Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Japan meets San Francisco
With its high-ceilinged, sparkling marble lobby meticulously decorated with imperial Japanese design elements and carefully curated artwork, Hotel Nikko proffers an image of understated, Zen-style luxury. One exception to the serene setting is the Kanpai bar, which looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland with checkerboard bar seating and very large plush chairs. Once co-owned by Japan Airlines, Hotel Nikko's 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, and an excellent sushi restaurant -- pay tribute to this.
Alternately, it's worth checking the rates at the JW Marriott, also in Union Square, which offers larger rooms and superior service features like its 24-hour butler service -- but no pool.
Adjacent to tourist-heavy Union Square, and the seedy Tenderloin neighborhood
Two blocks from the upscale shopping mecca and transportation hub of Union Square (complete with the city's famous trolley cars), Hotel Nikko resides on a nondescript stretch of commercial street lined with hotels, divey Irish bars, and midlevel restaurants. It's convenient but not super scenic, and travelers should know that, though it advertises itself as a Union Square hotel, the property also lies on the edge of the Tenderloin, a neighborhood rife with panhandlers and vagrants that can get dicey at night. Expect a 30-minute drive to San Francisco International Airport. Like at most hotels in San Francisco, valet parking here is expensive.
Cool technology and contemporary Japanese design
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 plus showerheads that have great water pressure. Some bathrooms have Vibe TVs built into anti-fog mirrors. Deluxe Rooms have a modern look with white diamond-pattered walls. Furniture includes ergonomic desk chairs and contemporary wingback armchairs. Comfy Subarashee Yume pillow-top mattresses get high marks from guests.
Imperial Club Rooms are located on higher floors and along with more square footage and some floor-to-ceiling windows, 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. The Japanese Suites (which also include all the goodies of the Imperial Club Rooms) look the most exotic with a rock garden at the foot of the windows and shoji screen sliding doors.
A cool feature unique to the Hotel Nikko is 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).
Nightclub, UPS, Shiatzu -- and more (but expect to pay extra for it)
Though Hotel Nikko has a convenient location near Union Square, it would be possible to check in and not leave until check out -- that's how many features are packed into this medium-sized hotel. One of the hotel's best features is the state-of-the-art Club Nikko, which has a lap pool, small whirlpool, outdoor balcony, and expansive fitness center with Wi-Fi and touch-screen enabled cardio equipment. There's a Shiatsu Massage Center (really just a one-table room) for hour-long massages (also available in the guest rooms). If you're staying in an Imperial Club Room or Imperial Suite, you get free access to these facilities. Otherwise, a onetime fee applies.
For fun, Feinstein's nightclub is more of an entertainment spot with jazz revues or comedians and less of a disco. Quirky Kanpai Lounge has a mixologist and weekly DJ. Guests receive a free glass of wine on arrival and those staying in the imperial level rooms will enjoy a free wine and cheese reception in the evenings.
Business services are a huge draw for the hotel and include an Enterprise rental car office, UPS store and business center, and a myriad of conference rooms. A salon and gift shop with snacks and magazines are convenient touches for everyone.
Japanese and American breakfast buffet, Anzu for sushi and Californian cuisine -- plus Starbucks and light fare at Kanpai Lounge and 24-hour room service
Toyko and San Fransisco are two cities with notorious foodie scenes so it's little surprise that food at Hotel Nikko is varied and interesting. Breakfast options include a seemingly endless Japanese and American buffet with hot and cold dishes and a la carte items. Anzu is open for lunch and dinner. The specialties there are fresh sushi and seafood dishes with California ingredients. Room service is available 24 hours a day and can also be ordered poolside. Lighter fare and snacks are served at Kanpai Lounge and an on-site Starbucks means quick access to coffee and pastries.
Indoor lap-pool (a real rarity in space cramped San Francisco)
Though kids are welcome at the atrium enclosed lap-pool on the fifth floor of Hotel Nikko, the scene is really more about adults relaxing in the Jacuzzi or swimming laps after a workout. The water is heated and there are good views of the city from a nearby balcony. Room service can be delivered poolside, but it's probably more appealing to eat in the guest rooms or Anzu restaurant.
The upscale Hotel Nikko looks and feels more like a boutique hotel than the mid-size chain it actually is. Room renovations in 2012 brought upgrades to the cultivated Japanese-luxe image, including bathroom improvements. Though the hotel's multiple conference rooms, stylish suites, and on-site UPS store make it an obvious draw for business travelers, the Union Square location, indoor lap pool, and sushi bar appeal to tourists as well, though small children might be happier elsewhere. Watch out for added charges tacked on to use Wi-Fi, the international breakfast buffet, and more -- though these are covered for guests who book an Imperial Club Room or Imperial Suite.