Humbly written in their marketing materials, you’ll see the San Diego Metro KOA list things like “with over 40 years” or “a third generation family business.” You might even skip over it, but when you delve deeper into what that means you gain an appreciation for this place that goes beyond them winning the 2013 BEST KOA Campground. You learn that Ted and Carol Bell started this business in 1968 and “grandpa” still comes to work every day. I met his son, Mike, by way of a wave as he cruised by on old tractor he keeps restored so he can take families on hay rides and then saw him again flipping pancakes on Sunday morning. Mike’s daughter, Molly, and her team kept the activities rolling during our stay — so there was something for everyone. Each family member takes on multiple leadership roles in their areas of expertise.
I love to support local family businesses! And before I get to far, let me explain the black and gold aloha shirts. When you see these shirts — and you’ll see them all over the place — it’s a symbol of great service and smiling faces. Anyone wearing this shirt was super nice and accommodating during our stay. If we needed anything, it was very obvious who to ask.
So when the Bell’s invited my family for a family stay in one of their deluxe cabins with a kitchenette and loft, we accepted right away. If you’ve ever stayed in San Diego, you know what a challenge it is to find an affordable hotel near attractions that is also family-friendly. For comparison purposes, these are hotels I’ve stayed at over the past 20 years on trips to San Diego (priced for 2 nights Sept 20th & 21st, 2013 excluding taxes and hotel charges):
- Grand Colonial La Jolla ($299/night)
- Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel Old Town ($186/night)
- Kimpton Hotel Solamar Downtown San Diego ($267.75/night)
- San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina ($259/night)
- Bahia Resort Hotel on Mission Bay ($206/night)
- Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina ($199/night)
- Embassy Suites San Diego – La Jolla ($199/night)
So hold that thought for a moment. If you are taking your family to San Diego, it’s going to cost you around $200/night. All of these hotels definitely had a “shush” factor where we didn’t really feel comfortable as a family. I mean, the hipster scene doesn’t really work for us. Plus, try telling your kid that there’s a “kid pool” and an “adult pool” when the “adult pool” looks way more fun.
Here’s the thing about this KOA. It’s NOT a hotel, it’s a campground. So don’t expect a hotel! But if you score a deluxe cabin with kitchenette and loft, then expect the best hotel alternative for families in San Diego. I’m serious — based on my experience this place is awesome. I’m not a big fan of the term “glamping.” It’s either camping or it isn’t. When I don’t have to bring anything but food to eat, then it’s not really camping to me. So what does this deluxe cabin at the KOA have that a typical hotel room doesn’t?
- Propane BBQ grill
- A fire pit
- Private picnic table and patio
- Kitchen with utensils & appliances
- Big square footage
- Bunk beds
- Bikes for rent and a place to ride them
- Parking steps away from where you stay
- Cozy feel and privacy without shared walls
- Free or affordable activities for the whole family (pancake breakfasts, ice cream socials, tie-dying T-shirts, flashlight lollipop hunts, movies on the lawn, and more)
I bet you’re dying to know what it looks like on the inside! Well, let me show you . . .
My kids slept in the loft and had a blast.
And here’s the pool. No “shushing” happening here! One of the employees took me down her memory lane — sharing how she grew up coming to the campground and still loves to walk back from the pool through the campground with her hair wet in the fragrant night air.
So what else do you need to know?
- It’s super close to Balboa Park (SD Zoo and all the museums) and downtown San Diego.
- Appliances? Refrigerator, 2 burner stovetop (no oven), Keurig coffee maker, microwave, toaster, plus the BBQ grill outside
- It’s like living in your own house with towels, linens, and pillows on the bed. A set of mugs, cups, and plates, plus utensils. BBQ tools. Almost all the comforts of home.
- Just like in hotel room, you can’t control your neighbors. The first night we stayed – there was a very nice family with kids who were all in bed by 8pm. The 2nd night we stayed was a rowdy family blasting inappropriate (at least for my kid’s ears) music during dinnertime and later into the night. However, everyone obeyed the 10pm-7am quiet hours. So it was short-lived.
- The kids will be in HEAVEN with bikes to rent and new friends to meet. You can even bring your own bikes and helmets from home.
- The campground is really pretty with lots of trees and hidden gardens. I tried to capture the feel with this photo:
So how much for ALL this?
Of course, the cabins are booked for the weekend of September 19th through 21st, but in October I got the cabin for $185/night. Always check the “Hot Deals” page first. For instance, they are having a special from September 3 through November 19th where you can stay 3 nights for the price of two — which basically makes it $135/night. WOW!!!
Special for FunOrangeCountyParks.com Readers
The family gave me a super-secret code you can use to the end of the 2013 for 25% off your stay. Sssshhhh! It’s simply CL (although I’m sure it doesn’t work with the excellent deal above). Please mention that you heard about them through my blog.
Bonus – My Menu and Shopping Checklist: And I even put together a checklist for you — so you don’t even have to think about a shopping list when you go and you’ll know what to bring from home. Click here for my 2 night menu & shopping checklist.
Disclosure: As a I mentioned above, my family received a complimentary stay and access to activities for the purpose of reviewing them. You know I always express my own opinions! Read my full disclosure policy.