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Paradise Found On a San Diego Island

Two women paddleboarding, Mission Bay, San Diego

A luxury resort spa  revives and rejuvenates in a tropical island found in the Cali beach city's Mission Bay.

The lush, tropical foliage, five pools, world class spa, and exclusive beaches of Paradise Point Resort & Spa conjures far-flung island paradises from the Caribbean or South Pacific.

But the verdant 44-acre island resort sits not in the ocean, but instead in San Diego’s Mission Bay, a short boat ride to Sea World and a few minutes from downtown. Paradise Point offers more than 460 guest rooms, including spacious suites, garden rooms, lanai patios, and bayside bungalows. The award-winning landscaping includes over 600 types of tropical plants.


The main pool at Paradise Point


I’ve visited Paradise Point twice in 10 years, and in the time between I began to wonder if my memories had given way to hyperbolic daydreaming. Could my stay really have been simultaneously relaxing, exciting, and rejuvenating?

By the time I arrived, I really needed it to be the latter. I’d just come from three grueling days at Legoland with my little sister. But even as I walked into the airy timber and glass lobby, I couldn’t help but wonder if one resort could soothe both my frazzled nerves and exhausted body in two short days.

Paradise Point was developed by rabbi-turned-movie-producer-turned-hotelier Jack Skirball, who was reportedly tired of building film sets only to watch them be torn down after the production wrapped. In 1962 he set about creating a permanent fantasy-island set open to vacationing families.


The beach at Paradise Point


With its Hollywood roots, it could be easy to dismiss Paradise Point as a Disneyified, manufactured experience, but instead it offers luxe accommodations and experiences. The Spa at Paradise Point is a sanctuary where ancient rituals and modern-day San Diego influences coalesce, earning it consistent ranking as one of the top 100 U.S. resort spas by Condé Nast Traveler.

The spa’s therapists offer a wide variety of treatments, including whole-body exfoliation and a CBD facial with light therapy that promises to restore a “healthy glow” and deliver a “youthful complexion.” I admit I could have used the help getting my glow back (and I am years beyond a youthful complexion), but my muscles screamed out for the spa’s signature full body massage. Afterwards I lounged by the main pool with a frozen Pina Colada. I hadn’t felt so relaxed in more than a year.


Stingrays glide past Barefoot Bar & Grill


By the morning I had recovered enough to fulfill my watersports reservation. Paradise Point offers a number of activities, including daily yoga, a state-of-the-art fitness center, sports courts, a six-mile guided bike ride, and paddleboard or kayak rentals. On my previous visit I had rented a jet ski, which had been great fun. This time I upgraded to a powerboat. I’d never captained a boat before, but the simple training provided easily prepared me for an invigorating cruise around Mission Bay.


Lightning strikes over San Diego


Returning to the resort, I lunched at Barefoot Bar & Grill, where you’re serenaded with a waterfall, and can watch stingrays glide beneath the water. I recommend one of their salads (I went with the berries and greens) and the red beet hummus plate. If you want something more substantial, go with the Barefoot poke.


Outside the beachside bungalow


After a break at my amazing bungalow suite, I walked to one of the resort’s four other pools, swam, then relaxed in the jacuzzi. I had the pool area entirely to myself. Strolling on the beach that evening I was treated to a spectacular sunset and took in nature’s light show before an electric storm moved closer. It was a fitting end to a brief but memorable stay.


Sun sets over Mission Bay


I left fully recovered and determined to return for a longer stay — before another decade can pass.


This piece initially ran in the Summer 2022 print issue. Out Traveler is available on newsstands.

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Jacob Anderson-Minshall