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One day trips out of SF?

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Pirkkala, Finland
posts: 15
reviews: 19
One day trips out of SF?

I'm travelling with my wife a long way to San Francisco next March. We'll be staying there (in Chancellor at Union Square) for eight days. I was thinking if I shuold rent a car and drive outside San Francisco to see something else besides the city itself and get back to the hotel for night. Other option is to try to find some agency which arranges that kind on journeys (minibus or something like taht??). What would you suggest? First of all, where to go to and secondly, does the traffic take most of the time or would it be worth to rent a car?

phila., pa.
posts: 1
1. Re: One day trips out of SF?

take the first few days just to enjoy the city. the public transportation is reasonable, convenient and easy to navigate. Then drive down to Carmel and Big Sur ( rental car). Then head north to the wine country and the national forests ( rental car or tour bus). My wife and I go every two years and always have a great time and always find new places to visit. Check various web sites and gather as much information as you can. Have a great trip and Good Luck!

posts: 182
reviews: 3
2. Re: One day trips out of SF?

I agree with those recommendations. Also Napa and Sonoma would be a nice two day trip (wine tasting etc).

I think 8 days in San Fran is alot personally.

Enjoy your trip!!!!

Tucson, Arizona
posts: 1
reviews: 4
3. Re: One day trips out of SF?

I am just in San Fran right now and took a day trip to Carmel (rent a car). It's a 3 hr trip one way, see the sunset!!! Great shopping and just relaxing. Not a lot to see. Definatley do the Napa/Sonoma wine tour with a little tour bus (approx. $75). It's a day trip and totally worth it. Starts at 8:30am. Small tour bus w/ approx. 10 passangers. Intimate setting and very customized. Muir woods is also great, I think it is 1 hr. north. Take the ferry to Sausalito/Tibueron for a day (shopping and relaxing again). Take a sweater, it always gets cold on the ferry/the water. HAVE FUN!!!!!

Annapolis, MD, USA
posts: 195
reviews: 1
4. Re: One day trips out of SF?

If you enjoy hiking, Pt. Reyes National Seashore is a great day trip. A car is necessary. It is about 1 hour north along the coast and features terrific trails and hikes ranging from easy 8 milers to fairly rigourous 12-14 milers. The landscape is surreal. Ocean cliffs, pine forests, white deer...fresh water lakes...The drive up California 1 is spectacular...There are a few little towns on the way; Stinson Beach and the reclusive Bolinas, that are interesting, alternative little beach towns.

Also nearby San Francisco is Muir Woods, which you can see on a bus tour from SF. A beautiful Redwood Grove with a 3 mile mostly flat trail, this trip can be accomplished in about a half a day. All of the area just north of San Francisco is parkland; The Golden Gate National Recreation Area...The Marin Headlands can be explored on foot. Just walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, take the pedestrian underpass and walk up the hill...the views are amazing.

Santa Cruz is a interesting little beach town. There is a great little wooden roller coaster right on the beach. Again, the drive is very nice. About 1 1/2 hours south of San Francisco on California 1, it is an easy day trip. Have a great stay.

Pacific Grove...
posts: 1,541
reviews: 51
5. Re: One day trips out of SF?

Lots of great suggestions. I just want to clarify that the trips south to Carmel that people are suggesting include taking the extra hour and driving right along the coast on Highway One. It is a spectacular drive, and the chances are that in March all the hills will still be green and lovely (they turn yellow in the sun fairly quickly here.)

If you DO decide to go that far south, make sure to drive at least another 20 minutes further and get a glimpse of Big Sur. The Monterey Aquarium is definitely worth a visit. I think you would enjoy spending a night in Carmel.

Seattle, WA
posts: 82
reviews: 2
6. Re: One day trips out of SF?

You can use San Francisco as as base and visit the Napa Valley one day (it's an hour drive, approximately), go for lunch, visit some wineries and take a tour at one or more of them, sample their tasting rooms, etc. That's a lot of fun. Great restaurants up there - Mustard's Grill, Pinot Blanc, two of my favorites.

San Francisco for 8 days is a lot, but there is a lot to see - museums, Union Square vicinity, Chinatown, Nob Hill, NorthBeach (SF's Italian neighborhood), the Marina district with marvelous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, etc. Go to Muir Woods to see some of California's ancient Sequoia/Redwood trees - the scenery there is incredibly beautiful - you've never seen such big trees!

You can drive north to Napa one day, and use another day to drive south to Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur - the town of Carmel is especially charming - loaded with galleries, restaurants, cafes and shops - everyone there is so friendly and welcoming, too!

Have a wonderful trip!

Santa Cruz, CA
posts: 239
reviews: 3
7. Re: One day trips out of SF?

Bop down the coast on Highway One, pass through Half Moon Bay, see the parasailing and wind surfers south of there, and come to Santa Cruz. You can see redwoods and ocean here, and it's very pleasant and laid back.

It's an easy and very pleasant drive, only 75 miles. The coast highway is not trafficky at all. As mentioned above, the mustard grass should still be in bloom, and the hills will be very green with bright yellow flowers. (History tidbit: legend has it that mustard was brought to California by the Spaniards, who scattered its seed along El Camino Real, from mission to mission, making the path easier to find.)

The redwoods are easily visited in Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park:


You will really feel as if you've done something special by seeing the redwoods. There is just nothing like them in the world. They are awe-inspiring and tranquil.

Nothern California
posts: 75
reviews: 1
8. Re: One day trips out of SF?

Agree with everyone - 3-4 days in SF, then day trips. Here are the possible day trips in a list:

1. Napa

2. Sonoma

3. Stinson Beach/Pt. Reyes National Seashore/Marin Headlands

4. Half Moon Bay/Princeton-by-the-Sea

5. Santa Cruz (can be combined with above if you like to pack in a lot in one day)

6. Monterey/Pacific Grove/Carmel

7. Big Sur (not technically a day trip unless you like 50% of your day to be driving)

8. Silicon Valley and San Jose (yes, there are things to see in San Jose)

How to take these trips? It depends on your preference. If you like group tours, Napa has them. You might also be able to find a tour to Monterey or Carmel. That said, California is made for driving. We all drive almost everywhere - bad for world resources and pollution, but just how it is. The roads are really well-marked, people drive fairly well, there's a lot of scenery alongside the roads. So it is your choice. Some things you won't be able to see without a car - so you could just rent a car for the last two days and do some driving. Your choice.

How to choose which trips to take? Here's how I'd characterize them:

1. Napa. You really do have to go to some wineries, and eat up there. It is world class and very scenic, rolling hills, etc. I like Sterling Vineyards, not that the wine is the best but they have this cool funicular you ride up in and the view is great. Also you should make reservations at one of the spas for a massage, if you like that kind of thing. Just part of the sybaritic experience. Napa is an OK trip in the rain. Make restaurant reservations if you want to go to the French Laundry (best restaurant in US) 2 months ahead exactly - call them that morning first thing US time.

2. Sonoma. Similar trip, less traveled, less critical mass.

3. Stinson Beach/Pt. Reyes/Marin Headlands. If you get good weather and you like to walk on the beach and hike and feel the wind in your face this is a beautiful area. The town of Inverness is just a crossroads, but there is a good coffee place, and some good restaurants nearby. Also can be combined with an afternoon/evening in Sausalito, which gives you a great view of the Bay and SF, and has a nice little main street, also restaurants on the water, etc. But this is not a good trip in the rain.

4. Half Moon Bay/Princeton-by-the Sea. My personal favorite. Very off the beaten track. Still has feeling of old California hippie days, plus working fishing boats. Great lowkey restaurants, Mezza Luna, Cetrella, Babara's Fish Trap. OK in rain for scenic view of harbor, sitting in funky coffee shops, driving Highway One from SF the view is beautiful and dramatic.

5. Santa Cruz. Have not been there in years. Remember it as a counter-culture kind of town, like Half Moon Bay but much bigger scale. Drive over Highway 17 is tough. Take Highway 1.

6. Monterey/Pacific Grove/Carmel. Good rain choice. Monterey is on the ocean, also has an amazing aquarium that even adults like with this huge fish tank that they even have a shark in. Pacific Gove has nice little shops. Carmel is your classic upscale toursit destination - fancy shopping all close together on a Main Street - a village if you will. Nice beach too. This day trip really would warrant an overnight stay if you wanted one night out of the city - stay at the Tickle Pink Inn, or the Monterey Plaza.

7. Big Sur. One of the most beautiful places I know of, including the deserts of Rajasthan and the fjords between Finland and Sweden and the South of France. But a day trip won't do it justice. You will probably just feel like you missed the best part and sad you spent so much time in the car.

8. San Jose and Silicon Valley. No kidding. Great rain trip. You can drive down Highway 101 and see many of headquarters of the big names in high tech - if you are interested in that kind of thing. Then San Jose has the Museum of Technology and also the Science Museum, really fun even for adults. You can eat increadible authentic Vietnamese food at a bunch of place. Then if you want to play golf or go to a spa, there is a place called Corde Valle that is really nice, Mission style architecture. You could even go to Gilroy which has an incredible number of outlets, and is another 20 minutes south, but still only 1.5 hours from SF.

The California Bay Area is wonderful and I hope you have a great time.


Pacific Grove...
posts: 1,541
reviews: 51
9. Re: One day trips out of SF?

Thanks for your contagious enthusiasm, Lisa. :-)

sacramento, ca
posts: 70
reviews: 16
10. Re: One day trips out of SF?

I recommend visiting Sonoma rather than Napa. Napa is nice, especially if you want to be able to say you "went to Napa." But if you want a more laid-back wine tasting experience with wines that are just as good, do Sonoma. The tastings are generally free, unlike in Napa where tastings are $5 (low) to $25 (high). Also, the traffic in Napa can be quite frustrating.

Recommended in Sonoma:

- Dry Creek Valley, use Healdsburg as the starting point and just drive north. I personally like Preston's wines a lot.

- Ferrari-Carano has the best gardens ever. The are seriously palatial.

- Sonoma Square. Quaint and lovely downtown area.

Berekely is another nice day trip. You can take the BART across the Bay and not have to rent a car. The Cal campus is beautiful and the tower is open again to visitors. You will have unparalleled views of the Bay and you can visit one of the colleges that shaped American history during the Vietnam War. Jack London Station in Oakland is actually pretty nice, too.

Regarding traffic, just time it so that you're not on the road during peak hours and if you're doing the reverse commute, it does make it easier.