W San Francisco Rating: 4.0 Pearls
SoMa, San Francisco, California

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

  • Up-to-date guest rooms are spacious, light and airy
  • Hip ambience -- curated music, uber-trendy design
  • Responsive concierge
  • Convenient location close to Moscone Convention Center, SFMoMA, and other art district destinations
  • 24-hour room service
  • 24-hour gym with modern equipment

Cons

  • No family-oriented amenities
  • Area is dead at night
  • Fee for in-room Wi-Fi

Bottom Line

An outpost of the generally solid "lifestyle"-focused chain, the W San Francisco in the SoMa art district offers clean, airy rooms, and above-average amenities in a whimsical, stylish setting. But despite efforts to seem boutique-y, the W is still a big, national chain at the end of the day, and the approach is less about personal touches than overall atmosphere.

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 Scene

The high-style "lifestyle" chain delivers, as usual, with sleek, hipster-luxe amenities plus a few locally inspired design touches.

Guests congregate in front of the fireplace
Guests congregate in front of the fireplace

Starwood's W franchise has staked its name on bringing a hyper-sleek and at times painfully hip boutique approach to the masses. In the 10 years since this 404-room San Francisco outpost opened its doors in the arts district of SoMa, the property has shaken off some of its clubby, too-cool pedigree and consciously appropriated a more locally informed, Californian spirit. The design aesthetic pays homage to the Bay Area's large Asian population -- the conceit is actually called Gateway to the East -- and is visible in an array of small touches.

Of course, vestiges of the self-consciously trendy vibe are still very much in evidence, from the subtle, seasonal fragrances that infuse the lobby and elevators to the well-curated indie-pop tunes that pump throughout the public spaces. The three-story octagonal "Living Room," (renovated in 2012) known in non-W-speak as "extension of the lobby," is outfitted with a working fireplace, chatting on cell phones, typing furiously on laptops (presumably availing themselves of the free Wi-Fi).

Rooms continue in the same playful, design-conscious vein but don't sacrifice comfort or quality for style. The signature W beds -- accompanied by an optional and extensive pillow menu -- are excellent, and bathrooms are big, bright and stocked with toiletries from the well-regarded Bliss Spa on the hotel's 4th floor. A variety of upscale and modern touches include a huge, bright work desk, 32-inch plasma TV, extensive DVD lending library, exhaustive minibar and iPod dock.

Amenities abound, including a futuristic 24-hour gym, but it's hard to book appointments at the Bliss Spa.

If it's boutique character you're after, there are plenty of other options available at every price point, from the budget-friendly GOOD Hotel to the pricier Clift or Hotel Triton in the nearby Union Square area.

 Location

This corner of San Fransisco's SoMa arts district might well be called the Museum Mile; quiet by day and barren at night, but a few blocks' walk offers plenty of dining and nightlife options.

Smack dab in the middle of the SoMa arts district, the W is a culture vulture's dream. It shares a block with the SFMoMA and is a five-minute walk from the Museum of the African Diaspora and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. It's across the street from the Yerba Buena Performing Arts Center and Gardens and catty-corner from Moscone Convention Center.

The neighboring blocks were until recently derelict buildings but, despite the economic downturn, have seen a profusion of new high-rises condos and corporate offices within a four-block radius. They're now (somewhat sparsely) populated with tourists, students from the nearby Academy of Arts University, and area desk jockeys during the day -- but on weeknights it's a ghost town. Thirsty revelers willing to hoof it a bit will find a suitable array of nightlife options -- including the rock bar New Wave City and gallery-cum-club 111 Minna.

 Rooms

Bright, light-filled, and tricked out with (mostly) state-of-the-art technology

The Wonderful Room
The Wonderful Room

Airy, light-filled, and featuring brand-new, state-of-the-art technologies, the 300-square-foot standard "Wonderful Room" is roomy enough, with two queen beds, a generous backlit work station, a cushy electric blue day bed, and (in some cases) views of the SoMa district and Bay Bridge. The furniture is all light blonde wood and white leather with snatches of color, contributing to the bright, cheery vibe. "Eastern" decorative embellishments like cloud-shaped mirror decals, a Buddha night-light and China Girl coin holder provide visual stimulation.

  • Signature W beds are firm but comfy and boast fluffy goose-down comforters and an exhaustive array of pillow options via the trademark Pillow Menu. They claim to have 350-thread-count sheets; unfortunately, they felt pretty rough on the skin and appeared to have ink stains on them.
  • Zenith DVD player
  • 32-inch HD plasma TV
  • Comprehensive minibar includes treats for children or anyone planning to attend a rave (huge multicolored lollipop, "intimacy kit," vitamin pack)
  • Thoughtful touches like a David Rockwell photography book and bottled water
  • DVD lending library available through "Whatever, Whenever" concierge service
  • Bliss toiletries in bathroom
  • iPod dock
  • Wi-Fi is charged daily (it's free in the lobby and 2nd floor "Living Room").

 Features

A laundry-list of hip amenities, including Puma bike rentals, and in-house Bliss Spa

5,000 square foot Bliss Spa on premises
5,000 square foot Bliss Spa on premises

The generally impressive range of amenities has a couple of flaws. The 24-hour gym, FIT, was renovated in 2014 and is housed in a sleek, futuristic space. Modern cardio and strength training machines are under an overhead skylight and color-changing light fixtures are designed to amp up workouts. It could be too lively for some guests.

The 5,000-square-foot Bliss Spa on the 4th floor has garnered awards for being the best day spa in San Francisco. It's uniformly hip and, true to the brand, tends more towards youthful quirk than traditional upscale luxury. Guest rooms all come with the Bliss Spa menu, but it's wise to plan ahead and book a treatment in advance, as the hotel's BIP service doesn't guarantee you'll nab an appointment.

  • Free Puma Biomega bike rentals
  • 24-hour room service
  • 5,000 square foot Bliss Spa on the premises
  • 24-hour gym is free for hotel guests; yoga and Pilates classes and personal trainers are available for varying fees.
  • Pillow menu offers choice of body pillow, neckroll, firm foam PrimaLoft or 100 percent down feather pillows.
  • P.A.W. pet concierge
  • DVD library available through "Whatever, Whenever" concierge
  • Free use of an Acura MDX within city limits (but it's a temporary feature)

 Family

Not particularly family-friendly, the W chain is unapologetically geared toward Gen Xers and, provisionally, their well-behaved progeny.

The Chinese-doll coin holders might appeal to children
The Chinese-doll coin holders might appeal to children

In the words of the hotel's management, the W is "not a family-focused hotel," and indeed, with the exception of free crib rental, there are very few amenities that cater to families traveling with kids. However, as the original clientele of the W brand has aged and started breeding, the hotel has seen an uptick in guests traveling with young'uns. Though there are no special allowances for families to speak of, the funky design flourishes unique to the San Francisco property will likely appeal to children.

  • Crib rental is free
  • Rollaway beds come with a fee, but can't be rented for rooms with two beds due to fire codes

 Food

W Cafe is the casual option at the W, with tasty food and affordable prices; Trace serves sustainable, locally sourced food in an upscale atmosphere.

Trace, an upscale eatery influenced by the sustainability movement and focused on bringing locally sourced food to the table, opened in mid-2011. In fact, all dining at the W has made sizeable efforts to be sustainable. All menus are created based on seasonal availability; the Living Room Bar's award-winning wine list features over 200 organic or biodynamic wines, and all coffee served is organic.

  • Upstairs Drink Boutique and the Living Room each feature nice environments for sipping on a drink and people-watching.
  • Room service is available -- and generally very tasty -- 24 hours a day.
  • A nearby and worthwhile dining option is Anchor & Hope, an upmarket fish shack two blocks due east.
  • Less persnickety eaters, or those trying to adhere to a budget, might try Chevy's Fresh Mex, which is right across the street.

 Bottom Line

An outpost of the generally solid "lifestyle"-focused chain, the W San Francisco in the SoMa art district offers clean, airy rooms, and above-average amenities in a whimsical, stylish setting. But despite efforts to seem boutique-y, the W is still a big, national chain at the end of the day, and the approach is less about personal touches than overall atmosphere.

Things You Should Know About W San Francisco

Address

  • 181 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • w Hotel San Francisco
  • w Hotels San Francisco

Room Types

  • Cool Corner Room
  • Extreme Wow Suite
  • Fabulous Room
  • Fantastic Suite
  • Spectacular Room
  • Wonderful Room

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 404
Fitness Center: Yes
Spa: Yes
Internet: Yes
Pets Allowed: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: SoMa, San Francisco
Address: 181 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
(See Map)
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