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kona kai resort

1551 Shelter Island Dr.
San Diego, CA 92106

Phone: (619) 221-8000
33.098339, -116.664805

Dog-Friendly: Yes   Kid-Friendly:   Yes
Website   Instagram

About the Kona Kai Resort

After spending a full day at the iconic Kona Kai Resort on Shelter Island let me tell you, I am now a true believer in the power of a staycation.  This is a great way to disconnect from your everyday duties without traveling far; something we should all indulge in occasionally.

Over the years the club changed hands several times. The Kona Kai is now owned and managed by Noble House Hotels & Resorts, and they have done a masterful job upgrading the facilities and guest experience.

The Kona Kai Resort features 129 exquisitely appointed guest rooms, and 41 new luxury suites. The suites feature spa inspired bathrooms with dual vanities, rainfall showers and soaking tubs. For an added fee, pets can stay with their owners and receive special pet amenities including food, grooming and a dog-walking map.

All rooms have private balconies. Other site amenities include a private beach, two heated swimming pools, an upscale restaurant, a fitness center with daily classes and a 7,000 square foot spa. The Kona Kai Club itself remains private with membership involving an initiation fee and monthly dues.

If you book a stay here, prepare to be pampered and feel like island royalty. Since the resort opened to the public, a more family-friendly approach has been made with activities for the entire family. The private beach has a spectacular view of downtown’s skyline and the marina.  If you’re interested in looking your best, make sure to check out their 5-star spa, SpaTerre.  It is an amazing experience!


Kona Kai Resort has a fascinating history which includes hosting celebrities, presidents and other movers and shakers of the country. The backstory begins with a larger-than-life figure in San Diego’s history: C. Arnholdt Smith. Smith has a true rags to riches story beginning as a grocery store clerk and moving his way up to owning the U.S. National Bank.

By the 1960s Smith owned the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO), a seafood company, the Westgate Hotel, the San Diego Padres, radio station KSDO and Westgate Park among other concerns. He was known as Mr. San Diego in those years.

Smith had his own personal yacht, and when it was damaged in a storm he looked around for a safer place to moor it. He turned his attention to a sandbank in San Diego which is now known as Shelter Island. Not truly an island but a peninsula, nevertheless, it was given the name in recognition of the protection from storms it afforded to those boats.

While you’re in the area, make sure to do a neighborhood walk of Point Loma!

Soon after purchasing land on Shelter Island, Smith hired an architect from Hawaii to design the Kona Kai Club using a South Pacific theme. The Kona Kai Club opened as a private membership club, but the Kona Inn was built nearby to accommodate the public.

In those early days club members rubbed elbows with the likes of Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy, Jerry Lewis, Wilt Chamberlain and listened to the music of entertainment icons like the Lawrence Welk Band. Among the celebrities who kept their watercraft in the marina were Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster, Jack Lemmon, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Durante, Dick van Dyke and Liberace.

Our Stay

After checking in and dropping my dog, Sage, off in our room, I headed over to SpaTerre for 2 hours of luxuriating treatments. The spa’s lobby is stocked with skin care products for every need. The spa itself has many rooms and options varying in length of time and price.

While waiting for your treatment you get to relax in the “Zen Den” where peaceful music plays with fruit-infused water and magazines to read:

During your spa experience you get a nice, thick robe & spa sandals to walk around in. For my treatment I chose “Cleopatra’s Milk Ritual” which included a DEEP exfoliating sugar scrub, milk & honey bath and deep tissue massage.  It was AMAZING and my skin felt soooo good afterward!

After the sugar scrub you get to relax in your private milk tub. Every sore muscle seems to disintegrate in here:

I was also shown the quartz massage table where you lay on tiny quartz granules that have been heated.  It sounds pretty amazing if you ask me!

After the treatment I headed back to my room. We stayed at the Marina View Guestroom: 

This room was spacious, came with a stunning view of the yachts below and so beautiful!

There is both an adult-only and kid-friendly pool at Kona Kai:

While walking the grounds, you will most likely notice fun games you can play during your leisure:

We decided to rent some beach cruisers and ride around the grounds!  The beach cruisers can be rented right next to the workout room:

We then headed to the Vessel for a delicious dinner!

The food and drinks were SO good!

We then grabbed a s’mores kit and went down to the fire pits to enjoy them.  It goes without saying that the food is gourmet all the way through here and the s’mores were no exception.  We all agreed there’s no going back after trying these.  Regular s’mores will never taste the same.

Eventually we went to the pool!

The next morning Sage and I were so sad for check-out time.  She really didn’t want to leave!

Til next time Kona Kai!  Thanks for the great memories!

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3 Reviews

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3 Reviews


  • Jim Baker
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    Smith never purchased Shelter Island. The property was, and still is, leased from the Port of San Diego. At the time Kona Kai was built, the Port was run by the San Diego City Harbor Dept. Later, the San Diego Unified Port District was formed to run the entire San Diego Bay. All land seaward of the original high tide survey line (dating to the late 1800’s) is owned by the Port District. All businesses there lease the land from the port district.

    February 5, 2019

  • Admin (mod)
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    To anon: Wow! Wish I had known that when I visited!

    March 15, 2019

  • Anonymous
    Rating Overall Rating Difficulty Finding

    If you go to the back of the exercise/spa area, there’s a door that leads to this very long storage area that runs the length of the property to the end of the ballrooms. There’s a whole bunch of yearbooks and old photos down there of the Kona Kai club history.

    March 15, 2019

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