by Michael Blanding
The Hotel Palomar caters to the urban adventurer. Located right downtown in San Diego’s trendy Gaslamp Quarter, it’s an easy walk to shopping and restaurants, as well as some of the city’s main attractions — the USS Midway Museum, the San Diego Air & Space Museum, and the Padres’ baseball stadium. Rooms are small overall, but the hotel does feature some touches that make it very appealing to families, including a rare rooftop pool and a high percentage of suites, some even including kitchenettes.
The hotel opened in 2009, and was taken over by the Kimpton Group in 2011, which expanded the number of guestrooms to more than 200, and remodeled in its trademark funky-cool vibe. The atmosphere is heavy on style, with a chic boutique-hotel atmosphere with some California surfer accents. The crown jewel are the newly renovated Skyline Collection rooms and suites, which feature views over the city and some unique features, such as light fixtures made from old motorcycle tailpipes and headboards resembling surfboards.
The staff is young and eager to help, and the hotel includes lots of thoughtful perks to make guests feel at home — including accepting pets at no extra charge (with pet-free floors also available). All in all, if you are coming to San Diego to mainly take advantage of the downtown attractions, then the Palomar provides a convenient and stylish launching pad.
Our Editor Loves
- Convenient Gaslight Quarter location
- Funky room and lobby decor
- Rooftop pool bar
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
King or Queen Deluxe
The Palomar's standard guestrooms are pleasingly decorated in a neutral palette of brown, slate, and cream, with pillowy platform beds and a comfy chair and writing desk. Rooms are on the small side, ranging from just over 300 to just over 400 square feet in size. Bathrooms feature rainforest shower heads and ETRO bath amenities; some suites have tubs. All rooms contain 36-inch plasma TVs and iPod docks, as well as irons, hairdryers, and Kimpton's signature leopard-print robes. And this being California, of course all rooms also come with a yoga mat and complimentary yoga channel on the television.
These rooms are the same size and single rooms, but feature two double beds -- making them something of a cozy fit. They do, however, feature large windows that can be opened to let in some fresh air.
Premium rooms are slightly larger than the deluxe rooms, going up to 450 square feet in size. Otherwise, they feature the same amenities.
Suites have a separate living room and more space, nearly 600 square feet in all. They do not have a pullout couch, though a rollaway bed can be added at no cost. A separate living room contains a king bed. In addition to rainforest showers, 25 of these suites also feature small bathtubs -- be sure to request in advance.
Skyline Queen or King
The Palomar's premier guestrooms are their Skyline Rooms, which are located on floors 16 through 20. While not substantially bigger than the deluxe rooms, they do feature some extra design touches, such as light fixtures made to mimic water droplets, glass tables, and surfboard headboards. The robes in the room also forego Kimpton's usual leopard print to feature plush white fabric with turquoise blue piping. Their best feature, however, is the view. Large floor-to-ceiling windows take in the San Diego skyline -- if you crane your neck, you can just make out a little bit of ocean.
Skyline Corner King With Balcony
Larger than the basic Skyline rooms at around 500 square feet, the corner Skyline rooms feature rows of windows on two walls to double the view. In addition, they feature a balcony with comfortable seating, so you can step out into the California sunshine while you admire the scenery.
The Skyline Suites feature 550 square feet of living space, including a separate bedroom with king-size bed, and living room with sectional couch. It features the same great views as the other Skyline rooms, along with a large balcony.
The ultimate in luxury for families, the Skyline Penthouses are a huge step above the other rooms in size -- with 1,500 square feet of space on two floors. In addition to picture windows and balcony, these 20th floor penthouses also include a small kitchenette with refrigerator, stove, and Keurig coffeemaker.
Full disclosure, Kimpton is our favorite brand hotel in the US! We have stayed in several around the country and find these small, boutique hotels really specialize in the personal touch. The Palomar is no exception. From the warm greeting at the valet, to the kindness and helpfulness of Paige at the front desk, we knew we were in for another wonderful experience. Paige asked if we would like a coffee or tea maker for our room, we said yes! She explained the amenities of the hotel including dining options, pool and fitness center, hours, free coffee and wine downstairs and even offered a coupon for our dinner place.
Upon arrival in our room, we received two welcome texts from both Paige and Anna at the front desk and within 5 minutes, a Keurig coffee maker along with a good assortment of coffees was delivered!
Our room was large and comfortable. Plenty of room to hang our clothes and fill the drawers. Cozy, upscale robes, not your typical terry cloth! The towels were fluffy and absorbent. The shower gel, shampoo and conditioner are in large, refillable pumps and smell amazing. There were plenty of hand towels and wash rags. A well stocked mini bar (including snacks, wine and a “lover’s kit” -condoms, etc.) along with water, wine and wine glasses are all available for an additional cost. The room had a good size flat-screen TV, an iHome clock radio with Bluetooth and cordless phones.
The bed was exceptionally comfortable and pillows both firm and soft were on each side of the bed. The sheets were high quality and the comforter made it cozy with the AC on!
The only tiny problem wasn’t really a problem but the drain the in the bathroom was very slow causing the sink to fill rather quickly and the fan didn’t work. We reported both to the front desk upon departure and were thanked and assured they will be fixed.
We were able to text for our valet parked car and given directions on how to get to the freeway.
With San Diego a frequent getaway destination for us, the Kimpton will always be our go-to hotel. Thank you for a lovely stay.
This is one of my favorite hotels. The lobby entrance with its giant front door is so dramatic, and the nightclub lighting so glamorous. My room with the balcony was a welcome respite from a busy week of conference activities. Everyone was so attentive and gracious, it was a delight to return and I look forward to my next visit.
The rooftop pool area at the Palomar is a rare luxury for a downtown San Diego hotel. The rectangular pool is not overly large, and only up to five feet deep, but it does include a nice wading area for toddlers before the steps leading down to the shallow end. The spacious pool deck is filled with lounge chairs and cabanas for the use of guests, and food and drinks are available from the pool bar. The area also has a number of games to entertain the kids while grownups get their sun on, including Jumbo Jenga, Ping-Pong, and cornhole.
Kids' Spa Services
The hotel offers mini- mani and pedi services for kids in the Nature's Spa by Jurlique.
The hotel provides special amenities for kids, including in-room robes; safety features, such as outlet covers; and gold fish to rent for your room.
The hotel's onsite restaurant, The Saltbox exudes a cool gastropub feel, with a black marble bar, stainless steel hightops, and glowing surfboards lining the entrance. The menu is creative American, with a range of flatbreads (the bacon & Brussels Sprouts with hot mustard and caramelized onions is particularly to die-for), BBQ pulled-pork tortas, short rib grilled cheese, and daily happy hour tacos.
The restaurant prides itself on using fresh and local ingredients. It's open for breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. and lunch from 11 to 3 p.m. on weekdays, with breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. and brunch from 10 to 3 on weekends. Dinner is 5 to 10 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 5 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays. The bar also features daily happy hour drink and food specials from 3 to 7 p.m. on Monday through Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
SummerSalt Pool Bar
The Palomar's pool bar takes the menu from the Saltbox downstairs and gives it a more portable, summery twist. Baja tacos with pork and short rib top the menu, which also includes shrimp ceviche, salads, sandwiches, quesadillas, and chips and dips. The bar is open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. During the weekends, the bar busts out the grill for BBQ Saturday.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The Palomar keeps guests happy with lots of little touches, including an afternoon wine hour (with juice and snacks for the kids) from 4 to 5 p.m., a text-to-drive valet system, and 24-hour room service.
The hotel Wi-Fi is free only to members of Kimpton's reward program -- sign up since it's free. Otherwise, it is $12 a night.
The concierge desk keeps a list of babysitters for referrals.
The Art of Smart Timing
San Diego is famously temperate year round with dry winds and temperatures ranging from 65 in winter to 75 in summer. It makes for a good winter getaway to escape the cold, as well as a good summer beach vacation to get away from the heat and humidity. The Palomar tends to both business and leisure travelers, with an emphasis on the former during weekdays; deals are sometimes available on weekends.
San Diego International Airport is served by all major airlines, as well as regional carriers. The Palomar is located right in downtown San Diego, a short $15 cab ride from the airport.
Once there, it's not necessary to have a car if you plan on staying in the city; even Sea World and the San Diego Zoo are accessible cheaply by taxi. If you plan on exploring the coast and going to the beach, however, it may make sense to get a rental car. The Palomar has valet parking in its garage for $40 overnight; however, you may be able to find cheaper parking in a self-park garage in the neighborhood, where rates range closer to $20 to 30.
For Mom and Dad
The hotel's onsite spa, Nature's Spa by Jurlique, offers a full range of massages, facials, and body treatments in seven treatment rooms. Hire a sitter and book the couple's treatment rooms, which include a soaking tub for two that can be added onto any treatment. For the full bonding experience, the spa also offers a "body journey" for two, which includes massages, and a soak with champagne. The spa is open from 8 to 8 in summer, and 9 to 7 in winter.