THE BACKGROUND: This hotel, one of the seaside city’s most popular, is the place to stay if you are looking for a property with a California beach buzz.
As with Kimpton properties elsewhere, it aims to ‘bring the destination into the hotel’ and is full of quirky touches that show off its ‘Surf City’ location.
There’s a Beach Boys Surfing USA vibe throughout, with prints of surfers located in the common areas, mini-surfboards hanging on corridor walls and footage from old surfing movies projected onto one of the exterior walls looking down on an extensive al fresco patio area.
Even the elevators were built tall enough to accommodate larger surfboards.
THE LOCATION: The hotel is set back from the wide stretch of sandy beach – there’s 8.5 miles of it in Huntington Beach, usually dominated by bobbing longboards- a couple of blocks from the Pacific Coast Highway and one block from Main Street.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is about a 45-minute drive away.
THE ROOM: Room 453, a King Room, was bright and welcoming – the sort of room you don’t mind entering with sand still stuck between your toes.
The beach and surf themes continue, from the blue carpet with white wavy lines denoting the sea and its breaking waves to the headboard with a surfboard crest and framed hazy picks of surfers in the room to the cover of Surfer magazine in the bathroom.
There is also a deliberate retro feel, with a turntable and speakers for the vinyls that are available from the lobby – I reacquainted myself with The Dark Side of The Moon – and the type of push-button telephone that disappeared from most hotels in the early noughties.
Other features included a work desk, chair, huge bathroom with a walk-in shower and Atelier Nilem toiletries – with oversized bottles that, for once, were not chained to the wall – and a balcony with oblique views of the ocean.
There is a pay-as-you-go mini-bar but no coffee or tea-making facilities – free water and coffee and tea refills are available from the lobby. A large wardrobe featured enough coat hangers to satisfy even the most over-packed suitcase packers.
KEY FACILITIES: The front desk rents out surfboards, boogie boards, towels, chairs, umbrellas, etc., while free-to-use bicycles are available to ride the flat beachfront path. There’s a fitness centre equipped with advanced state-of-the-art equipment and another of those quirky touches – a 40ft wide rock-climbing wall.
To the side of the lobby are a Ping-Pong table, giant chess set and another retro touch: a Pac Man machine. A large outdoor patio area features comfy sofas, chairs and a couple of fire pits to charcoal the Smores kits – that’s marshmallows, Graham crackers and chocolate bars – that are also available from reception.
From around mid-October to early January, the patio is transformed into a Swiss Alps-style winter lodge, complete with a snow machine and, at times, a German-style oompah band.
Each evening, from 17.00-18.00, there’s the free happy hour offered by all Kimpton hotels, with beer, wine, soft drinks and snacks.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS: Located off the side of the lobby is the beach-chic Pacific Hideaway restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch – think avocado toast infused with chilli oil and topped by a poached egg, and Los Sausage lettuce wraps.
Dining is both indoors and out, with patio tables offering views of Huntington Beach Pier. The accompanying bar has a wide range of cocktails, wines and ales from local and national brewhouses.
Each quarter the hotel hosts a chef’s pairing menu with a theme (a recent one featured a Mardi Gras theme).
THE VERDICT: Although not quite ‘beachfront,’ this is the quintessential California coastal hotel. Its interior design and location-specific style touches perfectly capture the laid-back, casual and chilled feel of Huntington Beach itself. This is a fun but super comfortable and a relaxingly informal option for those confident enough to parade their two-strap sandals and surf trunks.
THE DETAILS: 500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, California, USA. shorebreakhotel.com; +1 877 212 8579.
Rates for a one-bedroom King room start at around $350 a night.