Last year I spent a full day at the iconic Kona Kai Resort on Shelter Island and 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.
Kona Kai 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.
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.
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 public 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!
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 where Sage anxiously awaited me. We stayed at the Marina View Guestroom:
Talk about a great view!
This room was no joke:
We then headed back down to meet up with my friends. The details of Kona Kai are pretty impressive and I LOVED all the patterns and colors of the resort. Check out the cool cabanas!
We decided to rent some beach cruisers and ride around the grounds! The beach cruisers can be rented right next to the workout room:
After riding around we ate during happy our and OMG the food is soooo good! I got a lobster quesadilla and lobster mac n’ cheese. It tasted so fresh it almost seemed like it was caught that day!
Once evening hit, the grounds took on a new vibe. Flaming tiki torches are everywhere and you really begin to feel like you’re on a tropical island!
We 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. Thankfully you can purchase this kit. I found their Instagram page here!
Eventually we made our way back to the bar to grab a drink and then to the pool!
This little nook area we found had the coolest wallpaper! It almost looks like a real library at first glance!
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!