The Best San Francisco SFO Airport Hotel

Traffic on route 101, the main highway leading to SFO airport, is bone gnarling bad. Long backups are routine anytime vaguely close to rush hour, but the Airport Hotel Guru has been bumper to bumper on the 101 at 3am as well. Given that, staying at an SFO hotel is useful if you are leaving on an early morning flight or arriving late at night. In addition, SFO’s location, roughly half way between downtown San Francisco and Palo Alto, is convenient if you have business in the peninsula region of the Bay Area. Most hotels are strung along 101, both north and south of the airport, although a few are in the commercial areas of Millbrae or Burlingame.

Best Overall SFO Airport Hotel

Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport The Best San Francisco SFO Airport Hotel

Each of the three highest-end SFO hotels—The Hyatt, The Westin San Francisco Airport and the Marriott San Francisco Airport—have similar quality rooms. All three are not only in close proximity to the airport but also to each other. All three have a gym and indoor pool. All three offer the most frequent complimentary airport shuttles of any SFO hotel (every 15 minutes normally, every 10 minutes during peak hours, and every 30 between midnight and 4am, in the case of the Hyatt and Marriott, or upon request, as with the Westin).

So how did the Hyatt beat out the Westin and the Marriott for our top airport hotel honors? First, because it tends to be between $30 and $60 cheaper.

Second, the Hyatt has the best vibe of the three. The Hyatt’s rooms are built around a large, sunny, tree-filled atrium, which is abuzz with activity during the day in a way befitting an international hotel. The Hyatt’s atrium also hosts a useful sandwich & coffee stand and a restaurant that does a superb buffet breakfast. In contrast, Marriott’s atrium is small and sedate, albeit pleasant and with views out on the bay; the Westin’s lobby is small and dark, almost to the point of being dreary.

Finally, the Hyatt has the best in-room internet situation: The wi-fi is free at the Hyatt if you have a T-mobile HotSpot account or $9.99 if you don’t. (Not incidentally, a T-mobile HotSpot account is extremely useful for San Francisco travel; there are HotSpot enabled Starbucks on nearly every block in the city and SFO airport itself is on the T-Mobile system). In contrast, you’ll shell out $12.95 for wireless at the Marriott or $11.95 for wired (wireless isn’t available) at the Westin. It is worth paying the Hyatt’s $20 premium for a bay view room if you can get one on top level ones towards the hotel’s front (eg. an odd numbered room between 9007 and 9023, or between 8007 and 8023). The so-call bay view rooms on the southeast side of the hotel aren’t really.

The Best San Francisco SFO Airport Hotel

The Best San Francisco SFO Airport Hotel

Honorable Mention Best SFO Hotel (away from the bay)

Quality Suites San Francisco Airport The Best San Francisco SFO Airport Hotel

The Quality Suites squeaks into our honorable mention spot because of its practical location and price. The Quality Suites is a block walk from Millbrae’s train station station, meaning guests have easy car-free access to downtown San Francisco (via BART) and to Palo Alto and San Jose (via CalTrain). From the Quality Suites you can also walk to several restaurants (there’s a good Chinese one across the street), coffee shops and supermarkets (including Trader Joe’s, an Airport Hotel Guru favorite). The only other hotel with a similarly useful location is the San Francisco Airport South Travelodge, and the rooms there are very tired and open to an outside balcony motel-like. Not that the rooms at the Quality Suites are outstanding, but they are reasonable enough and include a microwave and refrigerator; the hotel also has large open-air hot tub. The rate includes in-room wireless internet and a (limited) breakfast. Airport shuttles run every 30 minutes (if you book one) from 4am to midnight.

Note: The Quality Suites San Francisco Airport is a different from the Quality Inn & Suites Airport South and another nearby property simply (and confusingly) called the Quality Inn & Suites.

Honorable Mention Best SFO Hotel (on the bay)

Vagabond Inn Executive San Francisco Airport The Best San Francisco SFO Airport Hotel

This hotel as a whole does not get our Airport Hotel Guru honorable mention. The Vagabond is perfectly OK—we appreciate their free in-room wireless internet and complimentary (basic) breakfast. However, 14 rooms are really special: 222 and 322, 2/321, 2/319, 2/317, 2/318, 2/316, 2/315. These rooms have private balconies that look at on stop of San Francisco Bay from the water’s edge and are heavenly places to spend part of a sunny day. The Vagabond is next door to two restaurants—a good Mexican place and a sort of dulled down version of a Rainforest Cafe—each of which also has a superb bay view. Complimentary airport shuttles run every 30 minutes from 4am to midnight.

Closest Accommodations to the San Francisco Airport

Technically, the closest hotel to SFO is the Clarion Hotel San Francisco. The in-room internet at the Clarion costs $9.95, but the rooms are quiet and clean and the Clarion’s airport shuttle runs every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. If you are looking for a value hotel with the shortest time between gap between the airport and your hotel bed then the Clarion is your choice. That said, the Westin is right next door to the Clarion, and their run shuttles every 10 minutes during peak hours. The Marriott and Hyatt, in turn, are down the street from the Westin and both for those run equally frequent shuttles and have express check-in kiosks.

Cheapest San Francisco Airport Hotel

The cheapest airport hotel, at around $40~$45 a night, is usually the Motel 6 San Francisco Airport but, oof, it is not good. And the Motel 6 doesn’t run a complimentary shuttle, so it isn’t even particularly cheap after you spring the $10~$12 for your one-way taxi ride. Better to spend a few bucks more and stay at the Good Nite Inn SFO The Best San Francisco SFO Airport Hotel or the Travelodge San Francisco Airport North. Both of those properties run airport shuttles (every 30 minutes) and offer free in-room internet. Neither are particularly clean or pleasant; the Good Nite Inn is maybe the slightly nicer of the two.

The Most Luxurious San Francisco Airport Hotel

The Westin, Marriott, Hyatt and Radisson are roughly equivalent. Of those we prefer the Hyatt—see Best Airport Hotel, above.

Best Value San Francisco Airport Hotel

SFO tends to have a stark line between hotels that keep their prices relative consistent throughout the week and those that have an enormous price difference (upwards of 100%) between a weekday and weekend night. Hotels in the latter category—like the Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Radisson and Sheraton Gateway—cater more to business and convention travelers. Hotels with more consistent rates include the Clarion, Good Nite Inn, Hampton Inn, Motel 6, Quality Suites, Vagabond Inn Executive. As always, some of your best rates are to be found via Airport Hotel Guru booking partners.

Best Value (weekend night)

Homewood Suites by Hilton San Francisco Airport North The Best San Francisco SFO Airport Hotel

To call the Homewood’s accommodations “suites” is a bit of a misnomer—they are really more like L-shaped single rooms. Nevertheless, the rooms/suites do include a little kitchenette with microwave, full-size refrigerator and an area with a couch and work area. The bathrooms are a little minimalist though a stay at the Homewood comes with some nice little touches, like complimentary (and fast) wi-fi in the rooms, a dinner “welcome reception” (Monday through Thursday) and a free breakfast with a few hot dishes and self-service waffles. Unfortunately, there are no stores or restaurants within walking distance of the hotel (there ‘s a 24-hour little shop off the lobby selling basic food items and microwavable meals). In exchange for the isolated location you get a gorgeous spot along San Francisco Bay; joggers will appreciate the trail that runs along the shore. For bay views the best room at the Homewood Suites are number 446 or 346; second best are the even numbered room from 400 to 410, and then the even numbers from 426 to 444 or from 300 to 310. The Homewood’s complimentary airport shuttle also services the Radisson next door. The first shuttle departs the Homewood at 4pm, the last departs SFO’s Terminal 1 at 12:12am, Terminal 2 at 12:15, Terminal 3 (the International terminal) at 12:20.

Best Value SFO Hotel

Best Value (week night)

Quality Suites San Francisco Airport The Best San Francisco SFO Airport Hotel, see above.

Best Hotel for Airplane Watching

The six best rooms for watching planes land are at The Westin: rooms 6/712, 6/713 and 6/714. Equally as good are the Marriott’s airport view rooms.

Airport Info

San Francisco SFO Airport

Access 500 airport lounges
San Francisco International Airport | SFO Airport Transportation

Priority Pass Lounges at SFO: The Best San Francisco SFO Airport Hotel In the Domestic Terminal: Alaska Airlines Board Room (Concourse B, between Gates 22 and 24), Continental Presidents Club (Concourse B, next to the Continental ticket counter), Delta Crown Room Club (Concourse C). In the International Terminal: Northwest Worldclub (Concourse A), United Red Carpet Club (Concourse G).Priority Pass members have access to these lounges regardless of what airline they fly or what class they fly in.

Accepts Clear Fly Through Security: The Best San Francisco SFO Airport Hotel Yes, at three points in the Domestic Terminal and two in the International Terminal. Save 25% when you sign up now

San Francisco Travel Info

Best SFO Airport Hotel

Official Tourist Bureau Website

Best San Francisco Travel Guidebooks

Kindle 2 eBook Reader Best San Francisco Guidebook for the Kindle: Frommer’s San Francisco guide is outstanding. We also like Walking San Francisco which maps out 30 wonderful walking tours though different San Francisco neighborhoods.

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The Kindle is an electronic e-book reading device with a screen that mimics the look of the printed page. The device is as thin as a magazine, lighter than a paperback, holds up to 1,500 books (!). Highly suggested for frequent travelers.

Best San Francisco Guidebook Best San Francisco Paper Guidebooks: There are several great Bay Area guidebooks; two of our favorites are the Rough Guide (for general travel info) the Wallpaper City Guide (for high-end travel). The Zagat Guide has the best, most up-to-date restaurant reviews. Great specialty guides include The Cafes of San Francisco and the Frommer’s Napa & Sonoma Day by Day wine tasting guide. Also, the Streetwise laminated map is an invaluable tool for finding your way around.
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Harris 05.04.09 at 2:18 am

Nice hotel review!

Mount Rainier Jake 09.14.10 at 6:32 pm

I’ve stayed at that Hyatt and it is huge inside. Had a pretty good experience, but more importantly it was super close to the airport, too.

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