USA: San Francisco and surroundings. -
Experience in USA

USA: San Francisco and surroundings.

Publication date: 3 Apr 2019
  • Experiences USD 123
  • Accommodation USD 452
  • Transport USD 167
  • Total experience USD 1380

GALLERY Fotos y videos del viaje


Know the destination

Six Days on a road trip around SF, Napa and Carmel by the Sea

A Little about San Francisco

San Francisco is in California, in the west coast of the United States of America. The city is famous for many things. Its cable cars (or trams) and the Golden Gate Bridge would probably come on top of the list, but any traveller planning a visit to San Francisco will also want to see surrounding areas such as the Alcatraz prison, Carmel, Monterey, the Big Sur and Napa Valley. San Francisco also has a lot to offer, of course. It has many art galleries, museums and parks to visit; and there are many areas for sightseeing, like its Chinatown, Union Square or the Mission District.

San Francisco has its own international airport, so arriving is easy. You can also arrive by car or bus from Los Angeles or other cities in California. SF has become slightly expensive since many big technological companies expanded from Silicon Valley to the city, but you can save money by moving smartly. As a matter of fact, that is one of the reasons I decided to call this trip ‘Six Days in San Francisco… my way’… Because I rented a car! This not only allowed me to save a lot of money in taxis or Uber services, but also allowed me to set up my own tour at my own terms. I strongly suggest you doing the same. You will enjoy it. I did, at least.

My Trip to San Francisco

First Two Days: Monterey, Pebble Beach, Lobos State Reserve, Carmel by the Sea and the Fisherman’s Wharf

My trip began by renting a car just after arriving, in San Francisco airport. Thus, I skipped the need of going to a hotel to unpack anything. I drove south to Monterrey town first, taking the 17-mile route so I could see Pebble beach and a few golf courses. If you do the same, pay attention to the landscape because you will get many opportunities to stop and admire it. I took Route 1 along Notleys coast to see the Big Creek Bridge and, on my way back from Monterey, I passed by Lobos State Reserve, which is also a nice place to stop for sightseeing. I wanted to end my day with another nice view, so I headed to Monasterio beach to enjoy the sunset.

After sleeping in Monterey (which must not be confused with Monterrey, Mexico), I headed to Carmel by the Sea. It was not far, so it did not take long. There, I went for a walk around its city centre, its art galleries, antique shops and sightseeing its buildings, and I also stepped by the beach. They city is quite picturesque. The beach is relaxing. At the end of the day, I went back to Monterey to sleep. Of course, before doing that I headed for the famous Fisherman’s Wharf to eat something. There are many restaurants to choose there, and the atmosphere is welcoming.

My Two-day Tour to San Francisco

On the next two days, I went to San Francisco city. They call it ‘The city that knows how’ because, as I heard, its community is wise in the organization of its rules, regulations, and how it faces its social problems. After parking my car, I went for a walk in Nob Hill neighbourhood. That is the area in which you see streets going up and down in the movies, so you will recognize it easily when you arrive. Then, I went to visit Union Square, the Dragon Gate and, of course, the famous San Francisco Chinatown. I also visited the Fortune Cookie Factory, and my opinion is that you should include it in your plans if you are in the area. I closed my day by visiting the docks. There are many restaurants at Pier 33, so I had dinner there. Next, it was time to relax at the hotel.

On the fourth day, I went to the Golden Gate Bridge. I passed by the building in which they film the ‘Full House’ TV show and then I headed to Alamo Square. After some time there, I went to Mission District, known for its graffiti on 24th Street and its surrounding areas, like Balmy Alley. There are more things to see if you head to Mission Dolores Park or the Castro neighbourhood, but I did not want to miss taking a tour to the Alcatraz prison so that was my next stop. I spent three hours in Alcatraz, almost a whole afternoon at ‘The Rock’. I will not spoil anything about that prison. I will just say it is one of the musts if you go to San Francisco.

My Last Two Days: Sausalito, Muir Woods and the Napa Valley

On my fifth day in San Francisco, I drove to Sausalito. The main attractions in Sausalito are its fishing ports and the floating houses at Waldo Point Harbor, so I went to see both. I had lunch at ‘Viña del Mar park’, and then, at about 2 p.m., I headed to the Muir Woods forest. Muir Woods is known for its giant trees, and they are indeed huge, showing me that nature really thrives when giving it enough time. I ended my day by driving to Napa Valley and checking in my hotel. I had a couple of hours left before going to bed, so I visited the Oxbow Public Market and I had dinner in its downtown. By the way, Napa Valley is north-east from San Francisco. Getting from San Francisco to the Napa Valley took me about an hour and a half at a reasonably fast speed.

On my last day, I went to visit Napa Valley’s vineyards. They were one of the best things to see during my trip. A day usually allows you to visit three or four vineyards, and you can stop at Yountville town to have lunch. I recommend you visiting Sattui Winery, Castello di Amorosa and Napa Mumm vineyards. If you have time for a fourth one, then my next in the list would be going to Sonoma (which is west from the Napa river) and visiting the Domaines Carneros. You will quite likely spend the whole day there, like I did.

Heading back to San Francisco on my last morning, I stopped at the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge to admire a mesmerizing view of the city.

DAY TO DAY Itinerary day by day

The prices that appear per day are referential and correspond to the sum of activities that were made that day

    DAY 1 USD 5

    I rented a car, so I could move around as I wanted. First, I drove for two hours to Monterey. Once I checked in at my accommodations, I took the 17 Mile route to see beautiful golf courses and Pebble Beach. Then, I went along Route 1 South and the Notleys coast to see the Big Creek Bridge. I drove back to Monterey and passed by Lobos State Reserve. My day ended watching the sunset at the Monasterio Beach.

    DAY 2 USD

    I drove to Carmel by the Sea to see its incredible beach. I also took a walk around the city centre, so I could see all its picturesque buildings and its art galleries and antique shops. Then, I went back to Monterey and visited the Fisherman’s Wharf. There are good restaurants there, and a nice landscape, so it was a great way to end my day.

    DAY 3 USD

    I went from Monterey to San Francisco. After checking in at the hotel, I went for a walk. I visited Nob Hill neighborhood, where I saw the hills go up and down, like in the movies. Then I visited Union Square, the Dragon Gate, Chinatown and the Fortune Cookie Factory. Then I saw the very strange street of Lombard Street (strange because one section of it is a zigzag). Lastly, I went to Pier 33 at the Fisherman’s Wharf because there are many good restaurants and souvenir shops there.

    DAY 4 USD 46

    I went straight to the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning. Then, I went to the house in which they film ‘Full House’, and then I went to Alamo Square. Houses have a nice architecture there. I finished my morning in Mission District, where I saw the famous graffiti at 24th Street and Balmy Alley. In the afternoon, I went for a three-hour tour to Alcatraz prison, also known as ‘The Rock’.

    DAY 5 USD 14

    I drove to Sausalito. There, I saw its fishing port and the floating houses at Waldo Point Harbor. In Sausalito, I had a brunch at Viña del Mar park, and then, at about 2 p.m., I went to the Muir Woods forest to see its renown giant trees. I ended my day driving to Napa Valley and checking in at my hotel. I had some more time before going to bed, so I went to the Oxbow Public Market and I had dinner in its downtown.

    DAY 6 USD 58

    On my last day, I went to see Napa Valley’s vineyards. I saw three, stopping at Yountville town to have lunch. I recommend visiting Sattui Winery, Castello di Amorosa and Napa Mumm vineyards, and if you have time, there is one more vineyard in Sonoma called the Domaines Carneros. On my way back to San Francisco, I stopped on the Golden Gate Bridge to enjoy the view of a majestic San Francisco.

ACCOMMODATION Lodging per night

The lodging that is shown in the list of each night is recommended by the traveler, you can find more similar options. The cost is per person in a double bed room.

Night City Recommended accommodation Type of lodging Cost of the person
Night 1 Monterey Arbor Inn Hotel USD 59
Night 2 Monterey Arbor Inn Hotel USD 59
Night 3 San Francisco Hotel Majestic Hotel USD 93
Night 4 San Francisco Hotel Majestic Hotel USD 93
Night 5 Napa 3 Palms Napa Valley Hotel Hotel USD 74
Night 6 Napa 3 Palms Napa Valley Hotel Hotel USD 74

TRANSPORT Transportation per day

The prices that appear by transport are referential and correspond to what the traveler paid at that moment

Nº Day Origin Destination Link web Type of transport Cost
Day 1 Arpt San Francisco (SFO) Monterey Car Rental X 6 Days USD 120
Day 3 Monterey San Francisco Car Rental USD
Day 5 San Francisco Napa Car Rental USD
Day 7 Napa Arpt San Francisco (SFO) Car Rental USD

RECOMMENDATIONS Tips for your trip

Rent a car for your stay. It will save you a lot of time and money in taxis and transportation. Buy a SIM card for your phone too, so you can have communication.

For lunch, in Carmel I recommend to go to the Treehouse Cafe, a very good place to eat with a nice terrace and in Monterey, in addition to eating something at the pier, you can have a good burger with a beer at Britannia Arms.

In San Francisco, trying pizzas is a must. Go to Golden Boy. They always have something good to eat and with fresh ingredients straight from the pier. Scoma’s Restaurant is another good option. In Napa Valley, go to the Oxbow Public Market, and to Bottega Napa Valley at Yountville town.

Both the 17-Mile Drive and Route 1 will offer you many opportunities to stop and admire the landscape. I recommend not wasting them. Make them part of your tour.

If you have time, in Monterrey you can visit one of the largest aquariums in the world and a world leader in ocean conservation.

For those who like trekking, there are several well-marked routes in the National Reserve of Lobos State that can be done in between one and two hours.

The best time to visit the vineyards are from April to October. You can go any time, but it will be nicer to see its fields covered in green. Avoid going in July or in August because the place will be very hot and probably very crowded too.

Depending on what time your flight departs from San Francisco, you may save yourself a the cost of a hotel night.

I did San Francisco before going to the Napa Valley, but you can perfectly switch and go to the valley first to end in San Francisco. It is up to you.

Important information:

San Francisco is a very expensive and very busy city, so make any reservations you have in mind (hotels, tours and attractions) in advance. That may even save you some money, especially if you plan to visit Alcatraz, which is very popular destination. In Muir Woods, take out parking in advance as well.

It’s hard to find parking in San Francisco, so you will need to be patient. Also, keep an eye for the rules about parking zones and authorized hours. Also, do not forget to curb your wheels when you park, or you will be fined. That helps when you lose the handbrake the car does not go down the slope of San Francisco.

Ask whether the hotel you will stay in has free parking. That can save you some money too. In San Francisco it is difficult to find one that does not cost, though.

The rental value of the car is divided between two people for the 6 days that are rented. Additional expense of US $ 94 between parking and gasoline is calculated. If there are two people, it is US $ 47 per person.

In Napa Valley I was told that the tolerance for drinking and driving was three glasses of tasting. You will not have any problems if you stick by the rules, but it clearly depends on the amount of wine and the size of the glass. Avoid drinking if you drive, or leave the car at your hotel and take a taxi.

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