What qualifies a hotel as one of the best in San Francisco? Well, we know that for some the best hotel is the most luxurious, while for others it’s the one that offers, say, the most for kids, or the most bang for the buck. So this list breaks things down by category — in other words, it includes the top hotel from each of our other San Francisco “best” lists: best luxury hotels, best value hotels, best kid-friendly hotels, and so on. We’re able to create these rankings because a team of Oyster reporters spent several weeks exploring 59 of the city’s top hotels. We slept in the beds, ate in the restaurants, tested the service, and scoped out the neighborhoods, all with an eye toward selecting the most distinguished properties. Those that made this list are truly the best of the best.
Built in 2005, the St. Regis offers the best in modern luxury: Highly attentive, personalized service includes a 24-hour butler staff; the relaxation rooms at Remede Spa serve chocolate truffles and champagne; the hotel's Ame restaurant is a notable destination in its own right; and the rooms and suites match the city's best for space, superior technology, and amenities. Its artsy SoMa surroundings, modern glass building, and impressive contemporary art collection lack the historical grandeur of the Nob Hill grand dames, but in substance it stands shoulder to shoulder, or above, its hilltop competitors.
Modern décor, unusually large, well-furnished, apartment-like rooms -- many with mini kitchens -- and lots of included perks place the 49-room Laurel Inn at the top of our list of best values for San Francisco. Generous free extras include Wi-Fi, all-day coffee and tea, a glass of wine, and afternoon lemonade and cookies, while parking is more reasonably priced than at other San Francisco hotels. Guests also get discounted passes to a local gym with adult and children's pools. And the hotel's location, in beautiful, residential Pacific Heights, amid upscale galleries and boutiques, is a welcome alternative to other frenetic, tourist-heavy neighborhoods.
For an affordable — yet still comfortable — family option near the high-end shopping in Union Square, you can't do better than the Handlery. This classic San Francisco boutique hotel has one of the few, and one of the best, outdoor pools in the neighborhood. Plus, for about the price of a small standard room elsewhere, families visiting the Handlery can upgrade to a large, 450-square-foot Club-level guest room with a balcony or patio.
The city's top luxury hotel is hard to beat for a romantic retreat. The spacious and modern rooms are among San Francisco's best. A touch-screen next to the bed controls the music, lights, shades, and TV --- and puts guests in contact with a 24-hour butler, who will, among other things, draw a bath in the deep tub that opens to the room (try the Rose Petal Romance bath). Downstairs, Ame restaurant is a dining destination in its own right, and Remede Spa serves chocolate truffles and champagne in its relaxation rooms.
Its grand, neoclassical dining room is unlike any other, but it's the bold, New American flavor combinations that earned celebrity chef Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak restaurant a Michelin star. Each dish on the (pricey) prix fixe menu is served as three distinct small plates: Wolfe Ranch quail and corn, for example, comes served pan-seared with polenta; as confit leg with sweet corn veloute; and with foie gras, black winter truffle, and corn bread crumble. The small plates on the slightly more expensive seasonal tasting menu are each paired with a different wine, like crispy skin striped bass with McKinlay pinot noir. But, if you're not prepared to pay three figures for your meal, come early for the cheaper three-course pre-theater menu, or you can just sit in the lounge area and order a la carte.
Housed in two adjoining century-old buildings, this 110-room boutique is a revelation in bustling Union Square — a treasured high-end property that's also surprisingly casual. The sprightly doorman chats with you as he leads you to the small, gleaming lobby full of fresh-cut orchids and paintings by local artists. The lobby's lack of opulence belies the hotel's level of luxury, which includes an impressive array of services and premium in-room amenities. The restaurant, Campton Place, is an institution in its own right, complete with a master sommelier (one of 150 people in the world to hold that title) and a wine cellar with 1,500-plus labels.
With a location in the heart of the Financial District, classy meeting spaces, a solid business center, two on-site restaurants, a hopping bar scene, and free Wi-Fi in public spaces, Le Meridien stands out among business-friendly San Francisco properties. Rooms feature all the extras of a five-pearl lodging --- from bathrobes, Frette linens, and 24-hour room service to a well-stocked minibar, a large work desk, and overnight shoeshines -- plus there's an on-site fitness facility.