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Paradise Point

San Diego-area island resort offers taste of Hawaii

By CARY ORDWAY

Most California residents think they have to get on an airplane and fly 3,000 miles to visit Hawaii. Truth be told, all they have to do is hop in their car and head south on Interstate 5.

Okay, it's not exactly the same, but San Diego's Paradise Point Resort and Spa has pulled out all the stops to re-create many of the islands' charms. To begin with, it's on an island. Then factor in the lush old-growth palm trees – groves of them – that make the 44-acre resort feel in many ways like CoCo Palms, the famous resort on Kauai where Elvis Presley filmed Blue Hawaii. Throw in some tiki torches, beaches, lagoons, lush gardens and plenty of birds, turtles and other wildlife, and you have Hawaii, the California version.

Oh, did we mention it's also right next door to one of the most popular theme parks in California – SeaWorld? You're starting to get the picture. Paradise Point has to be considered one of California's best kids' resorts with its many recreational opportunities and special features. Located on Mission Bay, many of the resort's bungalows have waterfront views across the bay to Pacific Beach and the hills of La Jolla. Other bungalows are on various lagoons and waterways situated throughout the resort property. With numerous swimming pools and beaches, water recreation is never far away, and families will enjoy – as we did – discovering all the resort's nooks and crannies by riding bicycles through the property and an adjacent waterfront park.

While the resort features several tennis courts, croquet and other family activities, a unique feature is the 18-hole putting golf course. A lot like a miniature golf course, the green is woven throughout the resort's tropical landscaping and easy for all ages to enjoy. Surrounded by lush tropical vegetation, it's easy for even non-golfers to pretend they're teeing up on one of Hawaii's famous golf courses.

With so many fun family activities, it's no wonder that Paradise Point was the resort selected by the TV show Jon and Kate Plus Eight when they brought the family to the San Diego area. This, of course, was a major selling point for our nine-year-old daughter who couldn't wait to vacation in the same place as Jon and Kate.

Our one-bedroom bungalow was on a horseshoe-shaped beach with plenty of sand and calm water for swimming. Outside, there were chairs to sit and enjoy the view as well as a lawn area to play. Inside, the bungalow was completely furnished and featured two stylish easy chairs, a coffee table and sleeper-couch as well as a dinette set in the main open area of the unit. Adjacent was a wet bar with a refrigerator. The bedroom featured a king bed with a decorative headboard and other modern bedroom furniture. A bath/shower combination was flanked on both sides by vanities. Throughout the bungalow, the warm designer colors and special decorative touches made the unit look and feel like it had just been updated – which it had as part of a major renovation just completed.

Paradise Point is one of those resorts where you keep on discovering new features and it's fun to meander the grounds and come across such things as the Spa Terre where even kids are welcome. Mom and daughter can get a side-by-side massage, or there are such things as ice cream pedicures and finger painting kids manicures. Or try the Clean for Teen Facial. But careful – get those kids hooked on spas and your future resort bills will never be the same.

For lunch, we'd highly recommend the Barefoot Bar and Grill with one of San Diego's best waterfront views and plenty of that Hawaiian style landscaping to transport you to a different world. The kids will enjoy watching the sharks and other fish in the bar's lagoon, while the outdoor patio will have you alternating glances between the boats going by and the beautiful people sitting next to you. The food at Barefoot is top-notch with burgers, hot sandwiches and salads the main fare.

We also had the opportunity to dine at the resort's BALEENsandiego, a stylish restaurant with an impressive array of dishes. Known for its seafood and incredible views, we found it also does really well with its fire-roasted meats and desserts to die for. The chef here obviously puts in the effort to make this one of San Diego's finest restaurants and both Baleen and the Barefoot Bar are easily accessible not only for Paradise Point guests, but also for San Diego visitors staying at other properties. Either restaurant would be an excellent choice for a special meal out.

Mission Bay is well situated and quite near such attractions as the SeaWorld, the San Diego Waterfront, Old Town, and La Jolla. Mission Bay is directly adjacent to Pacific Beach, known to locals as "PB," and especially popular with young people who love the easy access to a vibrant nightlife, trendy shops and numerous restaurants. Of course the main attraction is the beach, which stretches all the way from La Jolla on the north to the southern border of Mission Bay Park. The beach walk is the place in San Diego to watch the young, the beautiful, the odd and the extreme.

As you start exploring Mission Bay and nearby Pacific Beach, a note of caution: bring the GPS, or at least a good map of the area. The roads in this part of San Diego are some of the most confusing you'll find, and it's not unlikely you'll end up heading to Mission Valley instead of Pacific Beach, or get sidetracked in some nearby shopping and industrial areas that may take you a little while to escape. It all has to do with the islands, peninsulas, hills and valleys that make the topography in this part of San Diego so interesting.

Old Town is where you'll find the flavor of Mexico more than any other place in San Diego. Historic buildings and museums help tell the story of early settlers to the region and some of San Diego's best Mexican restaurants help you get a true taste of the culture. Some parts of Old Town are a little "touristy," but then many visitors love the opportunity to find knick-knacks and tee-shirts they can take back home as a reminder of their trip.

About six miles south of Mission Bay is the San Diego waterfront, where you can enjoy such attractions as Seaport Village, with its fascinating shops and excellent selection of restaurants. You'll stroll along the waterfront stopping to watch the occasional street performer, and there's always plenty to watch in San Diego Bay. After all, it is here that the U.S. military concentrates many of its biggest and newest warships, and you'll also enjoy watching a parade of smaller craft ranging from historic sailing ships to private yachts to sleek racing boats such as the Stars and Stripes, winner of the America's Cup.

Be sure to take in one of our favorite points of interest in all of San Diego ' the USS Midway, a floating museum and tribute to the people who have fought our wars on board this huge vessel. Guests are allowed almost free run of the ship and, adding a special touch to the experience, you'll have personal contact with the many docents who give their own recollections of what it was like to live on this ship while it was at sea.

AT A GLANCE

WHERE: Paradise Point Resort and Spa is located near downtown San Diego in the Mission Bay recreational area, just a five-minute drive off Interstate 5.

WHAT: Paradise Point is an island that lives up to its name, surrounded by the water of Mission Bay, a popular place for both residents and tourists to walk, jog or bike, or participate in water activities. It's an excellent choice for couples or families.

WHEN: Any time of year. Even in winter, the temperatures are in the 60's and the odds are that you'll get a fair amount of sunshine.

WHY: Paradise Point offers you the ability to stay in one area and still have a vacation full of activities, or you are well situated for an easy drive to nearby points of interest such as SeaWorld, downtown San Diego, Pacific Beach or La Jolla.

HOW: For more information on Paradise Point Resort and Spa, call 800-344-2626 or visit www.paradisepoint.com.

Photos, from top: Lagoon at Paradise Point; View from waterfront bungalows; sailboat on Mission Bay; Barefoot Bar and Grill features a lagoon filled with fish

Photos by Cary and Sandi Ordway

OTHER DESTINATIONS: Be sure to check out other California Weekend articles on Laguna Beach, La Jolla and Coronado.



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