By: Kristin Luna
Due to its unpredictable weather – warmth and sunshine in January; cold and fog in July – San Francisco is a city with neither a high season nor a low season. Rather, it can put a dent in your wallet year round. But finding a deal on a luxury hotel isn’t impossible. In fact, several of the city’s hottest accommodations have rooms available for less than $200 a night. Read on to learn more about our 10 favorite San Francisco budget hotels and what times of year boast the lowest rates.
The century-old Fairmont’s grandeur and glamour is unparalleled and a must-visit on many guests’ lists – even those not staying in the San Francisco budget hotel itself. The lobby’s vaulted ceilings, Corinthian columns, spiral staircase, and rococo furniture give the impression you’ve checked into a castle, not just any ol’ hotel (which the Fairmont most definitely is not). In the rooms you can expect to find oversize marble bathrooms, heavenly blankets, goose-down king pillows, and large walk-in closets. You can’t ask for more scenic panoramas – like Coit Tower or Alcatraz Island – than that which the upper floors of the Fairmont offer. The lobby level Laurel Court restaurant and lounge serves a daily high tea – crumpets, clotted cream, tea sandwiches, the works – from 2:30pm to 4:30pm and is not to be missed. If you like your cocktail with a side of kitsch, visit the hotel’s Polynesian-themed Tonga Room at night: Mai Tais flow freely, bar-goers jive to groovy sounds from the islands, and there’s even a “rain storm” every half hour where the room darkens and theatrical rumbles of thunder and sounds of pouring rain take over.
Rooms start at $199/night. The lowest rates are offered during November and December; www.fairmont.com/sanfrancisco.
Straddling the border of Union Square and the Tenderloin, this hip Joie de Vivre hotel boasts 171 rooms spread among 16 floors. The San Francisco budget hotel has been around since 1929 and has thrived in the boutique realm due to its pleasant rooms at rock bottom rates (for San Francisco) in a city of overpriced options. While many rooms overlook Geary Street, windows are double-paned and block out much of the noise. Standard rooms offer mini-bars, iPod docks, free Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs, while executive floors (7 through 16) have makeup mirrors, robes, and stereos with iPod ports. The hotel also has a fitness center, concierge, and restaurant. The lobby-level Bar Adagio serves up delightful cocktails and nibbles if you don’t feel like venturing far.
Double rooms at Hotel Adagio start at $169/night during quieter months; www.jdvhotels.com/adagio.
Hotel des Arts
One of the more creative accommodations in town, Hotel des Arts is also the most colorful – literally. Local artists decorated the walls in each of the rooms with their own inspirations. The 43 rooms at this San Francisco budget hotel are a bit small (they’re European-style, after all), but if you can get past that fact, you’ll have a more-than-pleasant stay. You’ll find a 24-hour concierge on hand and laundry services in the building. Rollaway beds or cribs are available for additional guests or children. Plus, breakfast and Wi-Fi come free, and many rooms have microwaves and refrigerators – perfect for the self-catering traveler on a budget – so it’s surely one of the best deals around. There’s no restaurant or bar on site, but the hotel is located one block from bustling Belden Place, which is lined with French, American, and Italian eateries, as well as a quick walk to Chinatown.
A standard room starts at $69/night for two people in quieter months, and $129/night in summer; www.sfhoteldesarts.com.
Formerly just one of a number of accommodations to clutter Union Square, the boutique Hotel Frank is now a standout after an extension renovation that was completed in 2009. This San Francisco budget hotel caters to the trendy: Rooms are beautifully furnished with 1930s décor, houndstooth-patterned carpeting, crocodile-patterned leather adorning striking emerald green headboards, vintage white leather couches, geometric Art Déco light fixtures, and marble-accented bathrooms. There are all the standard amenities in room (including complimentary Wi-Fi) and a concierge on hand. While Hotel Frank doesn’t have its own restaurant, it shares a space with Max’s on the Square (room service is also available), and a number of Union Square restaurants and hole-in-the-wall Asian fusion joints are just around the corner. Thanks to its position on noisy Geary Street (both a pro and a con), rooms aren’t always the quietest; don’t forget to pack a pair of earplugs for your stay.
Deluxe queen rooms available from $129/night, primarily during winter months. On occasion, the hotel runs specials where you can find deals as low as $109; www.hotelfranksf.com.
Hyatt at Fisherman’s Wharf
For those who prefer a location near the hustle and bustle of Fisherman’s Wharf, the Hyatt delivers both convenience and comfort. After an extensive renovation of the 313 guest rooms, public areas, and workout facility was completed in 2010, it’s been brought up to par with San Francisco’s finest hotels. Each room at the San Francisco budget hotel now has a 32-inch flat-screen TV, upgraded bathroom, Portico amenities, spacious workstation, and Hyatt Grand Bed. Hotel-wide features include a 24-hour business center; complimentary transportation to the Financial District; and the StayFit @ Hyatt Fitness Center, which has weights, cardio machines, and yoga mats and is open around the clock. At the lobby level, there’s the Enoteca Musto wine lounge and a bustling sports bar, Knuckles on the Wharf, with private TVs in each booth. The Hyatt is also one of a very few hotels in town to house an outdoor heated pool and whirlpool.
Rooms start at $129 a night. The best rates are available from November through April; fishermanswharf.hyatt.com.
InterContinental Mark Hopkins
This iconic, 19-story San Francisco budget hotel opened in 1926 and sits right atop Nob Hill, overlooking Union Square, SoMa, and the rest of the city. The 550 rooms are neoclassical in design and outfitted with floor-to-ceiling windows and natural wood, marble, and glass touches. Each rooms features Wi-Fi (about $13 a day), a plasma TV with pay movies, a mini-bar, and Frette bathrobes; babysitting, a concierge, secretarial services, and workout facilities are available throughout the hotel. The Mark Hopkins achieved widespread notoriety during World War II when it became a farewell point for soldiers bidding their loved ones adieu; be sure and head to the hotel’s summit yourself for the best view in the city at the resident cocktail lounge Top of the Mark and to see where such history was made.
Rooms start at $189 a night for a double. These rates are offered during quiet occupancy periods, which typically fall during holiday weekends (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day); www.ichotelsgroup.com.
InterContinental San Francisco
When the InterContinental opened its doors in early 2008, it was the first new hotel to arrive in San Francisco in several years. And it lived up to all the hype. This San Francisco budget hotel’s sleek, aquarium-like façade makes it a convenient landmark when wandering the downtown area – it’s hard to miss the brilliant blue facade amid a sea of characterless industrial spaces in SoMa (the South of Market district where the hotel is located). The contemporary-style rooms, distributed throughout 32 floors, are equipped with wireless Internet ($14.95 a day), TVs with movies (for a fee), CD players, mini-bars, and iPod docks. Request a room on a top floor with Bay Bridge views. Luce, a Michelin-star Italian restaurant; Bar 888, a lounge known for its specialty grappa; and I-Spa, a sprawling facility with a top-notch gym, spa, and indoor lap pool, round out the facilities. The location can’t be beat for the traveler who likes an array of things to do: It’s just blocks away from Yerba Buena Gardens, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Ar, the Westfield Centre mall, and a bevy of the city’s trendiest dining options.
Rooms start at $189 a night for a double, but if you book at an advance purchase rate, which is non-refundable, you can get an additional 10 percent or more off that price. These rates are offered during quiet occupancy periods, which are usually over holiday weekends (Christmas, Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day); www.intercontinentalsanfrancisco.com.
Orchard Garden Hotel
This 5-year-old standout is considered “San Francisco’s green hotel” thanks to being the first in the state built to earn LEED basic certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Situated on the ambiguous line between Union Square, Chinatown, and the Financial District, the Orchard Garden is a Zen-style retreat with top-notch amenities (like Aveda bath products) and a soothing ambiance – not to mention a conscience. The San Francisco budget hotel utilizes European key cards, so the power shuts off once you leave the room; there are also en-suite recycling bins so guests can aid the environment, too. Rooms have DVD and CD players with surround sound (there’s even a library with movies available for borrow), free Wi-Fi, spa robes, and Egyptian cotton linens. There’s a lavish breakfast spread, a mix of hot foods like eggs and bacon and cold foods like cereal and yogurt, laid out downstairs each morning (only included in the hotel’s package stays, not in regular bookings), and dinner is available in Roots restaurant, which combines contemporary California cuisine with a dash of Mediterranean pizzazz.
Rates start at $139/night. These rates are typically available from late December through March; www.theorchardgardenhotel.com.
If you’re looking for more of a personalized experience, consider the 21-room Parker House, an inn divided between two 1909 Edwardian mansions. The staff is small and friendly, the atmosphere is intimate, a bottle of sherry sits in the living room by the fireplace so you can have an evening cocktail while making new friends, and there’s a steam room (free for all guest use) where you can blow off some stress. Other facilities at the San Francisco budget hotel include a library, piano, two lounges, and a sunroom, which plays host to a continental breakfast and complimentary wine service from 5:30pm to 6:30pm daily. For those who love nightlife, the location couldn’t be more ideal: The Parker House sits proudly in the middle of the Castro, one of San Francisco’s liveliest districts and home to many of the city’s late-night clubs. Note the property bills itself as a “gay hotel” but welcomes both gay and straight guests.
Rooms start at $169/night for a standard room with a private bath in the hall; rooms with en-suite bathrooms start at $189/night; www.parkerguesthouse.com.
Sir Francis Drake
Located off the Powell Street cable car line, Sir Francis Drake is a Kimpton property dropped smack in the middle of San Francisco’s busiest neighborhood, Union Square. It’s been in operation since 1928, and the marble staircase, soaring gilded ceilings, and shimmering crystal chandeliers showcase the era at its finest. Rooms at this San Francisco budget hotel feature all the usual amenities like TVs with on-demand movies, hair dryers, mini-bars, and free Wi-Fi (a novelty in a city that tries to charge you for everything); plus, there’s a concierge, workout room, two restaurants, and a bar elsewhere in the hotel. Three of Sir Francis Drake’s more famous inhabitants are Scala’s Bistro, an affordable Italian joint that packs a punch with every dish; Harry Denton’s Starlight Room, open nightly for entertainment and dancing, but most known for its Sunday drag brunch; and Tom Sweeney, an amicable doorman outfitted in Beefeater duds.
The Sir Francis Drake offers rates as low as $189/night during quieter months; www.sirfrancisdrake.com.