Time to Get Away: San Diego, CA

For our last post of each month we are going to take you away on a mini vacation.  Each location we choose will have an art, architectural, or design significance and give reasons a lover of these things may want to plan a trip.  This month I ventured to San Diego.  I specifically went to partake in this year’s Tiki Oasis event.  Tiki Oasis is a celebration of everything tiki.  Held each year in San Diego there is music, dance, seminars, tiki related events and architecture tours.  There is seriously something for everyone and if you are not specifically interested in tiki themed things, you will be by the end of the weekend.  This trip had me thinking about all the great tiki/Polynesian style architecture San Diego has to offer as well as its abundance of great mid-century modern architecture.  The examples in this city really are endless, you just have to get out and explore.  So get ready to hop in the car or on a plane a take a trip to a couple of my favorite San Diego spots.

Half Moon Inn
Humphreys Haf Moon Inn & Suites

Let’s start out where my trip started out, on Shelter Island.  This is home to boating centers, marinas, resort hotels, and many restaurants and bayside parks.  Shelter Island was originally developed more than 50 years ago to accommodate larger Navy ships.  Many of the structures, resorts, and restaurants on this island are Polynesian-themed.  When it was originally developed all buildings on the island were supposed to follow the Polynesian or “tiki” theme which was incredibly popular at the time.  Although the popularity of this style died down in the 80’s there has been a resurgence of the style in recent years. Today there are still great examples of this style and Shelter Island has it in abundance.

The Bali Hai Restaurant

My first stop was the Bali Hai Restaurant.  This was originally opened in 1955 and was one of the first tiki styled restaurants on the island and remains one of the largest remaining examples of tiki. When you arrive take a moment to take in the architecture from the outside before heading in.  The building is made up of many different species of woods and of course, set on the water with spectacular views.  Take notice of “The Goof”, the figure on top of the roof that has been there for decades.   Inside you will find beautiful wood carvings.  This can be seen as soon as you enter with carvings flanking the stairs as you make your way up to the second floor where the restaurant is located.  Once you reach the top of the stairs you will find, enclosed in glass, many of the Polynesian artifacts that are part of the Bali Hais’ collection.  The collection includes tiki figures, wooden weapons, ocean maps and charts, and antique tapa cloths.  Now that you have had a moment to take in the collection don’t forget to admire the ceiling.  The wood structure is amazing along with many different types of lighting.  All are unique, most wooden, all intricately detailed and very fitting of the Polynesian theme.  Lastly, all throughout the space you will find tiki pole carvings.  Now grab a seat by the window enjoy the view and go ahead and try one of the famous Mai Tais (but only try one, you have been warned).

Bali Hai collage
Bali Hai Restaurant Details

The Bali Hai alone is worth a trip to Shelter Island, but there are many other structures on the island worth looking at.  Most notable is the Humphreys Half Moon Inn & Suites.  I did not make it here myself, but it is on the list to take a look at the next time.  Many of the yacht clubs and boat rental agencies display wonderful examples of “tiki” architecture.  Even a Best Western hotel displays some of the best of tiki.  Lastly Trader Mort’s Liquor Store is a great architectural example with a tiki pole right out front greeting you as you enter Shelter Island.  If you want to see tiki and see it all in one place without having to travel too far then Shelter Island is the place.

Trader Morts Liquour Store
Trader Morts Liquor Store

Not too far from Shelter Island I discovered a great example of mid-century modern design at The Pearl Hotel.  This is a vintage mid-century modern boutique hotel.  If you want to feel as though you have stepped back in time to attend a classy 1960’s pool party, then this is the place to be.  The space is filled with mid-century modern furniture and great 60’s style accents.  They even have seats made from shag carpeting.  Add some lighting, cushions, and a chess board and you feel like you are sitting on the floor at someone’s home.  This is a great place to visit for dinner, a drink, or maybe one of their dive-in movies.  It is definitely on my list of places to stay next time I am in town.

Pearl Hotel collage
The Pearl Hotel

Our next stop is the Crowne Plaza San Diego.  As I was in town for the Tiki Oasis event I did spend a lot of my time at this location.  This is however a great spot for a tiki event as the tiki theme is flowing throughout the entire space here as well.  Most notably in the restaurant on site and in a tucked away space in between some of the rooms that is home to a small lagoon and great tiki details.  The lagoon and waterfall give a relaxing feeling to this space and there are tables and chairs throughout for guest to sit and enjoy the surroundings.  There is a thatched gazebo with colorful tiki poles surrounding the structure and larger carvings at each entrance to the space.  The entire hotel has a colorful, fun, and festive vibe to it that makes it the perfect location to continue the tiki celebration after opening night at the Bali Hai.

Crowne Plaza Collage
Crowne Plaza San Diego

No trip to San Diego would be complete without visiting the beach.  So after you have taken in all the tiki architecture you can handle head over to the beach for some relaxation before heading home.  We headed to Pacific Beach.  Just the drive to the beach alone had me thinking about this month’s seaside retreat theme and picking out the many mid-century modern style buildings along the way that I would love to have as my very own.  The architecture offered in San Diego is everywhere, you just have to get out and look.  We found a great apartment complex on our walk just before getting to the beach. We loved the great mid-century modern detail on the staircases and railings (pictured below).  Interesting design is everywhere.  You just have to look!  Now it’s your turn to get out of town and explore some of it!  Enjoy your trip!

Apartment Collage

Beach Pano


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