Hotel Nikko San Francisco Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Union Square, San Francisco, California

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

Cons

  • Around the corner from the seedy Tenderloin neighborhood
  • One-time fee to access the pool and gym
  • Daily fee for Wi-Fi (some internet rates include web access)

Bottom Line

Clean, affordable and quiet, the Hotel Nikko seems more like a boutique hotel than the mid-size chain it is. Its cultivated Japanese-luxe image, apparent in the lobby and pricier suites, doesn't quite extend to all of its guest rooms (though most were renovated in 2012 and are more attractive than the older ones). On-site, for the business set, there's an excellent lap pool, fitness center, and ample business services.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

Mixing quirk (check out the campy cabaret, The Rrazz Room), exotic amenities, and Japanese-inspired service, the Nikko offers a little sliding-scale luxury at a fair price.

The lobby
The lobby

With its high-ceilinged, sparkling marble lobby meticulously decorated with imperial Japanese design elements and carefully curated artwork, the Hotel Nikko proffers an image of understated, Zen-style luxury. Once co-owned by Japan Airlines, its clientele skews heavily toward Japanese business travelers. An array of distinctly Japanese-informed amenities -- granite soaking tubs in some of the suites, Shiatsu masseuse on-site, traditional Japanese menu items on the breakfast buffet -- pay tribute to this.

Standard rooms are affordable and boast fabulously comfortable pillow-top beds with Frette linens. But at 270 square feet, the awkwardly laid out Petite Queen room (the base-level room type) is little more than a few strange, gauntlet-like corridors and a bed wedged between the window and a small desk. The gorgeous, newly renovated bathrooms stand in stark contrast to some of the older rooms, which have yet to receive a facelift.

Many of the features that set the Nikko apart from its competition -- like its huge pool, quirky in-house cabaret and beautiful Japanese design flourishes -- aren't included in the price of a standard room. Unless you've booked an Imperial Club room (which affords access to the Imperial Club lounge, free Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfast and free entry to the Club Nikko workout and pool facilities), or gone whole hog with one of the two gorgeous $1600-a-night Japanese suites, you don't get a true taste of the hotel's unique offerings. You might as well be staying at the Hilton across the street.

Alternatively, it's worth checking the rates at the JW Marriott, also in Union Square, which offers larger rooms, more amenities, and superior service features like its 24-hour butler service. Or, for a more cohesive, traditional Japanese design experience and a better spa, the Hotel Kabuki, though slightly removed from the action in quiet Japantown, is a better option.

 Service

A Japanese-informed approach translates into genial, anticipatory service -- or so they say.

The front desk
The front desk

The Hotel Nikko San Francisco prides itself on its Japanese approach to service, which purportedly means that its staff makes an effort to anticipate guests' needs. Fellow travelers sing the praises of the hotel staff, especially as it pertains to business-related needs (great catering services and responsive event-planning team). While the staff may shine in this regard, other services tend to fall short.

  • Staff concierge
  • Room service from Asian-fusion restaurant Anzu restaurant available daily.
  • Poolside food and drink service available (but not apparent).
  • Valet parking is pricey.

 Location

Adjacent to central shopping and public transportation hub, Union Square, and the seedy Tenderloin neighborhood; it's convenient, but not scenic.

Two blocks from the upscale shopping mecca and transportation hub, Union Square, the Nikko resides on a nondescript stretch of commercial street lined with hotels, divey Irish bars, and midlevel restaurants. It's convenient but not scenic, and travelers should know that, though it advertises itself as a Union Square hotel, it lies right on the edge of the Tenderloin, a neighborhood rife with panhandlers and vagrants that gets dicey at night.

  • Two blocks from Market Street, a bustling commercial thoroughfare
  • Two blocks from San Francisco's shopping and transportation hub, Union Square
  • Small theater district two blocks north includes the Curran and American Conservatory theaters
  • Two blocks from Powell Street BART station
  • Two blocks to Geary Limited bus line
  • Two miles from Fisherman's Wharf and the ferries to Alcatraz
  • Five miles from the Golden Gate Bridge
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is about a 30-minute cab ride.

 Rooms

Standard rooms are spacious for the area and have comfy beds, a big flat-screen TV and gorgeous bathrooms -- nice for the price and renovated in 2012.

Petit Queen Room
Petit Queen Room

The hotel completed a piecemeal room renovation project in 2012. The beautiful, modern bathrooms are clean and vaguely Zen, with large square porcelain sinks, sleek fixtures, attractive black wood shelves and marble counters and showerheads that have great water pressure. Renovated Deluxe Rooms have a modern look with white diamond-pattered walls and furniture, including ergonomic desk chairs and contemporary wingback armchairs. New Deluxe and Imperial rooms have beds with plush white or brown headboards and big, comfy Subarashee Yume pillow-top mattresses. But the older guest rooms have drab beige decor, and most are showing minor wear and tear on the furtniture.

Also, unique to the Hotel Nikko, is that there's a doorbell outside every guest room that changes color to indicate whether the room is inhabited -- a helpful feature for the housekeeping staff, and also one that dovetails with the hotel's multiple green initiatives (the sensors inside the rooms automatically turn off the thermostat if there's been no activity in the room).

  • At 270 square feet, the standard, Petite Queen room is on the smaller-than-average hotel room in San Francisco, but it feels even smaller due to its awkward layout; a narrow hallway leading from the entrance takes up a good chunk of the square footage.
  • Deluxe rooms, which feature either two queens or one king-size bed, are significantly bigger at 364 to 420 square feet (ask about an upgrade at check-in; the cost could be quite minimal).
  • Comfortable bed (queen-size in the base-level room type): pillow-top mattress; silky Frette linens; goose-down comforter; four pillows
  • Large, 42-inch flat-screen plasma TV
  • Minibars in all rooms
  • In-room Wi-Fi is charged per day (some web rates include free internet)
  • Free coffee and tea
  • Gilchrist and Soames toiletries
  • Imperial Club rooms completed renovation in 2012 and offer free access to Wi-Fi, the gym and spa facilities at "Club Nikko" and the Imperial Club Lounge, which serves a free breakfast buffet and an evening wine and cheese reception.
  • At about $1,600 per night, the Japanese Suites are studies in exotic beauty: The bedroom features two queen beds, a Japanese rock garden at the foot of the window and shoji screen sliding doors. The pièce de résistance is the bathroom, outfitted with a stunning black granite soaking tub, wood-slatted stall shower and Vibe TV embedded in the mirror above the sink.

 Features

"Club Nikko" (one-time fee to access) -- featuring a huge indoor pool, 24-hour gym, and Shiatsu massage services -- and the jazz cabaret, The Rrazz Room, are standout features for a hotel in this price range.

The lap pool
The lap pool

One of the hotel's most impressive bragging rights is the so-called Club Nikko, which encompasses a huge, glassed-in lap pool, small Jacuzzi, an outdoor balcony, impressive fitness center and Zen-designed locker rooms outfitted with a steam room and sauna, plus a Shiatsu Massage Center (really just a one-table room that's open Monday through Saturday). Massages last for an hour and are also available in the room. If you're staying in an Imperial Club room, you get free access to the facilities. Otherwise, a onetime fee applies.

The kitschy, 170-seat cabaret, The Rrazz Room, boasts an impressive, if niche, lineup of acts most days of the week that range from jazz and R&B to gay-friendly comedy acts. The cost of admission can be steep and doesn't include the two-drink minimum.

 Family

Kid-tolerant but not kid-friendly, the Nikko's family-oriented offerings are slim.

The hotel mainly attracts international business travelers, so it's not surprising that there aren't any kid-focused amenities on offer, though the friendly staff does what it can to accomodate families with children. The huge indoor pool -- a rarity in San Francisco -- is a potential draw for travelers with tykes, but the scene is decidedly quiet and relaxed, and seemed geared primarly toward guests hoping to get in a few uninterrupted laps in, pre-massage.

  • Room service offers a kid's menu.
  • Deluxe rooms offer option of two queen-size beds.
  • Free cribs available
  • Charge for rollaway beds
  • Kids' buffet breakfast is half-price.
  • No adjoining rooms available
  • Neighborhood adjacent to hotel can get dicey at night, so families traveling with children should be wary of wandering.

 Food

Anzu offers average Asian-fusian fare. Stick with sushi and take advantage of the breakfast buffet's Japanese items.

Anzu
Anzu

"Euro Japanese" restaurant Anzu serves breakfast, lunch and dinner that's commensurate with run-of-the-mill hotel restaurants, which is to say: overpriced for food that's merely okay. The Farmer's Market Salad with pear, Roquefort and pumpkin seeds was fresh, bountiful and seasonally appropriate but the main course of Wild Japanese Mushroom Pappardelle was flavorless, messily composed and swimming in butter. Best to stick with the more straightforward menu items like sushi and steak. Anzu really shines at breakfast, with an extensive array of American and Japanese dishes. A wider variety of food options at all price points is within a few blocks of the hotel and well worth taking advantage of.

  • A worthwhile American-Japanese Breakfast Buffet (served every morning) featuring standard American fare -- fruit, scrambled eggs, bacon and sausage -- plus an interesting array of Japanese items, including miso soup, pickled vegetables, salted salmon and individually packaged cups of the pungent, sticky Japanese breakfast staple natto.
  • Room service is available throughout the day and can be ordered poolside.
  • Four blocks from San Francisco greasy spoon institution Dottie's True Blue Cafe and the high-end cocktail bar, Bourbon and Branch.

 Cleanliness

Rooms and hallways, but windows don't open to ventilate.

The lobby is sparkling and hallways are shipshape. Some rooms have a persistent stench of cloying, perfumy cleaning products. As far as smells go, it's not so bad, but the odor lingers. Since the windows don't open, there's was no way to circulate fresh air.

 Pets

Pets under 35 pounds are allowed for a nightly fee

There is a daily fee for pets, and a 40 pound weight limit. You must also notify the hotel in advance if you plan on bringing your furry friend.

  • No special pet amenities available
  • Pets may not be left unattended in guest rooms

 Eco Initiatives

Low-flow toilets, low-energy lightbulbs and sensor-controlled thermostats make the Nikko a particularly eco-conscious hotel.

The Nikko has taken pains to appeal to guests with an environmental conscience and has earned a government-bestowed Energy Star award six years running for its efforts. Among its green initiatives are guestrooms outfitted with sensor-controlled thermostats, low-flow toilets, a laundry system that uses filtered, recycled water from second and third rinse cycles, and low-energy fluorescent bulbs in 82 percent of the hotel's light fixtures.

 Bottom Line

Clean, affordable and quiet, the Hotel Nikko seems more like a boutique hotel than the mid-size chain it is. Its cultivated Japanese-luxe image, apparent in the lobby and pricier suites, doesn't quite extend to all of its guest rooms (though most were renovated in 2012 and are more attractive than the older ones). On-site, for the business set, there's an excellent lap pool, fitness center, and ample business services.

Things You Should Know About Hotel Nikko San Francisco

Address

  • 222 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Nikko Hotel San Francisco
  • Nikko San Francisco
  • San Francisco Nikko

Room Types

  • Deluxe Room
  • Essex Suite
  • Executive Suite
  • Imperial Club Room
  • Imperial Suite
  • Japanese Suite
  • Junior Suite
  • Nikko Room
  • Petite Room

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 533
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Pets Allowed: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Union Square, San Francisco
Address: 222 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
(See Map)
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