Harbor Court Hotel – one of the best San Francisco hotels with a view
We stayed there twice, on two different weekends, for a good look. And came away impressed both times.
History with a modern touch
In its first life, the Harbor Court was a 400-room Army-Navy YMCA residence. Built in 1926 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style still visible today, the eight-story building served soldiers returning from war. After that, the hotel went through a few iterations: A health-and-wellness center, and then a chain boutique hotel that realized its first interior facelift while keeping the historical touches. But the turning point for the Harbor Court (and other Embarcadero-facing buildings) was when the elevated Embarcadero Freeway along the waterfront was demolished in 1990 after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Suddenly, there were sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island, and the entire neighborhood became coveted for residences and businesses.
Staying in and touring San Francisco will always demand lots of walking, so finding a great San Francisco hotel for tourists and a top San Francisco hotel for business travelers alike is a plus. Are you going to a conference at the Moscone Convention Center? About three-quarters of a mile. Have a business meeting or conference at the Hyatt Embarcadero? Not even four blocks. Like we said, location, location, location.
Rooms with a view
Rooms, other than the Penthouse Suite, are not huge – remember, you are in a big city and this is an historic building. But the renovation has done a fine job upping the ante (we actually stayed there a couple of years earlier, so we have a comparison). The Bay View rooms offer spectacular views of the twinkling Bay Bridge, visible right from the bed. Sure, the standard rooms do not have that view, but you get a lower price and if you really are going to be on-the-go or at meetings, those will do you just fine, too.
Bathrooms too are not huge, but nicely appointed. Although the website says rooms have bathtub/shower combinations (and bathrobes), the ones we have stayed in did not. Once you have that best San Francisco hotel with a view, a great location and a comfy bed, the next thing on our list is a great shower. Indeed, these bathrooms aren’t sprawling, but the shower? One big aaaaahhhhhh!
One of the things we particularly liked as business travelers was the addition of multiple, accessible power outlets and USBs. No crawling on the floor or digging behind furniture. Two of each on each side of the bed! Rooms also have a mini-fridge for your snacks, beverages or wine – it is disguised as a little safe! The desk is small but quite functional.
The other plus if you have a room facing the busy Embarcadero traffic route along the water is that you won’t be disturbed by noise! The windows have obviously been sound-proofed well in the recent renovation.
One factor we found a bit odd was the shortness of the closet area for hanging long pants, coats or longer dresses. It is simply too short for that, although tops and folded-over bottoms are just fine.
Cozy touches remain
We really loved the “living room” area. This is where you will pick up your glass of wine during happy hour (5 to 6 p.m., included). There is a long community work table for digital needs, as well as couches, chairs and a (faux) fireplace for that intimate feel.
This is not the hotel for someone who wants multiple in-house restaurants, and concierges begging to help you. However, the upscale Japanese restaurant Ozumo next door will supply room service, and there are plenty of restaurants around the area. Plus, the renovation added a counter for small fare and snacks at the reception area. And this is where you’ll get your morning coffee or tea (also included).
Want a workout?
Remember, it used to be a YMCA? Well, it actually still is – in part. Go through a connecting door and you are in a YMCA that has everything you could possibly want, from classes and equipment (views of the Bay!), to a pool and saunas and steam rooms. We are talking a multi-story health club, not a sad basement hotel workout room. Your visits there are also included in the hotel’s “urban fee.” So take advantage of a relaxing sauna if nothing else.
Speaking of urban fees: We know they are common these days, and at the Harbor Court they are (as of this writing) $29 a day, which is “budget” for a best San Francisco hotel. Really, you are still paying for your visit to the YMCA, your wine and your coffee, as well as the “free” Wi-Fi. We do not ding the Harbor Court for this fee, but in general, we’d rather have a hotel either charge a discount fee for a YMCA visit (as it used to) and include a bit more in room rates to cover your coffee and wine.
Cheery staff and clean rooms and common areas
One thing that truly impressed us was how friendly every single staff member was that we encountered – from front desk personnel, to housekeepers to maintenance people or bell staff, every single person without prompting would greet us with a smile. The apparent happiness there is then reflected in the care for the facility. Halls and common areas are spotless, rooms super clean and very tidy.
So many reasons to show why the Harbor Court Hotel earns our nod as one of the best San Francisco hotels with a view — be it for tourists, business travelers or couples.