I was in Cupertino visiting my mother and needed a place to stay the night before taking care of business in San Francisco the next day. I had no desire to drive to SF late at night, so I planned in advance to find a place to stay in Silicon Valley. A cheap hotel, but preferably one that would help me fulfill my Diamond status requalification.
I knew there were several options. In fact, there’s a new Hyatt Place opening in Cupertino quite soon in place of the old Texaco station across from my elementary school. But for now, I had to head out a little further. I originally booked a Hyatt House near Milpitas on an $89 AAA rate and later tried to change it to an $84 rate when prices dropped. But Hyatt.com was acting up (no surprise) and when I later re-ran my search, I noticed that the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara had an even lower $75 “special” rate (more about this later).
This experience re-iterates two of my rules for booking hotels. First, book refundable rates. They are usually only $5-10 more for a mid-priced or budget hotel but allow you to take advantage of changing rates. This is something I only began to realize recently. Second, always check every rate and option you see. If I had fixated on the original Hyatt House, I would have missed an even better offer.
The HR Santa Clara was a few miles closer and offered more amenities. Because it was a holiday weekend, the Regency Club was closed, and I received 2,500 bonus Gold Passport points and a full breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant, Tusca. This is superior to the standard continental breakfast in the lounge and in addition to my usual 1,000 bonus points as a Diamond member. 3,500 points is 20% of the way to a free night at some Park Hyatt properties, and when you compare it to the ~500 points I earned for the stay itself, it becomes apparent how elite status can become so addicting. Heck, after deducting $15 value for breakfast, I really only paid $60 for the room.
Self-parking was complimentary, and there were spaces only a few dozen feet away in front of the main entrance. Check-in was swift, and although I didn’t get upgraded to a suite, I did get a fairly nice room on the thirteenth floor. Not being the superstitious type, I love when hotels actually have a thirteenth floor and don’t do something stupid like renumber it. If they’re that paranoid, just leave an empty floor in between for maintenance supplies.
I only have two real complaints about my entire experience, and both regard check-in. First, the complimentary breakfast wasn’t made clear. It’s almost like I had to ask for it. The clerk only told me that the lounge was “open” but wouldn’t have any food or beverages. More importantly, the water was shut-off during the night for maintenance. There were flyers at the front desk indicating that the usual $4 water bottles in each room would be free to compensate for the inconvenience, but the clerk didn’t say anything. I managed to be aware of these details anyway because I’m pretty observant and keep myself informed, but I think it’s the responsibility of the front desk to verbally convey them. She didn’t even hand me one of the flyers with my key.
It has been a while since I’ve been in a room with so much blonde wood. Although much of it was pine, which I normally associate with cheaper or dated furnishings a la IKEA, it was actually quite nice and modern. The tan and white color scheme with occasional bursts of orange was cheerful and much more pleasing than the baby blue in the hallways. Just close your eyes after exiting the elevator.
The layout of the room was also very pleasant. It was just big enough without being too large. An interesting wheeled door (from an engineering and design standpoint) enclosed the shower and bathroom, the ironing board was hidden behind the full-length mirror, and the robe was out in the open in a cubby next to the luggage stand. I didn’t have any trouble finding anything, and the lamps lit the room very well and evenly.
My favorite part of the room was the desk and chair. The room had a long desk built into the far wall below the window. I love when desks face the window so I can get a nice view while working without an annoying glare. On the desk was a collection of magazines I would actually want to read, like Dwell, Kiplinger’s, and Hyatt Escapes. (Well, maybe only I want to read Destination Hyatt, which profiles Hyatt properties around the world.) Adding to the good design, there was a leather Eames lounge chair and ottoman, which I used to relax and read the newspaper before bed.
Needless to say, my fiancée, Megan (an architect) was very jealous she wasn’t with me to enjoy a room that epitomized her design aesthetic. Neither of us cares for big, ornate furniture that does little more than fill up space and look expensive. This furniture was simple, but it was all very functional and worked well. The good lighting and use of color made the room pleasant to inhabit. In short, it was the complete opposite of our disappointing stay at The Venetian last month.
I didn’t try any of the amenities because I was here for a quick stay. I will mention that it is directly across from the Great America theme park, attached to the Santa Clara Convention Center, and close to many major businesses in north San Jose and Santa Clara. There’s also a pool on the property, but I didn’t see it. I’ll try to take better notes on pools in the future. You’ll recall I enjoyed the pool at the Hyatt Place Las Vegas recently, but I never took a photo of the indoor saltwater pool at the Hyatt Olive8 or took a dip even though it was more impressive.
The lobby felt a bit small, as did the restaurant, but it looked like this was a hotel meant for just business (I saw almost all business travelers at breakfast the next morning, most of whom dined alone). There was almost no socializing that I could see, nor a place for it to happen. At least the hotel offered 20% off (no alcohol) for Diamond guests making purchases in the lobby. It also provided nifty black room keys for me, which I haven’t noticed before.
Even with a nice room and convenient location, breakfast is a big part of how I select my hotel accommodations. It’s my favorite meal, and the biggest benefit for me of being a Diamond elite with Hyatt’s Gold Passport program. I like that Hyatt’s breakfast menus offer a mix of “local” fare and comfort food, though I sometimes feel the local entrees are so creative that I’m no longer interested.
That was the case this time, and I opted for a standard eggs and bacon. It was good but not great. The potatoes were a combination of a very fine julienne and a tiny dice. Basically I couldn’t scoop or stab them, and the mix made it difficult to eat (like frisee). Everything else was good… just too much. I haven’t been working out lately and my appetite has left me, so I feel like I need to start ordering half portions. But maybe my bad mood was just the awful sunburn from the previous day giving me a headache.
In any case, this hotel definitely impressed me and ranks among the top hotels I’ve stayed at in recent memory. Not surprisingly, other Hyatts are also on that list, but I will definitely be coming back here the next time I’m in Silicon Valley. Maybe I’ll even go back to Great America. 😉