7 Spectacular Day Trips From San Francisco

7 Spectacular Day Trips From San Francisco


San Francisco is a dreamers paradise.  People come from all over the world to admire and photograph the Golden Gate Bridge and bask in the warm weather (it’s not as chilly as people make it out to be- you just gotta learn to layer).  There’s some of the best Mexican food in the world, cable cars rolling up and down the hills, and enough green space/parks for all if everyone decided to have a picnic on the same day.

california love golden gate bridge

It’s electric, moody, exhilarating. To quote Anthony Boudain, “Any one who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me.” Robin Williams even stated, “There’s no question this is where I want to live.  Never has been.”  It’s obvious the City by the Bay holds up to it’s high standards.  And there’s tons to do here.

But what about when you want to get out of the city?  Bored of the burritos and the strenuous steep hills. If such a thing ever happens (the shock, the horror!), there are numerous spots around the area which are all within an hour-two hours drive.

10 day trips from San Francisco | www.apassionandapassport.com

1. Muir Woods

Total Drive Time: 45 minutes

Can you believe that some of the tallest redwoods in the country can be found less than an hour north of San Francisco?  You could spend hours just roaming through the giant, majestic forest, hiking on the many trails around the park.  I came here as a little girl, and after re-visiting a few months ago, I remembered just how magical the National Park is.

If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, you’ll surely find it here, as there is no cell service.  It’s good to put down your technology every once in a while, you’ll be ok, I swear!

Plus, the drive through the coastal mountains is a treat in and of itself.

Muir Beach and Muir Beach Overlook shouldn’t be missed either! Two spots that are still on my San Francisco bucket list!

muir woods marin california

muir woods california

2. Wine Country

Total Drive Time: 1 – 1 1/2 hours

No trip to San Francisco is complete without sipping some wine in Napa Valley and/or Sonoma.

There are dozens of gorgeous vineyards, many with their own private wine tasting.  Remember to be safe though! If you wind up needing to stay the night, I highly recommend the Andaz Napa.  That’s a whole night of bubble baths you surely won’t forget!  I’m talking from experience here people…

When you’re not touring a vineyard or stomping on your own grapes, check out downtown Napa, go olive-oil tasting, and/or get a revitalizing massage.

Something else to add to the bucket list – a hot air balloon ride over Napa. The ultimate experience, which I treated my husband to on a cool, autumn day!

Hot Air Balloon Ride in Napa | www.apassionandapassport.com

10 Vineyards to Visit on Your Next Trip to Napa Valley | www.apassionandapassport.com october-61

10 Vineyards to Visit on Your Next Trip to Napa Valley | www.apassionandapassport.com

3. Half Moon Bay

Total Drive Time: 50 minutes

Sure, there are a few beaches in San Francisco proper, but the beaches in Half Moon Bay aren’t filled with (as many) tourists, probably ‘cause they’re a bit further and less well-known.  Win-win for everyone, right?! My favorites are Poplar Beach and Miramar Beach.  Plenty of dogs running and splashing in the water.  The water is still chilly (it’s the Pacific- nothing we can do about that!), but the Coastside Trail (with it’s stunning views and wild flowers) can’t be beat.  If you like horseback riding, this is one of the best places to go for a ride in all of the Bay Area.  I recently rode “Thumper” with Sea Horse Ranch (my first time EVER on a horse), and felt perfectly comfortable – we even rode on the beach!

Don’t miss Sam’s Chowder House, which serves the most tantalizing buttered lobster rolls, and you guessed it, clam chowder.  Choose a table on their balcony- I promise, you’re in for a treat.

And while you’re over there, I strongly urge you to grab a cocktail at the Ritz Carlton and admire the views of the Pacific.  What can be better after a day of sunning at the beach?  They even have outdoor fire places (note, bring some marshmallows)- how cool is that?

half moon bay california

half moon bay sams chowder house

half moon bay california

4. Marin Headlands

Total Drive Time: 30 minutes

Cross the bridge and you’ll arrive in the Marin Headlands, but don’t go farther without making a pit-stop at the Vista Point.  Not many visitors know this, but some of the best views of the Golden Gate bridge can be found on this side of the city.

The Headlands provide enough activities for a few days.  Some highlights include Hawk Hill, the NIKE missile sight, Point Bonita Lighthouse, and Rodeo Beach.  There are miles and miles of hiking and biking trails, all with stunning views of the bridge and city.

Be sure to check out the Marine Mammal Center if you’re interested in learning more about how the area takes care of wounded animals.

If you’re visiting in the fall, be sure to look up, as raptors migrate in this area.  We were there this past November, and stumbled upon a group with binoculars counting sightings of the birds.

Make sure to bring your own drinks and snacks, as there is literally no place in the Headlands to get food.  Come prepared.

hawk hill

Best Places to See (and Photograph) the Golden Gate Bridge >> a MUST do when visiting San Francisco! | www.apassionandapassport.com

rodeo beach marin headlands

5. Sausalito

Total Drive Time: 30 minutes

In my opinion, Sausalito is one of the prettiest towns in the Bay Area.  The area gets pretty busy, but for good reason. Here you’ll find waterfront restaurants (with fresh seafood), cute nautical themed shops, and the popular ice cream shop, Lapperts.

I strongly urge you to pick up a cone of your favorite flavor and sit in Gabrielson Park watching the sailboats go by.  You can take a stroll along the historic waterfront, rent bikes, or even kayak around the bay. Sausalito surely is the place to be on warm, sunny days.

Make sure you stay for sunset – it’s absolutely amazing and like no other (but bring a sweater – it gets chilly at night)!  With views of the bridge and city skyline, it’s a nice place to unwind after a busy week. Longing for a day trip outta San Francisco? Head to Sausalito.

sailboat in sausalito


6. The Peninsula

Total Drive Time: 45 minutes

No one really thinks about heading south to the Peninsula, but there’s actually so much to do here.

A few must do’s:

+ Take a tour of Stanford’s campus

+ Visit the Facebook “Like” Button (you know you want to make all your friends jealous)

+ Hang around some of the neighborhood Downtown areas for a more suburban-y feel.

The Downtown areas of Palo Alto and San Carlos are my favorite.  Be sure to check out CREAM (world-class ice cream sandwiches), Orens Hummus (some of the best Mediterranean cuisine you’ll find), and Sushirrito (yes, they serve sushi burritos) in Palo Alto, and Refuge (for some hardcore Pastrami sandwiches), Cowabunga Creamery (for a large variety of Mariannes Famous Ice Cream), and Blue Line (some of my favorite pizza in the Bay Area).

If you feel like going shopping head to the Stanford Shopping Center, an upscale mall where you’ll find all your big name brands. Confession- I go for the Chipotle, MELT, and Pinkberry! 😉

Make sure to walk around Redwood Shores and the Foster City canals – both areas boast waterfront views, something I absolutely adore once spring hits!

foster city

foster city canals

7. Santa Cruz

Total Drive Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

About an hour and a half south of the city (more or less depending on traffic), you’ll find a slower pace of life and plenty of areas to relax and watch the waves roll in.  Although you could easily spend over a week here, a day trip from San Francisco will provide you just enough time to get your feet wet (figuratively and literally).

Here in Santa Cruz you’ll find quant little cafes, world-class surf spots, hikes, otters and seals splashing around in the water, and local farms and markets (among much more).  I can’t wait to head down this summer for some beach time and board walk amusement time (yes, they have a spinning roller coaster here).

Take the scenic route down Highway 1 –  you’ll drive besides miles and miles of coastline.  Make sure to keep your camera in the front seat!

I don’t care what you do, but make sure you don’t miss out on the famous ice cream shop, Mariannes.  Can you tell I like ice cream a little bit more than the average person? :)  Santa Cruz makes for a perfect and relaxing San Francisco day trip.

santa cruz boardwalk ride

A few more note-worthy San Francisco day trips

(which I hope to explore soon!):

Berkeley, Angels Island, Tiburon, Los Gatos, Treasure Island, + Sacramento

Are you visiting San Francisco soon?!

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