15 Best Day Trips From San Francisco

By Deepak Kannan on Feb 01, 2017
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Characterized by the Golden Gate bridge, foggy skyline, victorian roofs, and a contagious nightlife, San Francisco is a bit of everything. The most happening tourist destination will undoubtedly keep you occupied with its charm and it is very easy to just go with the flow of the city and not explore the gorgeous surroundings.
But take time off from the city of San Francisco and explore these 15 exciting day trips from San Francisco that will make your trip fantastic. From stunning coastlines to beautiful vineyards to soothing nature, you have it all!

1. Napa Valley

Napa Valley - ideal day trip from San Francisco

Image Credits: Malcolm Carlaw/flickr.com

Just the name evokes your senses and you can already feel the aroma of the wine dragging you to Napa Valley. Considered as one of the top wine regions in the world along with France, Napa Valley is for wine enthusiasts who crave for wine and study history with the origin of the wine bottles. Take a romantic walk along the vineyards adorned with hanging red-wine grapes or just fly away in a hot-air balloon for an uplifting experience.
How to reach:
  • Drive on I-80 E, takes around 1 hour 19 minutes. 
  • Train from Civic Center/UN Plaza to El Cerrito Del Norte BART. From El Cerrito Del Norte BART hop on a bus to Soscol Transit Center. Napa Valley Train stop is just at walking distance from Soscol Transit Center. Time taken is around 2 hours 46 minutes. 


Planning a vacation? Start here: San Francisco Trip Planner

2. Stinson Beach

Image Credits: Mark Gunn/flickr.com

Stinson Beach is where you can see the love the Sun has for the bay, as it comes down to kiss it Good Night. Carpeted in a white powdery sand and a beautiful oceanfront, Stinson Beach is one of the best beaches in Northern California that is complete with activities like swimming, hiking, surfing, picnicking, and sunbathing. One of the popular day trips from San Francisco, Stinson beach is preferred by most, given the prime location of the beach which is surrounded by plenty other attractions.
How to reach:
  • Drive via US-101 N and Panoramic Highway. The time taken is around 50 minutes. 
  • Take a bus from Lombard St & Fillmore St to Manzanita Park & Ride Lot and Manzanita Park & Ride Lot to 4813 Shoreline Highway. The time to reach is around 2 hours 20 minutes. 

3. Sonoma

Image Credits: Bruce Tuten/flickr.com

If there is one place in U.S. which can give Napa Valley a run for its money, then it is definitely Sonoma. A historic city in the Sonoma Valley, the city of Sonoma with a Mexican Colonial Past is also a premiere wine destination with a vast variety of wineries. Experience the best of the Sonoma by interacting with the winemakers & the farmers and understand the mouth-watering process. Sonoma is also famous for the Sonoma International Film Festival and spas.
How to reach:
  • Drive either via US-101 N or I-580 W, the time taken is around 1 hour.
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4. Santa Cruz

Image Credits: frankjuarez/flickr.com

The pacific beauty of Santa Cruz with its naturally gorgeous coastline, redwood forests, and a vibrant lifestyle is a day trip worth visiting from the city of San Francisco. Soak in the colorful charm of the city of Santa Cruz by visiting the iconic Santa Cruz Beach boardwalk which offers absolute fun for families and kids alike. For the adventurers who seek to go on a thrilling escapade, the redwood groves will be an amazing hiking destination. 
How to reach:
  • Drive via US-101 S and CA-17 S, you will reach Santa Cruz in about 1 hour 10 minutes.
  • Ride on a direct Greyhound bus from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, the time taken is around 2 hours. 
  • Get on a San Francisco Caltrain to Diridon Station. From Diridon Station to Santa Cruz Metro Cente travel in a bus. The total time taken is around 2 hours 20 minutes. 

5. Point Reyes National Seashore

Image Credits: jar [o]/flickr.com

A 71,028-acre lush green park, a 145-year-old Shutter Island look-alike Lighthouse, and Douglas fir forest are what that defines Point Reyes National Seashore. Expansive with its rocky headlands, crashing waves, and forested ridges, Point Reyes National Seashore is a getaway from the mundane routine of life. Home to over 1500 different species of plants and animals, Point Reyes is ecologically wonderful and is a fantastic place to relax and let go of all the stress. 
How to reach:
  • Drive either via Sir Francis Drake Blvd or U-101 N, the time taken is the same which is around 1 hour 30 minutes. 
  • Bus from  Lombard St & Fillmore St to San Rafael Transit Center and San Rafael Transit Center to Bear Valley Visitor Center. From there hire a taxi. Time taken is around 3 hours. 

6. Carmel by the Sea

Image Credits: Pixabay.com  

While the name makes you wonder if you are being tricked with some make-up names, you should drop that thought right away as Carmel by the Sea is for the real and the storybook town will make you fall in love again. Attracting celebrities for more than a decade, the scenically beautiful place of Carmel by the Sea is known for its aesthetics and artistic history. Take a trip to this European style village and connect with the creative artists and poets. No wonder the 'Carmel the Sea' sounds like a poem!
How to reach:
  • Drive on US-101 S, the time taken is around 1 hour 50 minutes.

Check out: Best Places To Visit In San Francisco For Kids And Adults

7. Sausalito

Image Credits: Miwok/flickr.com

I am sure you will be floored just by the picture and that you need not want to hear any more about Sausalito. But I cannot stop myself from talking about this picturesque residential community. Set in the San Francisco Bay area in the Marin County, Sausalito is a little seaside town that is inviting with its shipyard neighborhood and adorable beachfront. Enjoy the soothing sunny weather and the stay transfixed at the lovely bay view for Sausalito is one of the best day trips from San Francisco. 
How to reach:
  • Drive on US-101 N, takes only around 20 minutes.
  • Ride on a ferry from S.F. Ferry Building to Sausalito Ferry Terminal, will take around 30 minutes. 
  • Bus from Lombard St & Fillmore St to Bridgeway & Turney St, time taken is around 25 minutes. 

8. Oakland

Image Credits: Dennis Jarvis/flickr.com

Ethnically diverse in nature with a solid infrastructure, Oakland is a less-expensive version of San Francisco and is for those who wish to get the wholesome experience of San Francisco but at a significantly lower cost. Walk around the grand oak trees lining the streets, take part in one of the many festival events, and go sailing on a yacht. From plenty of attractions to see to activities to indulge in and festivals to dance at, Oakland will keep you occupied and is one of the ideal day trips from San Francisco.  
How to reach:
  • Drive on I-80 E, hardly takes 15 minutes. 

9. Berkeley

Image Credits: Daniel Parks/flickr.com

Known worldwide for the University of California, the city of Berkeley offers a special something for everyone. But before you get lost in the Bohemian city, take a trip to the prestigious University of California and explore the campus to its fullest taking pleasure of the imperial classically-styled buildings. When you are done head to the ever-buzzing streets of Berkeley and get acquainted with the charismatic setting to understand the local essence of the place.
How to reach:
  • Drive on I-80 E, takes around 20 minutes from San Francisco.

10. Half Moon Bay

Image Credits: Mitchel/flickr.com

Ah, Half Moon Bay - a fairytale place you think. Resting on top of the Pacific coast nestled in between coastlines and forested hills, the coastal city of Half Moon Bay is as magical and gorgeous as a fairytale town. Looking for a mesmerizing shore to walk along with your loved one, while listening to the rhythmic crashing of the waves, head to Half Moon Bay. Half Moon Bay is one of the picturesque day trips from San Francisco and for the surfers, the surfing event of Titans of Maverick is a no-miss!
How to reach:
  • Drive either via CA-1 S/Cabrillo Hwy N or through US-101 S and I-280 S, the time taken is the same which is around 40 minutes. 
  • Get on a San Francisco Caltrain to El Camino Real & Hillsdale. Ride on a bus from El Camino Real & Hillsdale to Main St & Hwy 92. The total time taken is around 2 hours. 

11. Mendocino

Image Credits: Clinton Steeds/flickr.com

Perched at an elevation of 154 feet, Mendocino is a blend of salty coastline and redwood trees. The main highlight of Mendocino which has been attracting people to take a trip from San Francisco is its scenic location which is surrounded by the never-ending Pacific Ocean. At Mendocino go hiking in the headlands, take a stroll along the idyllic beach shores, and go on an escape to the local wineries for a taste of pleasure.
How to reach:
  • Drive on via US-101 N and CA-128 W, takes around 3 hours 15 minutes. 

12. Muir Woods National Monument

Image Credits: ih/flickr.com   

Looking for a place that you can visit from San Francisco along with your family and friends, Muir Woods National Monument would fit in your schedule perfectly. Explore the trails of the mystically breathtaking 
Muir Woods National Monument that will get you closer to nature with its thriving flora and fauna, showcasing the best of Mother Nature. With activities like hiking, biking, and Ranger-led activities, Muir Woods National Monument is a perfect family day trip from San Francisco. 
How to reach:
  • Drive via US-101 N, takes about 40 minutes. 
  • Bus from Lombard St & Fillmore St to Shoreline Hwy & Pohono St and Shoreline Hwy & Pohono St to Muir Woods Visitors Center. The total time is about 2 hours 20 minutes. 

13. Davis

Image Credits: Andrew Vargas/flickr.com  

Welcome to the city of Davis, while most of us have just stopped walking and are inseparably connected to our bikes and cars, the people of Davis are old school and prefer cycles over cars. That is why a trip to Davis is essential. Lose your ties with engines at Davis and start driving cycles to explore the entire city which gives you a unique experience in comparison to the other day trips from San Francisco. 
How to reach:
  • Drive on I-80 E, takes about 1 hour 10 minutes. 
  • Train from Civic Center/UN Plaza to Richmond Transit Station. Change of train from  Richmond Transit Station to Davis Amtrak. The time taken is around 2 hours 40 minutes. 

14. Gilroy

Image Credits: Antti T. Nissinen/flickr.com  

Nicknamed the 'Garlic capital of the world', Gilroy in Santa Clara county is for the food enthusiasts who love to be in the midst of fresh food. Prepare a checklist and head on to Gilroy to do some extensive shopping. And make sure you visit Gilroy during the famous summer food festival of Gilroy Garlic festival that takes place in the month of July to dive in the exciting food treats on offer and dance your blues away in the live entertainment. 
How to reach:
  • Drive via US-101 S, time taken is around 1 hour 15 minutes.
  • Ride on a San Francisco Caltrain to San Jose Diridon Caltrain. Get on a second Caltrain from San Jose Diridon to Gilroy. The time taken is about 2 hours 50 minutes. 

15. Angel Island

Image Credits: Franco Folini/flickr.com   

Second largest island in the San Francisco Bay area, Angel Island is an ideal place to catch an unparalleled view of the San Francisco skyline. Adorning the Angel Island are charming cafe's and restaurants which will treat your taste buds with the best of flavors. Unspoiled in nature and relatively not known to many, this hidden gem of a place in California is one of the best short trip from San Francisco and should never be missed out!
How to reach: 
  • Hop on a ferry from S.F. Pier 41 to Angel Island Ferry Dock.  on a ferry from S.F. Pier 41 to Angel Island Ferry Dock.
Too lazy to plan a vacation? Just relax and use our trip planner to make the most of your holiday. 
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