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! 🙂

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Robert Arends

Resort to Fun with Outdoor Activities in Coronado this Spring!

Coronado Beach
Coronado Beach

Spring over to Coronado Beach, the #1 beach in America

Spring is just around the corner (March 20) and with the weather warming up, now is a perfect time to plan your Spring Break and discover the great outdoors of Coronado Island!

With miles of beaches and coastline on the sparkling Pacific and San Diego Bay, there are countless options for fun in the water including surfing, sailing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding and more.  On land, the “Crown City” has just as much to offer: bicycling, inline skating, golf, tennis… and the list goes on.

Here are my top picks of things to do at Coronado’s big four fab resorts and hotels where outdoor activities abound:

The Gondola Company near Loews Coronado Bay Resort

The Gondola Company near Loews Coronado Bay Resort

Loews Coronado Bay Resort was made for play and enjoys the best of both watery worlds, situated on a peninsula on San Diego Bay just steps from Silver Strand State Beach and the ocean. Fun ways to soak in the sun include swimming in three pools (including one for adults only), surfing, sailing, kayaking, bicycling, rollerblading, cool interactive nature tours of the Silver Strand (a pristine preserve of rare plants, animals and birds) and tours of the resort’s herb garden.

Did you know: Just down the road from Loews, The Gondola Company offers enchanting cruises on authentic Venetian gondolas!

Flamingos, finches and ducks - oh my! - at the Coronado Island Marriott

Flamingos, finches and ducks – oh my! – at the Coronado Island Marriott

I recently stayed at Coronado Island Marriott Resort where surprising outdoor finds made for quite a memorable visit, especially the aviary of finches, a flock of pink flamingos and families of ducks wading in ponds; photo opps galore! There’s also bicycling along beautiful bay-side paths, tennis and swimming/sunbathing in three pools. The resort even has its own private pier where you can take a water taxi across the bay to downtown San Diego.

Kayak Under the Coronado Bridge

Coronado Kayak Tour

Did you know: At the nearby Coronado Ferry Landing, the new Coronado Kayak Tour is San Diego’s only urban kayaking adventure, and glides under the iconic blue arch of the Coronado Bridge!

The landmark Hotel del Coronado is a grand playground to explore with recreational options that take full advantage of its location on the #1 beach in America.  There’s yoga on the beach, beach volleyball and beach rentals including boogie boards, surfboards and beach cruisers from PeDels (gotta love the name!). At night, s’mores on the beach is a sweet way to end the day.

Did you know: The Del’s tide break of giant boulders is a great spot to explore tidepools teeming with marine life.

Fore! at Coronado Golf Course

Fore! at Coronado Golf Course

The charming Glorietta Bay Inn is in a prime location overlooking Glorietta Bay, home to the Coronado Boathouse where sailboat, speedboat, water ski, jet ski, paddleboat and kayak rentals are available. The Inn is also just down the street from the Coronado Tennis Center (8 courts) and scenic Coronado Golf Course. Golfers will love Glorietta Bay Inn’s new Golf Play & Stay package which includes one round of golf and a golf cart.

Did you know: On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Coronado Touring offers fascinating historic walking tours of downtown Coronado, departing from the Glorietta Bay Inn.

Happy Spring (almost)…See you in Coronado!

Robert Arends

Winning! Chic New Viejas Hotel Opens in East County

Viejas Casino and Resort
Viejas Casino and Resort

Viejas Casino & Resort

Yours truly was invited to the grand opening of the new Viejas Hotel, located in the rolling foothills of Alpine next door to Viejas Casino and across the street from the popular Viejas Outlets.

Their new name is Viejas Casino & Resort. Did you know: the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians becomes San Diego’s fifth tribe to open a hotel connected to its casino.

The shindig will include a ribbon cutting, traditional Kumeyaay songs and a Native American blessing, and sneak peek of “Rise,” a dramatic new Cirque-style show that premieres at the hotel this Saturday, followed by a spectacular fireworks display. I can’t wait!

What to Expect at the New Viejas Hotel

Rendering of chic new Viejas Hotel

Rendering of chic new Viejas Hotel

The sophisticatedly modern $36 million hotel is 5 stories high and features 128 rooms (including 29 suites), a pool and hot tub with cabanas (SO SoCal!), state-of-the-art fitness center, free Internet/WiFi, and an expanded all-you-can-eat buffet next door. Each room has 40″ Samsung TVs, locally made furniture and art, nightly turn down service, his and her robes (nice touch!), iPod clock radios and Gilchrist & Soames bath and body products. Some suites even include fireplaces, tubs with whirlpool jets (just say ahhh!) and wet bars (I’ll toast to that 😉 ).

Rendering of Presidential Suite at Viejas Hotel

Rendering of Presidential Suite at Viejas Hotel

A few months back I explored the model guestrooms and I’ve got to say, they’re swanky, warm and inviting, with a metropolitan touch that reminds me of chic boutique hotels in Manhattan. There’s nothing else like it in these parts!

More to do near Viejas Casino & Resort

This spring as you explore the wildflowers of East County, stop by Viejas Casino & Resort to play the slots, shop 60 name-brand outlet stores, indulge at the buffet and rest your head for a memorable overnight stay amidst the beautiful backdrop of Alpine’s rural setting.

Insider tip: While you’re there, pick up a $5 bag of fresh avocados or oranges from one of the roadside vendors!

Sage & Songbirds Festival - Butterflies

Butterfly releases at Sage & Songbirds Festival.

And planning ahead… Time your visit to also check out Alpine’s 16th Annual Sage & Songbirds Garden Tour on May 3-5, featuring a free festival at Viejas Outlets that includes a live butterfly exhibit and daily butterfly releases, plus an outdoor plant and art sale. There will also be garden tours of local bird- and butterfly-friendly home gardens and the Sky Hunters raptor rehabilitation facility, home to magnificent hawks, owls and other bird of prey. Cost for the gardens/Sky Hunters tour is $15 per person before April 1.

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Suzzanne

California’s Only Triple 5-Star Resort is in San Diego

San Diego’s own The Grand Del Mar has achieved a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star award, making it the first and only hotel in San Diego to ever attain Five Stars and the only property in California to earn three 2012 Five-Star awards for Lodging, Spa and Dining. The Five-Star Lodging award places the resort in the elite company of only 57 high-end hotels and resorts throughout the world to hold this designation. Additionally, The Grand Del Mar retained its AAA Five Diamond hotel rating for the third straight year, while Addison has earned the AAA Five Diamond distinction for the fourth consecutive year.


This distinction is testament to the resorts mission of providing luxury and quality to San Diego visitors. At The Grand Del Mar, visitors will enjoy the old-world charm of a Mediterranean estate with the modern luxury of an elegant resort. The resort offers stunning natural beauty set amongst the Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, a championship golf course, award winning spa and irresistible dining – epitomized by Addison.

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Brent Bernasconi

Exploring the Fun at Loews Coronado Resort

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Since Loews Coronado Bay Resort is giving away 20 room nights as part of their 20th anniversary, our Coronado expert Robert gave us his ideas of what he would do if he won the sweepstakes. He also had a chance to drive over the iconic Coronado Bridge to the Crown City and take a peek at some of the great activities including stand-up paddle boarding, beach and kayak tours along the Silver Strand State Beach and gondola cruises that take off from the Loews Marina.

Make sure to enter the “20 Days, Your Way” sweepstakes for a chance to win 20 room nights at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort and you too can enjoy all of these exciting and relaxing activities! Enter now…

Robert Arends

Historic Highways 80 and 94 Road Trip this Saturday!

Mountain views along Historic Highways 80 and 94.

Road trip! If you’re up for adventure this weekend and looking to hit the open road, I’ve got the trip for you: the 6th Annual Passport Through Time Road Trip on Historic Highways 80 & 94.

For those not familiar with Highways 80 and 94, they’re like San Diego’s very own Route 66 – a slice of Americana traversing a scenic rural landscape leading to some fun and surprising roadside treasures.

The caravan of cars and motorcycles will cruise through San Diego’s “backyard’s backyard,” covering a distance of about 100 miles! It’s so leisurely paced though, with a dozen plus pit stops along the way, that you’ll hardly notice the miles fly by.

Speaking of pit stops, following are my Top 3 favorites on each historic highway…

Highway 94:

  • Barrett Junction Café is a favorite back road stop. Opened in 1946, the cafe is famous for its family-style fish fry. Check out the funky collection of antiques and historic photos lining the café’s walls and counters. A vintage ice box and antique phone (that still works) add to the country charm. 
  • Step back in time at the Potrero General Storewhich dates to the stagecoach era of the mid-1800s and has a friendly, small- town feel.  Café 94, a popular local diner connected to the general store, is the place for home-style comfort food.

    Motor Transport Museum.

  • The Motor Transport Museum in Campo one of my favorite backcountry attractions – home to 200+ antique trucks and other motor transport vehicles, plus an eclectic collection of photos/memorabilia related to automotive pioneers. It’s housed in the historic Campo Feldspar Mill, built in 1929.

Highway 80:

Wisteria Candy Cottage - delish!

  • The famous Wisteria Candy Cottage in Boulevard a family-run sweet shop housed in a one-room schoolhouse from 1921, is famous for its hand-dipped chocolates and other old-fashioned candies. Yum!

    Live Oak Springs' cozy cabins.

  • Live Oak Springs Resort, also in Boulevard, is a cozy and romantic mountain getaway known for its picturesque, two-story A-frame cabins. Nestled amongst the giant oak trees, they look like something right out a children’s storybook.

    Colorful Tryyn Gallery.

  • The Tryyn Gallery in Guatay a little-known artistic jewel, featuring a collection of handcrafted wooden cooking utensils and other unique wood carvings by craftsman Bill Chappelow, whose fine-wood designs are part of the Smithsonian collection in Washington, D.C.!

The Passport Road Trip begins at 9 a.m. at Simpson’s Nursery in Jamul (registration $20 per car) and ends at the Downtown Café in El Cajon at 3 p.m. with a sumptuous no host buffet, live entertainment and auctions to win some fab prizes.

Get your motor running and discover the delightfully diverse communities of San Diego’s East County!