This was our first ‘big city’ Kimpton experience, coming after 2 glorious days by the beach in Mission Bay, just on the outskirts of San Diego. Downtown San Diego boasts not one but 2 Kimpton properties, with our reservation at the Kimpton Solamar in the Gaslamp District waiting for us. We didn’t get to visit the sister property Kimpton Palomar (yep, they sound very similar, so make sure you know which one you’re staying in if ordering an Uber….).
Parking and Valet
An awesome (albeit not particularly exciting, unless you’re a planning freak like me!) feature of the Solamar is the excellent on-site valet parking service. Downtown San Diego is not blessed with plentiful free on-street parking, plus we were mindful of security with our slightly ostentatious Camaro. Definitely worth paying for peace of mind and they’ll pull the car around just for you to get something out of the boot! Once we’d parked up, we didn’t use the car again for the 2 days we were downtown.
The hotel location
We had a really packed schedule for our Downtown section of the trip, so it’s fair to say we didn’t spend a huge amount of time at the hotel. That is also kind of one of its strengths though, the location is so fantastic that we found ourselves nipping back between activities to change, grab camera batteries or a cheeky glass of vino at Wine Hour in the attached J-SIX bar and restaurant! Plus it meant no lengthy travels to anywhere in town.
Balboa Park was only 10- minutes by Jump Bike, which we utilised extensively, and the Gaslamp District for eating, drinking and dancing was literally on our doorstep. The one time we Ubered was to head to Little Italy, and that was only because we’d glammed up for a night out, if it were in the day we could easily have walked.
The look of the Kimpton Solamar
The main reception is very stylish, all dark wood and marble, but doesn’t have the air of pretentiousness that often accompanies such decadence. The staff couldn’t have been more friendly, another trend of the Kimpton Group that extends to every venue. Check-in was super quick and easy, and Annie got to stroke all the dogs coming through the reception, this is a seriously pet-friendly hotel!
Our room was bright, airy and well provisioned. The hotel had very kindly welcomed us with a lovely bottle of wine and an enormous fruit platter, delicious! It was also a corner room which meant two lots of windows and stunning views across the Embarcado. As with all of our Kimpton stays, the Solamar laid on Wine Hour and nibbles every night, plus an awesome, and well equipped, tea and coffee station in reception every morning that really kept us going.
Poolside and bar
We did manage to find a couple of hours in our schedule to head down to the rooftop pool area, in theory, a really cool addition to the venue, especially in such a built-up location. There was a large corner bar, curtained cabanas and a stunning pool. Whilst it looked fantastic, it quickly became clear that, via a streetside elevator, this whole area was open to the public. As we were there on a weekend afternoon, this meant it was busy, like REALLY busy. Like 25 minutes to get a drink at the bar, and no available seating anywhere busy.
This made our planned relaxing poolside afternoon anything but relaxing! To surrender the exclusivity of such a desirable feature of the hotel, and allow unrestricted public access, seemed like a really odd management decision. Sure, open the bar in the evening and make it a VIP-like experience, but 11.30am-11.00pm? As a leisure guest, what is the appeal of the hotel to us, outside of the location? Why would we pay a premium to be a guest, yet be expected to share the facilities with non-guests? Really disappointing for us as hotel guests, and to be honest, in the future, that would be a deal-breaker. I mean, we could stay in a $50 motel down the road and then just go up to the deck and spend the afternoon there anyway?! On the flip side of this, if you’re looking to socialise and meet locals you have this here for you, it totally depends on what you want out of your stay, but for us, this wasn’t what we’d expected.
We had an absolute blast in San Diego, it is fast becoming our favourite big Californian city. And as usual, Kimpton did live up to the hype. The Kimpton Solamar hotel itself is beautifully presented, spotlessly clean and such a super friendly venue, in the perfect city-centre location. We’d certainly recommend it as an experience location, but just bear the above points (mini-rant!) in mind, and get to the poolside early!
*This stay was complimentary from Kimpton Solamar hotel