Exterior View - Cavallo Point, San Francisco, California

Cavallo Point

Families looking for a resort-style property within striking distance of downtown San Francisco flock to Cavallo Point, which is located in Fort Baker, part of the Golden Gate National Park. This former army base has expansive grounds that stretch down to the San Francisco Bay, allowing for wonderful walks to the water’s edge as well as easy access to the city via ferry or a short drive.

Rooms are divided into two categories: contemporary and historic. Both styles include modern amenities, from flat-screen televisions and large bathrooms with soaking tubs to organic linens, but the 68 historic rooms are housed in wonderfully restored officers' quarters and have more personality.

Each building, arranged in a semi-circle around the main parade ground, features unique touches such as expansive foyers, spacious front porches with rocking chairs, authentic tin ceilings and fireplaces. The 74 newly built Contemporary Rooms are located on the resort’s higher ground, offering truly breathtaking views. Built within a strict environmental code, the rooms are of sustainable design and construction using solar power, radiant heat, renewable materials, organic bedding and linens.

While many guests use Cavallo Point as a base for exploring San Francisco, there are also plenty of activities in the area. Kayaking, biking and hiking the Marin Headlands are first-time musts, as are walking tours of Fort Baker and beach excursions. There are also great kid-related activities including the outstanding Bay Area Discovery Museum, which is located in the Fort Baker property and ideal for young children.

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Bedroom External view at Fairmont San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Fairmont San Francisco

The historic Fairmont San Francisco hotel atop Nob Hill opened in 1907, just one year after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and to this day remains an elegant symbol of Nob Hill’s prestigious past. Beyond the Fairmont’s grand lobby are rooms that have recently been completely refurbished and include modern amenities like two phone lines and high-speed Internet access. The hotel comprises the historic main building and a less distinguished tower, for a total of 591 rooms and suites. Rooms in the main building are more spacious, but views are better from the tower; however, due to the sheer size of the property, the tower can feel like a long walk away from the lobby. While the Fairmont has all the amenities for the business traveler, it seems to be a favorite among couples as well.

The imposing lobby, with its grandiose decor, appeals to guests who want a bit of theater with their vacation. Perhaps it’s just as well that the subdued guestrooms don’t try to compete with the grandeur of the lobby. For more kitsch, guests can head to the decades-old Tonga Room restaurant/bar that features tropical thunderstorms, fruity drinks and Hawaiian nibbles.

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hotel room with gray walls and gray and white furniture with red accent color, with big window looking out to san francisco skyline with transamerica pyramid

Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco at Embarcadero

This luxury hotel in a modern Financial District high-rise offers superlative service and San Fran’s most sweeping views.

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Living Room at Four Seasons San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Four Seasons San Francisco

The 277-room Four Seasons is located in a modern downtown high-rise, but its art-crammed lobby–with large-scale paintings and sculpture by such contemporary Bay Area artists as Nathan Oliveira and Raymond Saunders–and spacious suites give it the ambience of a traditional grand hotel. While the lobby area is not as much a social scene as that of the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons also hosts plenty of posh benefits and fundraising events.

This is a hotel that aims to please, with unfussy contemporary décor. In April 2018, all rooms and suites underwent a $20 million renovation. The updated design was inspired by local materials and the history of San Francisco. You’ll find shades of blue with cool steel tones that complement the brass and gold accents in the room, plus coffee tables made of wood meant to resemble the redwoods and abstract paintings of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The lobby, with comfortable corners for conversation and views over the city, is ideal for casual meetings. The lobby is also located on the fifth floor, giving the hotel a discreet and private feel. The well-organized front-desk team can arrange everything from opera tickets (tip: grab a quick bite at Rich Table before the show) to reservation for dinner at the the top restaurants The hotel's restaurant, MKT, is also very good, with a chic atmosphere and décor inspired by San Francisco's famous newspaper publishing roots. The hotel’s central location puts it close to sites like the SFMOMA and Yerba Buena Gardens, as well as shopping near Union Square. A short ride on the scenic F-Market streetcar takes you to the waterfront and the enchanting San Francisco Ferry Building.

Although the Four Seasons doesn’t have its own pool, it still does its best to cater to families, with several interconnecting rooms and suite options. With advanced notice, the hotel will furnish the kids’ room with smaller bathrobes, an appropriately stocked minibar and other thoughtful touches. Adults can head next door to swim in the pool of the Equinox Fitness Club (children ages 15-18 may swim if accompanied by an adult), to enjoy classes and the workout facilities at the Club or to indulge in a massage at the spa. There is also an entrance to Equinox right off the hotel’s lobby. 

Tip: If you are driving, ask the reservations agent for very specific directions to the hotel; the entrance court is at the end of a hard-to-find alley off Third Street, not on Market Street.

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Bedroom at Hotel Drisco, San Francisco, California

Hotel Drisco

This 48-room hotel in the wealthy Pacific Heights neighborhood is a preferred address of regular San Francisco visitors who prefer to stay in a more residential setting. The four-story building, which dates from 1903, has lovely views down steep Broderick Street toward the bay, so top-floor rooms are the ones to book. All are elegantly and comfortably furnished, in cheerful colors, and include such charming original touches as white clapboard wainscoting, painted cast-iron heaters and, in some cases, bay windows. Rooms feel fresh and modern. Hailed by many insiders as the city’s best small hotel, the Drisco has a friendly, plugged-in staff, many of whom have been there for decades. Travelers who loathe being nickel-and-dimed when on the road will appreciate the complimentary breakfast, afternoon wine reception, WiFi and town car shuttle service on weekday mornings to Union Square, the Financial District, and the Presidio, all included in the room rate. Twenty-four hour room service is also available. The Drisco has a small fitness center and loaner bicycles, and offers free passes to the Presidio YMCA.

Suite at Inn at the Presidio, San Francisco, California

Inn at the Presidio

The army turned over the Presidio, a large forested expanse on the northern tip of San Francisco, to the National Park Service in 1994. Soon its military airstrip became a national park (see Crissy Field), elegant former officer’s houses became highly coveted family homes, and companies like Lucasfilm and Disney moved into this desirable location, with its wooded hiking trails and bay views.

Seemingly the only thing the Presidio still needed was a hotel. Now the Presidio Trust, which manages the area, has converted a former BOQ – that stands for “Bachelor Officers’ Quarters,” one-bedroom apartments for ranking military men who don’t need to house a family – into a prestigious boutique hotel. The original BOQ’s 22 units, nearly all of them suites, became a hotel in 2012. In 2013, the Inn added another 4 guestrooms with the acquisition of a nearby officer’s house.

The Inn at the Presidio has done a remarkable job of preserving the look of an earlier era, but with an artistic sensibility. The red brick 1903 building retains its Georgian-Revival style, with white columns on its front porch and verandas. Inside, moldings and other details have been kept, while bathrooms have been expertly updated. Subtly masculine touches remind you of the previous residents, but playful artwork and a few bold design statements give the Inn a lighter feel.

The airy breakfast room serves up a tempting European-style breakfast. Just outside the breakfast room is a back patio, protected from ocean winds and framed by stately eucalyptus trees, with a roaring fire that’s packed every afternoon. Just down the street is the Presidio YMCA, a top fitness and aquatic facility, which guests can use for free – unless they prefer to ride on one of the Inn’s bicycles or hike the trail that starts behind the patio. Discounts are also available to the Presidio Golf Course.

There’s no room service, but the Inn recommends two nearby restaurants, including the Presidio Social Club, and uses the GrubHub delivery service for those who prefer to stay in and contemplate the view. (Best views are from the third floor, although that floor does not have a veranda). There’s parking at the Inn, and the PresidiGo shuttle bus and car services are also options.

Suite at InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco, San Francisco, California

InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco

Originally opened in 1926, this hotel has a prime Nob Hill perch that guarantees a dramatic arrival and superb San Francisco views. The understated guestrooms come with all the appropriate amenities. The Club level is worth considering, as it gives you access to the Club lounge with food served nearly around the clock, late check-out privileges, and other perks. Be sure to stay on the ninth floor or above for better views.

For 360-degree city views head all the way upstairs to the Top of the Mark restaurant, which has long drawn loyal locals and an international coterie of guests. During World War II, wives and girlfriends of servicemen watched navy ships depart through the Golden Gate Bridge; the Top of the Mark’s northwest corner became known as the “Weepers Corner.” Order a drink from the Mark’s “100 Martini” menu and watch the sunset.

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Lounge at Ritz-Carlton San Francisco, San Francisco, California

Ritz-Carlton San Francisco

Host to many of the the areas society events, the Ritz-Carlton San Francisco boasts over-the-top, old-fashioned elegance and is the best hotel option in the city.

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Lounge at St. Regis Hotel San Francisco, San Francisco, California

St. Regis Hotel San Francisco

Situated beside the Mario Botta–designed San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and opposite the dynamic Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the sleek St. Regis is the perfect location for art aficionados. The vast lobby by interior design firm Yabu Pushelberg dazzles with large-scale modern sculptures and a fire flickering just inside the front door. The superb art collection includes an intriguing collection of marble torsos, abstract works, and quirky satirical paintings. In the evening, the lobby bar is a convivial scene, though if a guest arrives on a Friday night, the din can be off-putting. The guest rooms, with views of the South of Market District and the bay, have a feeling of modern luxe with chic tone-on-tone color schemes, pale-cream limestone and marble bathrooms and such amenities as Pratesi sheets and flattering lighting. The guestrooms are not as spacious as at some of the city’s other top hotels, though.

Guests have access to a butler, a private concierge who can carry out special requests. (Ideal for restaurant reservations, crucial in this food-obsessed town.) Remedé Spa, with a serene, monochromatic decor—and access to a beautiful indoor pool—makes a luxurious weekend escape.

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Deluxe King at Taj Campton Place, San Francisco, California

Taj Campton Place

Seamlessly run by Taj (the Mumbai-based brand that also manages and operates The Pierre, in New York), Campton Place has one of the city’s most enviable hotel locations. It is in close proximity to Union Square, high-end shopping, such museums as the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the entrance to Chinatown and the Financial District. You can walk to the Ferry Building in twenty minutes, and the major public transportation lines run along nearby Market Street.

There are, however, some drawbacks to the 110-room property, most related to its somewhat quirky layout. Two historic buildings, dating from the early 1900s were merged to create the hotel, making for some rooms that are on the small side. The Asian-inspired decor, complete with embroidered silks, a rich gold-and-olive color scheme, an abundant use of warm woods and the sliding paneled doors that separate bed- and bathrooms, is lovely. Details like Molton Brown bath amenities, Egyptian cotton linens and Bose surround-sound system are all top-notch. But fashionistas will be troubled by the limited closet space; couples with a lot of luggage might trip over each other in some of the smaller rooms; and those wishing for a view should book on a higher floor. The lobby area, complete with a cozy bar and sitting lounge, was also revamped by Taj and now features contemporary art by local artists and adorned with gorgeous oversized flower arrangements.

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The Battery

San Francisco’s most stylish property is undoubtedly its most eclectic: The Battery is housed within a building that previously operated as both a marble mill and a candy warehouse; its walls are lined alternatively with taxidermy and antiques; and its clientele is a mash-up of twenty-something tech wunderkinds and sleek out-of-towners.

Located in the fun Jackson Square neighborhood just a few blocks from the waterfront, the 14-room Battery is both a members’ club and a hotel, with uniquely appointed rooms and one stunning, 6,200-square-foot penthouse. The top accommodation rivals those at the city’s best hotels, with a kitchen, chic furnishings including horsehair wallpaper, gold lamé chairs and a sprawling patio complete with a 14-person dining table, grill, Jacuzzi and fire pit. The remaining rooms are all done with a similarly stylish flair, incorporating elements like exposed-brick walls, brass furnishings, French windows and contemporary art.

The public spaces are plentiful, and all are seemingly decorated with Instagram in mind—but as per hotel policy, no photos are allowed. A Soho House–like vibe runs throughout the property, and while there is no dress code, chic apparel is certainly appreciated. The restaurant, 717B, has an industrial aesthetic, and is open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner, while light bites, craft cocktails and wine (from the hotel’s 3,000-bottle cellar) can be ordered in any of the Battery’s four bars.

Just a short walk from the waterfront, the Battery also offers a gym and spa for guests who wish to do their exercise and pampering on property. The fitness facilities are excellent, with a Zen zone for low-impact activity, weight and cardio room and personal trainers and nutritionists available to consult with guests.

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