A team of Oyster reporters spent weeks exploring 59 top hotels in San Francisco. We slept in the beds, ate in the restaurants, tested the service, and scoped out the neighborhoods, all with an eye toward selecting the most distinguished properties. Here’s a list of some of our favorite hotels that have been approved by the Travel Alternatives Group and/or the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.

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Hotel Emblem

San Francisco, California, United States

This homey 94-room Union Square hotel designed to evoke 1920s and '30s literary salons feels like a bookstore/hotel mash-up. Its lobby is lined with shelves of antique books, antique-looking reading desks, and armchairs fit for an afternoon of poring over the classics. Despite the retro theme, the rooms are equipped with modern gadgetry and comforts, including wall-mounted, 36-inch flat-panel TVs, iPod docks, and plush pillow-top beds. The cozy lobby bar hosts a free nightly wine hour, and an on-site bistro offers up well-priced Californian fare.


Hotel Zelos San Francisco

Union Square, San Francisco, California, United States

This downtown boutique hotel caters to sophisticated lovebirds, who appreciate the free nightly wine hour and rotating paintings on the walls (borrowed from local museums). Large rooms have a bright, modern design and come with fun flair like animal-print bathrobes. The hotel's New American restaurant, Fifth Floor, is a great spot for an upscale evening meal, and has an extensive wine list. Art lovers can request the Rene Magritte Suite, with its blue sky ceiling, a bowler hat, and a bowl of green apples.


Laurel Inn, a Joie de Vivre hotel

Pacific Heights, San Francisco, California, United States

Modern décor, unusually large, well-furnished, apartment-like rooms -- many with mini kitchens -- and lots of free perks place the 49-room Laurel Inn at the top of our list of best values for San Francisco. Generous free extras include Wi-Fi, all-day coffee and tea, a glass of wine, and afternoon lemonade and cookies, while parking is more reasonably priced than at other San Francisco hotels ($18 a night). Guests also get discounted passes to a local gym with adult and children's pools. And the hotel's location, in beautiful, residential Pacific Heights, amid upscale galleries and boutiques, is a welcome alternative to other frenetic, tourist-heavy neighborhoods.


Hotel Zephyr

Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California, United States

The Radisson doesn't play up it's family appeal, but it should. Its heated outdoor pool is among the nicest in the city thanks to features like an electric firepit, gardens, palm trees, and plenty of deck chairs and umbrella tables on the pool deck. Some half-dozen other big-chain hotels vie for tourists in the family-focused waterfront area of Fisherman's Wharf, the Radisson is closer to the wharf than the Hilton, Hyatt, Sheraton, and Holiday Inn (and it's often cheaper too).


W San Francisco

SoMa, San Francisco, California, United States

You can't ask for a closer location to the Moscone Convention Center than this W outpost in the SoMa Art District. Aside from a quick morning commute for convention-goers, the property offers a responsive, on-site concierge and rooms with an extensive pillow menu -- body pillows, neckrolls, firm foam PrimaLofts, feather-filled -- plus bright work desks, minibars, iPod docks, 24-hour room service, and Wi-Fi ($14 a day, though it's free in public spaces). Add the 24-hour fitness center, heated lap pool, 5,000-square-foot Bliss Spa, and a restaurant with an award-winning wine list, and this becomes a stellar choice for the corporate crowd.