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

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 ‚ÄúCrown City‚ÄĚ has just as much to offer: bicycling, inline skating, golf, tennis‚Ķ 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!


Top Things to Do in San Diego: Nov. 12 – 17, 2013

dr. seuss how the grinch stole christmas old globe theater san diego

Enjoy a children’s classic come to life, take a private wine tour, or shop for some vintage wares this week in San Diego.

Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas Opens at the Old Globe

dr. seuss how the grinch stole christmas old globe theater san diego

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!¬†opens at the Old Globe Theatre this weekend.

The Old Globe Theatre kicks off its holiday season on Saturday, November 16th, with a top notch stage production of Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  In San Diego, we take our Dr. Seuss seriously Рwhich is why this whimsical musical has been dazzling local school children and families for nearly 16 years.  Suitable for ages 5+.

Where: 1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, CA 92101
When: Nov 16, 2013 – Dec 28, 2013
Time: Various (11:00 am matinees open to all ages)
Cost: $27-57
>Find out more about Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! at the Old Globe.

San Diego Wine Country Chauffeured Tours

San Diego winery tours

Experience San Diego’s beautiful vineyards up close on a personalized tour.

Take a six-hour guided tour of local wineries with San Diego Beer & Wine Tours, starting with pick-up and drop off right at your door (home or hotel). The guided tour includes visiting three family-owned wineries and indulging in more than 18 tastes from off the beaten path wineries. Meals include a fruit and cheese platter at the first winery and a dinner with spectacular vineyard views at the final destination.

Where: Door to door service
When:  Friday, Saturday or Sunday, November 15-17
Time:¬†11:00 a.m. pick up ‚Äď 6:00 p.m. drop off
Cost: $154 (tour guide gratuity not included)
>Find out more about San Diego Beer & Wine Tours 

High Tide Breakfast Buffet at the Marine Room

The delectable breakfast offerings include¬†banana chocolate brioche French toast, poached eggs Florentine and hickory smoked Pacific salmon (just to name a few items), but what makes this breakfast truly special is watching the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash up against the Marine Room’s giant picture windows.

Where: 2000 Spindrift Dr., La Jolla, CA 92037
When:  Saturday and Sunday, November 16 and 17
Time: 7:00 Р11:00 a.m.
Cost: $34 per person
>Find out more about High Tide Breakfast at the Marine Room

TNT (Thursday Night Thing) at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

MIHO Gastrotruck at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego TNT

Grab a bite from MIHO Gastrotruck at TNT at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

Part cocktail party, part concert and part art exhibition, the¬†Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego‘s TNT after-hours series proves that museums don’t have to be boring. Stop by the museum’s downtown location for¬†tours, art-making activities, live music from Family Wagon, tasty cocktails, and delicious bites from MIHO Gastrotruck.

Where: 1100 & 1001 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101
When:  Thursday, November 14
Time: 7:00 Р10:00 p.m.
Cost: Free for museum members, $8 for students, $10 for non-members
>Find out more about TNT at the Museum of Conteporary Art San Diego

Del Mar Antique Show & Sale

Del Mar Antique Show and Sale San Diego 2013

Antiques of all sorts can be found at the Del Mar Antique Show & Sale

Celebrating its 53rd year at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, this three-day event for antique lovers features everything from¬†furniture to fine art and vintage clothing and jewelry. The weekend also features a Costume Walkabout: this year’s theme is “A Day in the Fabled Land of Bollywood.”

Where: 1100 & 1001 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92101
When:  Friday РSunday, November 15 Р17
Time: 11:00 a.m. Р7:00 p.m. (Friday & Saturday), 11:00 a.m. Р5 p.m. (Sunday)
Cost: $8 for adults for all three days, free for children
>Find out more about the Del Mar Antique Show & Sale

More Top Things to Do in San Diego

Browse the Event Calendar

What will you be doing in San Diego this week? Let us know in the comments below.

Robert Arends

5 to Try Spook-tacular San Diego Halloween Haunts

Evil Ringmaster - Scream Zone

Sinister welcome to the Scream Zone!

BOO-yah! It‚Äôs the most wonderful time of the year‚Ķ yep, Halloween! San Diego celebrates the season with creepy cool events and fun-filled spots to seriously get freaked out. Word of warning: A¬†few of these are not for the faint of heart. Translation: not for the kiddies (best to take them to LEGOLAND’s Brick-or-Treat¬†instead ūüėČ

1.  The Scream Zone at the Del Mar Fairgrounds

Haunted Hayride passenger about to scare an unaware victim at the Scream Zone

Haunted Hayride hijinks in the Scream Zone.

The Scream Zone at the Del Mar Fairgrounds features a Haunted Hayride (creepy clowns, zombies and aliens, oh my!), House of Horror (beware the chainsaw-wielding maniac!) and Chamberlabyrinth (I almost lost my balance in the giant spinning tunnel!) all wrapped into one big scare fest.

2.  The Haunted Hotel

Haunted Hotel Sign

The Haunted Hotel is now open for guests! Photo courtesy of Mike Rollerson.

The Haunted Hotel in the downtown Gaslamp Quarter is where horror movies come to life; as in you WILL meet Freddie Krueger and Jason from Friday the 13th face to face! This is San Diego’s longest-running haunted house and one of the Top 13 haunted houses in the U.S.!

3. Ghosts & Gravestones

Grave Digger - Ghost and Gravestones

There’s a plot…I mean spot waiting for you on the tour.

Take a ride on the dark side on San Diego‚Äôs original “frightseeing” tour, Ghosts & Gravestones.¬† Hop on¬†a trolley of the doomed to discover the El Campo Santo Cemetery in Old Town (bodies are actually buried under Old Town Ave. – zoinks!), The Whaley House, America’s most haunted house (The Travel Channel) located on a former gallows site (double zoinks!), and the Maritime Museum’s haunted Star of India tallship and Berkeley¬†ferryboat (SciFi‚Äôs Ghost Hunters filmed here!).

4. Haunted Trail of Balboa Park

A crashed bus at the Haunted Trail of Balboa Park.

The driver never made it through the Haunted Trail! Photo courtesy of Mike Rollerson.

Fog-shrouded Balboa Park with its gnarled grove of 100-year-old trees towering overhead is the site of the wickedly fun, mile-long Haunted Trail. It’s the great outdoors gone awry – very Blair Witch Project! Also features a manic maze called “The eXperiment.”

5. Scary Maze at Cottonwood Golf Course

Scary Maze at Cottonwood Golf Course Logo

Cottonwood Golf Course in East County goes into fright mode with its 10,000 sq.-ft. Scary Maze. Truth be told, this one’s more family-friendly. The object: find your way out of the maze while encountering “dead” ends and creatures of the night. There’s also a beer garden, live music, dancing, devilishly-delectable food and scary movie showings outdoors.

Happy (early) Halloween!

Robert Arends

Spring to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for Sensational Hikes

Font's Point
Font's Point

I'm on top of the world! Font's Point

I recently laced up my hiking shoes and trekked through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (located 2 hours east of San Diego) to discover some of the most pristine, untouched wilderness in Southern California, including Clark Dry Lake bed, winding slot canyons and phenomenal vistas from Font‚Äôs Point, “California’s Grand Canyon” (RV Life).

Borrego Springs Desert Wildflowers

Anza-Borrego Desert wildflowers

Spring is the perfect time to visit the park for a few hikes. The temps are pleasantly warm (in the 70s) and desert wildflowers begin to bloom in the canyons and washes (though the winter rains weren’t very plentiful this year). Desert cacti are generally dependable performers through late March.

If you’re a first-timer to this arid, breathtakingly beautiful part of¬†San Diego¬†County, I highly recommend hooking up with California Overland¬†whose knowledgeable guides will take you deep into the park‚Äôs hidden, less-accessible areas aboard 4-wheeel drive vehicles. It’s a thrilling “E-ticket ride” as you rumble across scenic landscapes through rugged Badlands.

Slot Canyon near the Calcite Mine

One stop along the way that offers incredible hiking is a magnificent Slot Canyon just off the S-22 by a former Calcite Mine (in the Font‚Äôs Point North Sector of the park). It’s a relatively easy hike with phenomenal photo ops at every twist and turn of the terrain. This is nature’s cathedral with towering peaks and boulder outcroppings, creating a peaceful almost Zen-like silence that’s only broken by occasional birds singing overhead.

Font's Point - "California's Grand Canyon!"

Font's Point - "California's Grand Canyon!"

Southwest of slot canyon is another hiking highlight: Font‚Äôs Point. The trek up to this unparalleled precipice from the parking area¬†is short and sweet and so worth it! The views are seemingly endless to the Salton Sea and Mexico to the east, the entire Borrego valley and surrounding mountains. You could easily spend an hour gazing in awe at the formations below. Word of warning: There are no fences at the overlook so be very cautious with every step and don’t get too close to the edge.

Roadrunner at the Anza-Borrego Visitor Center

Beep beep! Roadrunner at the Anza-Borrego Visitor Center

For novices (and those who would rather not off-road to the two hiking spots above) there’s a very easy nature trail that loops around the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Visitor Center (200 Palm Canyon Dr.). See cacti (the Ocotillo is my favorite with its crimson red flowers!), palm trees and other flora up-close, as well as lizards sunning on rocks and the occasional roadrunner darting to and fro! Like Font’s Point, this trail offers sensational vantage points of the valley and mountains. Definitely bring your camera!

Flowering Ocotillo at Anza-Borrego Visitor Center

Flowering Ocotillo at Anza-Borrego Visitor Center

Tell us or show us in the comments below, what is your favorite thing about the Anza-Boreggo Desert State Park…


What’s New in San Diego Brews

Green Flash Brewing Company

Green Flash Brewing Company

In case you haven’t heard, sampling craft brews from out many local breweries is a top reason to visit San Diego. Even the New York Times thinks so! With nearly 40 breweries around San Diego County, there is always something new and exciting happening in our craft beer scene:

Expanded Tasting Room at AleSmith Brewing Company

AleSmith recently expanded the tasting room at their North County-based brewery. Not only is the bar itself now longer, so are the bar’s hours, which have been extended to 2:00 – 8:00 pm on Fridays, 12:00 – 7:00¬† pm on Saturdays and 12:00 – 6:00 pm on Sundays. Head up their to try their¬†My Bloody Valentine special release, available only on tap at selected bars for a limited time.

Green Flash Brewing Company Continues to Grow

After opening up their new location in Mira Mesa in 2011, Green Flash has expanded again with the addition of a second cellar. Plus, you can now take a behind-the-scenes look at the brewery, thanks to new brewery tour opportunities. Head¬†over on a Saturday or Sunday, when $5 will get you a tour and guided tasting. Hops lovers, be sure to try their¬†Palate Wrecker Double IPA¬†while you’re there.

Keep an Eye on Karl Strauss Brewing Company

With 23 years of history in San Diego, Karl Strauss is a local legend, and a new tourable space at their main brewing facility in Pacific Beach will finally give visitors a chance to see the brewing action up close. The expansion, expected to be completed this May, will also include an outdoor pizza oven, lounge spaces, a tasting room and bar, beer-to-go, and even some new event and meeting space.

Tell us in the comments below, what is your favorite spring time beer?

Robert Arends

Three ‚ÄúWild‚ÄĚ Adventures in East County

Paws up! Make treks to San Diego’s rustic East County for up-close encounters of the wild animal kind.

Three one-of-a-kind animal sanctuaries top my must-see list ‚Äď each sure to become as synonymous with San Diego as our world-famous Zoo and Safari Park.

Harris Hawk at Sky Hunters!

1.¬†I recently discovered Sky Hunters, a preserve for our¬†fine-feathered¬†friends near Alpine, dedicated to teaching folks about raptors/birds of prey and caring for and rehabilitating sick, injured and orphaned raptors. Owner Nancy Conney (also an instructor at the San Diego Natural History Museum) and her team look after 20 non-releasable raptors, including hawks and owls. They also work with as many as 300 ‚Äúrehab raptors‚ÄĚ each year, including barn owl babies that fall out of their owl boxes and palm trees.

Barn owl at Sky Hunters.

Sky Hunters is open to the public for tours on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon until 4:00 pm. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 619-445-6565 or emailing Visitor safety tip: Stay at least three feet back from the cages.

Roaring good times at Lions, Tigers & Bears!

2. Also located in Alpine is Lions, Tigers & Bears (oh my! Couldn’t resist…), a safe haven for lions, tigers, bears and other abandoned and unwanted exotic animals. BIG news: They’re adding two new black bears named Delilah and Blossom (become a Bear BFF!) to their family of 13 big cats and a black bear named Liberty. Two fall events coming up include a Wild Nights Camp Over with the Cats on September 23-24 and Wine Tasting Dinner under the stars on October 1. You can also spend a safari-themed overnight at their luxe bed & breakfast inn, White Oak Wild Nights.

Call 619-659-8078 to make a reservation to visit LTB; visiting hours are twice a week and just about every Saturday.

Howling good times at the California Wolf Center!

3. The California Wolf Center, located near Julian, offers visitors a thrilling opportunity to view packs of Alaskan gray wolves and endangered Mexican gray wolves while learning about their history, biology and behavior. They’re magnificent creatures and surprisingly timid and inquisitive. You could spend a couple hours just watching them play and explore their enclosures. Visitor tip: Schedule a visit in the morning when they’re most active. Click here for a public tour; private tours available too.

For REALLY up-close encounters inside the wolf enclosures(!), schedule an exciting Photo Tour.

Now that’s something to howl about!


It’s a Whale of a Time

Every year from December through March, visitors to San Diego have an opportunity to watch the gray whales migrate from Alaska to Baja. One of the most unique ways to see these magnificent creatures is by kayak. Kayak you ask? Yes! OEX Dive & Kayak in La Jolla offers whale watching kayak tours from La Jolla’s Ecological Preserve, a marine sanctuary and home to the seven seas caves, Leopard Shark City and the La Jolla Sea Lion and Harbor Seal colonies. Whale watching from a kayak allows participants the opportunity to be one with the ocean and enjoy an incredible up-close view of the whales as well as provides a nice little workout. I should note: you aren’t always guaranteed a glimpse of the whales (they don’t always get the memo that we’ve just paddled out to see them), however according toMike at OEX, no one has ever been disappointed. Seals, dolphins and other marine life are almost always swimming around and are happy to oblige the kayakers.

Of course this isn’t the only way to get out and see the whales. From land to sea, check here for a complete round-up on whale watching in San Diego.

Interested in giving the kayak tour a try? Comment below on our blog and one lucky winner will win a pass for two to OEX Dive & Kayak’s whale watching tour. Must comment by Wednesday, January 26, 2011, 10:00 a.m.

OEX Dive & Kayak Center offers kayaking, scuba, stand-up paddleboard and snorkel tours and rentals from several locations throughout San Diego County. Check out their website to learn more!

Katie S.

Portugese Tall Ship Sagres Sails into San Diego

"Sagres"This morning I was able to see the Portugese tall ship Sagres make its way into the Embarcadero. I was able to see the sails all the way from my office, and made it down there just as the sailors were docking. It was amazing to see a full crew make its way into the port and watch them lift sails and throw lines to come ashore after their long journey from Portugal.

The 295-foot-long ship serves as a training vessel for cadets in the Portuguese Navy and as a traveling goodwill ambassador for Portugal. It is also the sister ship to the U.S. Coast Guard ship, Eagle.

From San Diego, Sagres will sail across the Pacific to Honolulu, Hawaii, and onward to World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China. Sagres¬†will be docked across from the Maritime Museum for the rest of the week and will be open for touring, which is free to the public. Touring hours vary, so please check here before visiting. I can’t wait to get on board to sneak an insider look at this historic boat.