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The Best Escapes Are Right Around the Corner 

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By Kathleen Sterling

Sometimes the best escapes  are close to home, and just a quick change of scenery – and temperature – are all that’s needed to make a great getaway.

Just two easy hours down the 405 Freeway is Mission Bay in San Diego. Cool breezes, ocean and bay views, and a host of things to do make this a quick, easy destination for a romantic weekend or a family vacation.

With the Catamaran Hotel as our home base, we settled into our gorgeous Orchid Suite with spreading views from the room of both the bay and the Pacific. From our balcony it was relaxing just to watch the boats on the water and smell the ocean breezes. It was the perfect spot to relax with a glass of wine and watch the nightly fireworks from Sea World just across the bay – an unexpected treat! 

It was actually hard to leave the comfort of our own suite – there was a large sitting room with a television, a separate bath with shower, and a full kitchen.

The bedroom boasted a really lovely king-size bed, television, and large  bath with a huge separate shower and soaking tub. It too had a large balcony from which to look at the gorgeous vista. Keeping the large balcony doors open kept the rooms cool and fresh. 

The Catamaran is one of those iconic, Polynesian-style resort destinations. The tropical-themed grounds are lush with over 100 different kinds of plants, waterfalls, small lagoons filled with koi and an aviary with exotic birds that like to converse with guests. 

There is a large lawn fronting the bay where guests can hang out on beach chairs or rent bikes and surreys, paddle boards, kayaks and even boats. Many of the resort’s rooms actually open out onto the lawn, so several guests were holding family events that spilled out from their rooms to the lawn.

With our kitchen upstairs we could have prepared our own meals, but we were on vacation! We ordered room service from the hotel, and had a scrumptious breakfast on our balcony overlooking the bay.

The hotel’s Oceano Coastal Kitchen restaurant offers both room service and dine-in on their beautiful patio with bay-front views. Obviously the menu features seafood, shellfish and sushi. 

We started with the mussels and frites, one of my all-time favorites, and they didn’t disappoint with the cream, garlic, white wine and sundried tomato sauce. The menu also has an Italian flair, with flatbreads and pasta, so we also nibbled a delicious arancini appetizer while enjoying the ambiance of the oceanfront table.

We chose the crisped skin ocean trout that was as pink and flaky as salmon, and absolutely delicious. The pescatore linguini was filled with  clams, mussels, shrimp and a variety of fish in a delicious spicy marinara over squid ink linguine.

Oceano also offers chicken, Harris Ranch ribeye, pork and lamb, but we opted for the seafood specialties accompanied by wine from their extensive list of California vintners.

Given the theme of the hotel, there are also of course, a mai tai special, a “Cannibal” colata and mojitos – as well as margaritas and a cocktail of the month.

It was a weekend full of eating, drinking and relaxing – of course! But we also took advantage of some of the fun activities available right at the hotel. 

I must admit, it’s been a while since I was on a bike, but I thought the tandem surrey would be pretty easy if we rode it together. Getting on I got stuck between the pedals, dropped my phone and made a fool of myself in front of the beachfront chair-dwellers. Laughing hysterically we finally found our rhythm and had a beautiful hour ride along the Bay and then with a quick turn to the right, over to famed Pacific Beach. At Pacific Beach there are a variety of cute boutiques, small cafes and more to enjoy, just a block away from the Catamaran.

We opted to pedal back to the hotel rather than stop and browse, so as not to miss our sunset cruise on the Bahia Belle, the old-fashioned sternwheeler that takes a leisurely sightseeing cruise – equipped with a full bar – around the bay.

Returning to the Catamaran we enjoyed drinks at Moray’s while seated around a cosy firepit. Others had the same idea, because you can actually book a bayside bonfire complete with s’mores material right on the beach, and we saw several families gathered round a blazing fire pit toasting marshmallows.

For our last day we promised ourselves nothing but relaxation – that tandem ride was more work than it looked! So after breakfast we enjoyed massages at the Catamaran Spa – the only beachfront spa in San Diego.

The beautifully appointed spa features marine and bontanical-based products, steam and sauna plus a bay-front whirlpool. The spa offers a full line of services including massage, facials, baths, waxing, hair and nail appointments.

The massage was luxurious and much needed after a work-week of stress. A quick steam afterwards and I was a jellyfish.

I was so relaxed my final destination was poolside, with a book and a pina colada in hand. I whiled away our final hours just reading and people-watching.

There is plenty more to do in Mission Bay. Sea World is nearby, as is Belmont Park amusement park. – San Diego’s version of Pacific Park. 

In San Diego, the world-famous zoo can take a day in and of itself, and there’s also the big Safari Park. You can take boat tours or whale watching excursions – all great family adventures.

Every Tuesday and Friday you can enjoy a sunset luau on Mission Bay, a festive celebration of Polynesian food, music and dance, complete with hula and fiery torch dancers. The luau experience includes a silk lei, Mai Tai, all-you-can-eat buffet and entertainment.

We, however,  were there for one goal only – to relax and decompress. We didn’t need to leave the hotel for anything during our weekend. All our food, beverage, entertainment and stress-free needs were met. The peaceful grounds were soothing in and of themselves, and the staff was super helpful and courteous, and went out of their way to meet special requests.

The Catamaran has special offers and promotions for the summer. Check out their adventure packages with the Zoo and Safari Park, or their Bed and Breakfast for Two package. When you stay for three or more nights, extend your stay and save up to 25%.

The Catamaran Resort Hotel is located at 3999 Mission Boulevard, San Diego.  For reservations call (858) 488-1081 or visit catamaranresort.com.