An honest Review of Cova Hotel San Francisco

Review of the Cova Hotel in San Francisco - Read before you book - Travel for a Living

We have just spent a marvellous week in San Francisco. So be prepared to read all about it in the coming weeks. I have started by sharing our experience of an eleven hour flight with British Airways. And since we booked flight and hotel as a package with British Airways, it is only fair to continue with my honest review of Cova Hotel San Francisco.

* Just to be absolutely clear. This is NOT a sponsored post. I paid for my hotel in full and did not receive any incentive for writing this review of Cova Hotel San Francisco.

When visiting a city for the first time, location is key. But it is also a struggle. Which neighbourhood is the ideal spot for your daily adventure? I like my hotel to be central and in easy reach, but also in a quiet spot (for example hotels next to Times Square are an absolute No-Go for me when visiting New York City).

As this was our first trip to San Francisco, we were a little unsure which neighbourhood to pick as an ideal starting point for exploring San Francisco. Checking the British Airways hotel + flight offers, we ended up with two hotels on our short list. One located directly off Union Square and the Cova Hotel. Since Union Square appeared to be the centre of town, I immediately discarded it (for the same reason I wouldn’t do Times Square). And the Cova Hotel it was.

On paper the Cova Hotel San Francisco looked like a good idea. Conveniently located just a few blocks away from Union Square with good public transport links nearby. And unlike so many other hotels in the US, it actually came with a continental breakfast free of charge. As I said… perfect on paper.  But let’s not get ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning and give you my full review of Cova Hotel San Francisco.

Review of Cova Hotel San Francisco: The Location

Cova Hotel is located on Ellis Street, between Hyde Street and Larvin Street, in an area known as Tenderloin.

Whilst it is only a few blocks away from Union Square, it isn’t really the nicest part of town. Actually, this might be a bit of an understatement. This is pretty much the worst part of town. To the extent that the hotel actually gives you a little map to explain how to get into town safely (basically by walking two streets uphill to Geary Street before heading towards town centre, as Ellis Street and O’Farrell Street are to be avoided at all cost). It puzzled me all week how a street can be so close to the hustle and bustle of Union Square yet be lined with homeless people and frequent drug users. I sure didn’t expect this. Of course, I knew that San Francisco had a bit of a problem with homelessness thanks to its mild climate and relaxed policies. But having someone shoot up in broad day light right next to you (and I am not talking once, but several times that week)? Not really the holiday experience I was after. Good thing was that they left us alone (in the entire week we only had it once that someone actually approached us verbally), but even so it wasn’t pleasant to walk through certain streets. Even in broad daylight. Amazing how quickly you can walk (and how close you can hold on to your belongings). Needless to say, early morning runs or late-night wanders (like we did in New York) were off the menu for the week. As it was the two of us, I was just about fine walking to and from the hotel. But in all honesty, I would not recommend the Cova Hotel if staying on your own or if visiting San Francisco with a group of girls. Let alone use the Cova Hotel as a family hotel when visiting with kids.

Cova Hotel San Francisco - Travel for a Living Review of the Cova Hotel San Francisco - Travel for a Living

Review of Cova Hotel San Francisco: The Hotel

The Cova Hotel is a 3-star hotel. It has seven floors with a breakfast room on the ground floor, a gym on the second floor and a roof top terrace on the eighth floor.

All you need to know about the Cova Hotel in San Francisco - Read before you book - Travel for a Living Things to know about the Cova Hotel in San Francisco - Travel for a Living

The Cova Hotel does not have its own restaurant, but they serve drinks on their roof terrace from 5pm to 8pm. They also offer a free wine reception every evening from 5-7. But to be honest, we never made it to the hotel in time to actually try that. So, whilst I can show you a photo of the unused roof terrace, I can’t actually tell you what their drinks offer is like.

Review of the Cova Hotel San Francisco - Travel for a Living Review of Cova Hotel San Francisco - Read before you book - Travel for a Living

As for the gym, it is clean and fairly modern, but not very big (but then again, hardly any hotel gyms really are). Unfortunately, it is only open from 7am to 10pm. Therefore, timing didn’t really work for me (I would have preferred it to be open much earlier in the morning, so that I could hit the gym for an hour before breakfast or when I am wide awake in the middle of the night thanks to jet lag).

The hotel seems to be well aware of its slightly dodgy location. And to be fair, they do their best to make up for it. To avoid guests having to walk the area, the Cova Hotel offers a free shuttle service to and from various locations throughout town (hourly departure, you will receive the exact schedule when you check in). If you want to use the shuttle, you just have to let reception know an hour ahead of departure.

Review of Cova Hotel San Francisco: The Room

We had a double room on the fifth floor, which was spacious, clean and modern. With two queen size beds, a desk and an armchair, there was enough space to place our luggage. Which was necessary, as we only had a wardrobe with five or six hangers, but no shelves or draws. Meaning we had to keep most of our clothes in our suitcases for the entire week. On the plus side, we also had a safe in the wardrobe, that was big enough to fit both laptops and the camera. All rooms come with floor to ceiling windows, to give you good views (well on the fifth floor that view was mainly of the street below, not quite the scenic view I might have hoped for).

In the standard rooms the Cova Hotel does not offer a mini bar, but you will find a coffee / tea maker in your room along with bottled water (although they will actually charge you for the bottled water). In addition, they offer an ice maker and soft drink vending machine on the 7thfloor.

Like so many hotels, the Cova Hotel is one of those that has loads of little lamps dotted around the room ‘to create ambient lighting’. But no one decent light source. As you enter the room, you will have to dash around and switch on four different lamps, to ensure you can actually see a thing. And vice versa as you leave (as they do not have an electricity key lock system in the room). But let’s not hold that against them. Once all lights are switched on, you will actually get a decent light level (believe me, as a frequent traveller I know only too well this isn’t always the case).

Unfortunately, our room was a little noisy. And by that, I mean both street noise (including shouting and police sirens in the middle of the night), but also noises within the room itself (such as a very annoying extractor fan). So, to get a decent night’s sleep, I would recommend bringing some ear plugs if you are a light sleeper.

The hotel room did not have a decent air conditioning or heating system. Instead we were provided with two fans (one for cooling, one for heating). As it was March and not middle of winter (well not quite sure how middle of winter actually feels in California) it wasn’t too bad temperature wise. But we did need to switch on the little fan heater briefly in the evenings and mornings (and move it into the bathroom before taking a shower, just to get the bathroom to a decent temperature). Quite a faff. But then again, the Cova Hotel is only a 3 star hotel, not a 5 star. So, expectations need to be adjusted accordingly.

Talking of bathroom. It had a decent size, bright and modern with laminate flooring.  It came with a bathtub (although a little short and only suitable for sitting in) and the usual amenities (soap, shampoo, body lotion etc).

To help protect the environment, the Cova Hotel displays the usual ‘towel on the floor if you want it changed, towel on the rack if you want to re-use’ note. As we were staying several nights, we were happy to keep the bath towels for several days and only have the small face and hand towels changed daily. So as per the note, the small ones went on the floor, the large ones on the racks / hooks. Only to find all towels changed when we came back to the room in the evening. Next day we tried again, this time placing the note about keeping the towels directly on top of the large towels. No luck, again all towels changed. We tried every single day by displaying the note more and more prominently… but didn’t succeed even once. We had fresh towels every single day, whether we wanted them or not.

So fair to say, the Cova Hotel took cleaning very seriously. In all honestly, I cannot complain about the level of service and the cleanliness overall.

All you need to know before you book the Cova Hotel San Francisco - Travel for a Living Cova Hotel San Francisco - Things to know before you book - Travel for a Living

Review of Cova Hotel San Francisco: Breakfast

The complimentary continental breakfast offered by the Cova Hotel was one of the things that made us choose the Cova Hotel in the first place.

Experience has shown that ‘continental breakfast’ can mean a lot of things: From a slice of toast with a bit of jam (quite common in 3 star London hotels) to a full buffet of breakfast items (the selection we had in Lisbon was to die for) or even cooked to order eggs (in my favourite Vienna hotel). So we were curious to find out what was the Cova Hotel breakfast selection. And we weren’t disappointed.

The Cova Hotel did offer quite a selection:

  • Coffee and tea (well filter coffee only, but that’s fine)
  • Orange juice, apple juice and water
  • Various cereals and oat meals
  • Yoghurt with granola
  • Fresh fruit
  • A selection of ham, cheese, cream cheese
  • Three different types of bagels (plain, cinnamon raisin, blueberry)
  • Two types of toast
  • Muffins, croissants and pain au chocolat
  • Peanut butter, honey, jelly and jam
  • Waffles (although we didn’t see those daily, not sure if they were gone too quickly or if they only serve them on certain days)

Needless to say, we ended up eating far more than we would normally do for breakfast. But it gave us a good base for the day ahead (with all that walking you do need a solid base after all).

Breakfast was served from 6.30am until 10am and I was quite surprised just how full the breakfast room was by 7 latest.

Staff was very friendly and helpful, food was replenished quickly, and dishes were cleared away almost immediately.

What you need to know about the Cova Hotel San Francisco - Travel for a Living Complimentary Breakfast + What you need to know about the Cova Hotel SF - Travel for a Living

There you have it. My honest review of the Cova Hotel San Francisco. It is a bit of a mixed bag really. Nothing wrong with the hotel itself. For a 3 star hotel the Cova Hotel offers a lot of amenities. And the staff is very friendly and helpful. But all this is let down by the hotel’s location unfortunately.

But we did stay here for six nights without being robbed, murdered or mugged. So if you have booked the Cova Hotel, try not to freak out too much and carefully take in my review of Cova Hotel San Francisco. It all sounds much worse than it is. Just be cautious as you walk the area (and probably consider a cab or Uber if arriving late at night).

Would I book the Cova Hotel San Francisco Hotel again? Probably not. Which is actually quite a shame.

But to be honest, this is merely down to location. Not the actual hotel.

All you need to know before booking the Cova Hotel in San Francisco - Travel for a Living

Leave a Reply


  1. Lisa Masson

    The rooftop terrace looks so lovely! Great post!

  2. cguttery

    The Tenderloin is a tricky neighborhood. I used to work in the area. It is, as you say, convenient to Union Square but some of the side streets near Market Street can be dicey. But the hotel interior looks quite nice.

  3. Charlotte

    I really appreciate a honest and detailed review! The interior of the hotel looks great and so does the rooftop terrace 🙂

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  5. Sharon

    Oh, my — I’m amazed that the tour package recommended a hotel in the Tenderloin. I’ve been to San Francisco many times and I won’t even walk through that area. It borders the nice area around Union Square, so I’m always aware of which blocks are ok and which to avoid. Union Square isn’t comparable to Times Square (where I was last month) in my opinion. I love staying at the Hilton Union Square, the Chancellor Hotel, and the Hyatt Union Square. Try one of those on your next trip! Isn’t San Francisco wonderful, though?!

    • Travel for a living

      Yes, San Francisco was great and I’d love to go back. Next time I have a much better idea of where I’d like to stay. And yes, now having been there, I’d be much happier staying at Union Square and it sure isn’t the same as staying at Times Square. But how was I supposed to know before I visited.

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