San Francisco’s gay scene has been around for a long time and it comes as no surprise that it is rated as one of the best gay cities in the world. Rivaling other top gay cities like New York, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Tel Aviv, you’ll find some of the world’s best gay bars in San Francisco. The city hosts an unbelievable number of fetish events infused with the queer spirit. When it comes to gay friendly hotels in San Francisco they’re in plentiful supply although there are no exclusively gay hotels in the city. So if you’re heading here for the Gay Pride in San Francisco (touted as one of the best Pride Parades), or just in the city for a vacation, there are plenty of staying options.
Whilst most of the hotels are downtown or in the Financial District, the city’s famed gay scene is in the Castro neighborhood. This is where you’ll find the gay nightlife in San Francisco with numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants. If you’re looking for larger mainstream hotels, you won’t find too many options in Castro, but there are quite a few small inns and B&Bs that are amply equipped for the gay traveler. Gay popular neighborhoods such as the Mission District and Noe Valley also have smaller gay hotels. We’ve reviewed a variety of gay friendly hotels in San Francisco’s popular areas to suit various travelers’ needs. If you’re looking for something closer to the main attractions such as the Museum of Modern Art, or the Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, then we suggest staying at SoMa (South of Market) or Union Street.
This gay friendly hotel in San Francisco is located downtown at the crossroads of the historic Union Square and the SoMa district. The century-old building which the boutique Axiom Hotel occupies combines classic architecture with electric modern design. It prides itself on its thoughtful personal service, an efficient online check-in, concierge services and offers guests a seamless experience. Just 300 meters from the hotel are numerous shopping options. The entrance to Chinatown is a kilometer away while the North Beach is 3 kilometers away. Another advantage of staying here is that the hotel is just steps from the Powell Street Cable Car turnaround. So exploring downtown San Francisco is easy.
Spacious wood floor rooms feature minimalist decor, contemporary furnishings, and modern amenities. Smart TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi, and iPad, iPhone docking stations and illy Espresso & Coffee Machines are part of each room. For those looking out for a bit of recreation, the Cloud level has foosball and video games. Another great thing about this hotel is that it’s pet-friendly. So if you’re looking out for a place for that ‘furry’ family member, you know where to stay.
Beck’s Motor Lodge
Once one of the last resort options for travelers, Beck’s Motor Lodge is now one of the more popular gay hotels in San Francisco. Although the hotel is not exclusively gay, its proximity to all the most happening places in Castro makes it highly popular with the LGBT community. The hotel is situated right in the middle of the gay district of which means that the gay bars of San Francisco and nightlife are all within easy reach. Half a kilometer from Beck’s Lodge is the famous Castro Theater. If you’re up for a bit of adventure and want to discover more of Castro we recommend the LGBTQ Castro Walking Tour.
The refurbished hotel is no longer a budget option but a mid-priced hotel with comfortable clean rooms. One of the best things about the lodge is that it offers free parking, a novelty in San Francisco! It also has a rooftop sun deck, mounted fireplaces and tub showers.
Hampton Inn San Francisco Downtown
A short walk away from Westfield Centre shopping, Union Square and Powell Street BART Station is the Hampton Inn. This hotel situated close to the SoMa gay area is extremely popular regardless of gender or sexuality. It’s less than a ten-minute drive to The Stud and SF Eagle. Apart from its good location, the hotel offers great quality at a reasonable price. One thing to note is that there is no self-parking at the hotel. Valet parking is available at a price.
Clean and comfortable, bright spacious rooms are equipped with a flat-screen TV and free wifi. You can also enjoy a free hot breakfast buffet or grab a free ‘on the go’ breakfast bag if you’re in a hurry. The 24-hour Pavilion Pantry is also stocked with snacks and travel essentials. There’s also a fitness center for those looking to burn off some calories.
If you’re looking for a luxurious gay friendly hotel in San Francisco with the perfect location, the Huntington Hotel definitely has it. Rising atop the prestigious Nob Hill, just across from Huntington Park, this 12 story Georgia-style building is a lesson in history. Rooms at the hotel are quite spacious, not too surprising because the building that was constructed in 1924 was originally for apartments. A $15 million makeover has resulted in a swankier and more luxurious hotel. However, despite the renovation, the historical elements of the building have been retained. One of the more outstanding features of the hotel is the three-level Nob Hill Spa, with an indoor infinity pool and a huge outdoor balcony.
The rooms too exude luxury with inviting beds adorned with the finest linen and premium bathrooms. Inspired by the opulence of Singapore Straits Chinese, the decor is both tasteful and unique. The huge windows offer great views of the city and the surrounding San Francisco Bay. Guests can also enjoy a free ride in the hotel limo if they need to get somewhere quickly. If you’re concerned about the distance of the hotel to the city’s sites, you can breathe easy. It’s less than 10 minutes’ walk to Union Square and about 15 minutes to Fisherman’s Wharf. Diva’s nightclub is about a 5-minute drive from here whilst San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge is a 10-minute drive. We recommend the Golden Gate Bay Cruise to experience the majestic bridge and get a glimpse of Alcatraz Island.
Hotel Kabuki, a Joi de Vivre Hotel
Fairly close to Hayes Valley and a 10-minute ride from Castro is the luxe boutique Hotel Kabuki, formerly known as Miyako. The gay friendly hotel is situated in Japantown, a neighborhood that has easy access to some great dining, shopping, and sights. It’s just a few steps from the famed Fillmore District of Pacific Heights and a 10-minute drive to Union Street. This ‘East meets West’ hotel underwent a $30 million refurbishment in 2018 and now delights guests with new guest rooms that are tasteful and thoughtful in design. If you’re interested in a tour of the ‘City by the Bay’ a San Francisco hop on hop off tour is a great way to do it.
A soothing palette and modern furnishings reflect the spirit of contemporary Japanese design. Floor to ceiling windows ensures that rooms have ample natural light. Each room is also outfitted with the amenities required for a comfortable stay. The hotel also has a bar, gym, and a lush courtyard garden with a reflection koi pond and fireside seating.
Harbour Court Hotel
For someone looking for a place near the waterfront, or the bustling Financial District, the Harbor Court Hotel is a great choice. However, its location is a little distant from the gay bars and hip part of the SoMa but is still only a short cab ride away. It’s a 10-minute drive to the popular after-hours nightclub The EndUp. The hotel is part of the historic YMCA Embarcadero Building which means that guests have access to some of the YMCA’s top-class facilities. These include an Olympic-sized pool, a gymnasium men’s and women’s steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi.
Charcoal and chestnut color palette rooms are equipped with stylish amenities which include the tech essentials and premium bath goods. The minibars are also stocked with goodies to satisfy any late-night cravings. Rooms that face the bay and the Bay Bridge are more highly-priced. Ozumo, a fantastic mod-Japanese restaurant is also a part of the hotel.
Rising 32 stories above the vibrant SoMa neighborhood is this luxury gay hotel in San Francisco. Besides the obvious luxury, a good reason to choose to stay at the InterContinental Hotel is the location. The translucent cool-blue hotel is in close proximity to the Moscone Convention Center, Chinatown and near the Powell Street Cable Car. It also offers easy access to the gay areas in the SoMa neighborhood.
Accommodation at the InterContinental is luxurious, comfortable and modern. Rich wood and marble rooms have floor to ceiling windows and are equipped with LCD televisions, iPod docking stations, in-room safes, coffee makers and free wifi. The hotel also features a state of the art fitness center, an indoor heated lap pool, a bar, and a Michelin star restaurant.
The Westin St. Francis on Union Square
Directly in front of a cable car stop at Union Square, you’ll find the landmark gay travel approved Westin St. Francis that opened in 1904. The disastrous earthquake in 1906 destroyed the original rooms but within a year the hotel reopened its doors with refurbished rooms. Guests have the option of staying in the classic rooms of the Landmark Building or in the modern rooms of the Tower Building. All rooms feature the signature Heavenly Bed as well as other top-notch amenities.
The Westin is the only hotel located directly on Union Square which means that you’re in the center of everything. A few steps away you’ll find the gay nightlife, dining options and the best shopping places in the city. This gay friendly hotel in San Francisco is also home to the historic Magneta Grandfather Clock. The Imperial Floor located at the top of the tower is a stunning event and wedding space that has hosted many LGBTQ ceremonies. Other guest amenities include the St. Francis Renewal Spa and a workout facility. It also has a few casual and top-end eating places.
Noe’s Nest Bed and Breakfast
Noe’s Nest is an intimate gay friendly B&B with eight rooms and suites. The charming Victorian house in the central Noe Valley neighborhood is the perfect place to begin your explorations of the city. It borders the hip Mission District so you can be sure that you’re not too far away from the gay nightlife. A 10-minute walk south of the hotel will bring you to the El Rio gay bar. There are plenty of cool places for you to dine at in the neighborhood. About two kilometers away is the Castro theater and the Castro District.
Tastefully decorated rooms have their own private marble bathrooms with either a deep spa tub or a shower. Each room is outfitted with a flat-screen TV. The room price also includes a good breakfast spread.
Parker Guest House
Two Edwardian houses make up this gay-owned boutique hotel in the Castro, bordering the Mission District. This small but stylish property which has a fantastic location in Dolores Park is a great place to stay if you want to meet likeminded people. With common lounge areas such as outdoor decks and gardens, a communal front parlor and a library, you’re sure to meet someone interesting at the Parker Guest House. It’s also a quick walk from the hotel to most of the gay bars in San Francisco and restaurants of either neighborhood.
The hotel features 21 rooms which have been renovated and comfortably furnished. Most rooms have newly renovated private baths fitted with a shower and hairdryer. You can also enjoy free Wifi, complimentary wine and a continental buffet breakfast that is included in the rates.
W San Francisco
For excellent views of the San Francisco bay, we recommend the gay friendly W San Francisco, a fixture of the hip SoMa district. The 31 story hotel dwarfs most of the buildings in the area so you can be sure of some breathtaking views from here. From the hotel, it’s about an 8-minute walk to Union Square and a 10-minute drive to the gay bars of the SoMa district. Several cultural attractions such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Moscone Convention Center are a stone’s throw from the hotel.
You can expect top-class comfort at this hotel which also has excellent facilities to keep you ‘homebound.’ Sleek high tech rooms with distinct Asian decor are outfitted with large plasma screen TVs, iPod Shuffles, CD/DVD players and divinely comfortable beds. The hotel also has two excellent bars and a restaurant that serves some of the best cuisines in the area. When you’re done with bar hopping or sightseeing, you can indulge in some of the great facilities at the hotel’s Bliss San Francisco Spa.
Just So You Know:
- San Francisco left its mark on history in 2004 when marriage licenses were issued to same-sex couples for the first time in the United States at City Hall. The venue itself is a historical masterpiece that was constructed in 1915. It’s the site where Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated in 1978.
- Public nudity was legal in San Francisco until 2012 but it was later banned in public places. However, public nudity is still a part of some LGBTQ events including Gay Pride in San Francisco and Folsom Street Fair.
- The city has many beautiful beaches but they’re often quite far out. So the gay community came up with a great alternative to a gay beach at the Dolores Park in the Mission. This recently renovated public spot is a popular hangout for queers in the city, especially on sunny days. You’ll find people basking in the sun in tiny swimsuits, summer fashion and even drag.
Get Some Culture:
- GLBT Historical Society Museum – The first museum of its kind in the United States, this small museum in Castro celebrates the city’s vast queer past. The permanent exhibition at the Main Gallery is an insightful journey into the past. Rotating exhibitions are featured in the Front Gallery and Community Gallery.
- LTBTQ Castro Tour – Join this 2-hour tour to get a better understanding of the rich and diverse history of the Castro. On this guided tour you’ll stroll along the ‘Rainbow Honor Walk’ and also visit the area where Harvey Milk lived.
Best Gay Bars / Clubs in San Francisco:
Lookout – Often touted as the best gay bar in San Francisco, Castro, this bar, restaurant, and nightclub is the place to be on a Saturday. The Lookout is well known for cheap drinks, fun DJs and its Saturday drag brunch and late-night parties. The bar’s wraparound balcony is a great place for people watching and day drinking.
Stud – Located in the SOMA district of San Francisco, this queer venue has been around for over 50 years. Extremely popular on the gay nightlife circuit in San Francisco, the Stud offers one of a kind parties, burlesque shows and eye-popping drag served up with killer cocktails. Queer icons that have made an appearance here are Bjork, Sylvester, Lady Gaga, Justin Vivian Bond and Michel Stipe, to name a few.
- Swagger Like Us – This is not your regular gay bar in San Francisco or permanent club, but is an underground gay club event that is definitely worth being a part of. Parties are held twice a month around different parts of San Francisco. These parties provide a platform for upcoming hip hop artists, DJs, and dancers from the queer community to showcase their talent. The vibe of the parties is definitely in sync with the beat of the underground queer club circles.
Best Gay Saunas in San Francisco:
Eros – This is the only gay bathhouse in San Francisco to survive the ban on gay bathhouses of the 1980s. A 10-minute walk from Castro Street, Eros is where you can let your wildest fantasies come to life. The first floor features a place for relaxation where you can meet other guys, whereas the upstairs is where all the fun is. Eros seems to have got around the ban somehow with a 20-man steam room and small sauna. It’s also well known for therapeutic male massages.