Aloha reigns at the Catamaran
by Manny Lopez
Published - 08/15/13 - 01:40 PM | 6187 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Luau dancers and performers wow guests at the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa resort during the summer luau series. Photo by Manny Lopez
Luau dancers and performers wow guests at the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa resort during the summer luau series. Photo by Manny Lopez
There’s plenty of aloha at the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa on the shores of Mission Bay. Surrounded by soft, sun-drenched beaches, tranquil waters and miles of meandering shoreline, one could call the Catamaran an enchanting Hawaiian tropical paradise on the mainland.

Built more than a half-century ago by the late San Diego hotelier William D. Evans and still owned and operated by the Evans family, the 315-room resort, situated on 8.5 acres of lushly landscaped property, affords visitors the freedom to reset their watches to “Hawaiian time,” float on their backs, enjoy the cool breeze and leave their mainlander worries behind.

“An expensive vacation in Hawaii was out of the question for us this year and who wants to go through the headaches of flying,” said Marilyn Tucker of Simi Valley. “San Diego is just such a wonderful place to vacation. Once inside the hotel, the people and the décor make you feel like you’re in Hawaii and we were able to bring the relatives along.”

Originally the summer estate of the Scripps media family, the hotel is situated a half-block from the Pacific Ocean and steps to Mission Bay — the largest man-made water park of its kind in the world. With a wealth of water-based activities available and San Diego’s only beachfront spa, the Catamaran has something for everyone.

Upon entering the resort, guests encounter a 15-foot waterfall, which feeds into a pond that holds an assortment of Japanese koi fish, some of which are more than 15 years old. A number of exotic parrots call the Catamaran home (see story at right). Throughout the day, skilled staff members exhibit the trained bird ambassadors and pose for pictures with guests. 

Every Tuesday and Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. through Aug. 30, the Catamaran Sunset Luau celebrates a slice of Polynesian culture, music, food and dance. Entertainment is provided by Pride of Polynesia Dance Revue, which features a festival of colorful hula dancers telling stories with their hips, arms and hands, accompanied by rhythmic drumbeats, chants and torch dancing.

“I’ve been to Hawaii many times and have seen a lot of luaus, but this one is the best,” said Iosif David from Temecula. “The variety, beautiful presentation and atmosphere were exceptional.”

Executive chef Steven Riemer’s fare evokes the spirit of Hawaii by adding a regional flair to his luau menu and using as many locally sourced products as possible. Riemer prepares a feast, including a whole pig slow cooked and carved on-site, island-flavored Kahlua roast pig and pork loin, miso-glazed salmon filets with ginger lime cream, guava chicken with grilled pineapple and shredded coconut and ginger-scented stir-fry with snow peas, carrots, Maui onion and shitake vegetables. Rounding out the menu is traditional island-style macaroni salad, tropical rice, island pineapple coleslaw and an assortment of salads, fresh fruits and desserts.

“We came to watch the luau and we thought it was fantastic,” said Adrian Kwasnicki who was on vacation from England. “I found it was very relaxing, but energetic and colorful. It was a lovely way to enhance our holiday here.”

Guests of the Catamaran can also enjoy complimentary boat cruises around Mission Bay aboard the Bahia Belle — a Mississippi-style sternwheeler that features live music and dancing. Non-hotel guests can purchase tickets at the Catamaran’s dock on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

“This is one of the best tickets in town,” said David Torres of Ocean Beach. “I always bring guests from out of town to the hotel for brunch on Sunday or a trip on the Bahia Belle. The luau is just a great way to celebrate the diversity of the San Diego lifestyle.” 

The Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa is located at 3999 Mission Blvd.,, (858) 488-1081.

Hotel boasts a unique kind of wild animal park

While many San Diego hotels are advertised as pet-friendly, the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa in Pacific Beach must be the only one with real pets that are actually friendly.

In addition to more than 100 varieties of palm trees, 1,000 different varieties of plants, cascading waterfalls, ponds and sun-drenched beaches, the property derives its island-paradise feel from its interesting assortment of colorful parrots, koi fish, turtles and waterfowl.

“The idea was to bring Hawaii to San Diego,” said Julia Geis, spokesperson for Evans Hotels, which owns and operates the Catamaran. “The Evans family are passionate collectors and they’ve traveled the globe and brought back the best that the world has to offer.”

For lovers of feathered creatures, the resort is home to a number of different bird species. Among them are two blue and gold macaws named Mercer and Bianchi that have lived at the hotel for more than 20 years.

Born in captivity at the San Diego Zoo, the pair was originally cared for by security personnel and front desk staff at the hotel until they became too large to handle. 

Scooter, a female lilac-crowned Amazon parrot, has resided at the hotel since 2001. Also known as a Finsch’s Amazon, the bird — resplendent with green plumage, maroon forehead and violet-blue crown — is native to the Pacific slopes of Mexico but has been observed in several counties in Southern California. Though they’re not typically known as talkers, Scooter has an ever-increasing vocabulary.

Hatched more than 17 years ago, Chadwick is a male Eleanora cockatoo, who, among other talents, can spell his own name. Hotel staff refers to Chadwick as the escape artist, because he enjoys taking walks alone to the hotel’s bar to beg for peanuts.

Cornel is a green-winged macaw from a breeder in West Hollywood. He has been at the Catamaran since 2005. These birds are found in the forests and woodlands of northern and central South America and generally mate for life.

Two smaller parrots are housed in an enclosure located within the two-story lobby of the hotel.

During the day, the birds are outdoors for people to visit between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., except for Wednesdays and Sundays, which are shower days. Staff sporadically walk around the property and allow the birds to mingle with guests.

“These birds live a very good life here at the resort,” said Jackie Kohlman, exotic bird handler for the Catamaran. “It’s something different for our guests to experience that they’ll never forget and these birds have been in countless wedding photos.”

Other pets of the hotel include valuable Japanese koi fish, catfish and carp, which fill the ponds surrounding the entire 8.5-acre property. According to Geis, a generous patron who lived in the neighborhood donated more than 18 koi fish to the resort several years ago. The fish share the ponds with about 40 exotic waterfowl, including wood and Mandarin ducks. 

“We are very fortunate to have all of these wonderful animals on the property,” Geis said. “They are educational, entertaining and most of all, memorable. That’s something that makes us different from any other resort and they really do have a good life here.”

The Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa is located at 3999 Mission Blvd., (858) 488-1081.
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