Inn at the Presidio

The Presidio, San Francisco, United States Book from

Reviewed by Nadine Mellor
Former officers' quarters turned stylish inn, at the heart of the Presidio, a National Park at the top of San Francisco's peninsula
Think San Francisco and what comes to mind? Flower power, beatniks and fog? High tech and Slow Food? Earthquakes and a famous red bridge? Add the Presidio to these iconic features: a former army base (which began life as an 18th-century Spanish fort), now a thriving National Park after 200 years of military service, on the tip of the city just below the Golden Gate.

The Presidio Trust has overseen the unique transfer of these beautiful 3 square miles to mixed commercial and public use, and the Inn at the Presidio, which opened in 2012, is the only lodgings within the park. Guests are billeted in the former bachelor officers' building and a smaller separate Victorian-style home across the road. An intelligent renovation pays homage to heritage by incorporating memorabilia (vintage bugles adorn one wall) and using authentic materials (fire pit patio pavers are the same stone as headstones in the cemetery). All 26 spacious rooms and suites are light and immaculately turned out. Military precision.

Highs

  • Wonderful setting in the heart of the Presidio - an area largely unfamiliar to visitors but well worth a visit for tranquil roads lined with red-roofed dwellings, eucalyptus-scented woodland and nature trails for hiking and biking
  • Close to San Francisco's iconic sights such as the Golden Gate, Baker Beach and Crissy Field, and within reach of lively parts of town like the Marina and Union Street
  • Classy, clever interior design, which acknowledges the buildings' military past yet is delightfully chic and contemporary
  • Charming helpful staff
  • Complimentary wine, cheese and nibbles every evening

Lows

  • Getting here requires a car or taxi, and you'll have to book a cab in advance to venture out if you don't have a car; not close to the tourist sights of downtown or Fisherman's Wharf
  • No restaurant for lunch and dinner, though there are a couple in the Presidio, 10 minutes' walk away, and eating out in San Francisco itself is always a joy
  • Not that easy to find (twisty roads, can be dark at night), and most taxi drivers won't have heard of the hotel
  • Availability can be tricky, book ahead (and if unlucky, try sister property Cavallo Point Lodge across the Bridge)
  • No twin rooms but all Classic King Suites have queen sofabeds

Best time to go

The Bay Area is delightful all year. Summer months are the warmest, have the most blue sky and certainly the best outdoor adventures inland, but the fog does tend to roll in along the coast, resulting in the Bridge tips poking up through the fog bank - a phenomenon indeed. Spring brings a profusion of wild flowers in the Headlands and migrating birds, autumn brings harvest bounty in Sonoma and Napa. Winters are when the rain comes, but it is always mild and there's never a frost.

Our top tips

Be sure to walk around the Presidio - either explore one of the nature trails (the Ecology Trail starts in the car park) or head down through the landscaped grounds of Lucasfilm's Industrial Light and Magic headquarters towards the Palace of Fine Arts and then to Crissy Field beyond.

Great for...

City Style
Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 26
  • Breakfast only, restaurants nearby
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Rates" class=" iconified " > Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
  • Fire pit
Room: King Suite

Rooms

Most guests are stationed in the 3-storey main building - former bachelor officers' quarters handsomely converted into a stylish garrison of 22 rooms and suites. Deep porches with rocking chairs run along its length (rooms on the first 2 floors open onto them); you get views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay from the top floor. Note that in the biggest rooms, prices increase with each floor.

Super comfortable, rooms are kitted out with high quality (yet unshowy) furnishings and fixtures. Smallest rooms, in the middle of the main building, were once the servants' lodgings: these Standard Queen and King rooms still feel spacious and luxurious with desk and chair plus sleek tiled shower bathrooms. Mostly, though, the Inn is comprised of 2-room Classic King Suites, where the officers once lived. These have the addition of a gas fireplace plus shower and tub combo in the bathroom, and a sofabed in the living room, as well as large wardrobes, chest of drawers, coffee table and armchairs.

A further 4 (Classic King and Standard Queen) rooms are across the road on 'Officers Row' in Funston House, built 1862, which housed army officers and their families. Guests share a living room, dining room and porch plus outdoor patio, and the whole house can be booked as one unit.

All artwork is themed to the Presidio - a shadow box of memorabilia has been created for each room, and every bathroom has a vintage postcard sent from or about the Presidio. Each room also has a photograph of a Presidio artefact or place, and its source is pinned on the map in reception so guests can head out to find it. Mine was of the view from Inspiration Point which I walked up to along the Ecology Trail to enjoy in person.

Mod cons include robes and slippers, EO toiletries, shaving mirror, flatscreen TVs with movies on demand, MP3 player docking stations, mini-fridges, and tea- and coffee-making facilities. High ceilings, big windows and original plasterwork enhances the heritage feel. And, most importantly, EuroTop beds are sublime, inducing the soundest of sleeps.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • DVD players (on request)
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Ipod dock
  • Iron
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Slippers
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Umbrella
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfast is the only meal on offer, taken in the light-filled breakfast room towards the rear of the building. The buffet is laid out along the back wall: hard-boiled eggs, granola and cereals, fresh fruit salad, a tier of muffins, pastries and scones, sliced breads for toasting, condiments and a plate of cold cuts. OJ, tea, coffee and hot chocolate are the beverages of choice.

Early evening, further rations in the form of complimentary wine and cheese are set out - a chance to meet fellow guests. You'll need to head out for dinner (unless you order take-out for your room, which can be arranged), and there are 2 recommended restaurants within the Presidio, a 10-minute walk away: the Presidio Social Club serves 'California comfort food' brasserie-style and has a long bar, and Dixie offers fine dining with a fusion menu of Southern and Californian dishes. Staff will advise on other eateries and destinations within San Francisco - one of the foodie capitals of the world so you'll be spoiled for choice.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Discover the history of the Presidio, hike its nature trails, climb up to Andy Goldsworthy's Spire via Inspiration Point for fabulous vistas, play golf, picnic, spot wildlife (there are also talks, exhibitions, tours - ask for details and times)
  • Walk (or cycle or jog) along Crissy Field, the foreshore of San Francisco Bay, for, some say, the best views in the city taking in Baker Beach, the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, Angel Island, Alcatraz and the city skyline; great birding along here, too
  • Drive or cycle over to Marin Headlands - the hotel has bikes to borrow. You can take the ferry back across the Bay from Sausalito
  • Take a boat trip to Alcatraz for more fascinating history, or charter a sailing boat to navigate the Bay yourself
  • Explore the Marina and Union Street district's boutiques and bars
  • Sample San Francisco's excellent fine dining scene; visit the farmer's market at the Embarcadero
  • Get to know Golden Gate Park, which has a boating lake, conservatory, the world-famous Academy of Sciences opposite the de Young Fine Arts Museum, the Botanical Gardens, Japanese Tea Garden and stretches to the ocean (past the bison)
  • Escape the city: Napa and Sonoma wine regions, Muir Woods, Muir Beach, Stinson Beach, hiking up Mt Tamalpais and Point Reyes are all very worthwhile day trips

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Private guided tours
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Whalewatching
  • Wildlife
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

Inn at the Presidio is a good place for families to stay, and they are made to feel very welcome, although there are few facilities specifically designed for kids. The Inn is superbly located for family friendly activities, however, and older kids and teens will love staying here. Children up to 15 years of age are free of charge when sharing their parents' room. Extended families could take Funston House in its entirety.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Extra beds and baby cots can be added to the Classic King Suites.

Babysitting:

Babysitting is available with advance notice, see Rates.

Children's meals:

The breakfast buffet will have options to suit most. Milk and cookies are provided for kids at other times of day.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Board games

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Ecology trail designed for kids aged 5-10, plus numerous other trails to choose from
  • Biking
  • Disney Museum
  • Playground
  • Bowling alley
  • Planet Granite is an indoor climbing gym
  • Discovery Museum across the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Golden Gate Park (with Academy of Sciences, Botanic Garden, Japanese Tea Garden, playground, boating lake, frisbee golf course, ocean access, meadows) is about 15 minutes to the south

Distances:

  • Airport 45 minutes - 1.5 hours (depending on traffic)
  • Hospital: 15 minutes
  • Shops: 10 minutes
Kid Friendly:

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