Hi. What would be the best place to pick up a rental car so that driving out of SF to highway 1 wouldn't be too stressful?
If you don't want to pick up the car in the city, then return to the airport and get one there. You can BART from downtown to the airport and then get the airport's AirTrain from the International Terminal (closest to the BART station) to the rental car center.
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Thank you, would that drive be fairly straight forward?
Straightforward? Well, it's Bay Area traffic, not a country road. There are multiple ways to get to Hwy 1 ... I assume you're heading for Monterey and Big Sur? Depending on your time frame, time of day and when you want to arrive in Monterey, there would be a variety of recommendations.
SFO to the 280 to the 17 to the 1 would be one way to do it. This means driving briefly north of SFO on the 101 and exiting on the short connector road (380) west to the 280.
OTOH, Highway 1 runs right through San Francisco, so if you were interested in taking it the whole way, you could pick up a car near Union Square, drive west to Highway 1 and head south. You could also visit Ocean Beach and then hook up with Highway 1 just south of there (can hardly miss it). That is if you want to see Half Moon Bay and the other little coastal towns on your way.
Otherwise, the SFO option with the 17 still goes right past Santa Cruz/Henry Cowell Redwoods...
It sort of depends on if you're more worried about getting lost or city traffic. You can rent near Union Square, take Geary west to the Great Highway, turn south and follow the coast (and signs). There's a part that's freeway, but take the Pacific/Hwy. 1 exit and continue.
If you are going to highway 1 from within San Francisco, Do NOT turn onto Park Presidio Boulevard from Geary even though Park Presidio is in fact 1. It continues south of the park as 19th Avenue which is a busy street. Go to the Great Highway per #7. Then you can see the City version of southern California beaches. Quite nice if you live in SF and especially the Outer Sunset. Cold, dangerous waters.