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.
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.
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.
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.
Water sports at Shelter Island Marina
Action Sports Rentals at Kona Kai Resort offers rentals of kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, 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 theatre 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.
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 San Diego things to do 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.
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.
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.
This side of the peninsula also had a skyline view of downtown San Diego. It was really beautiful to see, especially at night.
The resort boasts two pool. One is adults only, so we only visited the main pool area but 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.
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 Restuarant’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
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.
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
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.
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.