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Beach Trip

By Kevin Wing
Co-Host, Catch a Wave: A Journey to Californiaís 10 Best Beaches

Kevin Wing(Editorís Note: This is the first installment of Beach Trip, a monthly column about Americaís best beaches. Written exclusively for AARisings by Kevin Wing, an Emmy Award-winning San Francisco Bay Area-based television journalist who also co-hosts Catch a Wave: A Journey to Californiaís 10 Best Beaches, a television pilot for The Travel Channel. This monthís sandy locale: Coronado Beach, in picturesque San Diego County, California.)

Stunning Coronado Beach in sunny southern California is one of my most favorite beaches. Thereís just something about this beach that does it for me. Fine, white sand. The warm waters of the Pacific, splashing gently along the sand. Palm trees blowing gently in the wind under perfect sunshine. And, right on a stretch of the beach is one of Americaís finest, renowned oceanfront resort hotels. And itís part of San Diego, a place Iíve considered my second home for many years.

Oh, one more thing: Coronado Beach is a pretty romantic spot to take that special girl to (and, for you ladies, a great place to take your special guy, too).

The beach is located in Coronado, across San Diego Bay from San Diego, one of Americaís greatest cities. The San Diego area has always been known for its perfect weather. In fact, the sun shines in San Diego more than 75 percent of the year.

So, how natural is it for the cityís beaches to be sun-kissed to perfection? Okay, perhaps Iím gushing a bit about San Diego, but itís a great place to visit and a nice place to live.

Now, back to Coronado Beach. It fronts the Pacific Ocean. Many believe Coronado to be an island across the bay from San Diego, but itís actually connected to Americaís Finest City via a skinny peninsula called the Silver Strand, and by the iconic San Diego-Coronado Bridge that spans San Diego Bay.

Coronado Beach is perfect for families and couples. Unfortunately, dogs arenít allowed there. I know from personal experience; once while in San Diego, I was hoping to let my golden retriever, Toby, roam free on the beach and play fetch with his bright orange water toy. No way was that going to happen. Signs everywhere explain that Coronadoís fine sandy beach is no place for our four-legged friends to hang out.

The beach is quite clean; in fact, itís one of the cleanest California beaches Iíve ever seen. Volleyball nets are placed here and there for a leisure game of play. But, the real draw of Coronado Beach is derived from a nice stroll along its sandy shores, where you can take in the beauty of the ocean, the scenery and, looking west toward the ocean, gaze at Point Loma. Itís the perfect place to claim your spot in the sand to get a nice California tan.

Several times a day, it becomes fairly routine to spy some military planes flying overhead (North Island Naval Air Station is just a couple of miles north of the main section of Coronado Beach).

In reality, this beach stretches several miles, from the area near the naval station property south along the Silver Strand, where the back end of the peninsula juts inland at the south end of San Diego Bay, near National City and Chula Vista.

But, undoubtedly the most celebrated section of Coronado Beach is the area adjacent to the Hotel del Coronado, one of the worldís most distinguished oceanside resorts. Now a historic landmark, it opened in 1888 and is on the list of National Historic Places. No wonder. Past guests at this hotel have included U.S. presidents and the heads of state of other world nations. Celebrities have also stayed at the Del, too. In fact, in the 1930s and 1940s, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz stayed at the Del often whenever they were in town to watch horse racing up the coast at Del Mar. L. Frank Baum, the famous author of Wizard of Oz, was inspired by the hotel and wrote his famous childrenís book here that later was made into the equally famous movie starring Judy Garland.

Numerous television shows and movies have been shot at the Del and along Coronado Beach. But, probably the most famous of them all was Some Like It Hot, shot here in 1958 and released the following year. It starred Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The hotel and the beach area were shown prominently in the famous film which, in the last few years, was regarded as the best film ever made by the American Film Institute. In the film, Monroe, Curtis and Lemmon were filmed running up and down the beach, with the Del serving as the ever-prominent backdrop. Aside from several renovations to the hotel and its surrounding landscape, the Del hasnít changed much since the film was shot. And, it still looks very nice since first opening 117 years ago.

The ocean waters fronting Coronado Beach are also fairly warm, by California standards, perfect for wading. As a rule, southern California ocean waters tend to be warmer than the waters off San Francisco and northern California.

Touring downtown Coronado is quite an adventure in and of itself. The main drag through town is Orange Avenue, which slices right through the middle of the cityís quaint, charming residential neighborhoods. There are numerous shops, restaurants and cafes that line Orange Avenue within close proximity to the beach and the Hotel del Coronado area. Itís also a great place to people-watch. Youíll also find places to rent bicycles and mopeds. Feel like skimming San Diego Bay? You can rent sailboats and motorcraft, too.

In all, Coronado and its famous beach are worth visiting, over and over again. Itís one big reason why San Diego is so appealing to the rest of the world.

How to get to the beach: San Diego International Airport, also known historically Ė and to locals Ė as Lindbergh Field, is a roughly 15-to-20 minute drive to Coronado. From the airport and downtown San Diego, head southbound on Interstate 5 (the San Diego Freeway) to Highway 75. Exit at Highway 75 (westbound; actually, thereís only one exit), which doubles as the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. The span will take you over San Diego Bay, and itís toll-free. Once in Coronado, Highway 75 becomes 4th Street. Turn left on Orange Avenue. Proceed about two miles to R.H. Dana Place, and turn right. At this point, the Hotel del Coronado will be in front of you, and you wouldíve just drove past the touristy portion of Orange Avenue. R.H. Dana Place skirts the north side of the Del before becoming Ocean Boulevard as it skims Coronado Beach. Parking along R.H. Dana and Ocean can be difficult sometimes. After all, youíre visiting one of Californiaís most popular beaches. Have fun!

Next month from Beach Trip: gorgeous St. Pete Beach, along sunny Floridaís Gulf Coast.

To learn more about the Catch a Wave television show and Kevin Wing, go to www.catchawavetv.com. You can email Kevin and the Catch a Wave crew at catchawavetvshow@aol.com.

Copyright 2005
All Rights Reserved
Kevin Wing
American Travelers Television
Issue 1 / February 2005

Photo used by permission courtesy of Kevin Wing. Photo copyright by Kevin Wing.