Robert Arends

Escape to the Tropics of San Diego’s Mission Bay

Mission Bay Aquatic Park, a tropical escape!

Tropical Mission Bay Aquatic Park

You don’t have to fly hours to the South Pacific to feel warm ocean breezes, see swaying palm trees and wiggle your toes in soft white sand beaches while enjoying spectacular crimson sunsets.

Mission Bay, a 4,600-acre aquatic playground just north of downtown San Diego, features all that and much more: SeaWorld San Diego (celebrating its 50th anniversary), beachside resorts and restaurants, boating and recreational facilities…even luaus!

Mission Bay was first discovered in 1542 by explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who named it “False Bay” because of its shallow lagoons and saltwater marshes. Dredging in the late 1940s through the ’60s created what we see today: the largest man-made aquatic park in the United States!

An early historian envisioned Mission Bay would become the Venice of America. Well, it didn’t quite become a gondolier’s dream, but rather a tropical retreat better suited to its sparkling location on the Pacific.

[Tweet “Experience a little slice of vacation paradise in #SanDiego at these scenic spots on #MissionBay:”]

To experience a little slice of vacation paradise, look no further than these scenic spots on Mission Bay:

Paradise Point Resort & Spa

Paradise Point Resort, a tropical oasis on Mission Bay!

Paradise Point Resort, a tropical oasis on Mission Bay!

The name says it all! For over half a century this oasis on a private peninsula has lured travelers looking for a dreamy island escape.

> Find out more about the Paradise Point Resort & Spa

Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa

Fun summer luau at Catamaran Resort, Mission Bay

Fun summer luau at Catamaran Resort, Mission Bay

The Catamaran Resort is as Hawaiian as it gets, with lava-like fountains, tropical landscaping, live parrots and entertaining summer luaus!

> Find out more about the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa

Bahia Resort Hotel

Bahia Resort Hotel

Live like your own your own island at the Bahia Resort Hotel

The Brazilian-themed Bahia Resort, located on a secluded 14-acre peninsula, surrounds guests with island-inspired beauty from exotic palms and a rainbow of colorful flowers to splashing streams.

> Find out more about the Bahia Resort Hotel

Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

Poolside at the tropical Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

Poolside at the tropical Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

The luxe and lovely Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa is a romantic paradise of lush, tropical surroundings.

> Find out more about the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa

The Dana on Mission Bay

Cool tiki at The Dana on Mission Bay!

Cool tiki at The Dana on Mission Bay!

The Dana on Mission Bay is also pretty as a postcard with its 10 tropically landscaped acres – tikis and all! (for tiki fans, check out my list of fun San Diego tiki finds)

> Find out more about The Dana on Mission Bay

> Discover even more Tropical Fun in Mission Bay

Bring your leis and grass skirts and ease into the island vibe you’ll find on Mission Bay! 🙂

Robert Arends

Affordable Mission Valley – Where to Play and Stay!

View From Cowles Mountain

I’m on a “mission” (pun intended 😉 ) to find the most affordable sights, bites and places to stay in Mission Valley and share them with you for when you visit San Diego.

Find out how to win a stay in San Diego when you finish reading this post!

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Did You Know - Mission San Diego Alcala is one of four missions in San Diego County

Mission San Diego de Alcala in Mission Valley

Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first in a chain of 21 Alta California missions, is our first stop. For only $3 you can visit a small museum brimming with artifacts from the mission’s early years. It’s pretty cool and surreal being able to step back into time to the 1770s – especially with so much modern development in the valley now. Also be sure to check out the quaint chapel, padre’s quarters and stroll through the beautiful gardens, including a cool archeological dig!

Where: 10818 San Diego Mission Rd., San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about the Mission San Diego de Alcala

Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park

Just down the road is Mission Trails Regional Park, one of the nation’s largest urban natural parks covering over 6,005 acres and featuring 42 miles of scenic trails for hiking, mountain biking, birding and rock climbing. Best of all: it’s Free – everything! – including free guided nature walks every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 AM. Stop by the Visitor Center to get the lay of the land.

View From Cowles Mountain

A fantastic view from the top of Cowles Mountain

My favorite spots are the historic Old Mission Dam on the San Diego River and Cowles Mountain where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views of all of San Diego from its 1,592 foot peak!

The San Diego River

San Diego River flowing through Mission Vallley

San Diego River flowing through Mission Valley

Running through Mission Valley is the picturesque San Diego River. It’s sometimes hard to find through all the condos and shopping centers, but it’s there. Pedestrian/bicycling paths can be found along the Mission Valley Greenway between Texas Street and Hazard Center. There’s also urban kayaking, for the more adventuresome!

Mission Valley Eats

If you’ve worked up an appetite, at Mission Valley Center the popular new Broken Yolk Café is perfect for breakfast or brunch (recommend the eggs benedict and hash browns). Nearby Pho’ Cali serves up some of the tastiest Vietnamese beef noodle soups. And for dinner, local favorite Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza is yummy, as is Oki Ton Japanese Bistro, one of the best sushi bars in town!

Tiki Oasis in the Heart of San Diego

Tiki Oasis art at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

Tiki Oasis art at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

If you’re looking for a place to rest your head at night, look no further than Hotel Circle North and South dotted with numerous affordable motels, hotels and resorts. My personal fav is the tiki oasis known as Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly the Hanalei).

Back in the day it was much more tiki-fied, but remnants remain and it’s a hoot to spot Polynesian artifacts in the lobby and pool areas. The Crowne Plaza, BTW, is the site of 14th annual Tiki Oasis festival on August 14-17. I’ll be there! 🙂

Getting Around

Tip: To see all of Mission Valley in one fell swoop, catch a ride on the San Diego Trolley’s scenic Green Line which hugs the San Diego River. It only costs $2.50 ($5 for a day pass), with convenient stops at Mission Valley Center and Mission San Diego.

See you in Mission Valley – in the middle of it all!

Mission Possible: Stay and Play in San Diego Sweepstakes

Mission Possible: Stay and Play in San Diego Sweepstakes

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to stay and play in the heart of San Diego.

Enter for the chance to complete this mission with two nights at the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley, two tickets to a San Diego Padres game, meals at DEN restaurant, and two San Diego Trolley passes.

Just steps from the San Diego Marriott Mission Valley’s central location, the Rio Vista Trolley Station makes it a breeze to visit some of the best of San Diego offerings including Petco Park, Old Town, Gaslamp Quarter and the Embarcadero.

The entry page will self destruct on Monday, 9 June 2014, at 10:00 AM.

> Enter Now

Kate

Happy Hour is Tiki Time

I’m having a Calgon moment and a bubble bath won’t cut it.  I need something stronger.

What’s a girl to do when only a technicolor cocktail with an umbrella will suffice?

Follow the lead of generations of Californians and embrace Tiki culture, of course.  That way, I can take an exotic getaway – just for a happy hour (or two) – and I don’t even have to leave the Gaslamp Quarter much less blow 1000 bucks on airfare to Tahiti.

So, I’m heading to Mister Tiki’s Mai Tai Lounge for their $5 on Fifth happy hour specials. 

This is not the $5 drink.  What are you crazy?

This is not the $5 drink. What are you crazy?

Just five smackers will buy me my choice of fun island-inspired drinks like the Haole Mai Tai, Lilikoi Mojito or Coconut Kiss Martini.  And, my guy – he’s not a big umbrella fan- can enjoy a large Sapporo for the same price. 

Of course, the South Seas – like happy hour – are not just about the drinks. 

PuPus...fun to say and fun to eat!

PuPus are fun to say and even more fun to eat!

Mister Tiki’s deals cross over to the sushi bar where for five bucks you can choose from California, spicy tuna, spicy yellowtail, shrimp tempura or vegetarian rolls.  And, $5 PuPu specials offer modern takes on Tiki fare with crispy shitake & goat cheese wontons, spiced chicken potstickers, chicken lettuce wraps, tempura baby shrimp and calamari fries.

It’s a proven fact, PuPus are far superior to appetizers in elevating one’s mood.  And, tropical cocktails will make your happy hour happier than most other drinks.

Mister Tiki $5 on Fifth specials, Monday-Friday from 5-7 p.m. 

Mai Tai, take me away!