San Francisco Hotels
The Inn Above Tide
30 El Portal, Sausalito
The ferry out of the San Francisco docks is right at the entrance to this 31-room Sausalito inn. The clean, modern rooms (most come with working fireplaces and glass decks) are designed with floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the panoramic bay views, which beat out all the expected luxury amenities on offer any day.
1800 Sutter St., Pacific Heights
This is the kind of place you book on your second or third trip to San Francisco as there's nothing touristy about it, especially the off-the-beaten-path Japantown location—some of Fillmore Street's best shopping and food is just a stone's throw away. This is one of Kimpton's newer properties so it has that great new-hotel smell in addition to chic, understated décor and some of the most comfortable guest rooms in the city.
125 3rd St., Financial District
If you have the deep pockets to cover the hefty bill and a taste for splash, this is definitely one of the places where you want to stay in San Francisco. Like any St. Regis property, excellent service is a given, as are large, soothing rooms complete with all the luxury bells and whistles. The hotel is steps from some of the city’s most notable sights (SFMOMA is right next door, so is the Jewish Contemporary Museum and Union Square). Plus, there's an onsite Remède spa.
950 Mason St., Nob Hill
Quite possibly the most popular wedding venue in all of San Francisco, the Fairmont is kind of an essential stop, even if it's just to take in the lobby in all its candy-colored, chintzy glory. The massive 592-room hotel sits at the top of Nob Hill and is home to a wonderful fancy restaurant, a great afternoon tea service, and honeybee hives in the herb garden. Then there's the gloriously kitschy Tonga Room and Hurricane Bar. A Tiki bar, complete with a lagoon and spontaneous indoor thunderstorms, may be the last thing you'd expect to see inside a Fairmont but it kind of works.
55 5th St., Union Square
At over 100 guest rooms, Zetta is a pretty big operation (it's a member of the Viceroy family, so expect a certain level of sceney-ness), but thanks to so many welcoming touches and one-of-a-kind local art sprinkled throughout, it feels totally boutique. The guest rooms are particularly well equipped to accommodate business travelers with customizable desk spaces and high-tech gadgetry throughout.
2901 Pacific Ave., Pacific Heights
There's nothing particularly hip or design-y about this old school Pacific Heights hotel, but it's classic, comfortable, and centrally located (grab a bike and explore on two wheels). They're really big on hospitality, so there are usually treats or wine set up in the lobby.
600 Stockton St., Financial District
Like any Ritz property, this one is unabashedly luxurious, but what's really exceptional here, is the Nob Hill location. Touristy but mandatory Fisherman's Wharf, Union Square, and the Ferry Building are all within walking distance, and Chinatown is literally a block away. After a day of hoofing it all over town, the freshly redesigned rooms and on-site spa are a godsend, as is the complimentary Ritz Kids club.
The Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel
495 Geary St., Union Square
This gem celebrated its 100th birthday a couple of years ago (it did receive a Philippe Starcke makeover in the interim) making it particularly good time to book a stay. In the famously ornate lobby you'll find furniture pieces by Ray and Charles Eames and Salvador Dali; the standard rooms while on the tight side make up for it in comfort and beautiful pastel-hued décor. Downstairs, the plush Redwood Room is perfect for drinks and snacks at the stretch bar which lent the local-approved lounge its name.
601 Murray Circle, Sausalito
Nestled at the foot of the Golden Gate bridge, Fort Baker is spread out over acres of prime Sausalito real estate, which up until recently has been left at the mercy of the elements. Then in 2008 a hospitality group stepped in and teamed up with the National Park Service to completely restore and preserve the area. The resulting 142-room lodge, healing arts center, and spa, are spread out over a cluster of Colonial buildings that meet and exceed all of LEED's sustainability requirement.
717 Battery St., The Embarcadero
Ok, so you have to be invited to stay, which means this isn't technically a hotel, but those lucky enough to be nominated—and actually accepted—to this Ken Fulk-designed private social club get access to a slew of membership perks, including 14 sprawling rooms, several bars, a restaurant, and spa. Exclusivity aside, Michael Birch and Xochi Torres, a couple of tech geniuses who came up with the concept, wish to promote diversity and community via strategic membership approvals that don't actually depend on status or financial standing (they offer "scholarships" for those who can't swing the hefty membership dues).
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