The Huntington Hotel Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Nob Hill, San Francisco, California

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

Cons

  • Daily fee for Wi-fi
  • No coffeemaker and minibar in the rooms
  • Charge for a third person to stay in one room
  • Small fitness room with just four machines

Bottom Line

Taken over in late 2011 by Singapore-based Grace International, this 136-room historic hotel in swanky Nob Hill has an attentive staff, a quiet, intimate atmosphere, and old-world grandeur to spare. Homey rooms, though not quite luxurious, are large for the price. Plus, guests can use the indoor pool and other facilities at the excellent spa for free. All in all, one of the city's best boutiques.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

A classy boutique hotel with exceptional service

The hotel's lobby
The hotel's lobby

Nob Hill, San Francisco's swankiest neighborhood, is home to many of its grandest hotels -- stately old buildings with cavernous marble-filled lobbies and hundreds of rooms. Then there's the elegant 136-room Huntington Hotel, the neighbor that stands out by being intimate and unassuming. Opened in 1924 as a luxury apartment tower, the 12-story, ivy-covered brick building was converted into a hotel right after World War II. It's been family-run ever since. Celebrities favor the Huntington because it's cut off from the gawking public. When asked which celebrities had stayed at the hotel during his 20 years there, the doorman declined to give any names. That's rare discretion in the hotel world, but not surprising for the classy staff here.

Even if hiding from your fans isn't your concern, you'll still find plenty of reasons to stay at this luxury boutique. The rooms, all former apartments, were renovated in 2009 and feature 32-inch flat-screen TVs and pillow-top beds. The hotel's hilltop location means the rooms have great park or city views. The service is polished and attentive (the doorman always remembers your name). And guests get free use of the pool, fitness room, and patio at the hotel's Nob Hill Spa, one of the best spas in town. The Big 4 Restaurant, named for the four tycoons who built the Central Pacific Railroad (C.P. Huntington, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins and Charles Crocker) and lived in lavish mansions on Nob Hill, is excellent.

Among boutique hotels, only the Campton Place Taj can compete. But while its rooms are luxurious, the Campton has fewer features and a less-relaxing setting owing to its Union Square location. Among the grand dames of Nob Hill, the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins and the Fairmont have similarly sized rooms and comparable in-room amenities, but rates are generally higher, making the Huntington a great value for the area.

 Service

White-glove service from a highly professional staff

Doormen greet guests by name.
Doormen greet guests by name.

White-glove service isn't uncommon at a luxury property. But at the 136-room Huntington, the treatment feels more intimate and personable -- even compared to Campton Place, another luxury boutique. The staff is formal for sure, but the stately demeanor is all about professionalism, not snootiness. Most employees have worked at this family-owned hotel for years -- two doormen for as long as 20 years.

  • Concierge is available throughout the day.
  • Room service available throughout the day, not 24-hours.
  • Nightly turndown service includes two free bottles of water.
  • Valet parking is pricey per night.
  • The front desk can assist with faxes and photocopying.
  • On weekdays, a chauffeured courtesy car takes guests to the Financial District or Union Square; one-way transportation only; available on a first-come-first-served basis.
  • You can preview your final bill on your TV, but you must checkout at the front desk.

 Location

High up in the quiet, upscale neighborhood of Nob Hill

The Huntington sits at the southwest edge of Nob Hill, on the corner of California and Taylor Streets. Its high perch means a grand view from nearly every floor -- even the outdoor patio at the basement-level spa overlooks the tops of buildings. Rooms that don't face the city and bay have a view of Huntington Park and the majestic Grace Cathedral that's just as lovely. The downside of such great heights is the effort it takes to get up the hill. Unless you intend on holing up in the hotel (not a bad proposition, if you consider its comfortable rooms and serene spa), you'll have to face those steep inclines. Fortunately a cable car stops at the hotel.

The area, Nob Hill, is jokingly -- okay, half-jokingly -- referred to by locals as "Snob Hill," and that tells you quite a bit about the neighborhood. It's primarily residential with a few luxury hotels mixed in (the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, the Ritz-Carlton, and the Fairmont are among its distinguished neighbors). Except for those that live in the area, locals don't really hang out here. You'll need to head downhill to North Beach or the Marina, or over to Russian Hill or Pacific Heights, to find the best local restaurants, bars, and shops.

  • Fisherman's Wharf is down the hill, less than a mile away (take the cable car back up!).
  • The famous curvy block of Lombard Street is less than half a mile away.
  • Chinatown is right down the hill.
  • Far from top tourist attractions like the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, and Haight-Ashbury but then so are the other neighborhoods with luxury hotels
  • Cable car stop right behind hotel
  • 30-minute taxi from San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • Safe neighborhood (though vagrancy and panhandling are common throughout San Francisco)

 Rooms

Elegant and comfortable rooms renovated in 2009

Park View Room
Park View Room

Even though this former apartment building has been a hotel for decades, the comfortable rooms still feel homey -- if not quite luxurious. At 335 square feet, they are larger than the standard San Francisco hotel room and about the same size as the entry-level rooms at higher-priced Nob Hill neighbors like the Fairmont, Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, and Ritz-Carlton.

The rooms, which were renovated in 2009, feature avocado- or teal-colored walls, dark wood furniture and tangerine armchairs, ivory keyhole artwork on the walls, as well as photographs by local artists. But there's no minibar or coffeemaker, and beds lack down duvets, something even midpriced hotels have.

  • Standard rooms, called Superior Rooms, have a king- or queen-size bed with a pillow-top mattress, soft white linens, and embroidered suede throw pillows.
  • Deluxe Rooms are 415 square feet; Luxury Rooms (studio layout) are 485 square feet; and one-bedroom Suites are 715 square feet.
  • Spacious marble bathrooms with tub/shower combos, two sinks
  • L'Occitane bath products include verbena soap with shea butter, verbena shampoo and conditioner, and orange-scented lotion and bath gel. Cotton buds and tips also provided; two terrycloth robes.
  • Park-view rooms have lovely views of Huntington Park, Grace Cathedral, and the massive brownstone that's home to the Pacific-Union Club.
  • No coffeemaker and no minibar, just an empty mini-refrigerator for guests to store food or drinks.
  • In-room Wi-Fi is charged every 24 hours
  • 32-inch flat-screen TV with 34 channels including HBO. Every room comes with a TV guide for the month -- a nice touch that's often missing at hotels; iPod dock available in every room.
  • It's difficult to control temperature with the old-school temperature dial.
  • Safe will not fit a laptop.
  • The Mulholland Suite, created in partnership with luxury leather goods maker Mulholland, has leather furnishings. For more information, check the hotel website.

 Features

A small gym and indoor pool, plus a free business center

The business center offers free WiFi and printing
The business center offers free WiFi and printing
  • The spa's indoor pool, whirlpool, outdoor patio with city views, fitness room, and steam and sauna rooms are all free to hotel guests. Open daily.
  • Indoor pool big enough for light laps or just floating; poolside fireplace and sitting area
  • The fitness center is small: just two treadmills, one elliptical, one bike, and a set of free weights.
  • Free lending library of books, tapes, and CDs about healthy living
  • Business center with two PCs; free Internet use and printing.
  • 2,500 square feet of flexible meeting space

 Luxury Spa

One of San Francisco's best spas

The pool at the spa is free for guests.
The pool at the spa is free for guests.

Boutique hotels are a dime a dozen in San Francisco, but the Huntington is the only one that houses such a standout spa. The Nob Hill Spa, named one of Luxury SpaFinder's "Top Ten Urban Hotel Spas in the World," was voted "Reader's Choice for Best Pamper Spot" by San Francisco Magazine in 2011. A large part of the spa's appeal is its vantage point: From its perch high on Nob Hill, the spa has city views that can be enjoyed from the lounge and pool area or the breezy outdoor patio.

  • Nob Hill Spa is open daily.
  • Hotel guests can use the pool, whirlpool, patio, fitness center, Zen room, and sauna and steam rooms for free.
  • Full spa services including manicures and pedicures. Specialty treatments include a Table Thai Massage and a Nourishing Seaweed Facial.
  • 10 treatment rooms, including one for couples massages and three with fireplaces
  • Indoor pool, suitable for light laps or floating, with a fireplace in lounge area
  • The Nob Hill Spa boutique carries skin-care products, clothing, and gifts.
  • Spa cuisine from Big 4 Restaurant is served at the outdoor patio and pool area.
  • The Premier Spa Suite, which can be rented out to groups, has private treatment areas, plus a dining and living room. Guests renting the suite have full access to the spa facilities.

 Family

A family-friendly neighborhood, but not a family hotel

The park across the street
The park across the street

The quiet residential neighborhood around the hotel may appeal to families -- the park in front of the hotel has a playground with swings and monkey bars and manicured lawns where locals picnic and walk their dogs. The hotel, though, isn't as family-friendly. Of the hotel's 136 rooms, only a handful have two beds. And while there's a pool, it's part of the Nob Hill Spa, which is open only to guests 16 and older. Also, the formal atmosphere isn't an ideal setting for rambunctious kids.

  • Only the Deluxe Rooms have two full-size beds. All other rooms have one king or queen-size bed.
  • Rollaway beds and cribs are free.
  • Charge for a third guest, regardless of what room type you book
  • The children's menu includes a grilled chuck burger; chicken pot pie, and a margherita pizza. Available for in-room dining throughout the day and available at the restaurant upon request.
  • Guests under 16 are not allowed at the Nob Hill Spa. If your tween insists on getting pampered, head down the hill to the Ritz-Carlton, which offers a "Strawberry Ice Cream Pedicure".
  • Babysitting service can be arranged through the concierge.
  • The Mason-Powell cable car, which stops directly in front of the hotel, goes to Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square.

 Cleanliness

Aging gracefully, with constant care

For a hotel that's been around since 1924, the Huntington has been remarkably well maintained. Even the old brass fixtures like the mail chute looks as though they are polished constantly. Rooms were renovated in 2009.

 Food

A fine-dining restaurant popular with the neighbors

The Big 4 Restaurant
The Big 4 Restaurant

The hotel's hushed air of civility extends to the restaurant off the lobby. Named for the four tycoons who built the Central Pacific Railroad (C.P. Huntington, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker), the Big 4 Restaurant is a swanky affair, replete with vested servers who quietly appear when a wine glass needs to be refilled. Green leather booths, dim lighting, dark wood, and railroad memorabilia on the walls give the impression of a tavern, but this is a fine dining institution helmed by award-winning chef Gloria Ciccarone-Nehls.

  • Contemporary American cuisine such as Maryland crab cakes and prawns with angel-hair pasta ($30 and up). Locals frequent the bar, where a pianist plays nightly.
  • Dinner is served nightly. The bar is open from afternoon to midnight. Breakfast daily, with the bar open all day long and no lunch.
  • Room service includes a full breakfast menu, a short-list of the Big 4's specialties all day, hors d'oeuvres; spa cuisine also available.
  • A delivery fee, gratuity and tax are automatically added to the bill.
  • The restaurant can prepare a picnic lunch for its guests.

 Bottom Line

Taken over in late 2011 by Singapore-based Grace International, this 136-room historic hotel in swanky Nob Hill has an attentive staff, a quiet, intimate atmosphere, and old-world grandeur to spare. Homey rooms, though not quite luxurious, are large for the price. Plus, guests can use the indoor pool and other facilities at the excellent spa for free. All in all, one of the city's best boutiques.

Things You Should Know About The Huntington Hotel

Address

  • 1075 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • The Huntington Hotel & Nob Hill Spa
  • The Huntington Hotel Nob Hill

Room Types

  • City View Suite
  • Deluxe Room
  • Luxury Room
  • Mulholland Suite
  • Park View Room
  • Park View Suite
  • Star Suite
  • Superior Room
  • Two Bedroom Suite

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 136
Pool: Yes
Fitness Center: Yes
Spa: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Nob Hill, San Francisco
Address: 1075 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108
(See Map)
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