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Not so grand anymore: A review of the Grand Hyatt San Francisco

April 17 2022
14 min read
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As a Bay Area native, I always try to stay in Union Square when heading into the city for a night.

So, when I decided to venture downtown recently, one property in particular fit the bill: the Grand Hyatt San Francisco.

Boasting a central location and walkability to two of my favorite spots, Market Street and Chinatown, this Hyatt outpost seemed like a convenient option for a quick stay. To my dismay, though, the Grand Hyatt felt far from grand.

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The lobby of the Grand Hyatt San Francisco. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

A shell of its pre-pandemic self, the massive property lacked the grandeur I expected to find during my stay due, in part, to an odd lack of guests and mediocre service.

Still, with cash rates as low as $150 per night and the promise of additional perks stemming from my Globalist elite status, the hotel delivered some desirable benefits, especially for budget-conscious travelers. Here's what my two-night stay at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco was like.

Quick take

When the 697-room, 36-story Hyatt opened in 1972, it was one of San Francisco's largest hotels. Despite undergoing significant renovations prior to its reopening as a rebranded Grand Hyatt in 1990, though, the property felt like a relic struggling to compete with its shinier, more modern counterparts.

From the popcorn ceilings to the sliding glass windows, the hotel lacked the cool, contemporary design features of nearby properties like The Clancy, Autograph Collection and The St. Regis San Francisco. Had it not been for the flat-screen televisions, stepping into this hotel would've very much felt like entering a time capsule from the 1990s.

The food here was also underwhelming, though I suspect that's partly due to staffing issues from the city's prolonged shutdown at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, I found myself briefly forgetting about the dated design and subpar food when I was in the fitness center gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows. No matter where I turned while in the 35th-floor facility, I was greeted with stunning city panoramas.

Getting there

The hotel is located on the corner of Sutter and Stockton streets. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

Situated in the heart of Union Square, the Grand Hyatt San Francisco is easy to reach from the Bay Area's two main airports — San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Oakland International Airport (OAK) — thanks to its proximity to a Bay Area Rapid Transit station. Traveling from either airport to BART's Powell Street station and walking four blocks to the property typically takes no more than 45 minutes.

A valet parking attendant was always available. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

You can also drive or rely on a ride-hailing service to reach the property, but know that on-site valet parking fees are just shy of $80 per night, and using Uber or Lyft can easily cost more than $50 per ride when traveling between the hotel and farther locales like SFO or OAK.

If you're like me and are set on driving, consider choosing a package that includes on-site parking or park one block away at the public Stockton Street garage, which costs about half as much as the hotel's valet service.

Booking details

Compared to other luxury properties in the city, the Grand Hyatt San Francisco is reasonably priced.

I booked a standard room via the hotel's Park & Stay package for my two-night stay, which totaled $243, including taxes and fees. I charged my stay to my World of Hyatt Credit Card to maximize my earnings. For my reservation, I earned:

  • 5 base Hyatt points per dollar spent.
  • 1.5 bonus points (or a 30% bonus) for having Globalist elite status.
  • 4 points per dollar spent with my World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Since TPG currently values World of Hyatt points at 1.7 cents apiece and the Grand Hyatt's Category 5 designation meant an award redemption would've required 17,000 to 23,000 points per night, I paid with cash and netted 2,552 points from the stay.

My stay ended up being a great deal, especially given my upgrade to a standard suite (more on that later), which would've cost $389 per night had I paid out of pocket. Plus, bundling my parking charge with my room rate meant I saved $15 and received points for the parking fee, which wouldn't have been the case had I paid separately since the garage is owned and managed by a third-party vendor.

The Park & Stay package cost $64 more, but it helped me cut valet parking costs and earned me more points. (Screenshot from hyatt.com)

Related: 4 things to know about how valet parking works right now

Standout features

My suite offered ample space. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)
  • Even the most "basic" suite provided plenty of room to stretch out. In addition to featuring a spacious living room and separate bedroom, it came with two full bathrooms.
  • The gym was made for fitness buffs, as it occupied the entire 35th floor and was outfitted with enough equipment to avoid long waits when other guests were in the facility. Best of all, it had floor-to-ceiling windows with breathtaking city views.
  • With an unbeatable location in Union Square, the Grand Hyatt provides easy access to can't-miss destinations like Chinatown and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Drawbacks

To receive my complimentary Globalist upgrade, I had to politely ask for the benefit while checking in. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)
  • Service here was hit or miss. While some staff members (like the concierge) were friendly and eager to help guests, others (like the front desk agents) did not automatically offer me my Globalist room upgrade or acknowledge my elite status.
  • Even on the 19th floor, I could hear a lot of outside construction noise, which continued well into the night.
  • Although a few recent updates were noticeable in the lobby, other areas, including the rooms and hallways, could use some TLC.
  • Breakfast options were limited to a small selection of cold items and microwavable egg sandwiches.

The vibe

Art in the lobby was created by local artist David Choong Lee. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

While I appreciated the Grand Hyatt's attempt to incorporate San Francisco-inspired art from local designers throughout the public spaces, the hotel's eerily quiet setting (a side effect of the lack of large-scale events at the nearby convention center throughout the pandemic) made hanging out in the lobby feel a bit awkward.

Not to mention, the quirky decor (which consisted of two 3D sculptures facing one another, a neon light fixture on the side of the stairs and two fireplaces beneath windows with abstract city map designs) felt forced, as it was loud, intense and disjointed. It seemed better suited for my sophomore geometry class than a four-star hotel.

Neon lights on the staircase. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

The room

The main bedroom in my suite. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

Even though I was eligible to receive a complimentary suite upgrade (a key benefit of Globalist status), the front desk agent was less than eager to provide one. However, after pointing out while checking in that several suites were available before asking for a manager, I was ultimately provided an upgrade to a standard suite.

At 590 square feet, the executive suite featured ample space for stretching out, though it was admittedly a bit dated. There was a living room and separate bedroom, plus two full bathrooms.

After walking through the door, I found myself in an inviting living room with a couch and two armchairs (which could easily accommodate multiple guests watching the mounted flat-screen television).

Although the mostly yellow, beige and orange color palette and worn furnishings could benefit from a refresh, the space was comfortable overall.

A hair stuck to the vanity with hair product. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

However, the location of the suite and lack of lighting proved to be a challenge, as it quickly became hot from the sun shining in when the curtains were open (even in winter) but was far too dark when the curtains were closed.

Still, the bedroom came outfitted with everything I needed, including two nightstands, a small chaise with a side table, a flat-screen TV and a closet with a few drawers and space for hanging clothes. Because there was some construction taking place on the surrounding streets (which I could hear throughout the night, even on the 19th floor), the hotel offered complimentary earplugs with a welcome note next to the bed.

One pair of earplugs was provided in the room. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

Attached to the bedroom was the main bathroom, which was identical to the guest bathroom in the living room except that it offered a walk-in shower instead of a shower/tub combination. A long vessel sink sat atop the orange countertop, and plush white towels were folded neatly beneath the sink.

A few single-use toiletries were also provided on the counter and in the shower. Since Hyatt committed to removing these bottles from its Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Thompson and all-inclusive Hyatt Ziva and Zilara properties by June 2021, I was a bit surprised to see them in use here.

Food and drink

Perhaps the most disappointing part of my stay at the Grand Hyatt was its severely reduced food and beverage offerings. Room service was unavailable during my stay, and the hotel's main California-style restaurant was closed without an anticipated reopening date noted. As a result, on-site options were extremely limited.

When I arrived at the hotel, I was handed a bag with two bottles of water, some snacks and, of course, two pieces of locally made Ghirardelli chocolate. Additionally, I received an envelope thanks to my Globalist status, which contained a $25 credit for the on-site market or lounge that I could use at any time during my stay. The voucher was provided in lieu of access to the property's Grand Club, which was closed due to the pandemic.

I used my $25 voucher to cover the chicken tinga tacos ($17) and cheeseburger ($18) I ordered for dinner in the main OneUp lounge the first night.

While the food was edible, it was far from fresh, as evidenced by the fact that my burger could not be prepared to my desired temperature since it was precooked to well done. The server confirmed that all of the food was precooked, so no modifications or special requests could be accommodated.

Disappointed by the subpar dinner service, I decided to give breakfast a try the next day. When I inquired about breakfast service at the front desk, I was given a second $25 voucher and directed to The Market in the lobby.

Like the lounge's dinner dishes, the market's breakfast items were mediocre at best. Options included microwaveable egg sandwiches and breakfast burritos, plus hot caffeinated drinks and cold grab-and-go items like fruit cups and yogurt. Prices ranged between $3 and $12 per item.

Given the underwhelming options and the slow service (there was only one person preparing breakfast at The Market, and he was clearly overwhelmed as he simultaneously worked the cash register, microwave and espresso machine), you'd be better off dining elsewhere.

Amenities and service

Although the hotel was mostly empty during my stay, it quickly became apparent that there was a severe staffing shortage. I waited at least a half-hour in line to order breakfast, and most of the property's facilities (including the Grand Club, a business center and a top-floor observation deck) were closed due to limited personnel.

Still, there were a few available amenities I appreciated.

While waiting for breakfast, I overheard the concierge helping some French-speaking guests rebook flights when their travel plans were unexpectedly changed. She proved to be incredibly helpful and reminded me just how much of an asset hotel concierges can be, especially when traveling outside your own country.

A very capable concierge to the rescue. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

I also loved the massive fitness center on the 35th floor. Sure, the decor and 1980s-style office lights made the area look really dated, but its ample space and abundance of equipment made it a great place to break a sweat. Not to mention, it featured some of the property's best views from its floor-to-ceiling windows.

Out and about

Located just off Union Square, the Grand Hyatt is in a prime spot for exploring San Francisco. One block west is Powell Street, where you can jump on a cable car to Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square.

The award-winning San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is about four blocks southeast on Third Street, while Chinatown's famous Dragon Gate entrance can be found approximately two blocks northeast. The latter is where you'll find Empress by Boon, one of the city's best Chinese restaurants.

Just after sunset is one of the most peaceful times in the city. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

Should you find yourself craving a stroll in the brisk air, follow my lead and make your way down Market Street to Pier 7. Nestled between the Ferry Building Marketplace (a foodie paradise) and the interactive Exploratorium, this part of town is incredibly scenic, especially at sunset, and is only about a 20-minute walk from the hotel.

Pier 7 is a great place to go for views of the San Francisco skyline. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

Accessibility

Fortunately, San Francisco has taken steps to become much more accessible, as was evident at the Grand Hyatt. Wherever there were stairs, an elevator that was large enough to accommodate a wheelchair was available.

(Screenshot from hyatt.com)

Accessible rooms were readily available and offered a nearly identical design as the regular rooms, with the addition of Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant amenities, such as grab bars on the bathroom walls and wheelchair-accessible showers. Other features, such as hearing- or sight-assistive devices, are also available upon request when booking a room on the hotel's website.

Checking out

Exterior view of the Grand Hyatt San Francisco. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

Now that my stay at the Grand Hyatt has wrapped, I can say with confidence I won't be rushing back.

Although it's unfair to judge this (or any other) property using pre-pandemic metrics, the low room rates and superb location were not big enough draws to overlook the subpar service, mediocre food and outdated design.

Leaving the hotel merely served as a reminder of just how far we are from putting this pandemic fully in the rearview mirror.

Featured photo by Beautiful view from the fitness center. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
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  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

Pros

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  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
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Cons

  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees