Popular Oceanside Marina Suites sits, as the name suggests, in Oceanside Harbor, next to the marina. It offers rooms right on the water in a cheerfull property that manager Michelle Ball calls "California meets Tommy Bahama."
The hotel's suites actually cozy one-time apartments, built in the 60s. Visitors will find small kitchens fully stocked with cooking pans, comfortable living rooms, some with fireplaces and most with a great ocean or marina view.
Ocean breezes and balmy temperatures year-round make air-conditioning unnecessary, and in fact the hotel's layout is open-air, much like many hotels in Hawaii and the tropics.
A FAMILY PLACE
What makes it special? Families come back year after year, Ball says, and activities center around a family environment: horseshoes, arts and crafts and trips across the harbor to the beach via flat-bottomed "Duffy" boat that flies a Jolly Roger. The boat is manned by the hotels popular staff members, Captain Jim and Captain Jack.
"You can’t get bored here," Ball says.
During the tourist season, visitors tend to stay for a few nights or one or two weeks. During the off-season, the hotel rents to snowbirds who come for months at a time.
"I love it when people call, they're coming in from Nevada or Arizona, and they say they're on their way and so exhausted," Ball says. "Then, when they get here, they see the ocean, they feel the breeze and they just go, 'Aw...'"
One set of regulars is a group of golf buddies who have come for 11 years, she says. They golf every morning at one of the area's many golf courses, then plan other activities later in the day. One grandmother comes with her granddaughter every year; other guests have been coming for 20 years straight.
SORRY, NO SPA
The casual, family atmosphere isn't for everyone. Ball says upon occasion, when guests who haven't researched the facility expect a spa and room service, she's suggested that they might feel more comfortable at one of the big chain hotels up the road.
"I'll tell them I don't think we're the right hotel for you," she says. When that happens, she arranges reservations for them at another Oceanside hotel, or directs them to the nearby California Visitors Center, where Leslee Gall, director of tourism, also frequently helps visitors find a hotel that suits their needs. Whatever it takes, Ball says, to make sure visitors are happy.
Prices? Ball describes Oceanside Marina Suites' price range as "moderate to high," depending on the season. At the time of this writing, nightly rates range from $109 for one bedroom to $150 for two bedrooms in the off-season, and $249 to $310 for the same rooms in-season. Those rates are for suites with marina views; for ocean views rates run $30 more.