Separated from downtown by Market Street, hence the neighborhood's nickname, SoMa ("South of Market") has emerged over the years into one of the most diverse and desirable districts in San Francisco. Most of the hotels in this neighborhood are close enough to downtown that plenty of locals would consider them to be in the same area - you can, for example, walk to downtown's Union Square shopping district in less than 10 minutes from many of the spots included in this guide. But SoMa nevertheless retains a different vibe from downtown.
At the lower, western end of SoMa, you'll find the largest cluster of San Francisco gay bars outside the Castro, many of them favoring a leather-bear-hipster scene - landmarks like Hole in the Wall Saloon, Lone Star Saloon, Powerhouse, and the SF Eagle. Keep in mind that most of SoMa's higher-end, business-oriented hotels - the ones just a short way from Union Square - are a mile or so from the SoMa gay bars (about eight to ten blocks away via Folsom or Mission Street). However, you will find a few economical budget properties in this guide that are quite close to SoMa gay nightlife - check these out if you're tight on funds and wish to be near the clubbing and increasingly impressive indie dining in the neighborhood.
For the purposes of this guide, hotels situated directly on Market Street, regardless of which side of the street, are excluded. Instead, you'll find those in the San Francisco Downtown and Union Square Gay Hotels Guide. Additionally, in the Castro, Mission, and Hayes Valley Hotels Guide, you'll find properties located to the west of SoMa.
The moderately priced Americania Hotel (121 7th St., 415-863-2529) is a bit more interesting than the typical Best Western - rooms are done in a whimsical design, with red, mustard, black, and white shades, Mid-Century Modern-inspired decor, and such perks as iPod stations and flat-screen TVs; there's free Wi-Fi, too - the bathrooms are functional, and some rooms lack views; ask if that's important to you. The hotel is across the street from the below-mentioned Good Hotel, close to Market Street (and the Civic Center/UN Plaza BART station), and also very near the hip retail and dining of lower SoMa (wonderful Sightglass Coffee is just a block away), and the neighborhood's several gay bars. There's a decent exercise room that gets plenty of natural light, a big open deck and pool, and valet parking (not cheap, but less pricey than hotel parking around Union Square).
Closer to SoMa gay nightlife than most of the hotels in this neighborhood, the hip and affordable Good Hotel (112 7th St., 415-621-7001) is one of the city's better values - just bear in mind that immediate surrounding area somewhat lacks charm. On the other hand, the Civic Center/UN Plaza BART station is nearby, and it's not too far a walk to the trendy Mission District. Rates at this mod, eco-conscious hotel (formerly the Britton) with 117 rooms mid-priced by San Francisco standards - not cheap, but well below average considering the attractive decor, including groovy bed frames made from reclaimed wood, and bedding that's been developed by using recycled soda containers. There are 79 rooms in the main hotel, and another 38 accessed from a courtyard. Fun touches include iPod docks, changeable in-room artwork, clever writing desks that can be folded down for space, and sleek color schemes. The hipster vibe makes the Good Hotel a popular pick with younger guests and international travelers.
Located at the upper end of SoMa near the bay and Embarcadero, the Harbor Court Hotel (165 Steuart St., 415-882-1300) is a great choice if you wish to be near the waterfront, the bustling foodie-centric Ferry Building Marketplace, and the Financial District, which is just a few blocks north. The trade-off, location-wise, is that you're at the other end of SoMa from the gay-bar and hipster-eating scene, down nearer to the Mission, which is about a 10-minute cab ride or 45-minute walk. The hotel is situated inside part of a historic YMCA Embarcadero Building, which has a separate entrance next door; guests of the hotel can use the YMCA's top-notch facilities. Inside this pet-welcoming hotel, you'll also find the outstanding mod-Japanese restaurant, Ozumo; guests also enjoy free Wi-Fi. Rooms are handsomely designed, with minibars stocked with fun goodies, flat-panel TVs, and iHome stereos. The Bayview rooms cost more but are pretty fantastic - they overlook the Bay and Bay Bridge (with its dazzling-at-night Bay Lights) as well as Treasure Island. In-room spa services can be arranged.
Formerly the Hotel Palomar, the super-stylish Hotel Zelos (12 4th St., 415-348-1111) is the very edge of SoMa, just a few doors south of Market Street and three blocks from Union Square. The Zelos could easily be classified as a downtown lodging, but it is firmly in SoMa, and its proximity to Yerba Buena Gardens, SF Moma, and the other cultural and arts institutions of the neighborhood are a nice asset. Personal, attentive service and swanky yet unfussy rooms are big reasons for the Zelos's dedicated following - also much appreciated is the first-rate restaurant, Dirty Habit, in-room spa services, and a well-equipped fitness center open 24/7. This contemporary property has 195 rooms and suites, all occupying upper floors and some of them (notably the huge Corner King units) with large windows letting in plenty of light. If you'd like a quieter though darker room, request one of the ones facing the Zen Garden.
The hip and contemporary W San Francisco (181 3rd St., 415-777-5300) is notable on several fronts. The LEED-certified green hotel rises 31 stories, with few other buildings directly beside it, so many rooms have breathtaking views of the bay, Bay Bridge, and downtown skyline. Rooms are sleek and have a decided Asian influence (origami accents, for instance), and they're tricked out with lots of high-tech gadgetry: CD/DVD players, iPod Shuffles, large plasma-screen TVs, long and low work desks, and wonderfully comfy beds with featherbeds and pillow menus. Of course, W properties tend to attract the see-and-be-seen set, who appreciate the swanky bars (the Living Room Bar and Upstairs Drink Boutique), plus the cool restaurant, TRACE, which specializes in sustainable regional American cuisine - it's definitely one of the best places to eat in the neighborhood. Also note the trademark Bliss San Francisco Spa, and the well-equipped FIT Gym. The hotel is adjacent to SF MOMA as well as Yerba Buena Gardens and its several cultural attractions, and the Moscone Convention Center is across the street. It's a short walk from Union Square, but a longer walk or 10-minute cab ride from the gay bars at the southwestern end of SoMa.