About a year ago I wrote about Kimpton’s Inner Circle program, which I had heard a ton of great things about. All of my friends that were Inner Circle members raved about how personalized the service is and how generally happy Kimpton employees are, so I was excited to give the brand a try.
Per my post about a year ago, here are the basics of their elite program:
As you can see, their entry level elite status is InTouch (which requires seven stays or 20 nights), and gets you:
- Complimentary wifi
- A $10 minibar credit ($15 credit in New York) whenever you stay at one of their hotels
- Passport Rewards, which means that if you stay at 10 different Kimpton properties in a year you get a certificate for an additional free two night stay
Then there’s Inner Circle status (which requires 15 stays or 45 nights), which gets you all of the above plus:
- A customized welcome amenity consisting of your favorite drink and snack
- A complimentary night at every new hotel (they open at least a handful of new hotels every year, and as an Inner Circle member you get a free night at each of them)
- A room upgrade based on availability (based on what I’ve heard these upgrades can be pretty generous, regularly to suites)
- Direct access to the CEO (okay, this sounds like a gimmick, but it’s still kind of awesome)
I status matched to Kimpton last year, and while I had intended to make several Kimpton stays, for whatever reason it never quite happened. I guess I was too busy requalifying for status with Hyatt and Starwood.
So I actually had my first Kimpton stay this past weekend in Southern California. After spending a night at the W Hotel San Diego and then the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, I decided to leave the downtown area a bit and stay in La Jolla instead. Hotel La Jolla is a property that was recently refurbished and rebranded as a Kimpton, so I was quite looking forward to checking it out.
The first thing I found interesting in making my Kimpton booking is just how many promotions they run. When I went to the website and searched availability for my date the rate was $159. However, when I logged into my Inner Circle account there were several promotions on the main member page.
One promotion offered a rate of about $140, while another promotion offered 20% off plus a bottle of wine.
That means the rate was just $127.20 plus a bottle of wine, which was extremely reasonable. For what it’s worth these rates don’t pop up if you just log into your account and do a search, but rather you have to search with the specific promotion codes. So there are ways to save money by booking through promotions, but it does take a bit of research (unlike other chains where promotional rates automatically pop up when making a booking).
It’s also worth noting that Kimpton properties are all dog friendly. My friend was traveling with a dog, making this a great option as well.
Hotel La Jolla is about a 15 minute drive from downtown San Diego, and frankly isn’t exactly stunning from the outside.
As we pulled up we were promptly welcomed by two bellmen that confirmed we’d be parking overnight. The only option for parking is valet, which is $28 per night. That’s absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion, given that this isn’t a city hotel, and the parking setup is actually similar to a Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express, whereby there are parking spots all around the hotel — they’re simply reserved for valet. Given that almost everyone drives to the hotel, it’s basically a way of sneakily raising rates by $28 per night, I guess.
Anyway, near the entrance I found it cute that they had a “Welcome Furry Friends” sign, with the names of all the dogs staying at the property.
The lobby was simple but beautiful, and felt very “local.”
We were promptly helped at check-in, and I think the lady checking us in (Charrah) may have just been the nicest and most enthusiastic person ever. She was hilarious, had an infectious smile, and couldn’t have been more professional. I was quickly beginning to see the “Kimpton difference” in terms of the employees.
She asked whether I wanted a white or red bottle of wine, and went over some of the Inner Circle benefits.
I was assigned a room on the 7th floor (the hotel has 11 floors). This is the first time in a while I’ve stayed at a hotel with exterior hallways — bleh!
Fortunately the room itself was spacious and beautiful. There was an entryway with the bathroom to the left. The entryway led into the main room, which featured a very comfortable bed, desk and TV, and chair with ottoman in the corner.
There was a minibar with both snacks and drinks. As an InTouch member you get a $10 “raid the minibar” credit per stay, which generally covers a drink and snack. I think that’s a really neat benefit. Nowadays you can even spend that credit at the bar instead.
The room also had a balcony with two chairs and a coffee table, though it was really small.
The balcony featured views of the surrounding area and the Pacific Ocean in the distance. For what it’s worth the view from the 11th floor restaurant was amazing, so in this case a few floors makes a big difference.
The bathroom was also really functional, and featured a sink, toilet, and walk-in shower which faced both the room and bathroom (though there was a privacy shield that could be lowered so that the shower isn’t visible from the room).
The room featured C.O. Bigelow toiletries, which I quite like.
On the whole I thought the room was in brilliant condition, as you’d expect for a newly refurbished hotel. The wifi in the room was really fast as well. Ultimately you can tell this is an older hotel, and when you’re refurbishing a property there’s only so much you can do. For example, there’s not a practical way to get rid of the exterior hallways or to make the balconies bigger. But they definitely made the best of what they had to work with.
About 30 minutes after I arrived my Inner Circle amenity and bottle of wine arrived. I was brought a Diet Coke with lime, nuts, chocolate, and a handwritten card — AWESOME! Not only was the amenity awesome, but the associate that brought it was super cheery and asked me how my stay was, if I needed any recommendations for things to do, etc.
In terms of the hotel’s other facilities, there’s a fairly nice gym on the ground floor.
Next to it is the pool, which isn’t huge though is nicely appointed with plenty of lounge chairs.
Next to the pool is the bar/zoo. The bar has really nice outdoor furniture and a fire pit, which was awesome given the slightly cool temperature. Kimptons must be heaven for dogs, because I’m pretty sure there were more pounds worth of dogs than humans at the bar. Not only have I never seen so many dogs, but I’ve never seen so many well behaved HUGE dogs.
The humans were more behaving worse than the dogs, as they were watching something on TV that I couldn’t figure out. Something about the 56ers and Sealions… or something like that.
The service at the bar was also top notch. The bartender/server clearly loved his job, and was super-friendly. My friend was cold and wanted coffee, and while the bar doesn’t have coffee, he was more than happy to coordinate with the restaurant on the 11th floor to bring her down some coffee.
In the evening we decided to have dinner at Cusp, the hotel’s restaurant. Kimpton isn’t just known for their hotels, but also for their restaurants, so I figured we’d check out their offerings. At around 5PM I headed up to the restaurant to make a reservation for 5:30PM, and mentioned we were both Inner Circle members.
One of the Inner Circle benefits is “complimentary chef’s creation at Kimpton Restaurants.” You’re supposed to let the host know you’re Inner Circle when making the reservation, so I did that. She told me I should’ve received a handwritten note at check-in that I was supposed to bring to the restaurant to get the chef’s creation, so suggested I go down to the front desk to get that.
So I went to the front desk, and they didn’t know what I was talking about, so phoned up to the restaurant. Within a few moments the associate told me the restaurant was now aware I was Inner Circle and we should be good to go. So 10 minutes later we headed to the restaurant for our reservation, and I confirmed once again with the host that she had received the information from the front desk. She confirmed she did and that we were “all set to go,” though we never actually got a chef’s creation. I also didn’t know at what point to ask about it, since I had no clue if the chef’s creation came in the form of an appetizer, dessert, or what.
Anyway, the restaurant itself was gorgeous, and boasted beautiful views.
Our server in the restaurant was great as well. Since it was Restaurant Week they had a $35 three course set menu. At check-in we were given little cards advertising a $25 two course menu available before 6PM (which is one of the reasons we ate so early). The server informed us that it wasn’t available that night, in which case I’m not sure why they’d hand us a “card” about it when we checked in a couple of hours prior and were staying for one night.
Anyway, the service in the restaurant was genuinely friendly and well intentioned, I was just kind of disappointed in the advertised special not being available and the lack of the “chef’s creation” after specifically following up about it multiple times.
The food was spectacular, fortunately. I had the heirloom tomato & burrata as a starter.
Then for the main course I had the sea bass, which was served as a risotto paella of sorts with mussels, shrimp, etc. It was spectacular.
Then for dessert I had bananas foster. Yum.
Kimpton also has a complimentary wine hour in the evenings, though I didn’t have a chance to check that out. In the mornings they have a free coffee and tea setup in the lobby.
We once again had breakfast at Cusp.
I had an egg white scramble and fruit, which was tasty.
This was my first Kimpton stay, so I’m commenting on literally every aspect of the service and experience here. On the whole it was apparent to me that Kimpton has a different service mentality than other major US hotel brands. There were some small service snafus, though across the board the employees were incredibly friendly and genuine, and that’s not something you find at many hotels.
Physically this is far from the nicest Kimpton. This is an old property that was recently refurbished, though there’s only so much you can change without tearing the building down and starting from scratch. I’ve certainly visited (though not stayed at) other Kimptons — many of which are newly built — and been very impressed by them.
I’ll definitely give another Kimpton a shot soon.
If you’ve stayed at a Kimpton, what were your impressions? And for those of you that are Kimpton cheerleaders, which property should I check out next?