If you're eager to avoid a cookie cutter chain hotel or a vast convention hotel on a visit to San Francisco, you're in luck. The City by the Bay has more than its fair share of boutique properties with quintessentially San Francisco personality in unexpected locations.
Check into Hotel Drisco, a handsome property atop a hill in the posh Pacific Heights neighborhood known for its mansions with Golden Gate Bridge views. Reflecting the grace and charm of the turn of the 20th century, the elegant 1903 Edwardian building is a rare survivor of the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.
Personal Touches and Generous Extras
Personal touches abound: Overnight shoe shine service; a white noise machine on the bedstand; turndown service with slippers, robe, and chocolate-covered shortbread; morning newspaper delivery; bottled water; house bicycles; 24-hour room service and fitness center; and even a chauffeur service to select locations on weekday mornings.
Complimentary spreads are laid out for guests to enjoy morning and evening. A gourmet continental breakfast has smoked salmon and brie, croissants, muffins, house-made granola, oatmeal, currant scones served with lemon curd and clotted cream, fruit, berries, organic sheep's milk yogurt and more. An evening wine and cheese reception features charcuterie, nuts, olives, fruit, and hot hors d'oeuvres. All day coffee and tea are available, supplemented by handmade biscotti served at 3 p.m.
Modernity? Of course, there's free Wi-Fi and a DVD lending library. Shopping? Both Fillmore Street and Sacramento Street are less than five blocks away. Walkability? The wide open spaces of Presidio National Park are a 10-minute walk and Muni #1 or #3 buses takes you downtown in under half an hour. All 48 rooms and suites are decorated in classic shades of white, cream, and taupe, starting at around $340 inclusive of all the extras.
Book a Harbor Court room with a bay view to admire the dancing Bay Bridge Lights performing their nightly LED illuminations. Or book a city view room facing the new Salesforce Tower-enhanced skyline. This independent boutique hotel is on a quiet street that's nonetheless centrally located downtown.
Walkability on the Waterfront
Guests love the Harbor Court's 100 percent walkability factor. The back door opens directly onto a scenic stretch of Embarcadero waterfront from AT&T ballpark to the landmark Ferry Building with its colorful farmers market. The front door leads to Market Street and SoMa for museums and the tech hub. Shops, restaurants, bars, and theaters populate nearby Union Square, Chinatown, and North Beach. Alternatively, explore on a shiny red PUBLIC house bicycle.
Such an inviting and lounge-like lobby in a smaller, central city hotel is rare. Grab a coffee and get some work done at "Space to Create" with its free, super fast Wi-Fi. Gather by the fireplace for complimentary evening wine receptions. Wander into the contemporary Ozumo Japanese restaurant for one of the best sushi and saké dinners in town. Head next door for a workout and an Olympic-sized swim. Bring Fido along as furry four-footed friends are welcome at Harbor Court too.
Renovation and Rates
Following an early 2018 renovation, Harbor Court guest rooms and suites are cleverly designed, smartly updated, tech savvy, and a great choice for singles and couples pursuing San Francisco business or leisure. Book direct at least one week in advance for a $20 discount. On weekends, stay Friday and Saturday to get Sunday at 50 percent off. Nightly rates are from about $200 on select dates.
Inn at Presidio
Wake up in the historic Inn at Presidio, a red brick Georgian Revival landmark nestled among the fragrant eucalyptus and Monterey pine woods of this urban national park. Soak up the surroundings on a wooden rocking chair set on the wide front patio or settle into an Adirondack chair under the trees beside the fire pit out back.
Atmosphere and Accommodation
Score six stars for being in the middle of a large park of outstanding natural beauty. Built in 1903, the three-story property served as barracks for unmarried officers when the Presidio served as a U.S. Army installation. Walls tastefully decorated with bugles and black-and-white photographs are tributes to that time. The 2017 Condé Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards description refers to "dark-leather sofas, polished-wood floors, a fireplace, and antique accents."
Book ahead for one of the 22 spacious rooms including 17 suites with fireplaces. Stays include a generous continental breakfast plus complimentary wine and cheese in the evening. Several restaurants are a few minutes' walk from the inn: Arguello for Mexican and The Commissary for Californian with a Spanish accent.
Room rates start around $300 plus a 14% park fee. A $8 nightly parking charge applies for guests with cars.
A daily complimentary PresidiGo shuttle bus serves the park and downtown. A sister hotel, Lodge at Presidio, opens 42 rooms in summer 2018 beside the Walt Disney Family Museum on the Presidio's grassy lawn where it feels like summer camp. A robust calendar of seasonal events is a draw for gourmet food truck picnics, stargazing parties, concerts, Shakespeare in the Park, preservation and archeological programs and more. Unexpected Presidio kid surprises include a bowling alley, heritage museum in the Officers Club, miles of hiking trails, and stunning Golden Gate Bridge views. There's even a municipal golf course too.
San Francisco Proper Hotel
San Franciscans get excited about rooftop bars, especially the newest one in town. When San Francisco Proper Hotel added 131 rooms and suites to the city's inventory in fall 2017, the Mid-Market hotel also added two new restaurants and Charmaine's cocktail terrace with fire pits for foggy nights, attracting locals as well as visitors.
Mid-Market is the Tenderloin. Across from Twitter headquarters, visitors need to know that this location shares the city's seedier side with a mix of tech companies, theaters, and concert halls plus new hotels, bars, and restaurants that are steadily redefining the area.
Rooms and Décor
No detail has been spared in restoring and re-imagining the landmark Flatiron-style Beaux-Arts building. Distinctive design pays tribute to local art, old school and high tech; amenities include Aesop bath products, Vifa speakers, Aireloom mattresses, and Bellino linens. Although guest rooms aren't large, colors and patterns pop in inspired interiors that beg for Instagram shares.
Families may wish to ask about the rooms with bunk beds. Otherwise, rooms can start as low as $185, although that kind of deal is highly dependent on availability.
Taj Campton Place
A big name in luxury hotels offers a jewel box-sized gem just off Union Square on the Apple Store side of life. Come for the location, stay for the service, and enjoy fine dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant where Executive Chef Srijith Gopinathan has created his signature Cal-Indian cuisine with wine pairings by the sommelier.
Rooms and Reputation
World travelers know Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces for their tip-top Indian brand of hospitality. Taj Campton Place is one of only three U.S. locations, all prime real estate. With 101 rooms and nine elegant suites spread out only three or four to a floor, the hotel's vibe is refined, quiet, and exclusive. Rooms generally start at about $400, but can drop on select dates.
What Insiders Know
A host of insider tips: Wi-Fi is free, use of a town car is complimentary subject to availability, the rooftop fitness center has views, the concierge is a member of the prestigious Les Clefs d'Or, and the tucked away bar is a great place to know about for Cristal and caviar or a late night burger. Book "Suite Celebrations" to save 50 percent on the second night. California residents with ID should request the special offer of a complimentary bottle of wine and an upgrade, subject to availability.
Quintessential San Francisco
When visiting San Francisco, why not match the distinctive personality of the destination with your own special place in the city? Given the diverse choice of boutique hotels in superb locations, you're sure to find one or more that appeal and truly become your home away from home in the City by the Bay.