Our favorite city hotels

Rest your head in some of the West's best boutique lodgings. See our picks from Hawaii to Las Vegas

Seattle's Pensione Nichols
Photo: John Clark

1. San Francisco, CA

HOTEL DRISCO
Among the manses of tony Pacific Heights - and far from the chaos of Union Square - you'll find Hotel Drisco, a most civilized hilltop spot for visiting in-laws, business types, and anyone who prefers weekending like a (wealthy) local. The Drisco is surrounded by city views and chichi boutiques, and the hiking trails and vistas of Presidio national park are just three blocks away. Recently remodeled, rooms are elegantly appointed with comfy double-poster beds. If booking online, call to confirm: Drisco has been known to lose a Web reservation every so often. INFO: 48 rooms and suites from $249, including continental breakfast and wine-and-cheese hour; 800/634-7277. -Rachel Levin

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2. Honolulu, HI

NEW OTANI KAIMANA BEACH HOTEL
Veteran Hawaii travelers don't like talking about the New Otani Kaimana Beach - they're afraid it will be booked up the next time they hit Honolulu. But here we go: This is a great place. It's smaller and simpler than the big resort hotels, it doesn't have pricey shops, and it doesn't have a pool. What it does have is a serene location near the base of Diamond Head and its own sweetly curving little beach whose gentle waves are perfect for small children. The Hau Tree Lanai restaurant ($$) overlooks the water, and lingering over macadamia-nut pancakes and your cup of coffee here is one of the nicest ways you can spend a morning on the Islands. Moderate rooms are pretty cozy for two people; the Diamond Head Junior Suites work just fine for a small family. INFO: 124 rooms and suites from $150; 800/356-8264. -Peter Fish

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3. Playa del Rey, CA

INN AT PLAYA DEL REY
The blue-shingled New England-style inn is five minutes from LAX and combines the efficient service of a business hotel with bed-and-breakfast touches such as freshly baked cookies (the reception desk doubles as a state-of-the-art kitchen) as well as a closet full of bicycles (the ocean and a beachside bike trail are five blocks away). Many of the cheery, comfortable rooms face one of Los Angeles' last remaining wetlands, which will make you feel even further removed from the city bustle. INFO: 21 rooms and suites from $195, including continental breakfast; 310/574-1920. -Laura Randall

4. Boise, ID

HOTEL 43
"Things are sure changing in Boise," says one guest upon hearing she'll have to pony up $10 for overnight parking at the city's recently revamped boutique hotel, located just blocks from both the river and the historic, brick-lined downtown. You can say that again. From the outside, Hotel 43 looks like nothing special, but inside is a mahogany mod-elegance that's new for Boise. Not to mention 12-foot ceilings on the top floor, flat-screen TVs, and a pillow-topped bed that's so comfy, you'll want to hit the hay long before the live jazz ends in the lobby-level lounge. INFO: 112 rooms from $109; 800/243-4622. -R.L.

5. Seattle, WA

PENSIONE NICHOLS
Most of the 10 rooms in the Pike Place Market walk-up share baths, in keeping with the tradition of classic pensiones. But everything is neat as a pin in this budget-priced European-style gem, where breakfast is served at antique wooden tables overlooking the Puget Sound and rooms are appointed with antiques and crisp white linens. (Two second-floor suites include both kitchens and private baths.) Pensione Nichols sits above trendy First Avenue, which bustles with good restaurants and interesting boutiques - so stash your bags, take in the sights, and pat yourself on the back for scoring such a steal. INFO: 10 rooms (some with skylights only) and 2 suites from $120, including continental breakfast; 206/441-7125. -Ali Basye

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6. Santa Fe, NM

THE INN OF THE FIVE GRACES
You wouldn't expect that a place filled with crafts and antiques from Afghanistan, India, and Tibet would feel much like Santa Fe. But somehow the Inn of the Five Graces takes these Eastern elements and creates an experience that is Santa Fe through and through. Arrayed around courtyards and in adobe buildings, the inn is hidden away in one of the city's most historic neighborhoods, the Barrio de Analco. The rooms are rich with the textures of rough woods and the glow of vibrant colors - reds, golds, and deep blues - that suggest exotic locations but offer homey comfort. Here's a spot for anyone looking for a retreat rather than a resort. INFO: 24 rooms from $375; 505/992-0957. -Matthew Jaffe

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7. Denver, CO

HOTEL TEATRO
Conveniently located in the heart of downtown - it's directly across the street from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts - the whimsical boutique-style Teatro offers plenty of city-hotel amenities. Ensconce yourself in a room outfitted with a come-hither bed, Zen-elegant furnishings, theater photographs, and a spacious, marbled bathroom enhanced with a rain shower, flat-screen TV, and oversize tub. Venture downstairs for a pretheater dinner - it's been called the best in Denver - at Restaurant Kevin Taylor ($$$$; 303/820-2600). In the morning, rise and shine to eggs over easy with warm Caprese salad under the 18-foot ceilings at the hotel's Prima restaurant ($; 303/228-0770). INFO: 110 rooms from $165; 888/727-1200. -Lori Midson

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8. Portland, OR

PORTLAND'S WHITE HOUSE
Set in the historic Irvington neighborhood and surrounded by Craftsman-style homes, the inn evokes the city's graceful past, though it's mere minutes (and at the same time a world) away from downtown's hot spots. Uniquely decorated guest rooms, all with private baths, take you back: Picture four-poster beds, cherry armoires, and your great-grandmother's prized porcelain collection. Indulge in fresh ginger or Oregon berry scones during the ample breakfast service. Afterward, let the meal settle with a stroll around Irvington's quiet streets. INFO: 8 rooms from $150, including breakfast; 800/272-7131. -Elisa Bosley

More on Portland: Portland for less

9. Victoria, B.C.

FAIRHOLME MANOR BED AND BREAKFAST INN
Hidden down a lane behind ornate Victorians in the quiet Rockland district, Fairholme is an 1885 Italianate mansion that's just a 15-minute walk from the tourist shuffle of Victoria Harbour. Owner Sylvia Main relocated from Austria and eventually opened the inn in 1999, and her gracious, sophisticated style translates into features like big guest rooms with unfussy furnishings and plenty of nooks for taking tea. The property's 1-acre garden and surrounding neighborhood also offer opportunities for strolling in grand style. In fact, you can't get more regal than Fairholme's neighbor: Government House, home to the Queen of England's representative in British Columbia, hosts visiting royalty from around the world. INFO: 5 rooms from $137 U.S., including breakfast; 877/511-3322. -Lisa Taggart

10. Las Vegas, NV

RENAISSANCE LAS VEGAS HOTEL
The strains of Sinatra provide the only clue that you're in Sin City at the nongaming Renaissance Las Vegas. Tucked between the famous Strip and the Las Vegas Convention Center, the AAA Four Diamond Award winner - which at 548 rooms qualifies as a boutique hotel by Vegas standards - is both understated and elegant. Nonwagering types will appreciate the absence of smoke and slot machines. Request a west-facing room for a fantastic view of the golf course at the super-luxe Wynn Las Vegas Country Club. INFO: 548 rooms from $139; 800/750-0980. -J.C. Davis

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