Traveling along the Southern California coast by train is an adventure in itself. For much of the ride between San Diego and Santa Barbara the tracks hug the coastline and despite being equipped with outlets and WiFi, the view of the Pacific encourages daydreaming. Not to mention there’s no infamous Southern California traffic in sight.

Over four days, we made our way from San Diego to Goleta, a town just north of Santa Barbara, to check out five Kimpton properties. Each has its own vibe and interpretation of the local flair, but all showcased the brand’s attention to detail and services for which Kimpton is known, such as pet friendly properties, hosted evening social hour and complimentary morning coffee and tea service.  

My trip started with checking into the Kimpton Hotel Palomar in downtown San Diego. The sleek, urban 211-room hotel is set in the city’s happening Gaslamp Quarter and just blocks from the Civic Center. We kicked off the first evening with a margarita showdown in the Arriba Room, a new 1,800-square-foot mezzanine level space, that can serve as a private event venue and features a bar and “taco take-out” window”. Using fresh ingredients and guidance of resident mixologist, we divided into teams and went head-to-head on creating a take on the classic cocktail. We then took our concoctions downstairs to Curadero, a Mexican street food eatery that debuted earlier this year.

In addition to the Arriba Room, the property offers over 20,000 square feet of meeting space, including 14 meeting rooms and two hospitality suites.

The next morning, our group met a few blocks away in the East Village neighborhood at Kimpton Solamar Hotel. We were some of the first to get a glimpse at Upper East, the hotel’s new rooftop restaurant and bar that opened in late May and is adjacent to the pool deck. We were treated to a brunch on the 7,500-square-foot terrace that included Peanut Butter Crunch french toast “fries” and crab and avocado toast, alongside views of downtown, Petco Park, the San Diego Bay.

Walking off some of brunch, we then toured the property to see a few of the 235 guest rooms and a look at the 14,000 square feet of meeting space.

With the San Diego leg of the trip complete, we were on the train to the next stop: Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach. Set in the ultimate Southern California beach city, dubbed Surf City USA, the Shorebreak Hotel fits right in with a cool and relaxed ambiance. The property completed an update of the outdoor spaces, lobby, all 157 guest rooms and launched a new restaurant and bar-Pacific Hideaway in May before the summer rush. Overall, the property offers 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

The new dining concept features roll-up garage doors, a hand-carved bar and an expansive patio with views of the Huntington Beach Pier and the Pacific Ocean. Although the feel might be casual, the menu is sophisticated, uniquely blending the flavors of Southern California, Southeast Asia, Latin America and Japan. We tasted our way through the eclectic menu from ceviche, to avocado tacos, to a Thai salad to Laos sausage, to the pièce de résistance: whole crispy snapper served with papaya salad, fresh herbs and lettuce cups.

As hard as it was to leave my room, with a balcony looking out over Pacific Coast Highway to the ocean, the next day it was on to Santa Barbara, a pleasant three hour train ride up the coast.

If the Shorebreak was the quintessential Huntington Beach hotel, The Kimpton Canary is Santa Barbara’s counterpart. The Spanish-style property features 97 guest rooms with four-post beds, hardwood floors and colorful tile accents; 7,300 square feet of meeting space;  and a rooftop pool and terrace. Downstairs, Finch & Fork Restaurant and Bar serves modern comfort food with locally sourced ingredients, including the wine, for which the area is well known. Speaking of wine, shortly after check-in, our group met up for a walking tour of downtown’s wine tasting rooms, all within minutes of the property.

After learning about the local wine region and tasting our way through different varietals, we found ourselves back at Finch & Fork for a multicourse meal paired with even more local wine. Highlights included fresh ricotta cavatelli with spinach, peas, preserved lemon and pecorino, aged cheddar and bacon macaroni and cheese and the pork chop served with apple chutney, butternut squash puree and a mustard ginger crumble.

Waking up the next morning, I couldn’t dream of another over-the-top meal, but breakfast at the Kimpton Goodland, in the neighboring laid-back town of Goleta, was on the agenda and I am not one to go off schedule. When you pull into The Goodland, the first things that catch your eyes are the retro Airsteam and classic Ford Woody wagon parked out front, setting the tone for the Bohemian-style hotel.

We had brunch in the Good Bar, off the lobby, but there is also Outpost Restaurant, open for brunch on the weekends and dinner every night. The 158-room hotel also has 6,000 square feet of meeting space, a pool and pool bar and offers loaner bikes for a ride around town.

It was then time for me to head home, back on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, this time heading south and timed perfectly to see the sunset over the water as we crossed the San Diego County line. 

Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants