Located on the waterfront of Shelter Island, a thin sliver of land that curls like a finger into the curving west end of San Diego Bay, the Polynesian-style Island Palms Hotel & Marina has city and water views for miles. The resort features a private yacht marina, two bayside pools, tennis courts, jogging paths, an on-site restaurant, and waterfront patio seating. Hints of Polynesian style and lush tropical landscaping give the place an island vibe--indeed, Shelter Island is known as San Diego’s Hawaiian Isle.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Technically, Shelter Island isn’t an island, so you don’t need a bridge or a boat to get there.
Guestrooms are spacious, clean, and comfortable, with pale soothing hues, plush armchairs, wood furniture, and either a king-size bed or two doubles. Depending on which building you’re staying in, some rooms feature pitched plank ceilings and island-style design accents like rattan headboards and plantation shutters. Water-view rooms look out on the marina; some have private patios.
Bathrooms vary by room, featuring granite or cobalt tile counters and a tub-shower combo.
The modern lobby features a pitched wood-plank ceiling with slatted skylights, natural stone flooring, and comfortable seating.
The hotel features two bayside swimming pools and hot tubs. It’s also a 15-minute walk to the actual beach.
Guests can book in-room massage therapy services.
The hotel’s fitness center features cardio equipment and weight machines. There are also two tennis courts and guests can borrow bikes or book sailing excursions through the hotel.
The on-site Blue Wave Bar & Grill overlooks the private marina and serves California coastal cuisine, breakfast through dinner.
If you’re not pulling up by private boat, it’s probably best to have a car, as Shelter Island isn’t the most accessible place without one. The strip of land starts in San Diego’s Point Loma neighborhood, which has its own attractions, including the Cabrillo Monument, but you’ll have to drive north to get to Interstate 8, from which you can pick up Interstate 5. To get Downtown, simply follow the curved bay. The hotel does offer shuttle service to the airport and train station, but some guests say it’s not the most reliable.
Just down the road, also with great marina views, Humphrey’s Restaurant (8-minute walk) is a popular spot for food, particularly Sunday brunch. The restaurant, part of Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn, serves reliably good dishes with creative flavor profiles, like scallops with black truffle and ruby grapefruit, or a New York strip steak with bacon feta grits. At the Kona Kai Club, the Vessel Restaurant + Bar (8-minute walk) makes a striking impression, from the hexagonal bar with a backlit onyx counter to the bayside seating. The food is good, though nothing to write home about, but the setting is gorgeous and the service attentive.
The mai tai at Shelter Island’s iconic Bali Hai Restaurant (10-minute walk) may not particularly authentic, but it’s tasty and strong. Known for its Polynesian architecture and tiki decor, the Bali Hai is a fun place to down a tropical concoction during happy hour. Situated on the end of a pier, Fathom Bistro, Bait, and Tackle (2-minute walk) is a divey craft beer bar that has a small but worthy selection of suds on tap and a bar menu with housemade sausages and hot dogs; they also serve a weekend brunch menu that features Hawaiian scrambled eggs with rice and spam and a fruit bowl that’s been soaked in wine for 24 hours. Head over to Point Loma for lots more food and drink options.