Pay to Stay: 10 Best Hotels in San Francisco

Photo courtesy of Hotel Rex San Francisco
By Tom Molanphy, San Francisco Local Expert

Whether you're visiting from near or far, the most important choice you'll have during your vacation is where to stay. Since San Francisco is a tight forty-nine square miles criss-crossed with public transportation, almost every San Francisco hotel can claim they are "perfectly situated." Even if a hotel isn't smack-dab next to Union Square, it's probably only a MUNI bus ride or a short walk away.

And since tourism is the bread and butter of this city, almost every hotel will have comfy beds, quality sheets and linens, and all the basics that a world-class city demands of its hotels.

So what really separates the good hotels from the best hotels?

We'd argue it's the quality and reliability of the service. If you're ready to lavish yourself in luxury, then the high-end hotels of The Palace, The Fairmont, and Sir Francis Drake each have over a century of wise and valued service. You'll pay top dollar at these hotels, but you'll get top-dollar service to match.

If you don't want to break the bank with your stay, but you still want one of the best  hotels in San Francisco, we've also included smaller, less expensive hotels like Hotel Rex. You might not be pampered in silk every inch of your stay, but these hotels have just as much to offer - in a smaller, more personal setting - than the grand hotels.

10. Cavallo Point
Photo courtesy of Cavallo Point

If it's Nature that turns you on, then Cavallo Point is the place for you. This unique resort sits on a dramatic oceanfront setting on forty-five natural acres in Golden Gate National Park, just minutes from the town of Sausalito. Very residential in feeling, comfortable, and timeless, the setting provides a sense of community, while offering an historic perspective as well as contemporary design. Guests enjoy the relaxed, casual campus-like setting with easy access to the main public areas, dining, and meeting rooms. Murray Circle features California cuisine with a French accent and an extensive and eclectic wine cellar. Private dining available. The bar, Farley, offers light fare and entertainment.

9. Hotel Palomar San Francisco - a Kimpton Hotel
Photo courtesy of Loren Javier

Occupying the top five floors of a 1908 office building, Hotel Palomar employs luxurious textiles, bold prints, and splashes of saturated color to convey a sense of stylish opulence. It's a Kimpton hotel, so you can expect absolutely top-notch service, too. Rooms and suites feature leopard-print carpeting, multi-feature phone, CD stereo, and TV with on-demand movies and video games. Other thoughtful touches include L'Occitane toiletries and an umbrella. The award-winning Fifth Floor restaurant serves eclectic, French-inspired cuisine and provides room service as well. Additional perks: a 24-hour fitness room, complimentary transportation to the Financial District, and specially designed "Tall Rooms." Meeting space for 30. 198 rooms.

8. Loews Regency San Francisco
Photo courtesy of Hotel Drisco

The Loewes Regency San Francisco occupies the top 11 floors of 345 California Center, the city's third tallest building – every guest room has a spectacular view. Room amenities include high-speed Internet access, Frette Egyptian cotton sheets, voice mail and fax, and a pair of binoculars to get the very best views possible. Within walking distance to Union Square, Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf, the hotel is also only a half block from the cable car. The popular Silks restaurant serves three gourmet meals a day; the Mandarin Lounge is available for light meals as well as afternoon tea. Meeting space to accommodate 120. 154 rooms and suites.

7. Adagio Hotel San Francisco
Photo courtesy of Hotel Adagio

Offering 171 of the largest and most stylish rooms in all of downtown San Francisco, Hotel Adagio is a grand gesture to all that's great in San Francisco's past, present and future. The hotel stands out from its many Union Square counterparts with a stunning outdoor Spanish colonial revival style. This is a marvelous building that's simply hard not to notice. Once you're inside, you're greeted with the comforts of today in an upscale, contemporary design. And all of this is perfectly located in central downtown, close enough to walk to public transportation and right on the edge of Union Square and some of the world's premier shopping.

6. Hotel Nikko San Francisco
Photo courtesy of Hilton Union Square

This small, charming hotel offers many of the same services found at larger hotels. Service is personable and friendly, and rooms are designed to pamper, with extra-large beds, fuzzy slippers, warm bathrobes, and lovely bathrooms. Unique complimentaries such as Subarashee Yume pillow-top beds make this hotel really stand out. The Imperial Club, which are luxury suites on the top floors, provide commanding views of the city. Guests enjoy an excellent in-house restaurant, and the grand hotel rests in the heart of San Francisco. Located 14 miles from San Francisco International Airport. Meeting area accommodates up to 35 people. 110 rooms.

5. The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
Photo courtesy of chipmunk_1

This grand hotel is found on famed Nob Hill. Known for being one of the best in the world, it lives up to expectation. The amenities, though expected at a hotel of its caliber, are a welcome touch. Guests enjoy an indoor swimming pool, a sauna and whirlpool, and fitness club. The hotel also offers a notable restaurant and lounge. Concierge and room service available. The lovely rooms feature luxurious feather beds and downy comforters. A mini Golden Gate Bridge model offers sweets for the taking. Parallel 37, the hotels' signature restaurant, is named after the geographic latitude that runs through the Bay Area. Meeting areas to accommodate up to 1000. 336 rooms.

4. Kimpton Sir Francis Drake Hotel
Photo courtesy of Sir Francis Drake Hotel

If you want a taste of old San Francisco - but with all the modern amenities - book a room at Sir Francis Drake Hotel. The grand style the hotel lobby and public areas continues into the guestrooms and suites, which feature a combination of regal and retro with a dash of contemporary San Francisco style. Rooms are also outfitted with the latest technologies. The 600 sq. ft Sir Francis Suites are located on higher floors with breathtaking views of downtown San Francisco, Nob Hill, and Union Square. Claiming to "anchor one side of the famous urban crossroads" of Union Square, you can't beat the location of this prestigious hotel.

3. Fairmont San Francisco
Photo courtesy of Fairmont San Francisco

With a recently completed renovation, the inside of this landmark Nob Hill hotel has been restored to the grandeur intended by San Simeon architect Julia Morgan. Boasting large rooms that are unknown in newer hotels, this ultra-deluxe palace offers extra long mattresses, plush terry robes and baths that match the room-size. The Venetian Room, made famous by Tony Bennett, has also had a face-lift but still occupies the heart of many locals and visitors. Despite the historical grandeur and beauty, what really makes this a grand hotel is the unobtrusive efficiency and friendliness of the staff. 591 guest rooms and 55,000 square feet of spectacular function space.

2. Hotel Rex, a Joie de Vivre hotel
Photo courtesy of Hotel Rex San Francisco

This intimate hotel offers every amenity you should expect from a San Francisco hotel, including complimentary Wi-Fi available throughout the hotel, newspaper and 32" flat-screen TV with cable. To further strengthen its ties to the community, Hotel Rex donates to the locally beloved program 826 Valencia, which supports underprivileged students who need that extra support and enthusiasm to improve their writing skills. Besides making tourists feel like they're part of the community, Hotel Rex offers signature shows and events that draw locals from all over town. From magic shows on Saturday nights to book readings during the week to the Singer Songwriter Series on Friday nights, Hotel Rex offers one of the most eclectic and engaging schedules of events of any hotel in town.

1. Palace Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Francisco
Photo courtesy of Facebook

The history of the Palace Hotel goes all the way back to the 1906 earthquake. The lower lobby holds some of the surviving remnants of that quake, so those on a tight business or convention schedule can visit a museum without even making a trek outside their own hotel. This belle of a hotel is found in the financial district and across from the New Montgomery BART station. The hotel allows for ease of access to area attractions such as Union Square. It offers a wonderfully comfortable stay in tastefully decorated rooms. Guests will enjoy the many amenities that include concierge service, room service, three restaurants, two lounges, a business center, pool, and health club. Expansive meeting areas accommodate up to 6,000 people. 551 rooms.