Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Tue July 12 2016

A Revitalized Kona Kai Resort Nods to Summer

Hotel & Resort | Dawna L. Robertson | July 12, 2016

A Revitalized Kona Kai Resort Nods to Summer

Photos courtesy of Kona Kai Resort & Spa

After WWII, American soldiers and sailors returned home with art, photographs, souvenirs and music from South Pacific islands. As a burgeoning Navy town, San Diego was a prime destination to celebrate and recreate that tiki culture — especially on the shores of the newly developed Mission Bay and Shelter Island.

While those South Seas influences around San Diego were nudged out for the most part by contemporary tastes and designs in the 1980s, some tiki relics were preserved and maintained.

READ MORE: Celebrating 100 Years of the San Diego Zoo

Among these is the Kona Kai Inn that opened in 1959 adjacent to the Kona Kai Resort & Spa Club on the predominantly Polynesian-themed Shelter Island. Nearly 60 years later, the iconic Kona Kai Resort & Spa, a Noble House Resort still retains a Polynesian vibe with polished style thanks to a $22 million revitalization. 

The boutique resort’s new summer programming celebrates the season and that impressive makeover that refreshed the lobby, added the 7,020 square foot SpaTerra, and updated all 129 guest rooms and suites with motifs bringing the ocean indoors. As a bonus, all accommodations wow with water views of either San Diego Bay to the south or the Marina to the north.

“We have so much to offer at the Kona Kai Resort & Spa with our marina for avid sailors, the only private beach in the area, the famous Kona Kai Club and the incredible Vessel Restaurant featuring live music,” said Scott Colee, creative director of Noble House Hotels & Resorts.

Colee added, “We have everything for the perfect summer vacation without ever having to set foot off the property. Our team is dedicated to making a guest’s stay in San Diego so memorable and special that they return to Kona Kai over and over again.” 

According to Hugh Hedin, the resort’s general manager, Kona Kai’s location at the tip of Shelter Island makes it a prime destination for locals and visitors alike with its close proximity to top attractions like Balboa Park, the San Diego Zoo, Seaport Village and the USS Midway.

“We’re also home to San Diego’s only private beach where you can enjoy alcoholic beverages in your private cabana or on your chaise lounge,” said Hedin. “This summer season, we have set up 40 new beach chairs and umbrellas for comfortable all-day sun lounging overlooking the Kona Kai Marina.”

During the day, the marina provides guests with a range of water sport rentals that include stand up paddleboards, WaveRunners, kayaks and power boats. In the evening, the beach fronting the marina turns the tone to pure relaxation with fire pits and comfy chairs for lounging beneath the stars. Guests can elevate the bliss with an optional s’mores kit that makes the evening even sweeter.

“In July 2015, we debuted our completely renovated waterfront Vessel Restaurant + Bar, and newly built Tiki Bar,” said Hedin. The area is a natural hub in its Spanish-inspired courtyard setting with open views of the marina and private beach. The poolside Tiki Bar delivers tropical nirvana via local beers, classic summer beverages, artisanal cocktails and bites from Vessel. For those preferring more privacy, covered poolside cabanas are decked out with curtains and plush pillows.

Hedin noted that those renovations also coincided with a refreshed Vessel menu spearheaded by Executive Chef Roy Hendrickson. The regional coastal fare incorporates local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients that put a flavorful twist on traditional delicacies. With its daily happy hour from 2:30-6 p.m., the eatery pleases palates with Reuben sliders, wild mushroom flatbread, cheddar mac & cheese and lobster quesadillas.

With 55,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor event space, Kona Kai continues to nurture its destination wedding business. The resort’s SpaTerra offers full-service spa, make-up artistry and bridal services for romantic soirees, as well as wraps, facials, body depilation, soaks, massage therapies, detoxes and an exclusive heated alpha-quartz sand bed. A state-of-the-art fitness center allows health-conscious travelers to stay on track with such daily fitness classes as Pilates, Zumba, yoga, Water Aerobics and outdoor fitness courses.

For reservations or more information, call (619) 221-8000 or visit

The Agent’s Edge

For your clients flying into San Diego International Airport, Kona Kai Resort & Spa is a quick 10-minute drive in the opposite direction of the more bustling Downtown and Gaslamp areas. If they’re purely focused on relaxation and water recreation, recommend that they consider skipping the rental car since the resort and Shelter Island offer it all.

Kona Kai is heating up the summer with a variety of vacation plans. Among these is the San Diego Zoo Package that allows families to avoid the lines and spend more time at the this world famous “animal kingdom.”

Rates cover a plush souvenir toy for the kids at check-in, late checkout at 2 p.m., plus two adult San Diego Zoo admission tickets with unlimited use of the Guided Bus Tour, Kangaroo Bus and Skyfari aerial tram. Additional tickets for adults and children can be purchased at check-in.

READ MORE: San Diego, California: America’s Finest Homeport

The Summer Family Package includes a plush toy welcome amenity for children, four one-hour bicycle rentals, sandcastle building bucket with tools and a s’mores kit for four.

Geared to pairs, the Relax, Renew, Revive package pampers couples with 50-minute SpaTerre treatments, spa lunch, healthy start breakfast each morning, and beach cabana use for the day with fresh whole fruit and bottled water.

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