Review: InterContinental San Francisco

The InterContinental San Francisco, located in the up-and-coming SoMa (South of Market) district, is a modern upscale hotel. The US$200 million, 550-room hotel opened on 28 February 2008 and is located at 888 Howard St (lucky eight).

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The property is right next to the ‘Moscone Center’, San Francisco’s largest convention centre, so room rates fluctuate with conventions. It is a very nice hotel. It was previously Barack Obama’s go-to hotel as US President (the previously being a good thing – there is nothing worse than staying at a hotel when a US President is staying there).

The central entrance door is of the frustrating non-automatic revolving variety and there are doors on either side, with the one on the right also able to be opened electrically.

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Inside, the lobby is very pleasant. It contains the hotel bar (‘Bar 888’), and a Michelin-starred restaurant, in addition to sitting areas.

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After a short wait to check-in, we were promptly checked in and handed RFID cards to our room. The elevators are located at the last right opening (pictured below) before the start of the bar and restaurant.

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We were assigned a ‘junior suite’ with club access. This is the standard Royal Ambassador upgrade here, even when booking the lowest room category.

These rooms are on floors up to level 30. It was not necessary to use a keycard to operate the elevator.

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Junior suite

Our junior suite was at the far end of the hall.

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The light fittings on each side of the bed contain an outlet, handy for putting your phone on charge. They also contain a light switch which is highly illuminated when switched off. Sleeping in the glow of these may prove difficult for some. Others will be frustrated that the curtains don’t overlap, letting a crack of light in the middle.

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The room was very spacious and we did wonder whether the room could have done with a little more in the way of furniture. We would call this a corner king room, rather than a junior suite. This is because the seating faced the bed, rather than being off to one side as a separate sitting area (although not a separate room).

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The pillar in the corner probably made it difficult for the designers, but we did wonder why there wasn’t a small dining table in the room given the amount of space.

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Our welcome amenity was waiting on the desk. Two small glass bottles of water (one still, one sparkling), along with some fruit and a delicious nut mix. Each evening two additional small glass bottles of Evian were delivered to our room by housekeeping.

The desk had a large Cisco IP phone – note for future guests: to call instant service you first need to lift the handset and then press instant service. There was also a less complicated phone located by the bed, and one in the bathroom next to the shower.

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The mini-bar was located under the desk and contained a good selection. As seems common in American hotels that still have mini-bars, it was equipped with sensors. There was also full size bottles of water available on the top of the desk.

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There was a Keurig coffee maker located in the cupboard also.

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We often heard the sirens of fire appliances (that’s fire truck in the old parlance) in the distance during our stay.

Bathroom with natural light

The bathroom was spacious and had a full wall of windows facing straight outside, with curtains. Closing these to the edge was a challenge, but important, given that the bathroom door is made of frosted glass and so directs any morning light straight through into the room.

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The tub wasn’t as deep as you would expect from a recently constructed hotel, but was perfectly pleasant to use.

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The hotel had some Eco-Boutique Aloe Leaf & Green Tea (‘with organic and natural extracts’) amenities from the Czech Republic. These were quite nice.

The hotel has LEED Gold environmental certification. The most obvious manifestation of this is that the hotel’s shower heads have water flow restricters on them.

The faucet in the sink also puts out a pathetic flow of water, meaning the only way to rinse the sink is to close the drain and full the sink – surely not the most environmentally friendly approach.

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Pool, spa and gym

On level 6 (same floor as the Club) the hotel has a full service spa.

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Down the hallway, and accessible to all guests, is the pool and gym.

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You can see straight into the gym from the pool, and it seemed to be very modern and well equipped.

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There is also a jacuzzi, but in contrast to the eco-friendly ethos of the hotel, it was highly chlorinated.

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Privately owned public space

This property has public open space in the form of terraces on level 4 and 6. News reports indicate that this ~1,100 sqm (12,000 square feet) of public open space across these two terraces, was a condition of development approval as a result of city policy.

The InterContinental San Francisco is apparently angling to take private their two public terraces in exchange for paying a fee. It isn’t clear to us what the hotel would use these terraces for, but given that no-one seems to use them for anything now, that doesn’t seem to be such a bad move.

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There is also a spa terrace on the other side of the hotel (accessible through an unlocked door across from the pool and gym entrance), which isn’t trapped in the shade of the building. This also seems underused.

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Given how long this post has become, we’ll review the Club InterContinental in our next post.

The InterContinental San Francisco is a high quality hotel. The gleaming glass tower’s floor-to-ceiling windows add to the luxurious feel of the furnishings.

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