2017/11/29

A California road trip along the coast, second stop San Francisco (hotels)

Location

Which location & hotel to choose when traveling in style in the City by the Bay

San Francisco is by no doubt one of the most scenic cities in the west if not the United States! It is big when it comes to its offerings – think of its hilly terrain, liberal views, diverse architecture styles, beautiful landmarks and of course its unique climate. It is also nick-named Fog City and I can confirm this from previous visits. I had read that is very
seldom warmer than 73 degrees Fahrenheit in this city, but when my husband and I visited it this time end of October for the 4th time we experienced 89 degrees Fahrenheit on one day! And the sun shone all the time …

Really big is not quite the accurate term for this city, it is only located on a 7 x 7 mile (11 x 11 km) tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the ocean. Because of its size, it is very walkable, apart from its steep rolling hills. This fact can make it difficult for tourists, but fortunately you can always call an Uber rider when it gets too tough nowadays …


For information about the whole itinerary along the Californian coast have a look at my last post where I gave an overview of the complete route. There you will also find tips where to stay and eat as a discerning traveler and what to do in Mendocino.

Before I come to the subject of which location and hotel to choose as a demanding traveler in San Francisco and surroundings, a couple of sentences to the trip from Mendocino to the City by the Bay.

Route between Mendocino and San Francisco

The drive along the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) is longer (5 to 6 hours) than the alternative one along CA-128 and US-101 (3 to 4 hours) and involves a lot of windy roads. That being said it is worthwhile doing on a sunny and clear day as the locations and views are majestic at almost every turn. The most beautiful section is probably the one between Jenner and Salmon Creek where you can marvel at a wonderful, untamed coastline with turn outs and beaches every few miles.

Which location & hotel to choose in San Francisco

It is not an easy matter to choose the perfect location for a hotel in San Francisco. There are more things to consider here than just the normal ones as easy access to public transportation or the proximity to restaurants and sights.

As I mentioned above, this city is well known for its liberal views. This shows also how they deal with disadvantaged people such as ones being homeless and/or addicted to drugs. I am aware that this is a delicate issue and not the typical topic of a travel blog but when traveling I am not inclined to be confronted with misery – think of homeless camps and open drug use – all the time, especially not in a rich country as the United States. In some areas of San Francisco underprivileged people are ubiquitous and as I understand this development has increased recently. What I want to emphasize is that you have to choose your hotel location with care as the area where most upscale accommodations can be found in San Francisco is near one to avoid. I speak of Union Square district, which is a popular destination with many posh hotels and high end shops. Not far away, there is the city’s worst neighborhood, the Tenderloin, where you are as close to an open-air drug market as you can get. And of course, you might have some unpleasant encounters also in the bordering Union Square area. To cut a long story short, consider this issue when you want to stay here. Having said this, this area is great when it comes to being near of public transport and to a wide variety of restaurants right outside the door.
My husband and I decided to stay away from Union Square when being in town the last two times. You may be wondering about the alternatives and I can answer you that they are not plentiful, especially when it comes to luxury lodging. There are some establishments in Fisherman’s Wharf and one (!) in the Pacific Heights.

I have to admit that I am not a fan of the area around Fisherman’s Wharf. I consider it as too noisy, crowded and sleazy. Nonetheless, we went for a hotel here on our last trip but one that is at the edge of all this hustle and bustle, Argonaut Hotel near historic Ghirardelli Square. While I had been a bit anxious about the location before our stay, it turned out to be a good choice. Not only is it close to public transportation, many sights and a wide range of restaurant options but it is also fairly quiet, at least in the evening.

1. Argonaut Hotel: Fisherman’s Wharf/size: medium-large/hotel standard: I give it 4/5

The Argonaut Hotel (now a Noble House Hotel, formerly a Kimpton Hotel when I stayed here) is housed in a historic warehouse, which is all-brick and over a century old. It is conveniently located to many attractions and offers beautiful views across the San Francisco Bay. The rather large hotel (252 rooms) stands out due to its nautically themed design. As we traveled with our son we went for the Argonaut Suite with a panoramic view of the bay and Alcatraz Island as well as a separate living room. We enjoyed our stay here although it does not offer the ultimate luxury, see also my review.
This time we opted for a hotel in the posh residential neighborhood of Pacific Heights, Hotel Drisco. Most probably it is the only hotel in this area featuring some of the nicest homes in San Francisco. Staying here gives you the feel of a local! Disadvantages involve the location on the top of a hill (you always have to walk upwards when returning to the hotel) and the lack of public transportation infrastructure nearby. I would recommend that you only stay here when you love walking and are not a first-timer to this city.

2. Hotel Drisco: Pacific Heights/size: small-medium/hotel standard: I give it 4 ½/5

The Drisco was our home away from home on our recent trip. My husband and I were warmly welcomed and immediately felt at ease here. It is an elegant 1903 Edwardian hotel with 48 rooms, which was renovated extensively in the first half of 2017. The hotel presents itself now as contemporarily decorated, sophisticated retreat. It boosts a free gourmet continental breakfast, evening wine and hors d’oeuvres as well as a complimentary car parking (street parking, cars are moved by the staff due to parking restrictions).
We chose a City View Suite as we wanted to have more space at our disposal. The room is immaculately furnished with a nice living room, a pleasant bedroom with an extremely comfortable bed as well as a lovely bathroom with heated floor and spacious walk-in shower. I honestly could not ask for more and would return in a heartbeat!
Another possibility to experience the City by the Bay is a stay across the Golden Gate Strait in Sausalito, which can be reached either by ferry in a 30 minutes ride or by crossing the Golden Gate Bridge by car. This may be especially suitable for travelers who prefer the quieter pace of city life in this bayside town.

On our recent trip, we decided to stay at The Inn Above Tide out of the few available hotels because it is only a few steps from the ferry terminal and directly on the water with great views of the bay, Alcatraz and San Francisco’s skyline.

3. The Inn Above Tide: Sausalito/size: small/hotel standard: I give it 4/5

All 31 rooms have bay views that are hard to beat, but not every accommodation has a private deck. Our room, a King Deluxe Fireplace, has such a balcony, a fireplace, is rather small and adequately furnished although I would not give it the label “luxurious”.
Staff is friendly, there are a wine and cheese reception in the evening and a generous continental breakfast in the morning that is served in-room upon request, which is a good thing to do on a beautiful day because it allows you to experience a fantastic daybreak on your deck.

Outlook

After going into suitable locations for hotels and describing 3 high end accommodations in San Francisco in this post, my next steps will be to report on recommended restaurants visited on recent trips to this city and the neighboring town of Sausalito. Other travel tips for the area, mainly activities for travelers enjoying picturesque walking, will also be part of my blogging.
Have you been to luxury hotels in San Francisco, maybe in the Union Square district? What kind of experiences did you make?

Date of stays: October 2017 (Hotel Drisco & The Inn Above Tide) / July 2013, rechecked at TripAdvisor 2017 (Argonaut Hotel)

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