Using San Francisco as a base, take a tour up or down the stunning Pacific coast of California. Whether you are looking for surfing spots, rugged scenery, food, history, or marine life, here are a few tours that will highlight the area’s best.
Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea, neighboring towns on the south end of Monterey Bay, about 120 miles (193 kilometers) south of San Francisco, are the most popular day-trip destination. Attractions include Monterey Bay Aquarium, Old Fisherman’s Wharf, and Cannery Row in Monterey and the shops and restaurants of idyllic Carmel. Pebble Beach is also in this area, part of the 17-Mile Drive along the Pacific coast. If you’d rather head north of the city across the Golden Gate Bridge, Point Reyes National Seashore and Tomales Bay, known for oysters, draw both locals and visitors on day trips.
Enjoy more time on the California coast by opting for a 2- or 3-day tour that may take you as far south as Los Angeles. Check out the amusement park activities of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk; take in the dramatic scenery along the coastal stretch of Big Sur, particularly the Bixby Bridge; visit Hearst Castle; and explore the Mediterranean-like atmosphere of Santa Barbara. Monterey and Carmel are typically included on these multi-day tours as well.
Things to Know
Highway 1 is the iconic California road that snakes along the coast from top to bottom, but it’s two-lane in most sections and can be heavy with traffic; note that some tours take different routes to reach destinations, meaning you might not drive along the coast the entire time.
Multi-day trips can be either one-way or round-trip; make sure to check those details to suit your travel plans.
Most visitors head south of San Francisco on these kinds of tours, so if you’re looking for something a little more remote, head north instead past Sonoma County and toward Mendocino.