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Looking for a Summer Escape? Check Out Our Editor's Pick for Where to Stay, Eat and Play

05/29/2015 08:35AM ● Published by Megan Wiskus

San Diego wasn’t penned America’s Finest City by default. With its balmy climate, laid-back vibes, 70 miles of coastline, distinct districts and bustling downtown—not to mention buzz-worthy craft breweries and rich culinary culture—“finest” might be an understatement; San Diego is the cream of California’s crop.

Aerial view of Kona Kai and Shelter Island

A visit wouldn’t be complete without a seaside stay at the newly renovated Kona Kai Resort & Spa. From the tropical scent that wafts your way upon entering to the lush green gardens, private beach and sailboats docked steps away, coastal vibes seep through every crack and crevice.

Inside, the “glamtiki” décor is a fresh blend of modern elegance and casual luxury; think pops of turquoise, yellow and coral offset by dark woods, bright whites, hip furnishings and crystal chandeliers.

Kona Kai Guest Rooms San Diego CA


All 129 guestrooms and suites feature floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies or porches—perfect for drinking in views of either the bay or marina and letting the sea breeze lull you to sleep. Free Wi-Fi, mini fridges, 42-inch flat screens and tufted headboards with dreamy mattresses are only a sampling of the amenities on tap.

Kona Kai Resort  Marina Walkway

An onsite activity center will set you up with bike, stand up paddleboard, Jet Ski or powerboat rentals, among other modes of transport; and when the sun dips down, enjoy s’mores at one of the bonfire pits.

Kona Kai surroundings Private Beach

If you do decide to depart the resort, you’re in luck: The central Shelter Island location is only a stone’s throw away from some of San Diego’s top attractions like SeaWorld, Historic Old Town, Balboa Park and the San Diego Zoo.

Kona Kai Resort  Marina

CHECK IN: 1551 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego, 619-221-8000,

Spa Entrance

CHECK OUT: Give your body, mind and soul the R&R it deserves with a treatment at the resort’s om-mazing SpaTerre, which offers a blend of Indonesian, Fijian and Thai therapies and includes access to the “Zen Den,” fitness center and steam room.

Spa Treatment Room

I recommend the Balinese massage, a complete sensory experience that uses a combo of acupressure, rhythmic strokes and exotic oils to tone, energize and release the lines of energy—leaving you in a blissful state of calm. Having been to Bali (read all about my trip here) and had a massage, this treatment was just as good, if not better—and a whole lot closer, too!

California Buritto at Robertos Beer list at Fathom Bistro Bait  Tackle Ballast Point Brewery

DON’T MISS: The food! San Diego’s restaurant scene is a mish-mash of hole-in-the-wall ethnic eats (you MUST try a California burrito from Roberto’s), top-rated fine dining establishments (a meal at Marine Room may be the best investment ever), and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dives (Fathom Bistro, Bait & Tackle, just a short walk from the resort, has a noteworthy beer list and the best Loco Moco I’ve ever tasted).

Private Dining at Vessel Vessel

And although most hotel restaurants are filled with tourists (or oftentimes empty) and serve forgettable food, Kona Kai’s Vessel tells a different tale. Chef Roy Hendrickson dishes up New American coastal fare in a casual, chic atmosphere that’s punctuated by a 360-degree bar at its core, flat-screens and a video wall.

Bar at Vessel

The place was packed with locals on the evening I dined and the energy pulsing. Standouts included the Calamari Frito, Tuna Tataki, Skirt Steak and—to wash it all down—a Stone Fruit Sour. The grub was so good, in fact, that I returned the following day for brunch (hello, live music and bottomless Bloody Mary bar!).

San Diego sunset

If the surf, sand and sea are calling you, answer with a trip to the easy, breezy, unpretentious Kona Kai Resort & Spa. Just remember to pack a pair of flip-flops and leave your worries (and work) behind.

Post by Style Media Group Managing Editor, Megan Wiskus.

Photos courtesy of Kona Kai Resort & Spa and respective companies.

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Travel, Today Kona Kai Resort & Spa Kona Kai’s Vessel Chef Roy Hendrickson Fathom Bistro, Bait & Tackle Marine Room Roberto’s San Diego Vacation Folsom Vacations

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