Paradise Point in the Mission Bay area of San Diego would be a theme park had Uncle Walt been there first But movie mogul Jack Skirball beat him to the punch as the pioneer who forged this petite tropical paradise by the I-5 freeway and gave it the touch of celluloid magic – sans thrill rides. What unfolds now, as you turn onto Vacation Road and into this meandering 44-acre fantasyland-by-the-border, is a lush lagoon of abutted by 462 South Beach-style cottages facing a Pacific Ocean inlet and nature reserve a splash away from SeaWorld.
It is no wonder that Forbes.com puts Paradise Point among the top family destinations in the U.S.
Make your way through the overgrown thickets of bird of paradise plants, banana trees, jungle ferns and brilliant bougainvillea overhangs and you will find an 18-hole putting course, five pools – including a tropical lagoon and beach pool, an 88-step story observation tower that looks like it could have been part of the set of Swiss Family Robinson or Around the World in 80 Days, two restaurants and a SpaTerre spa and fitness area.
All the cottages face something – whether a lotus covered pond, a lush jungle clearing or the sandy beach that fronts sleepy Mission Bay.
(The bay was actually a 4,600-acre aquatic park once upon a time, commissioned in 1902 by the city that took another 56 years to actually create.) The resultant 30 miles of shoreline proffers a relaxing beach-like experience in some spots, boating and fishing in others (although the cleanliness of this body of water is questionable.) And for an added bonus, guests enjoy unobstructed views of SeaWorld’s nightly show of fireworks. Leave the kids behind and you’ll want to make some fireworks of your own as the sky outside your cottage lights up like a Technicolor dream.
When Skirball built the property in 1962 he immediately saw the Fantasy Island possibilities and even added to the fun with real sets from real movies (check out the porpoise fountain from the 1920s version of Cleopatra, which Skirball produced, and the odd Aztec facades to be seen above the doorways of several cottages, which hail from a lesser-known film of the era). Lagoons, waterfalls, shaded coves and rustic footpaths were the order of the day and Hollywood loved it. Think Paul Newman, Robert Wagner, Michael McDonald and Rosanne Arnold.
Today’s celeb-studded clientele also have the opportunity to enjoy SpaTerre. An 80-minute hot stone treatment under the strong healing hands of Eric Edwards can cure nearly any ill, at least for a good hour. The spa opens up to the lagoon pool, the resort’s centerpiece with a beach, waterfalls, Jacuzzi, poolside dining and more lush landscaping. And if you do manage to leave your suite for long enough to partake of the spa’s sensual offerings, try to also schedule in time for golf, tennis or an afternoon bike ride.
Although rates can be as low as $129 per night, Paradise Resort averages around $219 per night ($229-$329 during the summer vacation months) with value packages available, such as the Bungalow & Breakfast package that adds a $36 credit per night for breakfast in bed. Also the SeaWorld Splash package adds daily the breakfast credit plus two adult tickets to SeaWorld with a two-night minimum stay.
Your bed-away-from-home awaits: 800.344.2626 or visit www.paradisepoint.com.
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