5 Seaside Getaways from San Francisco, CA

  1. Sausalito, CA

This artists’ village is just off the Golden Gate Bridge in upscale Marin County. Most of the small city offers a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Richardson Bay, and many houseboats in the bay. It’s a popular day-trip destination, with sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with trails and villages. Personally, Sausalito reminds me of the Pacific version of the Amalfi Coast! You can use this as a jumping-off point for many of the nearby hikes such as Mount Tamalpais (“Mt. Tam”), the leisurely Tennessee Valley Trail, and Alamere Falls. Spend some time checking out the many galleries, stores and restaurants. Any trip to Sausalito, I love perusing handmade dinnerware at Heath Ceramics (400 Gate 5 Rd, Sausalito, CA 94965)

  1. Carmel, CA

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small beach city on the Monterey Peninsula, two hours south of San Francisco. Historically a Bohemian artists’ village, Carmel-by-the-Sea has been home to many famous people such as Doris Day, John Madden, Ansel Adams, and John Steinbeck. Clint Eastwood was not only a resident, he was elected Mayor of Carmel. This picturesque city of less than 4,000 residents features unique homes including many cottages with minute detailing valued in the millions because of the location. One house which we viewed was decorated with heart-shaped cut-outs decorating the picket fence, the shingles, and gracefully furbishing the interior decorative trim. The lush gardens roll into each other in ever flowing bloom. This is worth a day-trip for a coastal walk and a stroll around the interesting shops, restaurants, and homes.  For a more in depth itinerary check out A Day in… Carmel, Ca!

  1. Santa Cruz Mountains and Capitola, CA

The Santa Cruz Mountains are dappled with houses among wooded forest and many trails to hike. Skip the honky tonk in Santa Cruz proper, and instead head to Capitola Village. Capitola Village developed as a seaside resort when the Soquel Mountains were a thriving location of the lumber industry.  The small downtown area is worth a stroll to look at the Soquel Canal, and iconic Capitola Venetian with it’s brightly colored guest suites. There is a beautiful and brief (10 minute) pedestrian walk along the Soquel Creek. One hour south of San Francisco, the Santa Cruz Mountains are great to slow down and enjoy the serene nature that California has to offer. For a more in depth itinerary check out A Day… in the Santa Cruz Mountains & Soquel Cove!

  1. Half Moon Bay
Part of the walk Coastal Walk near Moss Beach, CA

Half Moon Bay is a charming seaside town approximately 45 minutes south of San Francisco. I enjoy the beautiful Coastal Trail, which is about 11 miles of leisurely coast side walking roads with beautiful waterfront views. The Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay offers free parking for the public who would like to visit the beach. Walk all the way north to Cypress Ave on Moss Beach and back. I enjoy grabbing a beer from Half Moon Bay Brewing company in Princeton Harbor. When the pandemic ends, watch the sunset with a glass of wine and dinner over the fire pit at Moss Beach Distillery, situated on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Beware: Moss Beach Distillery is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of the “Blue Lady”. 

Please note: On the coastal trail, Princeton Harbor does not have a trail and you will have to walk on the streets.

  1. Tomales Bay
Outdoor seating at Hog Island Oyster in Marshall, CA

Road trip along east coast of Tomales Bay. From San Francisco our first stop on Route 1 was Point Reyes Station, the small town which developed around a (now) bygone railroad station. The whole town reminds me of the “Wild West”, with mostly country roads surrounding it. The town prides itself on local produce, agriculture, and organic food. We bought lunch at Cowgirl Creamery in the picturesque Tomales Bay Foods, which has been renovated from an old hay barn. The tiny town has Bovine Bakery, which is worth a delicious pastry! The area has a Farmers Market on Saturday Mornings. Second stop on our coastal road trip is Hog Island Oyster (Marshall, Ca), to relax and shuck your own oysters. It is surprisingly a lot harder than I thought! We brought our CowGirl Creamery picnic here. We spent quite a bit of time relaxing and enjoying the views. Last stop on our road trip was: Nick’s Cove, with renovated historic seaside cottages and restaurant. We ended our road trip here for a glass of wine and a little snack. The beautiful Point Reyes National Seashore is a great day getaway that is often overlooked. The natural landscape also provides many options for hikers, bikers and beach side day trippers. Next time I make it up there, I am going to try to bike!

Cheers to your summer getaways!

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A day in…the Santa Cruz Mountains & Soquel Cove!

The Santa Cruz Mountains are dappled with houses among wooded forest. This is what I picture Marin County, thirty years ago before it was turned over by tech yuppies looking for a rustic home. The “Mountain Folk” as my friend who lives there adoringly calls herself and her neighbors, are friendly and remind you of a bygone era of early California settlers. The Santa Cruz Mountains are great to slow down and enjoy the serene nature that California has to offer. One hour and a half south of San Francisco, this is a great day trip retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

If you like exploring the bay area in day trips, check out my “A Day in” itineraries for Carmel, Oakland, Berkeley, and the Mission District.

Getting there: Continue on 17 from Los Gatos, CA then continue onto Summit Road and a right onto Soquel San Jose Rd. 

Start your morning by getting a coffee and a homemade treat from the female owned Casalegno’s Country Store (3 Laurel Glen Rd, Soquel, CA 95073). It has been around since 1929 and is a great stop for a coffee on your drive through the redwoods of Soquel en route to… 

Spend a few hours hiking the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park (Aptos Creek Rd, Aptos, CA 95003) which offers over 40 miles of hiking trails through 10,223 acres of wildlife. There are so many variations and amount of time you could spend here, you can check out more information here. With so much land, expect to not see many crowds. 

The iconic Capitola Venetian.

After hiking, drive down to Capitola Village and get a well deserved brunch from Zelda’s (203 Esplanade, Capitola, CA) which overlooks the brightly colored guest suites of the Capitola Venetian  and Soquel Canal. Spend an hour looking around the small downtown area. There is a beautiful and brief (10 minute) pedestrian walk along the Soquel Creek.

For those who prefer a leisurely day you could end here, but for those who would like a little more adventure, you can check out some the Wine Trail. MJA Winery Tasting Room, Wargin Winery (5015 Soquel Dr, Soquel, CA 95073), and Alfaro Vineyard Winery (420 Hames Rd, Watsonville, CA 95076) will not disappoint.

MJA Winery Tasting Room

Cap your wine off with some BBQ from the family-owned and delicious Aptos St BBQ (8059 Aptos St, Aptos, CA 95003), they often have live Blues Music playing. Try the tri-tip and my personal favorite, pulled pork sandwich! Those who want brisket, beware that it sells out quickly. Cheers to a relaxing day in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

A huge thank you to Lolo and Ivan for showing me around their beautiful town!

A day in…Carmel, CA

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small beach city on the Monterey Peninsula, two hours south of San Francisco. Historically a Bohemian artists village, Carmel-by-the-Sea has been home to many famous people such as Doris Day, John Madden, Ansel Adams, and John Steinbeck. Clint Eastwood was not only a resident, he was elected Mayor of Carmel. The picturesque city of less than 4,000 residents features unique homes including many cottages with minute detailing valued in the millions because of the location. One house which we viewed was decorated with heart-shaped cut-outs decorating the picket fence, the shingles, and gracefully furbishing the interior decorative trim. The luscious gardens rolled into each other in everflowing bloom.

Timing: We happened to visit Carmel during the Concours d’Elegance (“Competition of Elegance”), an annual event in which illustrious cars are displayed and judged.  The event provided an interesting car (and people) watching all around town. My brother, a gearhead, was definitely jealous, I could tell the color of a car but I knew nothing about make or model. The Concours is normally the second week in August. 

If you like exploring the bay area in day trips, check out my “A Day in” itineraries for the Santa Cruz Mountains, Oakland, Berkeley, and the Mission District.

Addresses: Please note that much of Carmel is a grid system, so most businesses use cross streets instead of a number. 

When I explore a new neighborhood I enjoy exercise, learning about the local culture, and then taking time to replenish and often indulge in some food and drink. Here is how to spend one day in the picturesque Carmel, California:

Morning:

Start your morning at the Carmel Mission Basilica. This is the final resting place of St.Junípero Serra, who founded the first 9 of the 21 Spanish missions in California. You won’t need more than an hour to enjoy this peaceful and well kept historic site. The mission boasts housing the first library of California which started with only 30 volumes in 1778. Those first books and accompanying Franciscan sherpa’s came north from Mexico City’s San Fernando Apostolic College. Many of the original books are far older than the mission itself, having been printed in Spain, probably in the early 18th century and travelled to Mexico and then on to the mission in what was then called “Alta California”. 

After learning about California’s rich mission history of “El Camino Real” (English: “The Royal Road”), enjoy brunch at the nearby Mission Ranch Restaurant. Despite the name the farm is unaffiliated with the mission itself. The restored farmhouse serves as a restaurant and inn. Clint Eastwood owns the 22 acre estate that has views of Point Lobos State Nature Reserve, the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains. On Sunday’s Mission Ranch offers a jazz brunch. Make sure to take a stroll on the property to see the sheep grazing. If the weather permits, try to sit outside. 

The view of Carmel Riverstate Beach.

Burn off your brunch with a walk along the coastal trail between Carmel River State Beach and Carmel Beach. This should be less than two miles, but feel free to turn back at any point. This is also a great car ride. This seaside walk passes many historic houses, don’t miss any of the beautiful detailing on the houses, for modern lovers there is a Frank Lloyd Wright original. The houses mostly remind me of childhood fairytales with abundant beds of flowers, whimsical architecture, and ornate detailing. 

Afternoon:

Drive or walk back into the downtown of Carmel.  Enjoy walking through the shopping district, with many boutiques and smaller locally owned businesses. Carmel-by-the-Sea’s downtown is an outpost for specialty stores: tasting rooms of local Monterey County vineyards, cheese shops, and small bakeries and restaurants. Established in 1899, The Carmel Bakery (Ocean Avenue, Suite 203), is the oldest commercial building in the town. The original owner even lived in an apartment above the bakery! There is a reason this small bakery has been in business for over 100 years: it offers delicious pastries and suburb sandwiches daily. 

Rub elbows with various vintners while sampling local wines at one of the small tasting rooms.  Most of the shops, like most of Carmel-by-the-Sea, are dog friendly. Three tasting rooms that will not disappoint are: Albatross Ridge Tasting Room (Dolores Street between Ocean and 6th Avenue), Caraccioli Cellars (7393 Dolores Street), or Scheid Vineyard Tasting Rooms (San Carlos Street and 7th Avenue). My favorite is the combined art gallery and tasting room, Scratch Wines Tasting Room (Dolores between Ocean and 7th Avenue). It is female-owner by a UCLA alumni, my alma mater! There is also The Cheese Shop (Ocean and Juniper), with its fun selection of cheeses, olives, and wine. For those who would like to sit down in a quaint lunch spot, Tuckbox (Dolores Street between Ocean and 7th Avenue), housed in a 1927 cottage offers tea and snacks. 

I usually am exhausted at this point in the day, so I would recommend relaxing at your accommodation or down at the beach. 

Late Afternoon:

Spend about an hour and a half before dinner to enjoy a joy ride on the famous 17 Mile Road. While the entrance ticket seems like a rip off; the houses are extravagant, the sunset views are magnificent, and it hosts the ‘golf capital of the world’, Pebble Beach.  On this path is the well-esteemed Pebble Beach Resorts which has hosted the U.S. Open six times. Pebble Beach Resorts has a small visitor center, which is worth the visit to learn the history of the iconic golf course. I would recommend getting a sunset drink at one of Pebble Beach’s sundrenched restaurants that offer outdoor seating: The Bench or Stillwater Cafe. At both, you should expect steep prices and affluent clientele. 

Evening:

For dinner there are many options: Forge in the Forest (Junipero Street and 5th Avenue); order tapas and enjoy live music at Terry’s Lounge at Cypress Inn (Lincoln St and 7th Avenue); if you enjoy farm-to-table asian fusion with a piano bar, Affina (6th and San Carlos Street) is the place to go. Both Treehouse Cafe and Vesuvius offer rooftop dining. Treehouse offers a global menu while Vesuvius (owned by Chef Pepe, who owns the Carmel Bakery) has great italian fare.

While Carmel is not known for their nightlife, you could venture to get a cocktail at one of the rooftop lounges: Vesuvius or Starlight Rooftop Lounge (6th Ave), or get some live music at Barmel which sometimes turns into a dance party.