The beach and marina on Shelter Islan San Diego, dusk at Kona Kai Resort

When I think of San Diego, I think of La Jolla, Carlsbad or the Gaslamp district. I had never heard of Shelter Island San Diego until last month. Was I ever missing out! We were looking for a waterfront San Diego area hotel near the airport, downtown and the many San Diego area family attractions.

My husband and I had a fantastic experience at another Noble House Resort. So, we were thrilled to find a San Diego hotel that met ALL of those requirements, and is run by Noble House. We booked three nights at Kona Kai Resort on Shelter Island last month for a family vacation. This kid friendly travel destination of Shelter Island in San Diego became the perfect home base for our family vacation.

Kona Kai Resort hosted our visit, meaning that they provided complimentary/ discounted lodging. As always, our opinions are our own.

What is Shelter Island San Diego?

Shelter Island isn’t really an island, but rather a peninsula, on Point Loma, California. Originally it was a sand bank that was built up and then developed in the 1950s. It is only a few hundred feet wide. This means that you have views of the water from just about anywhere you are on Shelter Island. One side is a marina with yachts, houseboats, and more. The other side is an entry into the port of San Diego for all kinds of boats.

This Hawaiian style resort island also boasts a popular outdoor concert venue with a wide variety of entertainment. Shelter Island San Diego also offers unique restaurants that are a destination themselves.

Lovely flowers cascade down arbors along the Shelter Island San Diego sidewalks.
Beautiful flowers cascade down arbors along the Shelter Island San Diego sidewalks.

What to Do on Shelter Island San Diego

Shelter Island harbor is close to almost anything you might want to do in the San Diego area. But it is in and of itself a great area to enjoy. On one side there’s a marina where a variety of boats are docked. On the other side you can watch battleships and aircraft carriers come in and out, or take in the night skyline of San Diego.

Take a walk on the Boardwalk

There’s a wide sidewalk along the water with lovely arbors framed with beautiful flowers and spaced throughout the path. Stroll the boardwalk almost the entirety of the island to take in the ocean and San Diego skyline views.

Play at the playground

A public children’s playground makes a great place for the kids to get some energy out while parents get to sit and take in the views.

Go fishing

And, there’s a pier for fishing or watching Seagulls and Pelicans scout for food. Bait can be purchased at Fathom Bistro Bait and Tackle.

The Shelter Island San Diego pier is popular with fishermen as well as Pelicans and Sea Gulls.
The Shelter Island San Diego pier is a popular place to fish. But we enjoyed watching the Pelicans and Sea Gulls.

Water sports at Shelter Island Marina

Action Sports Rentals at Kona Kai Resort offers rentals of kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, pedal boats, powerboat and Jet Skis at Kona Kai Marina. Hit the water aboard your choice of water vehicle and stop for a picnic at nearby Kellogg’s Beach.

Humphrys Concerts by the Bay

The 1,400 seat outdoor theater offers a wide variety of major entertainment and concerts typically from May through October. Humphreys Concerts covers offers entertainment for everyone: from rock and jazz to comedy, blues, folk and international music, all in this outdoor venue on Shelter Island. Most noteworthy Shelter Island San Diego events happen here.

Whale Watching

Starting in December you can book a whale watching excursion with Sail San Diego, operating out of Shelter Island. This is a unique opportunity to see these majestic sea animals as they make their 10,000 mile migration.

Where to Stay: Shelter Island San Diego Hotels

Shelter Island offers some really fun San Diego hotels, as they all face the water with views of incoming ships. These also boast an ideal location on the water, and near all of the fun things to do in San Diego while visiting.

Kona Kai, Shelter Island Hotel

1551 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106 | 619.221.8000

We were so excited to find Kona Kai Resort, this waterfront hotel run by Noble House. The location so near the many San Diego attractions that we wanted to see was key. Being on the water was ideal. And, then there were some other fun surprises along the way.

Our son completes the form for the
A special “Kids Check In” desk at Kona Kai Resort.

Next to the main check in desk is another tiny desk with a sign above it “KIDS CHECK IN.” Colored pencils and a short sheet asking for their name, age and a drawing of their favorite animal earned them a prize. Our six-year old, who hates to write, happily sat down to fill his form out before he even knew about the prize.

Kids on the balcony at Kona Kai Resort watching the boats.
Just watching the boats go by…

We might have thought we’d rather have a beach front room. Except the first thing that our son discovered was the set of binoculars with a sheet labeling different types of ships that frequent the waters. He immediately took it out to the balcony and watched for ships. One day during out visit we toured the USS Midway and learned all about aircraft carriers, including the new nuclear powered aircraft carriers. Upon our return to the resort, we actually spotted one coming into port! That and the battleships really excited our little guy.

Sparking lights of downtown San Diego at night from Shelter Island.
Nighttime skyline of San Diego from our balcony at Kona Kai Resort on Shelter Island San Diego.

This side of the peninsula also had a skyline view of downtown San Diego. It is really beautiful to see, especially at night.

The resort boasts two pools. One is adults only. So we only visited the main pool area. It was a lot of fun. And, we were there before summer officially kicked off. There are plenty of lounge chairs, a large hot tub. The pool bar serves food from Vessel Restaurant. The bartenders were very friendly. And, two exits are steps down to the beach. As one of our children loves to swim and the other loves to play in the sand, we hit both the pool and beach our first afternoon.

A child plays in the sand on the Kona Kai beach o Shelter Island San DIego.
Playing in the sand at Kona Kai’s beach.

The Kids’ Club wasn’t open yet, but there were sand toys available for the kids to use. Cruiser bikes were also available and the first hour is free. My daughter and I took a bike ride up to the friendship bell. It was much closer than we expected. But it was fun to be able to cruise up and around the peak of the peninsula.

Insider Tip: Be sure to check out the best beaches in San Diego for families!

There are fire pits down on the beach that are popular for roasting S’mores in the evening. We watched this from Vessel Restaurant’s open air patio above.

There are courtyards throughout the property with peaceful fountains, and fun family games. We stopped to play some corn hole one afternoon. Then another evening my son and I played ping pong.

During our competitive game we spotted a lemon tree in the adjoining pool area. We made our way in to ask if we could pick one. This was another highlight for our six-year old from Colorado. He chose the lemon that he wanted to pick and I lifted him up to reach it high in the tree. As we were departing the next morning he was asking to go back for another.

Additional Shelter Island Hotels

Humphreys Half Moon Inn (2303 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106 | 619.224.3411) is home to Humphreys Concerts by the bay. But it also offers tropical waterfront hotel rooms and suites.

Shelter Island’s Bay Club Hotel & Marina (2131 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106 | 619.224.8888) offers large guest rooms with views of the marina, Point Loma, San Diego Bay and the downtown skyline.

The Best Western Plus Island Palms Hotel is another hotel located on Shelter Island.

Where to Dine: Shelter Island San Diego Restaurants

Vessel Restaurant at Kona Kai Resort

Just a glass wall seperates Vessel Restuarant from the beach and marina below.
The views from Vessel Restaurant in Kona Kai Resort on Shelter Island San Diego.

San Diego is certainly not short of restaurants with outdoor patios. But Vessel Restaurant delivers both delicious food and beautiful views. There was only a glass barrier between our table and the beach and marina below. We could watch the pool, beach and marina all from our table at the restaurant. It is an ideal spot for a full dinner, but I also think that happy hour would be an excellent option for families. We arrived just before happy hour ended and ordered a couple of items off of that menu. The lobster quesadillas were delicious and very generous with lobster.

Lobster quesadillas.
Delicious lobster quesadillas served during happy hour at Vessel Restaurant.

Chef Roy offers a monthly prixe fixe menu which both my husband and I ordered. The Sea Bass melted in my mouth, as did the Chocolate Lava Cake. It was just like a soufflé. The kids pasta tastes homemade. This was how we wrapped up vacation. It was special!

Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle

Ice cold local craft beer at Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle.
Ice cold local craft beer at Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle.

Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle is a very unique restaurant. The make their own sausages and Kimchi in house. Don’t expect any frills here, just ice cold local craft beer and creative sausages. Its location on the pier on Shelter Island is pretty unbeatable. We watched fishermen, Sea Gulls and Pelicans from our patio table. The impressive San Diego skyline is in clear view across the water. Really just a fun place to experience.

A sign at Fathom Bistro warns children to behave.
Fair warning to kids dining at Fathom Bistro Bait & Tackle.

What is the Shelter Island San Diego Weather?

This peninsula in San Diego offers temperate weather typically between 55 and 75 degrees F.  It is coldest in December with lows around 50 degrees F. It is hottest in August with highs around 77 degrees F.

Where is Shelter Island San Diego?

Shelter Island is a part of the Point Loma area of San Diego. It is about three miles from the San Diego International Airport, six miles from Cabrillo National Monument, seven miles from the USS Midway Museum and nine miles from the San Diego Zoo. So, it is about as centrally located as it gets.

Shelter Island San Diego is ideal for a San Diego family vacation. Kona Kai Resort offers lots to do & is close to the many other San Diego family attractions. Families will enjoy the location, beach, pool, dining and more! #VisitSanDiego #VisitCalifornia

Shelter Island San Diego is ideal for a San Diego family vacation. Kona Kai Resort offers lots to do & is close to the many other San Diego family attractions. Families will enjoy the location, beach, pool, dining and more! #VisitSanDiego #VisitCalifornia


Family Guide to Shelter Island San Diego
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Liana Moore

Liana Moore is a third-culture kid with a hangover from those days that is a severe case of wanderlust. She is more comfortable driving the cliffs of Amalfi, Italy or the dirt roads of Costa Rica or attempting to decipher the street signs of Osaka, Japan than navigating the theme parks of Disney World. But she loves it all. She doesn't believe a vacation is complete without an adventure. Her husband and kids know well that "adventure" often is code for mishap or challenge and it usually results in a good story. They seek outdoor experiences whether in the mountains, on a beach or in the jungle of a tropical country. Her favorite vacation is... all the ones she hasn't yet taken, as well as those she plans on taking again. And, that list is so, so long. But she continues to extensively explore her home state of Colorado, spends lots of time wandering Texas, California, New Mexico, Costa Rica, Mexico, Norway and has even explored Kazakhstan.

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