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2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

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posts: 350
reviews: 110
2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

We have 6 days, with one being blown my flying, so I want to maximize our time there. I've never been to either place. BTW, we're traveling in Feb (brrr).

From all I read and researched, Carmel seems quiet and quaint and I think 3 days will be too much. Point Lobos is a definite must on our list and we threw around driving as far as Big Sur, but was advised by friends we'd see just a much stunning scenery at Point Lobos as Big Sur and, with such a short trip, to shift a day to SF. For me, driving to Big Sur was more about driving on the PCH than Big Sur, kwim?

I just get the feeling we'd just be touching the tip of the iceburg of things to see and experience in SF w/ only 2 days...

Any advice would greatly be appreciated!

(cross posting to SF forum)

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 22,423
reviews: 114
1. Re: 2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

Well the drive to Big Sur Village and to McWay Falls is a great way to see the coast and it complements Point Lobos. I would do 3 in SF and 2 in Carmel

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,753
reviews: 3
2. Re: 2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

Do 3 nights in SF and 2 nights in Carmel.

With 2 nights in Carmel there is no reason why you can't drive down to Big Sur. It's less than an hour's drive and well worth it.

Here's a possible schedule for your Carmel visit:

Leave SF early (by 8:00 am). You can either follow the coast all the way down from Pacifica, or take I-280 down to Highway 92 to Half Moon Bay and start the drive from there. Or continue south on I-280 to Highway 85 south to Highway 101 south to Highway 156 west to Highway 1 south a few miles above Monterey.

Arrive Monterey/Carmel as early as 10:30 am. Head straight for Point Lobos for at least 2 hours. Return to Carmel for lunch and check into your inn or hotel. Take the 17 Mile Drive from the Carmel gate and drive past Pebble Beach, The Lone Cypress Tree, etc. Exit at the Pacific Grove Gate/Seventeen Mile Drive turn. Turn left onto Sunset Blvd and drive past Asilomar Beach, Lover's Point Park, the PG rec trail into Monterey. If it's early enough (between 3 and 4 pm), visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium or walk around Cannery Row. Return to Carmel for the evening.

Next day drive down to Big Sur taking in Bixby Bridge, Pfeiffer Falls Trail in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Pfeiffer Beach, have lunch at Nepenthe, browse the Phoenix Shop off Nepenthe's parking lot, continue 8 miles south of Nepenthe to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see McWay Falls. Return to Carmel, walk pretty Carmel Beach, visit Carmel's quaint shops or drive around town and enjoy looking at the charming storybook homes.

RE: February weather: Could be stormy/rainy or beautiful, sunny, warm days. No way to know for sure this early out. If it's stormy, driving to Big Sur could be precipitous. However.... you will never see a more dramatic coastline when a storm is passing through this area. Could be absolutely stunning.

Edited: 12:57 am, September 20, 2012
Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
posts: 26,027
reviews: 6
3. Re: 2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

If you are short on time, I would skip the 17 mile drive. It is a nice coastal drive but nothing like what you will see in Point Lobos and the Big Sur Coast, unless you are interested in golf courses and expensive houses.

posts: 27,420
reviews: 735
4. Re: 2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

The Tickle Pink Inn would be a lovely place to stay in Carmel. It is in the Carmel Highland's area and has many nice amenities including a terraced hot tub and fantastic breakfast buffet in the morning. Enjoy your trip!

www.carmelcalifornia.com is a nice website for this area. :)

posts: 2,328
reviews: 45
5. Re: 2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

if you have the time, i like doing the 17 mile drive. either pack a lunch and have a picnic at one of the great scenic spots. or if you are a golf fan, sort of cool to stop there for a beverage, meal, walk around. you can't access much of the golf course but

posts: 350
reviews: 110
6. Re: 2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

Thank you and thank you, Kibblesmom, for your well thought out itinerary! I'm saving it to my trips.

Would it be crazy to attempt returning to SFO, from Carmel, on the day we fly out? Our flight is at 1:15p.

My initial thought was to head to Carmel 1st then return to San Fran for 3 days at the end, but our flight gets in at 1 and that would cut into our time in Carmel.

I may just have to add an extra day to our trip! ;-)

posts: 2,328
reviews: 45
7. Re: 2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

i don't think it would be crazy to consider going straight from carmel to the airport. leave carmel early in the morning so you leave yourself time in case of a traffic problem but definitly doable.

San Francisco...
posts: 3,169
reviews: 109
8. Re: 2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

Not quite the same as swimming with the manatees but Would kayaking among sea otters appeal to you? If so, look into tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g32748-d11…

But beware! Feb can be cold and rainy so you need to be prepared with layers and rainwear. Or it could be nice and sunny!

posts: 350
reviews: 110
9. Re: 2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

Thanks to Southwest no change fees, I added a day to our trip, even though we'll be getting in later! Coming from the east coast, you basically blow 2 days up in the air going and coming, so this gives us 5 full days to enjoy...

I will take your advice and do 2 full days in Carmel and 3 full in SF.

We'll head down to Carmel right out of the gate, as the Normandy Inn offers 3 day stays for the price of 2 during the week. Score! Seems to get decent reviews.

My next question is, our flight now gets in at 3:50, so assuming all is on time and car rental goes smoothly, that puts us on the road around 5-530 on a Tues. Will traffic be as horrific as I think? Would love any suggestions for the fastest or most efficient route to Carmel that time of day (we'll save the scenic drive for the drive back to SF).

Kibblesmom, I'll look at google maps for the routes you suggested. Thanks!!

posts: 350
reviews: 110
10. Re: 2 days in San Fran and 3 in Carmel or vice versa?

ALTippet~~kayaking among sea otters sounds amazing, but brrrrr, cold water and FL girls don't mix ;-) Our natural springs are 72f and that is like ice water.

I'll be praying for great weather, but preparing for cold and rainy.