If you are seeking paradise in San Diego, look no further than Paradise Point near Sea World, a self-described private island paradise that has been attracting guests since 1962. This is when I first set foot on this 44-acre lush, tropical-inspired resort in Mission Bay. The resort endures as a reminder of how California tourism turned the corner in the 1960s. At the grand opening party of Vacation Village, the original name, the event was marked by a soaring 70-foot-high iconic monument of sorts that proudly survives to this day. Considered outrageously innovative for its era, this island paradise made headlines during the ‘60s. It was conceptualized by Jack H. Skirball of Los Angeles, an American rabbi-turned-film-producer-turned-real-estate-developer and, finally, philanthropist. The design conceived by Skirball and his investors was inspired by Hollywood’s need for a getaway that was closer to the movie studios than Hawaii. San Diego was more convenient than a flight between Los Angeles and the beaches of Waikiki.
Fast forward 55 years to 2017 and the original private island resort gained a new name, Paradise Point, and expanded to 460 guestrooms—from bayside bungalows to spacious suites with garden style rooms and “breezy” patios. Today’s guests range from families to the convention crowd. Dining choices range from The Tidal (the signature beach restaurant) to the Caveman Pizza Company. There are 14 fire pits scattered around the island that light up the night sky. The resort is pet friendly (as long as Fido is on a leash and their owners are willing to pay a one-time $150 charge). Personally, I feel it is worth every penny, as our Malteses, Don Vito and Sonny, were reluctant to leave. Conveniently located nearby is San Diego’s popular Old Town, “The Birthplace of California,” a five-minute drive away. Today, it is a historically that significant gem has undergone three resurrections: the Mexican Era, the American Era and the Restoration era, which resulted in this fascinating shrine becoming a State Historical Park in 1968. The park remains open to the public free of charge and is as educational as it is fascinating; it’s made more so with guided walking tours and museums from the Sheriff’s Museum to the Whaley House. The Wells Fargo Museum, with its authentic stage coaches dating to 1851, is not to be missed. Diane Power’s Bazaar Del Mundo Shops (voted the best place to buy a gift in San Diego) on the corner of Taylor and San Juan streets is a fanfare of arts and crafts, including a panoply of fans, scarves and accessories. It is walking distance to Gum Saan, the Land of Golden Mountain where handcrafted jewelry, including fascinating rings from Nepal are on show.
Don’t miss nearby Presidio Park and Serra Museum (ample free parking), where on July 16 the dedication of a memorial plaque honoring the history of this fascinating slice of early California history was staged. There’s still time after Old Town to move on to San Diego’s upbeat Little Italy neighborhood for gelato (at least 25 flavors) at Solunto at 1643 India Street. This lively area is in transition with ambitious building projects, vibrant public art and spaces. That’s another reason to stay an extra day!
Pam Price co authored “Day Trips From Los Angeles,” GPP Press