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Was San Diego" Don the Beachcomber part of some resort called Vacation Village?

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If so, it is my first tiki experience when I was 6 years old.


Oh wow..."Vacation Village" that name brings back memories. I know some people may have more historical information, but I do remember the masterplan of Vacation Village. :)

Don The Beachcomber location in San Diego, California (opened in 1970) - 1590 Harbor Island Drive (next to the Sheraton Hotel)

A section off of this link. http://www.welovepb.com/pbhistory.htm
As the beach community entered the 1960's, development continued to increase. Vacant lots were filled in and older buildings replaced. Along sail bay large condominiums began to rise and slowly the quiet rural Pacific Beach began to disappear. During this period the city’s investment in Mission Bay Park facilitated the developments of the Islandia, Vacation Village and Hilton Hotels. In 1964 Sea World opened along with a host of other tourist and marine oriented businesses.

More history. http://www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/2002-1/gabrielson.htm

Here is a nice timeline history with links for San Diego.  

Don The Beachcomber (overview)

Donn Beach (born Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt February 22, 1907 – June 7, 1989) is the acknowledged founding father of tiki restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. The many so-called "Polynesian" restaurants and pubs that enjoyed great popularity are directly descended from what he created. After years of being called Don the Beachcomber because of his original bar/restaurant, Gantt legally changed his name to "Donn Beach".


Gantt, a Louisiana native, had left home in 1926 and traveled around the world on his own, scouring many of the islands of the Caribbean and the South Pacific.


A former bootlegger during Prohibition, he moved to Hollywood in the 1930s. Gantt opened a bar called "Don's Beachcomber" in 1934 on McCadden Place, and then, across the street, the first Don the Beachcomber restaurant in 1937. He mixed potent rum cocktails in his tropically decorated bar. This was such an escape from everyday life, it quickly gained popularity, especially with Hollywood celebrities. At "Don the Beachcomber", customers ate what seemed like wonderfully exotic cuisines, but, in actuality, were mostly standard Cantonese dishes served with flair. The first "pu pu platter" was probably served there. His Zombie cocktail (a rum drink) was served at the 1939 New York World's Fair. He also was known for creating "Tahitian Rum Punch".

World War II

As the originator of Polynesian-style restaurants, he served in the U.S. Army in World War II as an operator of officer rest-and-recreation centers. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star while setting up rest camps for combat-weary airman of the 12th and 15th Air Forces in Capri, Nice, Cannes, the French Riviera, Venice, the Lido and Sorrento at the order of his friend, Lieutenant General Jimmy Doolittle.

Post-war tiki fad
The back cover from a Beachcomber menu circa. 1959
The back cover from a Beachcomber menu circa. 1959

Tiki restaurants enjoyed a tremendous burst of fad popularity in the 1940s and 50s and there were several Don the Beachcomber restaurants across the country. Victor J. Bergeron opened a competing version called Trader Vic's in the late 1930s in the San Francisco Bay Area and the two men were amicable rivals for many years. Each claimed to have created the Mai Tai, a rum and fruit-juice cocktail still popular today -- "maitai" is the Tahitian word for "good." The Trader claimed to have invented it in 1944, the Beachcomber in 1933. At the peak of Bergeron's success, there were more Trader Vic's around the world than Don the Beachcombers.

Move to Hawaii

When World War II ended, Beach settled in Waikiki, where he opened his second Polynesian Village, the first being at his home in Encino, California where he entertained his Hollywood pals. He was the originator of the International Marketplace in Honolulu, and had his office up in the limbs of the enormous banyan tree in the center of the market. He later built an elaborate houseboat, the Marama, a prototype for what he hoped would be floating housing in Hawaii but failed to get the zoning for it. He eventually shipped the houseboat to Moorea, and lived there in retirement for a number of years before a succession of hurricanes destroyed it. He died in Honolulu.

Don the Beachcomber Restaurant Locations

The original Don the Beachcomber restaurants are no longer in existence, but here are some of the former locations of the chain (with opening dates for some according to information from a Don the Beachcomber menu):

  • Los Angeles, California (the original bar opened in 1934 in Hollywood, first restaurant opened across the street in 1937) - 1727 North McCadden Place
  • Chicago, Illinois (opened in 1940) - 101 East Walton Place
  • Corona del Mar, California (opened in 1969) - 3901 E. Coast Highway
  • Dallas, Texas - Meadow Road, just off Greenville Avenue, closed in the mid-1980s
  • Honolulu, Hawaii (opened in 1971) - International Marketplace, Waikiki
  • Houston, Texas - Woodlake Square
  • Las Vegas, Nevada (opened in 1962) - Sahara Hotel
  • Malibu, California - 22878 Pacific Coast Highway (former home of the Tonga Lei). Closed in the 1980s
  • Marina del Rey, California (opened in 1970) - Hotel Marina del Rey, 13534 Bali Way
  • Oxnard, California - 2631 Wagon Wheel Road (former home of the Trade Winds). Closed in the late 1970s. Building torn down, is now a used car / RV lot.
  • Palm Springs, California (opened in 1953) - 1101 North Palm Canyon Drive
  • St. Paul, Minnesota (opened in 1966) - St. Paul Hilton
  • San Diego, California (opened in 1970) - 1590 Harbor Island Drive (next to the Sheraton Hotel)
  • Santa Barbara, California - 101 E. Cabrillo Blvd.
  • Santa Clara, California - On Stevens Creek Blvd.
  • Kona, Hawaii - on Alii Road in the Royal Kona Resort

Don the Beachcomber Revival

When Disney's California Adventure opened in 2001, it included a small Don the Beachcomber at its Hollywood & Dine food court. It offered Chinese food, but did not serve alcoholic drinks. The restaurant closed within a few years. In 2005, full scale Don the Beachcomber restaurants opened at the Royal Kona Resort in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii; another is slated to open at the Royal Lahaina Resort in Lahaina, Hawaii by 2007. There are rumors that a Don the Beachcomber may soon open in Las Vegas.

Here is some history on the changes over the past. http://www.hotel-online.com/News/PressReleases1999_1st/Jan99_ParadiseRenov.html

FATIMA BLUSH: Oh, how reckless of me. I made you all wet.
JAMES BOND: Yes, but my martini is still dry.


[ Edited by: VampiressRN 2007-04-15 14:39 ]

On 2007-04-15 14:00, Robertiki wrote:
Was San Diego" Don the Beachcomber part of some resort called Vacation Village?



On 2007-04-15 15:54, bigbrotiki wrote:

On 2007-04-15 14:00, Robertiki wrote:
Was San Diego" Don the Beachcomber part of some resort called Vacation Village?


So there were 2 Don The Beachcombers in San Diego?

I remember the Don on Harbor Island at the Sheraton. But my memory is a little fuzzy on Vacation Village Isle (later renamed the "San Diego Princess" and today called the "San Diego Paradise Resort") out in Mission Bay. I vaguely recall a tropical themed restaurant there...but didn't realize (or recall) it was a Don The Beachcomber! What was I missing!?


On 2007-04-15 16:33, PremEx wrote:
So there were 2 Don The Beachcombers in San Diego? I remember the Don on Harbor Island at the Sheraton.

So it appears:

No idea about from when to when.


On 2007-04-15 16:57, bigbrotiki wrote:

So it appears:

No idea about from when to when.

Wow. I probably ate there and didn't even recollect it was a Don's at the time!

Thanks! :)


Well, now this makes sense. I too have this matchbook. Some time ago I went to the San Diego Public Library downtown, and the librarians managed to find me an ad for Don the Beachcomber at the Sheraton on Harbor Island. But the picture of the restaurant in the ad didn't look like this one on the matchbook. The Sheraton one had a lot less tropical look on the exterior. I assumed at the time that they had simply given the place a facelift. But apparently from your info, I was looking at two completely different buildings. I'll have to go out to Paradise Resort and see if I can locate where Don's was.

I'm guessing that the Vacation Village Don the Beachcomber was around in the '60s, and the Harbor Island was the one in the '70s. Anyone else have info on this?

I worked for Vacation Village starting in late 1982, and Don the Beachcomber was already gone by then. We had lots of guests who would inquire about it (at that time I didn't know what a Don the Beachcomber was) and were very disappointed when they found it gone. I now understand why!

  • Myke

Is Vacation Village now Paradise Point?

Way to bring it, VampiressRN.


I grew up in LA but when I was a kid (1970's) our big family vacations were to San Diego and we stayed at Vacation Village. By the time I was 20 I moved down here and my mom told me she knew I would end up in San Diego because I enjoyed those vacations so much. We used to get those little beach cottages for the whole family. Now I walk around the bay a few times a week and still see them over there but I have not been to "Paradise Point" for about 10 years or more.

Knowing my Dad, we must have been to Don's when it was there (if it was there through the 70's). I have a matchbook from there in my collection and I don't even know how I got it.


It is paradise point. For a while it was some other name like "princess cruise" or something like that.


On 2008-02-04 09:59, Matt Reese wrote:
It is paradise point. For a while it was some other name like "princess cruise" or something like that.

Yes it was called the Princess Resort for awhile.

Pages: 1 11 replies