Travel Tips: A Day in San Francisco

Hotel Nikko San Francisco is redoing all of its 405 guestrooms, introducing a design inspired by the fluid lines of a traditional kimono and the brushstrokes of Japanese calligraphy.

We asked Marc Casto, CEO of Casto Travel in San Jose, CA, what he would do on the perfect one-day trip to nearby San Francisco. Here’s what he told us.

“Start your day with trip to Ghirardelli Square, specifically the Aquatic Park. Unique within San Francisco, this cove is designed as a place for the daring and foolhardy swimmers to stretch their arms in 50-plus degree water. Frequently, you can spy a seal investigating the swimmers.”

Casto says the locale puts you near several great places to grab breakfast or catching a cab afterward to head over to Fisherman’s Wharf for a meal. (Note: Travel Agent checked out some options and sees that Yelp’s audience gives high ratings to the Hollywood Cafe at 530 N. Point Street. There could be a line but it sounds like it’s worth waiting for — especially the “Vivian Leigh” breakfast plate.)

“From there, it is good to head over to Golden Gate Park, particularly the California Academy of Sciences,” says Casto. That expansive building, he explains, has a wide variety of ecosystems, including a living jungle filled with many exotic butterflies. Insider Tip: At the aquarium, he advises, be sure to visit the albino alligator.

Next stop? Casto says to pop across the street to wander the Japanese Tea Gardens and visit the traditional teahouse. “Have a stiff brew of Sencha while pondering the exquisite beauty of the manicured landscapes all while considering which of the thousands of eateries to dine in for that evening,” says Casto.

We’ve got more to do in San Francisco. If you’re headed there next spring, you’ll get to see an all-new Hotel Nikko. The property, just steps from Union Square, is closing December 19 through March 20 to undergo a $60 million renovation.

Marble bathrooms with deep soaking tubs and oversized showers will create a further retreat for Hotel Nikko San Francisco guests.

Hirsch Bedner Associates is overseeing the redo of all 405 guestrooms, the lobby and other public area, the third floor ballroom and pre-function space. The hotel’s technology and other infrastructure features, including a seismic upgrade, are also part of the project. The hotel in February reopened its Outdoor terrace with an updated dog run on the fifth floor, making it a super pet-friendly property.

The Scarlet Huntington on Nob Hill, meanwhile, is touting its top hotel in the city ranking by Condé Nast Traveler’s 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards. To show its appreciation to travelers, it’s launched a package for new bookings made through March 31 that includes an upgrade at check-in when available, 20 percent off on guestroom rates with no blackout dates, as well as complimentary internet and spa access.

The hotel has a full-service, three-story spa with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the San Francisco skyline. All told, it has 10 treatment rooms, an indoor infinity pool, a whirlpool, saunas, steam rooms and a patio deck for dining.

The hotel also houses the Big 4 Restaurant, which has a 1920s vibe and live piano music nightly.