If you stay at one of the hotels along San Antonio’s River Walk, you’ll have easy access to dozens of restaurants and bars. However, there’s more to San Antonio than the River Walk. Hotels on the outskirts of town can offer more of a resort-style experience.
To get the full story on the history of the River Walk, take the Rio San Antonio river barge cruise for a 45-minute narrated tour. It is well worth the price. For the romantically inclined, there are also dining cruises for two. It's a sight you don't see just anywhere: a couple eating at a finely appointed candle-lit table on a small boat floating down the river. Service is great because the waiter is never more than a few feet away.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The St. Anthony Hotel was fully restored to its former glory in 2015. Opened in 1909 as San Antonio’s first luxury hotel, The St. Anthony was also the first hotel in the world to be fully air-conditioned. While its style has evolved over the years, you’ll still find a marble staircase, beautiful antiques, paintings and sculptures. David Siguaw, director of sales and marketing, describes the spacious outdoor pool deck as “where Hollywood and Miami meet the Wild Wild West.” The on-site restaurant Rebelle was honored by Texas Monthly in 2016 as one of the best new restaurants in Texas. The hotel’s bars, Haunt and the St. Anthony Club, both feature live music and expertly crafted cocktails. “We welcome guests with open arms and seek to make their stay an all-around experience,” says Siguaw.
The fascinating history of Hotel Emma actually involves three Emmas, the wife of Pearl Brewery owner Otto Koehler and two other Emmas he had affairs with. It was the original Emma, his wife, who steered the brewery through prohibition by using the space for auto repair, dry cleaning and several other businesses. The building’s rough-around-the-edges history is reflected in the current design of the hotel. “In addition to the impeccable service and the human component that makes Hotel Emma special, a critical component of the hotel’s brand is the South Texas industrial-chic aesthetic,” says Beth Smith, director of sales and marketing. “From the moment you step inside, the historic brewery comes to life.” Located on the quieter northern portion of the River Walk, the hotel appeals to those who are looking for a more personal, less commercial vibe.
Located on a bustling stretch of the River Walk, Mokara offers an ideal combination of convenience and luxury. Regular customers point to small touches such as complimentary warm cider and cheerful staff as reasons for their repeat business. “We’re blessed to have the incredible loyalty that we do from our customers,” says Rusty Wallace, area managing director for Mokara. “Our commitment to excellence is something our customers can count on and it’s demonstrated throughout our restaurant, spa and guest services team. Our upscale yet approachable nature paired with the convenience of being located right on the River Walk allows customers to explore San Antonio with ease.”
Many people don't realize the River Walk's extensive history. It was conceived way back in 1929. Downtown had serious flooding problems, and a 27-year-old UT architecture graduate named Robert H. Hugman suggested that the city turn the San Antonio River into an asset rather than a hindrance. Hugman's brainchild has since become the essence of the city.
A 27-room boutique hotel, Hotel Havana is located along a low-key portion of the River Walk near the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. The Mediterranean Revival-style hotel was opened in 1914, and current owner Liz Lambert completed a major renovation in 2010. The spirit of the original hotel survives in the rustic pine floors, Cuban artwork and antique furnishings. Palm and banana trees outside add to the tropical atmosphere. Ocho restaurant features a mix of Texan, Cuban and Mexican cuisine in a dramatic setting overlooking the River Walk through floor-to-ceiling windows. A courtyard patio on the second floor also offers a view of the river. The hotel is dog-friendly and provides bicycles for rent. After an evening on the River Walk, the Havana Bar in the basement is an ideal spot to wind down and plan your next adventure.
The 21-story Hilton Palacio del Rio overlooks the River Walk, and rooms on the upper floors have excellent views of the entire city. The staff has a knack for anticipating guests’ needs and helping to ensure that the whole stay runs smoothly. With three on-site bars and the upscale River’s Edge Café, the hotel can serve as an excellent jumping-off point for nighttime adventures. When the weather's nice, the restaurant's outdoor patio is one of the best spots on the River Walk to watch the boats glide by. “We are surrounded by team members that have a genuine passion for hospitality and truly care,” says Brian Getman, director of sales and marketing. “It shows in how they approach every day, interact with guests and provide memorable experiences.”
Built on 300 acres of the historic Rogers-Wiseman family ranch, Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa seamlessly blends comfort and elegance. “The storied history of the Rogers-Wiseman family and the ranch culture of hospitality is embedded into every aspect of the resort and our guests’ experiences,” says Dan King, general manager. “The rich tradition, true Texas hospitality, and home-away-from-home feeling we create are what drives our guests to return year after year.” The 500-room resort provides everything you could possibly need for a complete family vacation. For the kids, there are several swimming pools, a lazy river for tubing and a 22-foot waterslide. Adults will enjoy the 27-hole golf course and the Windflower spa.
The hotel’s $10 million renovation is scheduled to be completed in March 2017. The top-to-bottom transformation will incorporate both Spanish and Mediterranean elements, including ornate ironwork and colorful tiles. The ambitious remodeling effort is in line with the hotel’s goal of providing guests “a sense of place.” This includes amenities like luxuriously comfortable mattresses as well as subtle details such as the Valencia-brand candles’ signature scent in the lobby and the tranquil view of the River Walk. “This is not something our guests can get at a property around the corner. The unforgettable experience of staying at Hotel Valencia Riverwalk is one that our guests look forward to repeating,” says Trent Freeman, general manager.
The Valencia is just a few blocks from Market Square. A vibrant cultural and business center since the 1820s, Market Square is the scene of festivals and outdoor events year-round. Market Square is at its best in April, during the citywide Fiesta celebration. The rest of the year, visitors will find great Mexican restaurants, traditional Mexican handicrafts and an indoor shopping center where you are sure to find the perfect souvenir to commemorate your trip. The area is also home to several galleries that feature work by Latino artists. The square is located just west of the city center and walking distance from most downtown hotels.
If you're in the market for a mix of value and luxury, consider the mid-priced Drury Plaza Hotel. The beds are exceptionally comfortable, the breakfast bar is extensive, and some rooms are equipped with Jacuzzis. The kids will enjoy the large pool, which is actually on the roof of the parking garage. The higher floors have excellent views.
Located near Lackland Air Force Base, the Best Western Plus is popular among military personnel and their families. The rooms are consistently clean and well maintained. The free hot breakfast starts early to meet the needs of those warriors who are up at the crack of dawn.
Located in the heart of the action on the Riverwalk, the Westin has extra-large rooms and suites. The hotel even provides special beds for the family dog. The Woodhouse Day Spa offers massages, manicures and facial treatments to help you relax. The heated outdoor pool has a breathtaking view of the Tower of the Americas.
Built for the 1968 World's Fair, the 750-foot Tower of the Americas is now a multifaceted tourist attraction, with an upscale bar, two restaurants, an observation deck and a movie theater. The top of the tower slowly rotates for an ever-changing view.
The Comfort Suites is a budget-friendly option, and it's only a short drive from the River Walk. If you're staying for several days, you can even use the on-site laundry to save a few more dollars. You'll also enjoy a free hot breakfast, free wi-fi and a small swimming pool.
The Hyatt Wild Oak Ranch is an excellent choice for a brief or extended family vacation. Situated amid 39 hilly acres, the property has nature trails, an indoor/outdoor pool and waterslides. You can watch deer and other wildlife roam the property by day and return to a comfortable bed at night.