Robert Arends

Aloha – 5 Fun Tiki Finds Throughout San Diego!

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Aloha from San Diego! ūüėČ

Yep, some really cool Hawaiian and South Seas influences, architecture and tikis (my favorite!) can be found throughout San Diego, particularly Shelter Island on San Diego Bay, Point Loma, Mission Valley and Mission Bay.

Why, you ask?

Well, after WWII, American soldiers and sailors returned home from the South Pacific with stories, souvenirs, music and more from these tropical islands, to the delight of the American public who romanticized exotic island cultures. A bit later (in 1959) Hawaii became a state, further fueling the popularity of all things Polynesian.

Being a big Navy town on the Pacific, San Diego was a prime spot to celebrate and recreate tiki culture. Sadly, by the 1980s, Polynesian influences around town began to disappear as contemporary tastes and design took hold. But, lucky for us, fun tiki finds remain if you know where to look.

Following are my top 5:

1. Bali Hai Restaurant

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Mr. Bali Hai tiki at Bali Hai Restaurant, Shelter Island

Bali Hai Restaurant, opened in 1954 on Shelter Island, is a local “tiki temple” of sorts with hand-carved tiki sculptures –¬†including Mr. Bali Hai, shown here, and the “Goof on the Roof”¬†–¬†and genuine Polynesian artifacts filling every nook and cranny. You can even take home your very own souvenir tiki mug!

Where: 2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about the Bali Hai Restaurant

2. Crowne Plaza Hotel

Tiki Oasis art at Crown Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

Tiki Oasis art at Crown Plaza Hotel, Mission Valley

Also opened in 1954, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Mission Valley (formerly Hanalei Hotel) is a slice of paradise on the San Diego River. It has retained much of its Hawaiian-themed luster from yesteryear; tikis and Polynesian art can be found in the lobby, restaurant and around the tropical pool area. It’s also the site of the big annual¬†Tiki Oasis convention, the “biggest Tiki Weekender on the planet.” I’ll be there!

Where: 2270 Hotel Circle N, San Diego, CA 92108
> Find out more about the Crowne Plaza Hotel

3. Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites

A little bit of Hawaii at Humphrey's Half Moon Inn, Shelter Island

A little bit of Hawaii at Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn, Shelter Island

Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites (built-in 1959) on Shelter Island is a landmark Tiki Modern resort with a soaring lobby roof that extends out like a giant Polynesian fishing canoe complete with a lantern used to attract fish. This is as real as it gets!

Where: 2303 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites

4. ¬†Trader Mort’s¬†Liquor Store

Playful tiki at Trader Mort's Liquor Store, Point Loma

Playful tiki at Trader Mort’s Liquor Store, Point Loma

Nearby Trader Mort’s Liquor Store in Point Loma (originally named the Hooch Hut –¬†love it!) is famous for its tiki hut design and tongue-wagging tiki god out front.

Where: 2904 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Trader Mort’s Liquor Store

5. The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay

Tiki at The Dana hotel on Mission Bay

Tiki at The Dana hotel on Mission Bay

Amongst the lush gardens at The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay there’s a mighty tiki warrior sculpture greeting guests; one of my fav tiki finds!

Where: 1710 W Mission Bay Dr, San Diego, CA 92109
> Find out more about The Dana Hotel on Mission Bay

Get into the Tiki Spirit with a Guided Tour

You can also get into the “spirit of aloha‚ÄĚ in San Diego by taking a two-hour Surf and Tiki Tour¬†of 20 local tiki statues and other hidden spots you won’t find in guidebooks.

Your¬†tiki-inspired escape¬†to paradise awaits… in San Diego! ūüôā


A Whole New View of Balboa Park with Snap Photo Tours

I’ve been to Balboa Park¬†countless times; visiting the museums, going on field trips with my kids, or simply enjoying the gardens. I thought I had seen it all…that is until I signed us up for a photo tour of Balboa Park.

We went with¬†Snap Photo Tours, who¬†specializes in photo tours of some of San Diego’s best sights including: Balboa Park, Coronado, and the Gaslamp Quarter. Their guides are just as much experts behind the camera as they are on the tours themselves.

Learning the Basics with Snap Photo Tours

Learning the Basics with Snap Photo Tours.

Our two-hour guided tour started with basic photo tips and how to avoid taking the “tourist shot” (which I’m sad to say I was guilty of). After learning the basics, we headed over to many of the famous and not so famous landmarks of Balboa Park learning a new “trick” for taking photos at each stop. From lighting, to angles, to framing, we were taking great photos in no time!

Different Perspective of the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park

Different Perspective of the Organ Pavilion

One of my favorite stops was at the Organ Pavilion. I’ve walked past the Organ Pavilion numerous times, but never stopped to appreciate the details and lines of the building.

Exploring the Organ Pavilion

Exploring the Organ Pavilion

My two kids ages, 9 and 11 loved the tour and had a great time. I think they actually took better photos than I did.

Photo Tour of Balboa Park

A great shot of the kids that avoids the “tourist photo.”

> Find out more about Snap Photo Tours’ guided tours in Balboa Park


High Speeds and Boatloads of Fun

speeding past a sailboat... eat our dust!

Last week, I had the time of my life on a San Diego Speedboat Adventures harbor tour. The new, two-hour tour allows YOU to jump in the Captain’s seat and drive a mini speedboat around San Diego Bay for a 13-mile guided tour.  

My friend and I decided to share driving duties, so we each had the opportunity to put the pedal to the metal and sit back and take in the sights. Following our tour guide‚Äôs lead boat, we zigged and zagged and bounced over waves, we sped past sailboats and harbor cruises and screamed and laughed the entire time.¬† My favorite part of the tour was making a U-turn underneath the Coronado Bridge. (Well, my turn was more of a ‚ÄúC‚ÄĚ because I cut the corner a little sharp, but you get the gist.)¬†

Tour highlights include up-close views of sea lions, Naval ships, the USS Midway Museum and Maritime Museum of San Diego.  We also got one-of-a-kind views of Coronado, the Coronado Bridge and the downtown skyline.

This sightseeing tour is like nothing I’ve ever done before and it definitely a MUST DO!!! Tours are offered daily at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.; prices are $100 for a single person boat, $59 per person for a two person boat and $39 for kids.  

Gerrard, our tour guide

the route around San Diego Bay

check out that skyline! ignore the windblown faces

Guest Blogger

Veterans, It’s Your Day

Veterans Day Parade 2008Veterans Day falls on November 11, the anniversary of the Armistice of World War I — not a great battle but an achievement of peace.¬† Each year, San Diego honors United States veterans with the San Diego County Veterans Day Parade taking place downtown on Pacific Highway beginning at 11:00 A.M.¬† Everyone is invited to come and see one of San Diego’s most spectacular parades.

After the parade, you can visit the U.S.S. Midway Museum and watch as its newest addition — a restored World War II Corsair fighter plane — is lifted onto the fight deck.¬† Veterans will receive free admission to the museum and $1 from every ticket sold that day will be donated to the Veterans Village of San Diego.

While you’re there, check out the collection of military memorials along the bay, between the U.S.S. Midway and Seaport Village.

Building on the spirit of the occasion, LEGOLAND California has recreated the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in miniature.¬† The mini-memorial is situated in the park’s¬† Miniland, between the mini Lincoln Memorial and the mini Washington Memorial, just like the real thing in Washington, D.C.

Vietnam Memorial at LEGOLAND California

Also in honor of Veterans Day, Old Town Trolley Tours of San Diego will treat all veterans — active duty, retired, and honorably discharged — to an entertaining and enlightening city sightseeing tour on Wednesday, November 11.¬† Just bring your valid ID card showing active duty or retirement, or a DD214 (proof of release from the military), to any Old Town Trolley booth for your complimentary boarding pass.

And just so you know, the world-famous San Diego Zoo offers free admission all year round to active duty military personnel (U.S. and foreign) with valid military ID. Spouses and dependents receive 10% discount on the Best Value Admission, which includes bus tour and Skyfari aerial tram.

Here’s to making a happy Veterans Day happen in San Diego!

Guest Blogger

Tour Petco Park

I kind of like visiting Petco Park when nobody is around — no baseball players messing up the field, no fans standing around making a big racket and blocking the impressive vistas of beautiful San Diego all around the stadium.¬† I can’t tell whether that’s a provocative statement or not; just a thought I had during my tour of Petco Park.¬† The home of the Padres was the groundbreaker in downtown San Diego‚Äôs neo-renaissance in the early part of the century (opening in 2004).¬† It’s another impressive landmark here in San Diego, and as with many of the attractions here, the closer you look, the more impressive it is.

What can you expect to learn on a tour of a mere baseball stadium?¬† A lot more than I expected, as it turns out.¬† On my tour, I was exposed to fascinating facts and trivia regarding the world of baseball, sports journalism, city planning, and Petco Park‚Äôs unique architecture; not to mention some good baseball gossip.¬† I would love to go into some of my tour guide’s act here, but this is one instance when you really have to be there.

"All right, team, let's hustle out there and buy some swag!"

"All right, team - let's hustle on out there and buy some swag!"

Walking around in the Padres’ house when the Padres aren’t home really emphasizes the vastness and versatility of the structure, which could easily double as a small city complete with restaurants, parks, museums and a sandy beach.

"The Beach"

Bleachers On the Beach

Yes, a park and a sandy beach! Ever tried “Park In the Park?”¬† $5 will get you into a game and onto a nice patch of grass as well as grant you more access to the stadium than you might think.¬† Bleacher seats cost $9 and include access to a sandlot in right field.¬† It’s a great option for moms and dads who don’t want to spend the game wrangling kids back into their seats.

The park is wide open to views of the playing field, and if you’re a wanderer like me, you can enjoy a game from almost any vantage point in the joint.¬† (The many premium lounges, suites and boxes will cost you, though.)

Walk-up tours are available to the public Tuesday through Sunday.  Adults are $9, seniors $6, children under 13 $5, and active military $8, with discounts for groups of 25 or more.

On evening game days, a game ticket plus an Early Bird Tour ticket will get you inside the park an hour before the gates open so you can get to know your ballpark before the game.