Mission Bay: Almost Paradise


By Diane Anderson-Minshall

At 60 miles per hour the wind whips your face and the water crashes over you with such fury that it feels like you’re on a rocket shooting atop the ocean—that’s what it’s like to Jet Ski through Mission Bay, an inviting inlet in Southern California.

After the sun went down and a slight chill hit the air, we headed to Baleen, San Diego's signature waterfront seafood restaurant, which draws both resort guests and locals who trek over the bridges to get to the island for the food. It's no surprise that The New York Times called it "one of the best dining secrets in San Diego." Right on the bay, with indoor and outdoor seating and a copper-topped fireplace, Baleen feels lush and tropical just as a resort eatery should. Fresh fish is a specialty, but the Creole shrimp and grits and the duck-and-bacon mac and cheese surely have their devoted fans as well. I had a dish made of mussels, venus clams, cockles, diver scallop, jumbo prawn, and Spanish chorizo that I have been trying to re-create at home ever since.

The spa stays open extended hours, which is good, because youll want to be outside as much as possible during the day. (I couldn't stand to be out of the water, but the resort also has an 18-hole putting golf course, four-wheel quadracycle surrey and bike rentals, and a decent-size fitness center.)

The Asian-themed spa is small but luxurious, and its treatments are based on five locales -- Hawaii, Bali, Fiji, Thailand, and the mainland -- to create signature experiences for each visitor. A number of them sound enticing, but I couldn't pass up the Volcanic Earth Clay Ritual, a Balinese treatment where the spa therapists spread clay all over you to detoxify you, give you Balinese foot massage while you lie there in the clay, have you shower with aromatic water, and then wrap it all up with a full body massage that left me feeling cocooned and rather emotional.

I passed on the ride back to my room and instead walked in the water lapping the shore all the way to my bungalow, picking up small shells as I went. The vacation was so immersive I forgot, for a moment, where I was and just reveled in how I felt. Back at my bungalow, a chic and modern suite with sliding glass doors that opened straight out to the bay, I lay down and fell asleep immediately. I was out for 10 hours, perhaps the best rest I ever had.

Tags: San Diego