Coronado Island – Iconic Resort Retreat


San Diego, California.

Four rocky islands attracted Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602. He named them Las Yslas Coronadas, then, despite an earlier explorer’s discovery named the bay on the main continent San Diego de Alcala. His discovery would become a major tourist attraction. Over a mile of pristine beach on the island attracted developers by the mid-1800s. Lots were sold and cottages and houses were built.

By 1890, the island of Coronado had a population of residents that voted to incorporate. Eventually, North Island became a military base but Coronado Island itself continued to grow in population. A large resort hotel, completed in 1888, became a major draw for vacationers. To this day, the iconic Hotel Del Coronado attracts thousands of guests annually.


The sprawling resort consists of standard and luxury hotel accommodations as well as resident cabins. Film producers found their way to Hotel Del Coronado in the early days of motion pictures. Probably it’s most notable appearance in a motion picture is the classic comedy Some Like It Hot released in 1959. Early silent film stars Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford were among early movie celebrities featured in motion pictures in the days before the “talkie”.


A longtime fixture on Coronado Island are the sand castles, often found on the beach in front of Hotel Del Coronado. These structures, which often take several days to complete, are constructed by Bill Pavlacka. There are several videos of his work on YouTube, one of which is here. Search YouTube for Sandcastle Man for others.


In the early days, tourists took a ferry to the island. In 1967, construction began on a 2.12 mile (3.41 km) bridge joining the mainland to the island of Coronado. Interstate I-5 on the mainland connects to Route 75 on the island. These days it can be said that virtually all roads on the island lead to the bridge. We spent the afternoon on Coronado Island, mostly wandering around at the Hotel and walking the beach. Of course, yet another cloudy day was on tap for us. As this is being written in early December, I can share that our trips to San Diego and North Carolina were shrouded in clouds. Looking at my collection of San Diego photos, one could doubt the veracity of the expression “Sunny California.” In any case, I present a gallery of images taken on our day trip to Coronado Island. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.

John Steiner



  1. Coronado Island is one of my favorite places to go in San Diego. Glad you got the opportunity to visit. I can (almost) promise that next time, San Diego will indeed be “Sunny San Diego.”

    • Good question. In researching the article, I found it can take the sculptor a couple of days or more to complete a complex castle. There were two the day we were there, both dated that day. Don’t know if there were two sculptors or if they were just both finished that day.

  2. FYI- If you are speaking of the landmass about a mile southwest of downtown San Diego, called “Coronado” it is not an island. Coronado Island(s) are a group of 4 Mexican owned islands about 10 miles Southwest of San Diego.

    • Thanks for the note. Looking at a map, I see what you mean about it not being an island. It is a long, narrow peninsula that leads to a large land mass. Yet, when you type “Coronado Island” into Google, you get the “island” with the naval base. Interesting!

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