This is our review of the Canopy by Hilton San Francisco SoMA hotel.
Canopy is Hilton’s modern lifestyle brand for design-conscious guests. Whilst it tends to offer enough to keep business travellers happy, they are generally aimed at holidaymakers with trendy restaurants, rooms and facilities.
Or at least I thought I did. As it turns out, the Canopy San Francisco SoMa is not a new build but a conversion of the former Virgin Hotels site.
After opening in 2019, the hotel’s owner terminated the 20-year management contract with the Virgin Group based on what he perceived as gross mismanagement.
Virgin Hotels sued and won $11.5 million in damages. By then, however, the relationship had already soured. When the hotel re-opened after a three-year pandemic closure, it chose to side with Hilton and was reflagged under its Canopy brand in May 2023.
The conversion process is ongoing. At the moment, you’ll still find the Virgin Hotels iconic red Smeg fridges in the rooms as well as their unique beds. Later this year, those will be replaced with Canopy’s own, replacing red for orange.
Isn’t it fun when there’s a little drama in the hotel industry! The hotel website is here.
Before we get into the review, a quick bit of background to my trip. I was in San Francisco as part of a major United Airlines flight review series we have been working on. These reviews will appear in September, but we felt it was fine to run this hotel review now. Hilton generously provided my room at the Canopy for review purposes.
Where is the Canopy SoMA?
If you’re not familiar with San Francisco, SoMa (short for South of Market) is the area in the North East part of the city and ecompasses neighbourhoods such as Yerba Buena and South Beach.
This part of the city is an interesting neighbourhood, with an eclectic mix of residential buildings, offices and cultural venues such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, AT&T Ball Park, Moscone Conference Centre and Yerba Buena Gardens.
The Canopy SoMa is virtually in the middle of it all, directly across from Yerba Buena Gardens and the Moscone Centre. The SFMOMA is just a couple of blocks away as is the lively Mission Street which takes you all the way down to the Castro.
The location is popular with a number of hotels, including the vast Marriott Marquis, in the same area. Traffic permitting, you can be at the hotel within about 15-20 minutes from the airport via taxi, although it’ll likely be closer to 30 minutes if you’re arriving during peak hours.
It’s slightly more challenging on public transport and you can expect it to take upwards of 45 minutes. Despite all the trams, San Francisco’s public transport system isn’t as good as I hoped; I thought it would be closer to New York’s MTA, but it isn’t.
(A quick note on the “homeless problem” in San Francisco which often makes the headlines. To be perfectly honest, despite walking extensively around downtown San Francisco, SoMa, the Embacadero and other areas I never found it particularly bad. I’d say it’s about the same as you’d find in London or New York – certainly not the apocalypse some people would have you thinking.)
Inside the Canopy San Francisco SoMa hotel
The Canopy occupies a 12-storey purpose-built structure that was built from the ground up for the former Virgin Hotels, so it’s virtually brand new.
From the outside it’s fairly nondescript, although it does have a bit of personality thanks to its large warehouse-style windows.
You enter into a fairly small lobby-come-corridor, with a couple of check-in desks on the left. On the right, you’ll find a cosy coffee shop:
Whilst to the left and at the rear is a bar:
The lobby itself is relatively small and has virtually no room to loiter, which might be a problem during busier periods. Fortunately, I never saw more than a couple of people at the desks.
I was checked in very quickly and the staff member acknowledged my Hilton Honors Diamond status. Hilton has basically ditched free breakfast for status members in the US and instead I was offered $18 of food and beverage credit ($36 if there are two of you). This isn’t enough to pay for breakfast, but the upside is that it can be used for drinks or an evening meal instead if you choose.
Suites at Canopy San Francisco SoMa
The Canopy is still establishing itself in San Francisco and was probably about half full when I stayed. Very kindly, the hotel upgraded me to one of two top suites: the “King Suite Urban View with Living Room”.
Don’t worry – I also managed to take a look at a bog standard entry level room!
Bizarrely, the hotel was built with only two suites – on the corners – with the remaining rooms differentiated only by bed configuration and view.
The suite was impressive, and opened onto a large living room:
The red Smeg fridge and Nespresso coffee machine are the biggest giveaways that this used to be a Virgin Hotel:
There is no bottled water but the hotel does provide refillable glass bottles with an ice and filtered water tap on every floor. It would have been nice to have this pre-filled by house-keeping. There are also some cocktail glasses, an ice bucket and kettle.
On the other side you’ll find a red velvet corner sofa facing a TV, with a window facing East towards South Beach:
Behind the sofa, on the other side of the mirrored wall is the bedroom. There is a sliding door to the living room for privacy.
In contrast to the dark-ish living room, the bedroom was lovely and light, with floor-to-ceiling windows along two aspects:
The bed, currently the Virgin Hotel bed, will soon be replaced by Canopy’s own signature bed:
Note that the wooden slats behind the bed are against a mirror, letting you see your own silhouette when laying in bed too.
Connectivity is good – there are US mains sockets as well as USB ports, and you also have global controls for all the lights in the room.
From the bed you can admire the lovely view of downtown San Francisco. You don’t even need to get up to open the curtains thanks to the electric blinds!
On the other side of the bed is the bathroom. It is large.
There are two wash basins in the marble vanity, as well as a dressing table. You can see it is Victorian-inspired, with subway tiles and black and white fittings:
The suite comes kitted with a Dyson hairdryer:
Opposite you have a large wardrobe with your usual ironing board and some interesting microfibre robes – never had those before:
And, behind the dressing table, a double shower with frosted windows as well as a large bath tub:
It’s a bit of a shame that the view cannot be enjoyed, and I do wonder if the designers missed a trick by not putting the bath tub in the window and having the shower internally. Toiletries are by Thank You and are extremely lemony – it’s almost as if you’re showering with lemon curd!
The toilet, in a separate room, is also vast and suggests to me that the suites are also designed to be accessible.
Rooms at the Canopy San Francisco SoMa hotel
That’s a suite – what about the standard rooms? These are surprisingly spacious, too. If you’ve ever stayed at a new-build Virgin Hotel you’ll know what to expect, with what they term the ‘two chamber’ design.
In practice, that means that the corridor features an open wardrobe, dressing table and sink, with shower and toilet behind frosted doors:
Then, behind a sliding door, you have the main bedroom:
The design of the standard room was a bit less vibrant than that of the suites. It needs a bit more colour, I think, or at least something fun hanging over the bed.
Nevertheless, it’s a good size and you get the Smeg fridge, Nespresso machine and kettle as well on a little mini bar:
Breakfast on the rooftop
There are a number of food and beverage outlets in the hotel, including the bar and cafe on the ground floor. By far the highlight, however, is Shelby’s the rooftop bar and restaurant.
This is open for breakfast right into the evening and is where I used my $18 dining credit. On chillier days there are glass doors that can be shut. The weather in San Francisco was substantially cooler than dreary London when I went in August so I imagine these are used a fair bit.
For breakfast, you have a choice of:
- Fruit cup – $10
- Chia parfait – $12
- Overnight oats – $12
- Avocado toast – $18
- Shelby’s breakfast plate – $24
- Harissa scrambled eggs – $23
- Asparagus frittata – $25
The prices are fairly typical for San Francisco – it is expensive – and unfortunately the $18 credit doesn’t get you very far. I had the avocado toast one morning:
…. and the gigantic breakfast plate the next:
In the evenings, Shelby’s is also a nice spot to enjoy cocktails which I did one night.
And that’s it. There isn’t a pool or spa, which would have been nice, although there is a gym which I forgot to visit (oops).
I enjoyed my stay at the Canopy San Francisco SoMa hotel. I always prefer to stay at hotels with a bit of character, which the Canopy has, and the location was great for my needs, including as a starting spot for a run along the Embarcadero.
It will be interesting to see how much changes later this year when some of the Virgin Hotels signature flourishes are replaced with decidedly more orange, Canopy ones.
Rates at the Canopy SoMa generally start from around $300, although note that you’ll have to pay taxes and a $30 daily destination fee as well, which includes premium internet access, a daily $30 food and beverage credit and a daily $25 credit for Tower Tours. This is, unfortunately, pretty standard for hotels in the USA these days. At least the $30 F&B credit can be used easily to get your money back.
(It’s worth a reminder, of course, that Hilton Honors pays your ‘destination fee’ on reward stays. Free still means free. No other major hotel chain offers this, although Hyatt waives them for top-tier Globalist members on reward and cash stays.)
Redemptions start from around 76,000 points per night. You can find out more, and book, on the hotel website here.
How to earn Hilton Honors points and status from UK credit cards (September 2023)
There are various ways of earning Hilton Honors points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses.
Do you know that holders of The Platinum Card from American Express receive FREE Hilton Honors Gold status for as long as they hold the card? It also comes with Marriott Bonvoy Gold, Radisson Rewards Premium and MeliaRewards Gold status. We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here and you can apply here.
Did you know that the Virgin Atlantic credit cards are a great way of earning Hilton Honors points? Two Virgin Points can be converted into three Hilton Honors points. The Virgin Atlantic cards are the only Visa or Mastercard products in the UK which can indirectly earn Hilton Honors points. You can apply here.
SPECIAL OFFER: The sign-up bonus on the Virgin Atlantic Reward+ Mastercard is doubled to 30,000 Virgin Points (45,000 Hilton Honors points) if you apply by 2nd October. You receive 15,000 Virgin Points with your first purchase and a further 15,000 Virgin Points if you spend £3,000 within 90 days. Apply here.
You can also earn Hilton Honors points indirectly with:
- American Express Gold (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Rewards Credit Card (10,000 bonus Amex points)
and for small business owners:
- American Express Business Gold (20,000 bonus Amex points)
- American Express Business Platinum (40,000 bonus Amex points)
The conversion rate from American Express to Hilton points is 1:2.
(Want to earn more hotel points? Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Offers’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)