History of the Clift Royal Sonesta San Francisco:

The Clift has an interesting history and the hotel opened on February 1, 1915 to serve crowds for the Panama–Pacific International Exposition. At the time, it was advertised as the first hotel in San Francisco to be fire and earthquake proof. It was managed by the Four Seasons group in 1976 as their first US property, and later changed hands to Morgan’s Hotel Group.

In 2018 the Clift became managed by Sonesta, and then completed a renovation in January of 2020, only to be closed shortly after due to the pandemic. It reopened in May of 2021, so the hotel still felt very new!


I stumbled on the Clift Royal Sonesta San Francisco as it was part of the AMEX Hotel Collection. With the AMEX Hotel Collection, you can get an $100 property credit as well as room upgrade with a minimum two night stay. And if you have an AMEX Platinum Card, you can use you $200 annual credit on prepaid hotel bookings with AMEX Fine Hotels and Resorts, or the AMEX Hotel Collection.

My 2 night stay came out to about $450, and the cool thing was that it was about the same price as booking directly with Sonesta, but I got the $100 property credit from booking with the AMEX Hotel Collection, which I ended up using for breakfast.

I recently did a status match to Sonesta Travel Pass’ Elite Level, as they have a status matching program. I was curious if they would be like Marriott Bonvoy, and allow for points earning and elite benefits when booking with AMEX FHR/Hotel Collection, but I was told that they do not. This is different than Marriott policy, as when I booked through AMEX FHR at the Palace Hotel, part of the Luxury Collection, I was able to earn Bonvoy points and elite night credits. As a newer program and with the fact that Sonesta is trying to expand their footprint and customer base, I was a bit surprised they had a more restrictive policy than even Marriott.


I arrived around 5pm, and my first impression was that the lobby looked very nice. I was quickly checked in, and the hotel was bustling with people due to a fashion show being hosted in one of the conference rooms.

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I booked a standard “Deluxe” room, and at check-in I asked for a room with two beds and was upgraded to an “Executive” Room on the 12th floor that had a nice view of the city. The hotel has a total of 17 floors and 372 rooms.

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The room was quite roomy, with a lot of walkway space between the beds and the TV/Desk area. A mini-fridge for personal use, as well as a Keurig was provided. There were also plenty of charging ports, and the furnishings felt very clean, new and in good condition, which was expected as the renovation was just completed recently.

The queen beds were large which was nice. But unfortunately my friend and I both agreed that the bed and pillows were not the most comfortable.

In the bathroom, it felt very bright and cozy. A little bit on the smaller side, but that was expected with a historic hotel. The sink faucet was a bit low on water pressure, as well as the rainfall shower. But overall, the bathroom was nicely appointed. Toiletries were provided by Poggesi, made in Italy. It had a Coco Mango scent which was unique.

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The view from the 12th floor was pretty decent, and we could see the Salesforce Tower in the background.

The Big Chair:

Located near the elevators, is the famous big chair! The chair was made by designer Philippe Starck and has a surprise painting underneath.

Takeoff Tip: Take a picture with the Big Chair, and look for Albert in the lobby! He is so nice, and will make sure you get the best angles for your photos.

Clift Royal Sonesta

The Big Chair

Redwood Room:

The famous Redwood Room bar is open on Thursday-Saturday nights from 6pm to midnight. At check-in, I was given 2 drink coupons, and I was happy that we were able to visit the bar for a few drinks!

The decor was nice and made for an elegant hotel bar. Since the hotel was hosting a fashion show, the Redwood Room was actually quite crowded on Saturday night with a DJ as well. My friend and I got 2 drinks, a Lychee Martini and the Fashion Show Special. Both drinks were pretty good.

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Breakfast at Frederick’s:

Frederick’s is open for breakfast service Monday-Friday 7-11am, and Friday-Saturday 7am-Noon. It’s like a high-end coffee shop, with a grab and go section, but also features an a la carte menu where you can order and they deliver to your table. I thought the decor was very cute, and the cooked food was quite good. However, I didn’t really care for their Orange Juice, and my friend said the coffee was just okay.

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We used our $100 hotel credit for breakfasts. Throughout the two days, on the a la carte menu, we ordered the Belgian Waffle, California Omelet, Classic Benedict and Egg White Scramble. All of the dishes were quite good, and felt like a 4 star hotel restaurant quality breakfast.

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Amenities + Location:

The hotel has a fitness center on the second floor. The views aren’t the most inspiring for a workout, but it has enough machines to get the job done.

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The Clift Royal Sonesta is located about 3 blocks away from Union Square which is an easy walk, and is also bordered along the Tenderloin District which is not the best part of town. I wouldn’t recommend walking west deeper in the Tenderloin. I did some walking and then I also relied on Uber/Lyft to get me to the places I wanted to go.

The Verdict:

Overall, I enjoyed my stay at the Clift Royal Sonesta San Francisco. The newly renovated boutique aspect of the hotel was nice, and the breakfast was pretty decent as well. Also, I really enjoyed the photo-op with the big chair. The bedding could have used some improvement, and I would probably want to try out other properties in the city, but for the right price I could see myself staying here again.


Have you stayed at the Clift Royal Sonesta San Francisco before? What were your thoughts? Comment below!


Safe travels,


Have any questions? I’ve also started working with a travel agency, Fora Travel, and can assist in booking hotel stays or planning trips. Comment below or email me at takeofftotravel@gmail.com. You can also view all my other posts here! Thanks for stopping by!