9 Weekend Trips from San Francisco Every Local Should Take

9 Weekend Trips from San Francisco Every Local Should Take

By California.com
October 06, 2020

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.

Sure, San Francisco is one of the top destinations in the world, but sometimes, it’s nice to get away from the hustle and bustle to explore more tranquil corners of the state. When you need a break from the crowds, venture off to picturesque coastal towns and historic farmlands, and revel in a slow-paced atmosphere. Weekend trips from San Francisco present a great escape to the most diverse wonderlands imaginable, so get ready to pack your bags.  

 The Weekend Getaways From S.F. to Take Next

Escape to the spectacular coastal town of Mendocino to rejuvenate your spirits in the great outdoors.

Mendocino

Discover the coastal community of Mendocino and recharge in its pristine nature. Hike along the 347 acres of undeveloped seaside bluffs at Mendocino Headlands State Park, bask in the sun at secluded beaches, and let the historic Ford House carry you back to another era. Traverse the 15 miles of lush trails within Russian Gulch State Park—admire the Devil’s Punchbowl along the Headlands Trail, discover the Fern Canyon Trail’s sparkling waterfall, and frolic at the beach at the mouth of Russian Gulch Creek via the Fern Canyon Loop Trail.

Make yourself comfortable at the elegantly designed Little River Inn with sweeping ocean views. Dine at the on-site restaurant, and top off one of the most romantic weekend getaways from San Francisco with a stroll to the Point Cabrillo Light Station.

Discover the lesser-known region of Timber Cove and enjoy a pampered stay by the coastline. Photo courtesy of Timber Cove Resort.

Timber Cove

A short drive along Highway 1 commences an amazing journey. Embark on one of the most popular overnight trips from San Francisco with that special someone—Timber Cove’s secluded landscape makes it a prime romantic getaway in Northern California. A weekend here is all about relaxing and being in the moment, so check in at the Timber Cove Resort and pamper yourself. Soak in the tub or cuddle by the fireplace before exploring Sonoma County.

Traipse through the ancient coast redwood forest of the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, explore the former Russian fur trading outpost at Fort Ross State Historic Park, and hike to the tafoni sandstone formations of Salt Point State Park. After working up an appetite, dine at the resort’s very own Coast Kitchen restaurant, then roam the grounds to find the late Benjamino Bufano’s 93-foot-high Peace Obelisk sculpture and soak up the last rays of the sun. Nights along Timber Cove’s coast are magical, so grab a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate, and admire the stars sparkling high above you.

Make your way to Napa for fine dining, world-class art, and gorgeous scenery.

Napa

Escape San Francisco’s hustle and bustle and head to the very heart of Wine Country. Tucked away between rolling hills of vineyards lies the historic small town that gave Napa Valley its moniker. Established in the mid-19th century, downtown Napa still reminds its visitors of days gone by.

Stroll along the riverfront and Main Street, where Napa Valley Opera House still stands tall since its first production in 1880. Shop for local produce and snacks at the Oxbow Public Market, and browse the art galleries on First Street for a memorable souvenir. Savor exquisite sushi and sashimi at Morimoto Napa, and while away the evening by going for a dip in the pool or soaking in your in-room hot tub at the boutique hotel Hawthorn Suites.   

When in Point Reyes, visit the historic lighthouse and take in the sweeping views of the Pacific.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes is an enviable mountain vacation just 30 miles northwest of San Francisco—you’ll remember it for years to come. Short trips from San Francisco don’t get sweeter than this, so get ready to disconnect and unplug as you explore the blissful landscape of Point Reyes National Seashore. Traverse the many trails of the natural sanctuary, and discover over 1,500 protected plant and animal species. Stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center for a deeper understanding of the area. Hike along Wildcat Beach in the Phillip Burton Wilderness, and witness the stunning Alamere Falls plummeting down a 30-foot-tall cliff.

This weekend getaway near San Francisco also calls for wildlife viewing at Abbotts Lagoon, Drakes Estero, and Sea Lion Overlook before checking in at your Dancing Coyote Beach Cottage. When in Point Reyes, make sure to visit the nearby town of Inverness and dine at the Saltwater Oyster Depot, too. 

Hike up to the 3,849-foot summit of Mount Diablo and be rewarded with vistas of the Bay Area and beyond.

Contra Costa County

Explore one of the best state parks near San Francisco in the heart of Contra Costa County. With 20,000 acres of unspoiled lands, Mount Diablo State Park is a welcome sight to outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. Make your way to the visitor center located atop Mount Diablo's highest peak for thought-provoking exhibits of the mountain’s chronicles, examine the wind caves at Rock City Park, and savor the sweeping views.

Pitch your tent at the Live Oak or Juniper Campground, then hike to the Diablo Valley Overlook to spot the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance as the sun goes down. Make a slight detour on your way back to the city, and pick the cherries on top of your adventure from one of the many local U-pick farms.

Soak in the laid-back vibes of Santa Cruz while enjoying endless activities by the pristine shores.

Santa Cruz

Take the scenic route along Highway 1 to reach Santa Cruz in one and a half hours—if you don’t stop to take pictures—and view all of the highlights. Stroll along the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, admire the rock formations along Natural Bridges State Beach, and witness the migration of monarch butterflies at the Monarch Butterfly Natural Preserve (open from October to February). Cast your line from the 2,745-foot Santa Cruz Wharf (it’s free and you don’t need a license), or head to Riva Fish House to savor prawns and scallops sautéed with butter, chiles, onions, and fresh vegetables. Draw inspiration from the urban forest aesthetic of Hotel Paradox in downtown Santa Cruz, and shop for souvenirs at the Judi Wyant Antiques store across the San Lorenzo River.  

Hit the epic waves of Half Moon Bay, then refuel with ultra-fresh seafood from the local eateries.

Half Moon Bay

No Half Moon Bay getaway is complete without a bike ride along the Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail, which spans 4.7 miles along California’s coast—it’ll quickly lift your spirits after a busy week in S.F. Hit the waves at Mavericks Beach for an addicting adrenaline rush; let The Mavericks Experience teach you how to ride the wave, or rent gear at Mavericks Surf Company if your board stayed at home. Stay at the award-winning Mill Rose Inn and relish in its luxurious atmosphere.

Discover the rich history of downtown Half Moon Bay, and browse its captivating art galleries. At the end of the day, indulge in the butternut squash and mascarpone ravioli with a side of a Caesar salad at Pasta Moon, which has served eco-friendly dishes for over 30 years. Make sure to leave enough space for the gourmet breakfast at Mill Rose Inn, and treat yourself to a deep-tissue massage that will send you to the moon. 

Plan a trip to Monterey for a weekend filled with coastal adventures and historic discoveries.

Monterey

Visiting Monterey is always a good idea. Start your explorations at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or go scuba diving in the Monterey Bay National Sanctuary with Aquarius Dive Shop. Afterward, join one of the many guided tours at Monterey State Historic Park (or use the park’s cell phone tours to discover historic Monterey on your own)—you’ll get to see Cannery Row, California's oldest stone building, the San Carlos Cathedral, and the oldest government building in California.

Refuel with some modern Spanish cuisine at Estéban Restaurant before heading to your room at the historic-mansion-turned bed-and-breakfast: Old Monterey Inn transports you to another era.

Follow the curves of Highway 1 as you explore Big Sur's awe-inspiring natural wonders.

Big Sur

Spanning between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon, the spectacular region of Big Sur attracts visitors from around the world. But you don’t need to worry—this 71-mile-long stretch of California’s Central Coast has so much more to offer than you think. Sea otters swimming in kelp beds, miles of hiking trails leading into untamed wilderness, and fine dining can be found around almost every corner.

A scenic drive along Highway 1 will have stolen your heart within minutes—stop along the way to take photos—and make you crave more. For a rustic-chic experience, dine at Big Sur Roadhouse and stay at one of Glen Oaks Big Sur’s cottages. Or, book a deluxe cliff-top room at Ragged Point Inn to celebrate a special occasion and watch the sunset from your private balcony.

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