InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco: Bottom Line Review

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My wife and I recently spent six nights at the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco. This was paid for in a number of ways – one regular paid night, two nights using an Ambassador free weekend night (i.e. paying for the first of those two nights) and three IHG free night certificates.

I don’t regret us staying there, but I can’t unreservedly recommend it either. It has the potential to be a great place to stay in the right circumstances, so here’s my Bottom Line Review where I set out the pros and cons.

Bottom Line Review InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco

InterContinental San Francisco Mark Hopkins Bottom Line Review

There are a couple of InterContinental properties in San Francisco – the one we stayed at was the Mark Hopkins on Nob Hill.

The stay was good and its position at the top of Nob Hill ensures you should have a great view from most rooms. However, the rooms aren’t particularly large, parking is extremely expensive and if you want to walk around the city, being at the top of the hill means walking back to the hotel can be strenuous.

  • Points Price: IHG has dynamic pricing, so the points price can vary a lot. The final three nights of our stay cost 37,000 points for two of those nights and 38,000 points for the other. Those nights were therefore a perfect use of our IHG free night certificates as those can be redeemed for nights costing up to 40,000 points.
    If we’d used points for our first three nights, the first two of those would’ve cost 30,000 points and the third would’ve been 27,000 points.
  • Cash Price: As with points pricing, the cash price can vary a lot. Our first night was a regular paid night which cost $272.49 including tax; that was a special rate which included parking at a reduced rate. For our second and third nights, we used my Ambassador free weekend night certificate; that gets you the second night free when paying for the first night. That’s based on the standard rate and so was a little more than the cheapest available rate – the cost for that was $243.38 including tax.
    If we’d paid cash for our final three nights rather than using free night certificates, that would’ve cost us $269.38 per night including tax.
  • Points Value: Potentially very good. If you’re using free night certificates, saving ~$250 per night in exchange for a $49 or $89 annual fee on an IHG credit card is great value.
    Similarly, using points can be good value too. If you redeemed 35,000 points rather than paying $250, you’d be getting 0.71cpp of value – better than the value you could normally expect to get from IHG points. If you can take advantage of the 4th night free benefit for IHG Premier and Traveler cardholders and/or the 10% rebate for IHG Select cardholders, redeeming points becomes even better value.
  • Resort or Destination Fee: Yes, $33.77 on paid stays. This was introduced in February after we’d booked our stay, so I didn’t know about it until checking our bill after checking out. This was only charged on our first night; it wasn’t charged when redeeming free night certificates, nor the paid night we booked in order to utilize the Ambassador free weekend night certificate. We weren’t advised of the fee, nor did we receive any of the benefits that the fee is supposed to provide:
    • $10 daily dining credit in the Nob Hill Club restaurant
    • Top of the Mark preferred seating
    • Local retail and dining savings
    • Complimentary electric car charging
  • Parking: The hotel offers valet parking for an extortionate $76.38 per night. There were other parking options nearby for ~$40 per night, but we decided to park at the hotel nonetheless. We travel full-time with everything we own and didn’t want to have to bring everything in to a small hotel room, so we figured the stuff we left in our car would be safer in the hotel’s private parking lot than a public lot.
    We might have gotten lucky with parking though. Our first night had parking included in the rate, then the next four nights we were only charged $30 per night. I think our final night we were charged $76.38, but I can’t access a copy of that night’s bill on IHG’s website, so can’t verify as we had one or two other charges to our room that night.
    I’m therefore not sure if the $30 charges were based on how much parking cost on that first night’s special rate, if Ambassadors get reduced parking charges or if some other factor was at play. I certainly wasn’t going to highlight it to them.
  • Room: It was nice enough, but cozy. We booked a one king bed standard room and I think the room upgrade we got from having Ambassador status was one on a higher floor rather than one with more square footage.
    The room was clean and not run down which is something I was concerned about ahead of time seeing as it’s an older property. The walls seemed to be fairly thin; we could hear the conversation of the people staying in the room next to us the first night even though they weren’t shouting, but the hotel overall was quiet.
    The shower had very good water pressure which I was pleasantly surprised about too given the property’s age.
  • Pet Policy: Dogs and cats up to 50 lbs are allowed and there’s no pet fee. We stayed there with our dog and the lack of the pet fee was one of the reasons we decided to stay there.
    Another great feature for dog owners is that the InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco is only one block from Huntington Park. One of the annoying things about staying with a dog downtown in large cities is that you often have to walk several blocks to find any semblance of grass. Huntington Park isn’t huge, but has more than enough grass for your pup’s needs. Just be aware that even though the park requires that dogs be on leash, we found that there were often at least half a dozen dogs off leash.
  • Housekeeping: I forget what their policy was. I think they offered daily service, but we tend to decline housekeeping for all hotel stays and so I’m not sure if they would’ve serviced our room if we didn’t have the Do Not Disturb sign on our door.
  • Turndown service: The website lists it as being available. I don’t know if it’s only on request, but our Do Not Disturb sign is presumably why we didn’t receive it.
  • Internet: Very good. My wife teaches online a couple of days a week and didn’t have any issue using Zoom for each class.
  • Dining
    • Nob Hill Club: This is the main restaurant on the first floor. Seeing as IHG doesn’t offer complimentary breakfast for Spire Elite or Ambassador members, we got breakfast from Starbucks each day rather than paying for it at the hotel.
    • Top of the Mark: This is a sky lounge on the hotel’s top (18th) floor and offers panoramic views of the area.
  • Spa: None.
  • Fitness Room: Yes. This had 3 treadmills, 2 bikes, 1 recumbent bike, 2 ellipticals and weights.
  • Pool: None.
  • Service: Service was very good overall, although there were some shortcomings.
    • The Good
      • All the valet staff members were fantastic – incredibly friendly and helpful.
      • Due to how I’d had to book our six nights, we had five separate reservations. Aman at the front desk ensured all those reservations were linked when checking in which meant we didn’t have to check out and back in each day which we greatly appreciated.
      • Although we declined housekeeping during our stay, the housekeeping employees we’d see out and about were friendly and always said hello.
    • The Bad
      • When checking out, I asked for a copy of our bill. I was advised one would be emailed to me, but nothing was ever sent.
      • I think we were overcharged for the final night as the $20 Ambassador food & beverage credit didn’t seem to get applied to our bill. Despite emailing the hotel directly and contacting IHG through their website, they’ve ignored me.
      • The hotel now charges a $33.77 destination fee, but this wasn’t disclosed after our booking nor when checking in. They also didn’t provide any of the benefits that the destination fee is supposed to include.
    • The Ugly
      • I’m not sure if my wife and I didn’t look the part or if something else was up, but the host at Top of the Mark seemed incredibly snotty. I overheard another weird interaction he had with a couple of other guests, so it might just be that he’s terrible at his job rather than because we weren’t dressed up to have a drink there.
  • IHG Elite Benefits: Ahead of our stay I paid for Ambassador status. This cost $200, but by paying for two nights I should earn 20,000 bonus points that I value at $100.
    • Guaranteed one category room upgrade: We were given a room on the 14th floor rather than a larger room. This ensured we had a good view when it wasn’t foggy; we got lucky during our stay and had beautiful weather for nearly our entire stay.
    • Complimentary premium internet: As mentioned earlier, this was very good.
    • Restaurants & bars credit of up to USD20 for every stay: On our final night we went for a drink at Top of the Mark. The $20 is only enough to cover one cocktail and a tip.
    • Complimentary mineral water: We received two bottles per day; these are obtained by asking at the front desk. These came in InterContinental-branded metallic bottles/cans.
    • 4PM late checkout: This is a benefit of Ambassador status rather than one IHG provides as part of the IHG Rewards program. This presumably would’ve been honored had we requested it, but we wanted to get down to Monterey in good time and so checked out by about midday.
  • Would I stay again? Possibly. If we flew rather than drove into San Francisco and didn’t plan on renting a car (and thus wouldn’t need to pay for parking at the hotel), I’d be more than happy staying there again using IHG free night certificates if I could find award availability for 40,000 points per night or fewer.
    For paid stays though, you could probably make your ~$250 per night go further elsewhere, especially now that they’ve added a resort fee of $33.77 on top of that. Parking at more than $75 makes it hard to recommend if you’ll be driving into the city.
  • Pros:
    • Great value when using free night certificates.
    • No pet fee.
    • Excellent views from many rooms and Top of the Mark.
    • Nob Hill seemed like a nice neighborhood.
    • Most of the staff members were very friendly and helpful.
    • Although the property is old, they’ve maintained it very well and it doesn’t feel at all run down.
    • Close to a cable car line.
    • A couple of blocks from the free Cable Car Museum – definitely worth a visit.
  • Cons:
    • $33.77 destination fee.
    • $76.38 parking fee.
    • If you’re planning on walking to and from the hotel, walking back to the hotel involves a lot of walking up steep hills.

Photos & Captions Follow

King bed standard room
King bed standard room – we slept well on the bed
Bathroom
Bathroom. There were small bottles of Pharmacopia toiletries rather than large refillable bottles
Sunset view from our room
Sunset view from our room
Truffles staying hydrated with our complimentary InterContinental water
Truffles staying hydrated with our complimentary InterContinental-branded water
Hotel lobby
Hotel lobby
The Powell & Hyde Sts cable car stops a block from the hotel, so you don't have to walk all the way uphill
The Powell & Hyde Sts cable car stops a block from the hotel, so you don’t have to walk all the way uphill
View from Top of the Mark. You can see the Golden Gate Bridge cloaked in fog in the distance
View from Top of the Mark. You can see the Golden Gate Bridge cloaked in fog in the distance
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Meghan

Based on this review, I booked the SoMa Intercontinental for an upcoming stay. The valet rate is the same, but no mention of an amenity/destination fee. The pet fee there is $100 though, so I don’t think Truffles would be a fan.

Adam

tl;dr: I also had utterly rude service at Top of The Mark, and there’s no way in hell I’m staying at a hotel that has a bullshit “destination charge.”

—-

Nope nope nope. Resort fees are bullshit enough, but I’m not staying at a hotel that has a “destination fee” any more than I’m purchasing a pair of jeans that has a hidden “sewing fee” or a charger that has a “plug fee.”

Adding insult to injury, I’ve visited the Top of the Mark a few times, including once with a friend who was also impeccably dressed and well-mannered and after an even-ruder-than-average waiter, we’re never going back.

My friend doesn’t drink, so we both ordered a juice and a couple of herbal teas. We were there WELL after dinner hour and the place was more than half empty, so we weren’t jeopardizing revenue.

“Really? REALLY? Is that ALL you’re having?” the waiter said with great annoyance. At first I thought he was joking, so I chuckled and he glared at me.

“Well, it is now” I told him.

Literally the first time in my life I left a 5 cent tip.

FNT Delta Diamond

Stayed there in November. IHG spire status.

Besides being completely empty like most of San Francisco at the time (finding a nice, sit-down restaurant open for lunch was impossible!), it was a dump.

Rooms were at least 7 years outdated. No USB outlets, accessible electrical outlets, 10-year-old TVs, worn carpeting, pealing wallpaper, damaged furniture. You get the idea.

Almost zero amenities or services were being provided. The food and drinks were absurdly overpriced for the quality.

Besides a light update around 2006-2010 (like the furniture and TVs), everything looked mostly unchanged since the 1980s or 1990s. Not even shabby chic. Just dilapidated. I’ve stayed at Holiday Inn Express properties that were nicer. The hotel should have closed and renovated floor-to-ceiling.

Pam

The Fairmont card is unfort a beautiful distant memory, but we had a wonderful stay with the last of our (converted) Accor points + Suite Upgrades pre-Covid/tent cities just next door. THAT property has so much enjoyable history both for the city & for Fairmont along with its inimitable Tonga Room & statue of Tony Bennett. Best bet at props with ridiculously-priced parking are often the inclusive packages.

Mark Hopkins

I’m sorry if this sounds blunt, but I think the actual bottom line of your review is that you had yourself something of a cultural collision.

  • You went to an old-money neighborhood to a hotel that sits on a parcel of land that used to be the estate of a financier of the transcontinental railroad. The hotel isn’t just an “historic property,” it’s been one of the grand dames of San Francisco since it was built in the 20’s. Age, small size, and slightly weathered looks are “patina” among the blue-blooded crowd.
  • The Top of the Mark is one of the few places in the whole city where people do dress to have a drink in an otherwise extremely casual city. A host should never be rude, to be clear, but that’s the context of where you were.
  • Your parking fee was basically for the luxury of having a car in Nob Hill overnight and in a city that actively wishes (through desnity, urban design, and policy) to discourage auto use in favor of other modes of transit. So you basically rented real estate (your car stall) that is the size of someone’s apartment going for $3500 a month. I only slightly joke here.
Adam

Sorry, but I strongly disagree re the parking issue.

  • SF isn’t really all that dense.
  • Unlike London, Tokyo, Stockholm, and other actually-decent (and more-dense) cities, SF doesn’t have safe, clean, convenient 24-hour public transit. Heck, even NYC public transit is leaps and bounds better than the sorry excuse for what SF has.
Kyle

I did a bit of an IHG hop in SFO recently. The Hopkins seemed like one of the most genuinely classy places I’ve stayed. We also did the new Intercontinental in SoMa which had really nice facilities, but the neighborhood is too sketch. And the Alton Kimptom in fisherman’s wharf was more casual but it included an evening reception and was a great location for seeing the sights on foot.

Pam

I just used my Amb free night in
Monterey at The IC Clement. Great property & location next to the Aquarium, ocean views, good Amb upgrade & freebies. Curious where your own Monterey stay was (hopefully not that crappy HR, we had 1 night & done).

Pam

Yeah it looks like the original entrance may have been facing the frontage road where all those yellow bars are, that’s now all deserted & creepy. The opposite side facing the golf course & tennis courts showed promise, but we were assigned by the dog park, lots of visible deferred maintenance & felt unsafe.

Pam

Ugh yeah you just reminded me of being on the 2nd floor with only stairs, lugging bags up for a 2-wk vacay. They mentioned none of that at check-in to get help in advance before driving around to the complete opposite side of the property!

There were dirty towels, garbage, & dog poop all around/on the stairs. Bfast was good, but the service was slow & disorganized. Ok…time for me to once more repress that stay.

Joe

I started out a little confused by your comment, but then realized it was because I actually wasn’t even aware the other half was part of the hotel. I don’t know what I thought it was, but it’s so incongruously worse than the other half by the lobby I thought it was anything else.

The time I stayed there I guess I lucked out and was on the other side and did enjoy my stay. I chalked up the layout as odd 70’s architectural decisions but for what it’s worth I thought the pods kind of kept it quiet.

Now that I know this, though, it’s extra galling how it’s one of the ones jumping up a category to 5 in a few days with the shakeup.

Pam

I think the property must be trying to pay for the lovely reno of the reception/outdoor patio area, bar, & restaurant. Very cute…we ended up hanging out up there as much as possible. Dated architecture is fine as long as it’s maintained, I mean that’s half of CA. I walked the whole of the property & was astonished just how dirty & neglected the back “pods” were, especially. It just mostly looked sad & tired from the outside.

One good tip from our stay: Monterey’s Fish House about a mile from the HR, on the dingy industrial side of town away from the tourist areas. Was on DDD & very good. Also 10th St liquor store just down the street to help ease our pain from the worst free night redemption we’ve ever made!

Ed S.

As a NorCal resident, the Top of the Mark bar is one of my favorite places to stop for a sunset drink while on a date. It was also the impetus behind me learning to research the locations of city/SFMTA-owned parking lots and garages before going; I once spent over $60 (in 2009 dollars!) at a privately-owned lot for 4-ish hours, whereas parking at Nob Hill’s Polk-Bush Garage is currently as low as $3/hour and $8 overnight.

Gene

@ Stephen — I’ve stayed at this hotel more than 100 times. Your review is way overly critical. You really expect to park a car in San Francisco for cheap? It costs $40 to valet park in Buckhead Atlanta or downtown Charlotte. BART. Muni, and uber go everywhere you need. Regarding the destination fee, you should have disputed it at check out. I’m sure it would have been removed.

You also very likely won’t be getting your TopCashBack since your reservations were merged. I warned you.

Adam

I’d have been tempted to contest the destination fee with your credit card just out of principle. Such utter, F-U customer (and city) bullshit. Literally the only reason hotels pull this scam is to make it harder for consumers to compare prices and to engage in tax avoidance.

Adam

Ah, yeah, that makes sense.

I’d still be tempted to post a lower-star rating on TripAdvisor and Google and such. If enough of these places pulling this crap get hit in the ratings, they might reconsider this annoying practice.

supaLink

Going to echo Gene here as a long-time SF resident. Parking & staying in Nob Hill is like booking a hotel in NYC Billionaire’s row, parking will be expensive. Thompson NYC parking goes for $75. Although to your point, you want to be in a private hotel lot given how rampant car break-ins are these days. Never leave anything in your car in SF.

Last edited 6 months ago by supaLink
dee

Stayed at the? St.Francis with a destination fee for?? the view was of a brick wall and we were told not to walk around the area take an Uber or Cab. We did a short horrifying walk to see all that has happened there via the homeless takeover. NOT PRETTY and a little scary,

Harry

Dittos to Andy’s remarks. I laughed when you said snooty. Nob Hill is about as high society and yes high (elevation) as you can get in SFO. If you stay downtown SFO, you’re either in a hole (financial district) or high on a hill and everything in between. I use to stay a business week at a time by in the 90s. My stays where off the “hill” at the Hyatt on Stockton Street (entrance to China town). Use to be a great city and it a shame how the Dems have run it down. Oh well. Weather, you’d better be prepared for anything, anytime regardless the time of the year.

Mark

The Dems ??? It’s ALWAYS been a DEM stronghold and that has nothing to do with it

Harry

It has everything to do with. At some point spending someone’s money catches you. SFO has been caught as most of CA and it shows. Otherwise quit moving to Texas, please.

Lynn

Yes, since police defunding and other dem actions, I would not feel safe in many big cities anymore!

andy

Nob Hill is/was the creme de la creme of San Francisco. So a parking fee at Nob Hill sounds about right – compared with the Fairmont across the street. I had heard that at the beginning of the pandemic, some hotels such as the Mark Hopkins were offering rooms to the homeless…..
The Top of The Mark can be difficult to “book” it’s available during the day until a certain time without reservations, but then after 4 or 5pm by reservation only. And the hosts are not always friendly about the policy.