Harbor Court Hotel – one of the best San Francisco hotels with a view

by Feb 27, 2019California

Positioned on the waterfront, the Harbor Court Hotel in San Francisco is a 6-minute walk from the Ferry Building Marketplace and the BART Embarcadero rail station. Rooms have Bay Bridge, city or courtyard views and have free Wi-Fi, iHome docks, minibars and flat-screen TVs. Rooms also have yoga mats, designer toiletries, Italian linens and goose-down duvets.

The Harbor Court Hotel San Francisco, with its location across the street from the waterfront, a quarter-mile from the Ferry Building and steps from public transportation, is certainly worthy of our nod for being one of the best San Francisco hotels with a view. You’ll find few cool San Francisco hotels that are so ideally situated with (for San Francisco) relatively moderate prices. A renovation completed in 2018 upped the cool factor, too.

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.

Harbor Court Front

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.

Harbor Court bay view suite makes this one of the best San Francisco hotels

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!

Harbor Court View Night

HITT Tip: Don’t forget to check out the “deals and offers” for specials such as discounts for business travelers, California residents, weekend stays, and more. And this hotel is also pet friendly with a per-stay pet fee rather than per day – another nice, sane touch. 


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Modern Touches

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.

Harbor Court Bedside Usb

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.

Harbor Court Lobby

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).

Harbor Court Ozumo Food

HITT Tip: For lunch, try the restaurants at the Rincon Center across the street. Business-oriented, most are closed in the evening and weekends. Also, if you are in need of a beverage or small snack, head into the YMCA to its vending machines, near the entrance where you can find a healthy selection of inexpensive items. Looking for more in the way of dining options? Head to Pier 39, a short walk away. 

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.

Harbor Court Counter Entrance

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.

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Disclosure: Our stay was fully hosted at the Harbor Court Hotel. The review, opinions and ratings here are our own, and are not approved, provided, or otherwise endorsed or influenced by the hotel.


  1. Jasmine Chen

    From the exterior to the interior, the décor is just amazing! I’m a sucker for hotels with a view and you had me at Japanese food for room service (yum!). Will defs have to check this out the next time I’m back in SF. Also, great tip about checking out deals and offers! I somehow always forget to look hahaa.

    • HI Travel Tales

      We (read Therese) always checks and rechecks for deals … and if a deal comes up after booking, she always calls and asks for that. Smart traveler she is. I just tag along. 😉

  2. Carmen's Luxury Travel

    This hotel is right up my alley! I love great views and will definitely stay here next time I’m in San Francisco. One of my favorite cities in the world 🙂

    • HI Travel Tales

      One of our favorite cities too Carmen!

  3. Melody Pittman

    Looks like a nice little place. What amazing views, too! I’m heading to San Fran in June so maybe I’ll keep this one in mind. I like the contemporary feel of the rooms. That mirror really helps with the size feel of the room.

    • HI Travel Tales

      That mirror really does help, though it is a bit frightening to see yourself in there first thing in the morning. 😉 It is one of our favorite hotels in SF.

  4. Astrid Vinje

    I love staying in hotels that have a unique history. That’s cool that the Harbor Court used to be an Army-Navy YMCA residence. I love the view from that hotel!

    • HI Travel Tales

      That view, especially at night, is stunning!

  5. Mila Mili

    A historical building with a great view of one of the city’s landmarks is what I look for on my travels (with some essentials like cleanliness and comfort, of course). And if we are are talking about a hotel in SF with views of the Bay Bridge, then it is definitely sold to me. Who cares for not huge bathrooms?! There are too many interesting things to do in SF instead of spending time in the bathroom! Lol 🙂

    • HI Travel Tales

      Ok, laughing and you are so right … who spends much time in a hotel bathroom anyway. Although we will admit to a slight craving (and missing) for a hot bath after wandering about on cool and foggy San Franciso evening streets.

  6. Drew Hannush

    Wow, a very nice view. I guess you can look on the bright side of even disasters like earthquakes. Love the decor. Looks like a fantastic spot choose when you want to bring someone along and impress them.

    • HI Travel Tales

      Well, yes, there is always rebuilding after a disaster. The Harbor Court though is simply a classy hotel, whether or not you are trying to impress someone. Heck, either one of us would go their on our own … no impressing required. 😉

  7. yarasam

    Wow absolutely love the ambiance and decor of this little find! The Harbor Hotel looks fabulous and I wish I had stayed there during my last visit to San Fran! Beautiful photos, thank you so much for sharing.

    • HI Travel Tales

      Just means you will have to stay there on your next visit to SF. 😉

  8. Travel with Mei and Kerstin

    San Francisco is an expensive city. We lived there for 6 months back in 2013 and had a hard time to find a good inexpensive hotel while looking to rent a flat for a longer period. Also, rooms and flats are not very huge since, as you said, it’s a big city. But this hotel seems to be quite nice. What matters is first the location in SF, and of course the comfort and cleanliness of the rooms and bathrooms. And then that view is simply WOW! So thanks for this review, now we’ll know where to go next time we’re in town!

    • HI Travel Tales

      Therese went to school in San Francisco, so we know exactly what you are talking about … it is an expensive city. And yes, location location location … which is why we fell in love with the Harbor Court. And the view is superb!

  9. Mohana Das

    Such lovely views of the bay and the bridge 🙂 I love the design elements and the color palette of the rooms…classy and elegant! Staying at heritage buildings are always a priority for me if I can afford them. There is something about old buildings…the new/modern ones just can’t live up to that charm.

    • HI Travel Tales

      Old historic buildings that have been properly refurbished are the best. And yes, the Harbor Court is classy.

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Rating the Harbor Court Hotel San Francisco


Our Rating Our hotel ratings will tell you what we think of an individual property and are not a comparison to other hotels in the area. They are valid at the time of our visit. The rating below is specific to package deals at the Arizona Biltmore. We paid for our visit to the Biltmore with a summer package deal. Our ratings are a percent, with 100% being perfect and 0% some place not even a rat would stay. We rate cleanliness (dust on the windows, dirt under the beds, unclean bathroom fixtures, etc.), comfort (quiet, comfort of the bed, room amenities like robes or coffee machines, etc.), hotel amenities (free parking, breakfast included, free Wi-Fi, free bikes, fitness gear, workout room, pool, etc. -- and we are not fans of hotels who say they include all kinds of “free” amenities, but then charge a facilities fee!), location (ease of getting around by foot, bike, and car), and value (did we feel we got a good return for the amount paid).