I had never heard of the self-proclaimed Surf City USA before I made reservations to stay a few nights on our way to San Diego. For the last few weeks our family had been trying to decide where to spend a week in Southern California. We bounced back and forth between Los Angeles, Anaheim and others before finalizing everything. In the end we decided that visiting Disneyland when we already had season passes to Disney World was not at the top of our list, Los Angeles was not worth fighting the traffic for right now and that we should head south to explore a city we have never visited: San Diego.
I am getting ahead of myself though. Before we drove down Interstate 5 along the Pacific Coast, we needed a place to stop between Las Vegas and our final destination. Ok we didn’t really need a place to stop, but we wanted one. After all, it’s only a five hour drive and that’s easily doable for road warriors like us. After being fairly uninspired by the selection available to us directly off the highway, we decided to take a short detour and visit our favorite hotel chain, Kimpton, and their roughly year old Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach.
Kimpton Karma Rewards is one of the most generous loyalty programs out there and has managed to maintain the status quo despite being purchased by IHG in 2014. Achieving the highest tier level within the program means a level of service that few expect from a hotel these days but they treat every single member like a special guest. I had a free night award certificate to use from our travels last year and I combined that with a little cash for a two night stay here. By doing so I essentially had 50% off my stay and got a stay credit for the second night which will count towards my Inner Circle qualification for next year. That’s what you call a win win.
We were excited to arrive at this hotel but truthfully a little disappointed when we pulled up in front. It’s not that there was anything wrong with the hotel itself, but that it was literally on the wrong side of the street. When we see a hotel billed as an ‘Oceanfront Beach Getaway’ with a beautiful picture on the website that shows the beach through a window, well, you naturally would expect that hotel to be right on the beach. The Shorebreak Hotel is instead located right across the street, in a really great location, they just aren’t as honest as they should be.
After getting past that admittedly minor setback, we pulled up in front of the hotel and were greeted by the valet who helped us with our bags and guided us to the lobby. When you walk into the hotel, you can either take a set of elevators on the left or the set of stairs directly ahead to reach the front desk on the second floor. Check-in was quick and we were on the way up to our room in less than five minutes. At this point I feel like I again need to clarify that there is nothing wrong with this hotel, but our room just didn’t have that spectacular Kimpton charm when we walked in that we had grown accustomed to. It was a spacious room as you can see in the pictures above, but truly nothing special.
Perhaps I am being overly critical and the hotel does not deserve these kind of high expectations, but when you set the bar high like Kimpton does at all their properties, you have to be judged by a higher standard. Although small and relatively normal by Kimpton standards, the only major flaw we found with the room was that it truly wasn’t a suite. Unless you are staying at a limited service hotel, I have never encountered an actual suite that did not have a separate bedroom. This room has a wall between the living room and bedroom but there is no door to close them off for privacy and even if there was, a design feature actually incorporates a pass-through area between the two that is near the desk.
Beyond that we had no issues with our room. It was clean, comfortable and served our needs well. I work constantly during our travels so having a large spacious desk was a great feature of the room along with the couch that doubled as a sleeper sofa for my daughter. The master bedroom in our suite had a king size bed and the bathroom had a large soaking tub along with a spacious walk-in shower with two separate shower heads for couples. The room also featured a small balcony with views of the street, although you did have the ‘partial ocean view’ they advertised if you looked hard enough.
We arrived during the evening hours and headed downstairs for our dinner at Zimzala, the hotel restaurant boasting local coastal cuisine. Upon notifying the staff that we were Inner Circle members we were presented with a complimentary appetizer that we let our server select. He chose the Brussels, a plate with roasted garlic, nueske’s bacon, avocado, chili flakes, lime and almond. It was absolutely divine and this is coming from someone who didn’t eat greens until about two years ago. You could say I lived a sheltered life when it comes to food, but the truth is that I didn’t. I simply refused to be adventurous enough to try new things. Finally I decided I had nothing to lose and have enjoyed so much more since then.
For my main course I selected the Grilled Hanger Steak with smashed yukon, blistered tomato and chimichurri. Here again is the part where I tell you that I am no fan of tomatoes and even though I have broadened my horizons in recent years, I just don’t like the taste of tomatoes. This entree was the single exception to the rule, at least so far. Those blistered tomatoes literally exploded with flavor in my mouth, and coupled with the steak and other vegetables were absolutely magical. It’s not that the taste of the tomatoes changed, it was just the perfect pairing when combined with the other ingredients and the tomatoes truly made the entire dish.
The dessert menu here is pretty light on choices and the only two worth noting during our visit were the s’mores and the bourbon butterscotch pudding. The latter is the choice that will likely be recommended by your server and everyone else in the hotel with good reason but you definitely won’t be disappointed by either. For me, the pudding was the perfect end to the perfect meal and a choice I made again the very next night. You shouldn’t leave without at least sharing a bite with a friend.
Shorebreak Hotel is conveniently located near quite a few small stores but the big attraction is the white sandy beach directly across the street. Go out the doors and turn right to walk a few hundred feet to the only intersection before the ocean. A quick left and one block later you are crossing the street to Huntington Beach Pier. You can walk down the pier for beautiful views of the ocean or take the steps on the left or right to get down to beach level. Volleyball courts are available along with space to fly kites and spread out. Like many Southern California beaches, this is just one more place to soak up the sun and enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.
Overall we really enjoyed our stay here but I am not sure we would return again. The area is fantastic for those who are looking for a beach vacation and nothing about the hotel would cause us to choose another in the area, it just doesn’t have very many things to do nearby other than relax. If we ever did return here then it would be for the surfing lessons located on the beach and the appeal that is Surf City USA. Kimpton still has our loyalty, we just wish they were a little more honest with this specific hotel.
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