San Francisco is only 7×7 miles, but with so much to do in the city, you’ll never be bored! That said, one of the best things about San Francisco is the sheer number of places to explore outside of the city, too.
If you’re visiting the city and looking to get out and explore for the day, here are just a few of the many options for day trips from San Francisco:
Muir Woods National Monument
Some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the Bay Area are located at Muir Woods. Named for one of California’s most famous environmental advocates, John Muir, Muir Woods celebrates California’s natural beauty and majestic redwoods. Visit the Pelican Inn after your hike to relax on the lawn with a cold microbrew, and wrap up the day taking in the ocean views at Muir Beach. How to get there: The best way to visit Muir Woods is by car. If you go on a weekend, parking is quite rough, so arrive early and plan to add some distance to your hike. You may have to park up to a mile away.
Wine Tasting in Napa Valley
The crown jewel of San Francisco day trips, wine tasting in Napa is a traditional, luxe Bay Area experience. While tasting fees can run up to $30 per person, the wine is among the best in the world. Read more on my four favorite ways to explore Napa Valley. How to get there: Public transit options are available to Napa Valley, but it can be time-consuming, and the wineries are quite spread out once you reach Napa. I recommend joining a one-day van/bus tasting tour. If you have a specific set of wineries in mind that you’d like to visit, an alternative would be to take a transport from SFO airport, like the one provided by Evans Transportation. You can then hire a car/limo in Napa to take you around the wineries for the day.
Wine Tasting in Sonoma
Sonoma is Napa’s sister wine tasting region. It generally features lower tasting fees, and a more relaxed vibe. In my opinion, Sonoma’s best feature is Sonoma Plaza, which has restaurants, tasting rooms and shops. You can occupy yourself all day, without ever leaving the square! How to get there: You can take public transit north to Sonoma, but with all of the transfers, it takes more time than it’s worth (up to four hours). As with Napa, I recommend joining a one-day van/bus tasting tour.
Wine Tasting in Livermore
We like our wine in the Bay Area…can you tell? Livermore is located in the East Bay, and features a far more relaxed vibe for wine tasting. My friends and I describe this area as “a little bit country,” and the wine tasting experience is no exception. If you’re in the mood to relax, spend time tasting outdoors, and pay lower tasting fees, Livermore is just the ticket. How to get there: Take the Dublin/Pleasanton BART line from downtown San Francisco to the end of the line. From there, you can arrange for an Uber/taxi out to the wine region (which is about a 15 minute drive from BART), or you can arrange for a wine tour to pick you up.
Half Moon Bay
When I think of Half Moon Bay, I think beautiful hikes and sweeping ocean vistas. This small seaside community boasts ocean activities and festivals all throughout the year. However, its best features are the stunning Pacific Ocean views you’ll find around every turn. How to get there: If you have a car available, Highway 1 is a beautiful scenic drive that will take you from San Francisco to Half Moon Bay, and beyond.
Golden Gate Fields
Bet on the ponies at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley. Billed as “Where the Bay comes to play,” Golden Gate Fields is the perfect place to spend the day sipping Mint Juleps and trying your hand at a bit of gambling! How to get there: Take BART to the North Berkeley station, where you can grab the free shuttle or a cab to Golden Gate Fields.
This totally picturesque town is ideal for taking in views of the San Francisco skyline. Spend the day on the waterfront strolling on the boat docks, or head out to the water for paddle boarding or sailing. You can’t leave Sausalito without eating oysters – try the oyster happy hour at Seafood Peddler. How to get there: Ferries run daily between Sausalito and San Francisco. Check the Blue & Gold Fleet for schedules and tickets.
Tiburon / Angel Island State Park
Spend the day exploring beautiful Tiburon! Here you’ll find quaint shops, delicious restaurants, and stunning views. Walk along the boat docks before heading out to hike Angel Island. The view of SF from the summit is unparalleled. How to get there: Ferries run daily between Tiburon, Angel Island and San Francisco. Check the Blue & Gold Fleet for schedules and tickets.
Point Reyes National Seashore
Stunning views and rigorous hiking trails will greet you at Point Reyes. It’s the perfect place to picnic and get lost in the hills for the day. Stop in at Point Reyes Station, one of the most charming small towns in the area, on your way to the park to grab a sandwich and explore. How to get there: The best way to visit Point Reyes is by car.
Santa Cruz Hiking
Santa Cruz is not only home to even more awesome ocean views, but also redwood-laden landscapes. Its cool mountain temperatures and eclectic, nature-loving community make the Santa Cruz mountains a perfect destination for lovers of the great outdoors. There are a million beautiful hiking trails in the area, but I personally love the trails at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The park is well maintained and perfect for picnics. How to get there: You can use a combination of Caltrain and buses to get to Santa Cruz from San Francisco, and it will take you about three hours each way. Hiring a car for the day is the fastest way to get to there (2 hours each way).
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
If you’re looking for a day of fun with a retro beach flair, look no further than Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Whether you’re looking for rides, mini golf, delicious fried food, or sandy beaches and sun, you’ll find it here. How to get there: You can use a combination of Caltrain and buses to get to Santa Cruz from San Francisco, and it will take you about three hours each way. Hiring a car for the day is the fastest way to get to there (2 hours each way).
Mt. Diablo is one of the tougher hikes located in the East Bay area. Pack some sandwiches and spend the day getting lost on this mountain and taking in the stunning views of the Bay Area. How to get there: Best accessed by car via Highway 680.
Levi’s Stadium is the new home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers (named for the prospectors who flocked to California in the 1849 Gold Rush). Sparkling and new, the stadium is the pride of the South Bay Area. You can tour the stadium, or relax and catch a game! How to get there: Take Caltrain from the San Francisco Station south to Mountain View Station.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is quite a drive from San Francisco (2.5 hours), but stands right at the “still feasible for a day trip” cutoff. There’s only one word to describe Carmel: CHARMING. This ultra-romantic town is downright adorable, featuring vine-crawled shops and restaurants, bright flowers, and the bite of ocean salt air. Spend the morning exploring Mission Carmel, get lost in the shops and bakeries of downtown Carmel in the afternoon, and end with an evening on the beach. How to get there:Amtrak runs from San Francisco to Carmel, or you can hire a car and head south on Highway 1 for a beautiful, scenic drive.
Sacramento is also a bit of a distance from San Francisco, but well worth the journey for the day! Tour the California State Capitol Museum and spend the morning walking the capitol grounds, before heading to Old Town Sacramento. Once there, explore the famous California State Railroad Museum, or take a carriage ride through town. How to get there:Amtrak runs from San Francisco to Sacramento, or you can hire a car and take I-80 East.
There are so many more awesome day trips to take from San Francisco! Which would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!