The hotel chain you have never heard of – Joie de Vivre + Hotel Tomo San Francisco Review, Hotel Carlton San Francisco, Domain Hotel Review

In the last couple of weeks I have been testing out a number of Joie de Vivre hotels in California and I must say I'm impressed.

The company manages 30 hotels mostly Northern California but has been trying to expand to Southern California, Illinois and Hawaii as well.

The loyalty program 'Joy of life club' is not much to speak with minimal benefits.

However the company does one thing really well – it manages hotels how it should be! The company usually buys rather old, run-down properties and builds a fantastic product on top of it. Have you ever stayed in a hotel and thought how easy would it be if someone just takes a bit of care and makes this average hotel a a really good one? That's how these hotels feel. There is no luxury but there is a dedication to the hospitality product I've seen rarely.

Rates are very competitive usually (Northern California can be hellishly expensive for hotel stays) and the properties are not the newest but all are meticulously clean, feature great beds and modern furniture. The staff is a jovial as I've ever seen it. No check-in took longer than 1 minute. Wifi is free (though the free variant is just 1 Mbit).

People recognize you as a member of the loyalty program and immediately recognize where you stayed before. Breakfast is priced at a fair $12.95, there is a happy hour with cheap or even free drinks in the lobby.

Here is a quick review of 3 hotels I recently stayed at:

Hotel Tomo, San Francisco, California

The hotel used to be a Best Western and has been re-flagged to a Joie de Vivre hotel recently.

The hotel sits right opposite to San Francisco Japantown which is a rather interesting mall with Japanese inspired restaurants, coffee shops and supermarkets. It's also right at Fillmore one of the trendy neighborhoods in SF. Another trendy district – the Marina is 20 minutes of walking through a beautiful neighborhood.

It's a nondescript building and so is the reception. No luxury here for sure 🙂

I asked for a room on a higher floor and got up to floor 8 – the highest in the building.

The room was a surprise – it was styled in Japanese pop culture, was spacious, super clean and felt really comfy.

Although it was just a 'Deluxe Room' with two beds it almost felt like a mini-suite.

The bathroom was simple, but fitting. The hotel hotel felt very Japanese – not crazy luxury but super efficient and super clean.

There is no gym though and no pool.

Japantown has a number of well rated restaurants on Yelp. For any budget you'll be able to find something in the adjacent mall.

I think the hotel is a real find in competitive the SF hotel market. Rates often hover around $100 and it's in a fantastic location if you don;t need to be downtown necessarily.

Parking was offered at $29 though the neighborhood has plenty of parking after 6 PM (but you need to move your car before 10 AM again).

Hotel Carlton, San Francisco, California

The property is in San Francisco Tenderloin district – not exactly the best neighborhood but it's close to Union Square and the Marina district. While not pretty it's safe enough to walk even at night.

Check-in was swift and super friendly. I was on my way to my room which was spacious, and featured a newish look king size bed. I also had a great view towards downtown and a quiet room without street noise.

Domain Hotel, Sunnyvale

This hotel is located along El Camino a long strip mall in the South Bay with cheap motels and car repair stores. While fearing for the worst the hotel surprises with a stylish lobby and a calm atmosphere. The room (I was upgraded to a deluxe room) was big and very comfortable. The mattress was adjustable to the firmness you prefer. The bathroom was spacious and there even is even a square shower head. Bathroom looked it good shape.

Parking is free directly in front of the hotel and there are a number of fast food chains and Starbucks around.