After stops in Seattle and San Diego, I’d conclude my US West Coast trip with a night in San Francisco. This would be my first visit to the Bay Area in many years, and I was looking forward to getting a quick taste of the city’s hotel scene.
JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square – Booking
My choice in staying at the JW Marriott ultimately came down to the cost.
Arguably higher-end brands like the St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, and W all maintain a presence in San Francisco, but their nightly rates (in both cash and points) were on the extremely expensive end when I was looking to book a few weeks out.
I toyed with the idea of booking using a corporate code, but the rates were still higher than I would’ve liked, and none of these properties boasted stellar reviews in the first place.
On the other hand, the JW Marriott would cost me only US$175 for the night, which I was quite happy to pay for a comfortable one-night stay in the heart of downtown.
Somehow, the hotel is designated as a Category 7 Marriott Bonvoy property that requires 60,000 Bonvoy points per night for a free night at the standard rate, which is a far less attractive deal than paying cash here.
JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square – Location
The JW Marriott is situated in the Lower Nob Hill neighbourhood at the corner of Post St and Mason St. It’s one of many chain hotels in the area, a short distance from both the hustle and bustle of the Financial District to the east and the shopping and restaurants of Market Street and Soma to the south.
I arrived at the hotel via a 30-minute Uber ride from San Francisco International Airport (SFO). As a few local friends had warned me about, it was a shame to see that Downtown San Francisco had gotten noticeably more rough around the edges since the pandemic, including the immediate area surrounding the hotel.
The main lobby and front desks are located on the third floor, so I took the elevators up from the ground-floor entrance upon my arrival.
JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square – Check-in
A lone associate helped me handle my check-in for the one-night stay. He recognized my Titanium Elite status, but didn’t mention the welcome amenity of a choice between 1,000 Bonvoy points or a US$10 food and beverage credit – for which I’d later claim US$100 in elite guarantee compensation.
He did, however, mention that the JW Marriott’s executive lounge was currently closed. Normally, JW Marriotts are supposed to provide elite members with complimentary breakfast in the restaurant as an alternative if the lounge is closed.
But much to my dismay, as per Marriott’s loyalty program terms and conditions, the JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square is on a select list of properties that are exempt from this benefit:
I certainly should’ve done better research before picking this hotel, and was disappointed that I wouldn’t be treated to my usual free breakfast in the morning (well, besides the fact that the US$100 elite guarantee ended up paying for it anyway).
The associate also confirmed my Studio Suite upgrade that I had requested via the chat service earlier, and handed me my keys to make my way upstairs via the old-school glass elevators in the middle of the hotel’s atrium.
JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square – Studio Suite
The JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square was formerly known as the Pan Pacific Hotel, and it certainly looks like a rebranded property rather than a “true” JW Marriott since the start.
The overall atmosphere, including the somewhat dated hallway decor and the massive atrium in the middle of the building, felt slightly off-brand compared to my previous JW Marriott stays.
Still, the rooms and suites had certainly been refurbished to JW Marriott standards, and I was quite impressed when I entered the Studio Suite, which I thought was a great size for San Francisco.
The suite consisted of a combined sitting area and master bedroom, along with a high-top table in the far corner.
I didn’t spend too much time in the room, since I had some evening plans lined up with Sebastian from Ask Sebby followed by a morning departure, but I made full use of the king-sized bed for a comfortable night of sleep and the high-top table for sneaking in some work before breakfast.
The walk-in closet, vanity, and bathroom all branch off from the foyer, forming a very spacious combined complex. If I were in town for longer, I would’ve been very happy with this suite as a home base, given the reasonable price point and the complimentary upgrade.
The corner suite offered east- and south-facing views, with the pointy tip of the Transamerica Pyramid visible just above the neighbouring buildings.
JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square – Breakfast
As I mentioned earlier, the JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square didn’t offer free breakfast in lieu of the lounge being closed. Nevertheless, I had arranged to meet my friend JetAlbert for breakfast in the morning, so I decided to simply go ahead and pay for breakfast.
Breakfast is hosted in the lobby lounge, and coffee or tea is complimentary with your order.
I went ahead and had the omelette for US$31.50, which was expensive, but at least would’ve been “covered” by my elite guarantee compensation.
JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square – Other Facilities
Ordinarily, breakfast for elite members would’ve been served in the Executive Lounge, which is situated on the hotel’s top floor, but was closed during my visit.
Also at the top floor was a small rooftop patio that looked like a nice spot to hang out in times of better weather (it was surprisingly chilly on the mid-August day that I was in town, although apparently not too surprising for Bay Area locals).
The hotel also offers a fitness centre on the fifth floor, which I briefly stopped by to check out before departing. While it’s fairly small, it has all the essential equipment for getting a workout while on the road.
After stopping by the front desk to claim my elite guarantee compensation (the general manager would later reach out and graciously grant it, based on the elite welcome benefit not having been offered), I hopped into an Uber en route to SFO for my mid-morning departure back to Vancouver.
There were a few enjoyable elements to take away from my stay at the JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square. The hotel is reasonably priced as an upper-mid-range property with a convenient location in the heart of Downtown SF, and I also appreciated the upgrade to a spacious Studio Suite for the night.
However, the hotel’s non-participation in offering breakfast in lieu of a closed Executive Lounge was very disappointing, and it does dissuade me from wanting to return in the future even if the lounge were open.
Combined with the slightly less polished interior decor compared to the better JW Marriott properties around the world, and even though I’m happy to have tried out this hotel, I will likely give another property a chance on my next San Francisco trip.
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