Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
The Harbor Court might be the luckiest Kimpton Hotel in San Francisco. The boutique hotel chain bought the former Army-Navy YMCA building in 1991, about the same time the city tore down the earthquake-damaged Embarcadero Freeway to open up some stunning views of the water and the Bay Bridge. With the construction of the Giants' baseball stadium, AT&T Park, in 2000, San Francisco began revitalizing the neighborhood just south of the hotel and in 2003 the Ferry Building (two blocks away) reopened as a foodie destination with gourmet shops and high-quality restaurants. The Harbor Court found itself, mostly through luck, smack in the middle of one of downtown San Francisco's most in-demand neighborhoods.
The original refit of the property (first built in 1926) trimmed the 400 YMCA units down to 131 rooms, though from their size, starting at 132 square feet, it's hard to imagine how three times as many rooms once occupied the eight-floor building. Despite the trim dimensions, the Queen Room, which came in at 154 square feet, was well laid out -- and wouldn't have felt too cramped were it not for the cement wall just a few feet outside the window. Given the exceptional views available in other Queen Rooms, the upgrade, and extra cost, for a Bay View Room is almost certainly worth it. Another note: Because rooms are so tight, maximum occupancy per unit here is two people; it is not the place for families.
While this small property has little more in on-site amenities than its spacious and inviting lobby, the Harbor Court does offer Kimpton's standard roster of free amenities, including free morning coffee and tea, a free evening wine reception hosted by the general manager, free morning newspapers, and discounted valet parking for hybrid vehicles. And like all Kimptons, the hotel also welcomes pets -- and keeps food and water bowls by the front desk topped up. What you won't find is a hotel restaurant, though a Japanese place next door does provide room service during meal times; similarly, the Embarcadero YMCA is on the other side of the hotel, where guests get discounted day passes in lieu of a hotel fitness center.
Given that the hotel is on the eastern edge of the Financial District, the number of impromptu lobby meetings isn't surprising; the hotel gets a mix of business and leisure guests, the latter of which find the location good for its proximity to the gourmet shops of the Ferry Building, public transportation along Market Street, and ferries to Oakland, Sausalito, and Alameda. It's farther, though, from the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presidio; guests headed there might be happier at Fisherman's Wharf hotels, most of which also have bigger rooms.
Professional service, as is the case at most Kimpton hotels; feels particularly warm because of the small size of this property
All guest requests, like directions, recommendations, and travel arrangements, are handled through the front desk, which is well-staffed at all hours. A bellman doubles as a doorman and can assist with luggage. Because the hotel has only 131 rooms, staffers get to know guests quickly and the service feels very personal as a result.
On the waterfront Embarcadero, two blocks from the gourmet shops and dining at the Ferry Building and a short stroll from the skyscrapers of the Financial District
A few blocks south of San Francisco's sterile, skyscraper-dense Financial District, the hotel is near a number of bayside attractions and is a five-minute walk to BART trains and other public transportation on Market Street.
As a former YMCA -- much like the Hudson Hotel in New York City -- the rooms at the Harbor Court are especially small. The smallest, the Double Room, is about half the size of a typical hotel room in San Francisco, and the upgraded rooms, like the Queen Deluxe, aren't much bigger. For a room that compares in size to a standard room at the Hotel Vitale, you'll have to upgrade to the 316-square-foot Penthouse Suite, which often sells for more than double the price of a standard room. However, in the Kimpton tradition, the rooms are well designed; the chocolate-toned wood, purple carpet, and goldenrod wallpaper feel stylish, without being garish.
A business center and discount access to the nearby YMCA can't compete with the many features at other hotels in the area, such as the much larger Hyatt Regency.
Rooms here only sleep two. There are better choices for families nearby.
Because all guest rooms can only accommodate two guests at a time -- the Penthouse Suite is the only unit that accommodates four -- this is not an ideal hotel for families. Nearby, the similarly priced Hyatt Regency has bigger standard rooms. For more options, check out our list of the best kid-friendly hotels in San Francisco.
Clean, overall, save for a few minor oversights
The stylish Harbor Court, a Kimpton hotel, occupies a historic, YMCA building; as a result, its 131 guest rooms are about half the size of most standard rooms. However, freebies like morning coffee, Wi-Fi, and an evening wine reception, and a great location on the Financial District's revitalized waterfront make it a reasonable choice for couples and solo travelers.