The post-9/11 tourism slump is officially over, but let's take a minute to thank that downturn for forcing the city's hotels to stop resting on their laurels and to start earning a fresh batch, through extensive renovations and innovations. Plenty of affordable options still exist, especially if you're smart about where and when you stay, but you won't have to overlook quite so many flaws.
The Castro's rainbow icon of diversity applies citywide to lodgings: there's something for every taste and bank account. The Union Square area and Financial District are home to most of the city's large hotels. In addition, there are a number of smaller, more charming boutique properties run by operators who don't forsake comfort or style in the name of economy; many are on the fringes of Union Square, on Nob Hill or in the dicier Tenderloin.
See all boutique hotels in San Francisco
The city is home to three chains, each of which has established mini-empires of chic hotels. Both Joie de Vivre (www.jdvhospitality.com), which has 15 properties in San Francisco (including Galleria Park Hotel, Hotel Adagio, Hotel Bijou, Hotel Del Sol, Hotel Drisco, Hotel Vitale, Laurel Inn, and White Swan Inn), and Kimpton (www.kimptonhotels.com), which operates nine hotels here (including Hotel Monaco, Hotel Triton, and Sir Francis Drake Hotel), have garnered a reputation for attention to customer care and unexpected luxury at reasonable prices. The more budget-oriented Personality Hotels (www.personalityhotels.com), with seven sites (including Hotel Diva and Hotel Vertigo), has made a name for itself with clever makeovers of vintage properties near Union Square. Some of the big players have added boutique appeal thanks to artful makeovers, like the Eurasian aesthetic at the Hilton San Francisco Financial District (www.sanfranciscohiltonhotel.com), formerly a Holiday Inn.
The eco-friendly Orchard Garden Hotel is the city's first hotel built to exacting 'green' specifications.
New in town
A relative newcomer on the city's hotel scene is the sleek, 32-storey InterContinental Hotel San Francisco (www.intercontinentalsanfrancisco.com), near the convention centre, opened in 2008 with 550 rooms, it is the largest addition since the earthquake year of 1989.
Accommodation prices vary wildly in San Francisco. From hotel to hotel, sure, but also for the same room within a single property, which might double in price from a dreary midwinter Tuesday to a July weekend or even during a big convention. The Financial District hotels tend to offer the best deals on Friday and Saturday nights, when the suits have gone home.
Bear in mind that rates quoted in this guide exclude a gasp-inducing 14.05 per cent room tax. Parking fees can be exorbitant, too ($20-$55), and in-room internet charges can also add up (although there are plenty of other sites in the city with free wireless access).
Getting a bargain
While occupancy rates (and prices) are rising, savvy travellers can find bargain prices even for peak travel times and dates. Many hotels offer internet-only deals and special packages.
See all budget hotels in San Francisco
Services and cancellations
Always ask about cancellation policies when booking, so you don't get stuck paying for a room you can't use. Most hotels require notice of cancellations at least 24 hours in advance; however, this may not be the case if you booked via an outside website, or with a service such as San Francisco Reservations (1-800 677 1570, 1-510 628 4440, www.hotelres.com).
'Wireless' denotes a hotel that has a wireless connection throughout; 'DSL' is used for hotels where a high-speed connection is available only via a cable; and 'shared terminal' refers to a computer in the hotel's lobby or business centre that offers high-speed net access.
All hotels are required by law to provide accommodation for disabled visitors.
Light sleepers: if you're a light sleeper, look for recently constructed or substantially renovated hotels – the city's older buildings generally have single-paned windows that can't filter out the busy street scene. And while San Francisco's temperate climate makes air-conditioning less of a concern, be aware that the few hot days of the year may force you to open a window, letting in the sounds of traffic along with fresh air.
Smoking: thanks to California's strict anti-smoking policies, all hotels have no-smoking rooms. Indeed, many hotels are now completely non-smoking.
While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.
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