a Mecca for those in search of health, recreation and relaxation. I've enjoyed this beautiful spot myself countless times, but didn't realize just how magical it was until I staycationed there a few weeks ago. Paradise found!

Coronado is a very special place

Coronado is within eyeshot of San Diego, but you have to take a ferry or a towering bridge over San Diego Bay to get there, or drive almost to the border then come back up the Silver Strand. Coronado is technically not an island, it's a peninsula, but for all practical purposes and for the purposes of this story it is indeed an island set unto itself. 

When you're in Coronado, which is mostly residential and has one movie theater, one main street, and some very charming and pricey old homes, you feel like you've traveled back in time. It has a vaguely pre-Vietnam War, early 60's vibe. And when you step out of your hotel room at the Del and onto that sun-drenched beach, which is simultaneously rustic and pristine, it feels blissfully far away from the maddening crowd.

Consistently ranked one of the top beaches in the United States and in some of the more enlightened polls the whole world, the beach fronting the Hotel Del has lured visitors for more than a century. Many of you will recognize it from the classic comedy Some Like it Hot with Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis (below).

Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis & Marilyn Monroe on the Perfect Beach
Known for its wide flat sandy expanse and relatively calm waters -- you can ride small waves here, but hardcore surfers can enjoy the bigger waves just a few miles north -- this beloved beach became even closer to perfection this summer after the resort unveiled something called Del Beach, a luxurious new waterfront set-up featuring plush daybeds and half-moon cabanas, personalized service for food and drinks, and a bunch of cool recreational activities for kids of all ages.

The new programs and activities -- including a lively beach playground for kids and boogie board, surfboard, stand-up paddle and kayak rentals -- is the first West Coast operation to be managed by Boucher Brothers, a Miami-based hospitality management company charged with setting up and managing the beach daily from sunrise to sunset.

Adding a sophisticated new dimension to the picture postcard backdrop are new furnishings, beach towels and other accoutrements – in a crisp white and striped burgundy. Guests and locals alike can rent chaise lounges complete with cushions and terry covers, expansive fringed sun umbrellas, half-moon cabanas for two with sun shade, and plush daybeds. 

It all makes for the Perfect Beach experience. Furthering its beachfront appeal, the resort also offers food and beverage service -- complete with salads, sandwiches, mai tais and margaritas -- literally right on the sand. You don't have to move a muscle, and the staff goes out of its way to make sure you are content. 

The Perfect Tunes for the Perfect Beach

Ipod on the Beach -
When you go, I recommend you bring your iPod or whatever device you use to listen to your music. Load it up with your favorite tunes just to make the experience even more enjoyable and relaxing. I put a bunch of beachy/summery songs on a playlist and listened while I enjoyed Del Beach. I wanted to stay on that beach forever, just listening to music, drinking ice cold tea, watching our daughter swim with her friends, and holding hands with my wife, who was just as blissed out as I was. 

This is my "Perfect Beach" playlist (with a few of my own songs thrown in there just to remind myself that I did have a record deal once upon a time):

All Summer Long - Beach Boys
All Summer Long - Kid Rock
Hotel California - The Eagles 
Boys of Summer - Don Henley
Breezin' - George Benson
Summer Moon - Jamie Reno
Feels so Good - Chuck Mangione
Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams
Big Kahuna - Jamie Reno
Warmth of the Sun - Beach Boys
Don't Wory Baby - Beach Boys
California - Phantom Planet
Summertime Sadness - Lana Del Ray
Boston Blues - Jamie Reno
Peaceful Easy Feeling - The Eagles 
Ask - The Smiths 
Comfortably Numb - Pink Floyd
Beat This Summer - Brad Paisley
Schools Out - Alice Cooper
Windansea - Jamie Reno

Summer Breeze - Seals & Crofts
Surfer Girl - Beach Boys

California Girls - Beach Boys
The Girl from Ipanema - Astrud Gilberto & Stan Getz
Away - Jamie Reno 

Wipeout - The Surfaris
Vacation - The Go Go's
Summertime - DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince

Summer in the Seventies - Jamie Reno
My Wave - Surf Punks
Love and Mercy - Brian Wilson
In the Summertime - Mungo Jerry

Hot Fun in the Summertime - Sly and the Family Stone
Saturday in the Park - Chicago
Rock Lobster - The B-52s

Still More Beach Activities

More activities at Del Beach include boating, bike rentals, surfing, boogie boarding, yoga on the beach, an interactive kids’ play area on the beach with a wooden boat and kids’ toys, nightly s’mores where families can enjoy a crackling fire pit under the stars, 'Dive-in' movies where you can plunge into the main pool and watch movies with the family every Tuesday evening, and much more.

USA Today and other national media announced “Dr. Beach’s” annual picks for the best beaches in May 2012, and Coronado was named No. 1 in America. “Dr. Beach” -- also known as Stephen Leatherman, director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research -- uses 50 criteria in selecting the best beaches, including water and sand quality, facilities and environmental management.

Coronado’s expansive white sand and endless sunshine make it the perfect spot for summer  adventures for all ages. The sprawling shoreline is great for jogging or walking along the Pacific. Coronado’s generally small waves are perfect for learning to surf or boogie board. And the Coronado bike trail, which runs along Glorietta Bay and the beachfront walk, is safe, easy to navigate and beautiful year-round.
You've still got plenty of summer days left. It's not too late for a summer trip to the Del. I think you'll like it as much as I did. It is the perfect summer vacation. At the perfect hotel. On the Perfect Beach.

Where: Hotel del Coronado
1500 Orange Avenue
Coronado, CA 92118
Phone: 619.435.6611/800-HOTEDEL


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