San Francisco has everything to keep you busy, with some of the biggest attractions in the United States. Although there is much to explore within the city, you will find many amazing attractions within easy reach from San Francisco. Some of the best day trips San Francisco are just 30-minutes away, while others are much further. The best day trip from San Francisco is about four and a half hours away. While this may seem quite a long distance, the destination is worth it.
Once you’ve checked into one of the best hotels in San Francisco and checked out the top things to do in the city, take one of these tours and enjoy your day.
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Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown & Bay Cruise
Before you embark on one of the best day trips, San Francisco, take a day off to explore some of the major attractions in and around the city. You can fit in many of the top things to do in San Francisco on this 8-hour tour.
The tour begins near the Ferry Building, which provides a view of what was once one of the busiest ports in the world. From there, you will hop onto one of San Francisco’s famed cable cars to Nob Hill. After the serenity of the gothic Grace Cathedral, the next stop is bustling Chinatown.
As the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese enclave outside of Asia, there is much to explore here. From here, it’s on to the ‘most crooked street in the world,’ Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square, where you can satiate those chocolate cravings.
The highlight of the tour is the bay cruise of the historic waterfront. You will cruise past the famous Pier 39 sea lions, pass under the Golden Gate Bridge, and around Alcatraz Island to end your day of sightseeing. One thing to note is that the tour does not include a hotel pick up, drop off, or lunch.
- Tour duration: 8 hours
- Distance from nearest city/town: N/A as the tour is within the city
- Transportation: cable car and cruise ship
Los Gatos: South Bay Wineries Tour
The Los Gatos: South Bay Wineries Tour does not begin in San Francisco. It starts in Los Gatos, or a pick-up can also be arranged within a 15 miles radius of Los Gatos. A trip to this quaint town is highly recommended as the best day trip, San Franciso, for those who enjoy something different. The town has a unique feel tucked away behind the forested Santa Cruz Mountains. The historic downtown is incredibly charming.
One of the best ways to reach Los Gatos from San Francisco is by car, less than an hour’s drive. However, you can also take the bus or Caltrain, which is a longer ride. You can join the tour when you’re in Los Gatos.
The tour begins in Los Gatos and continues to four wineries in the South Bay area. From sampling the best wines from the region to learning about the wine-making process, the tour will give you deeper insights into what wines are all about. The best part – a picnic boxed lunch and refreshments are also included.
- Tour Duration: 6.5 hours
- Distance from nearest city/town: Los Gatos is less than an hour’s drive from San Francisco
- Transportation: car, BART line 60, 61 bus, Caltrain
Sonoma Valley Wine Country
If you are in a group and would prefer to have a fun day tasting various wines, the Sonoma Wine Valley Private Charter is one of the best day trips, San Francisco. The Sonoma Valley is not just about wine but also has beautiful landscapes to admire.
Renowned as the birthplace of California’s commercial wine industry, the Sonoma Valley has a rich history. Comprising 14,000 acres of vineyards, it is home to over 80 wineries and tasting rooms.
While you won’t be visiting all the wineries on this tour, you can customize the tour according to your place of choice. Some of the best wineries in the region are Buena Vista Winery, the original Sonoma Valley winery, the Kunde Family Winery, and the picturesque Benziger Family Winery, to name a few.
- Tour Duration: 8 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: It’s about 45 miles northeast of San Francisco to Sonoma, so it takes a little over an hour to get there.
- Transportation: tour van, Mercedes Sprinter, or executive coach
Silicon Valley Tech Tour
Silicon Valley is a magnet for techies located in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area. However, it is not just techies but also the curious that want to see the headquarters of the most famous names in the business sector.
So if you are one of those eager to explore the birthplace of tech and computers, Silicon Valley Tech Tour is the best day trip San Francisco for you. The trip begins from San Francisco with the first stop at the home of Facebook. Next on the itinerary is Googleplex, the technological playground that makes up the Google Campus. If you’re booked on a weekday tour, you will be able to pick up something special from the Google Merch Store.
Apart from visiting the sites of these tech giants, the tour also covers admission to the Computer History Museum. One thing to note is that this narrated guided tour will only take you to the headquarters but not inside.
- Tour Duration: 9 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: About 40 minutes by car from San Francisco
- Transportation: airconditioned bus or smaller vehicle depending on the group size
Golden Gate Park
Sometimes the best day trips are within the city itself. The Full-Day Self-Guided Bike Tour is a good option if you’re looking for a day to yourself without having to keep up with a guide. To make your day-out easier, you’ll head out with a map and three routes to choose from.
Check out the sights around the area before heading into Golden Gate Park. The 1,000-acre park is one of the most visited parks in the United States. Japanese Tea Gardens, two world-class museums, the Botanical Gardens, and Stow Lake are just some exciting places you can see here.
The park will occupy most of your day but once you’re done exploring the park, look at your map to head to the beach or even the zoo.
- Tour Duration: 1 day
- Distance from nearest town/city: N/A
- Transporation: A current year model bike with a helmet
Anyone who loves wine has probably heard of the world-famous Napa Valley. Located one hour north of San Francisco, there is much to discover here. Home to over 500 wineries that run through a collection of six quaint towns, there is more than wine to enjoy here.
Group tastings are a lot of fun, especially with a close-knit group. So rather than going on a big valley tour, why not take a Private Full-Day Napa Tour and do it in style. Go with your select group and have a fun day. You can select between a six or eight-hour tour in a luxury vehicle with a private chauffeur. Additionally, you can customize the tour to suit your needs.
- Tour Duration: 6-8 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: One hour north of San Francisco
- Transportation: luxury SUV, Sedan, Sprinter Van, or Long Stretch Limo
First-time visitors to San Francisco will undoubtedly want to explore the famous Alcatraz Island or The Rock as it is commonly called. Initially used as a prison for Civil War prisoners, the prison was expanded to become a federal penitentiary. Famous prisoners like Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly were incarcerated here. Although the prison closed in 1963, it was again in the public eye when Native Americans occupied it for 19 months as a sign of protest.
While the island has fallen silent, there is no denying that this is one of the best day trips, San Francisco. The Alcatraz Island and Guided City Tour will give you an insight into what life was like through an audio presentation featuring inmates’ and guards’ recordings. You will spend about 2-3 hours on “The Rock” with time for your explorations.
Before heading to Alcatraz, you will also enjoy a tour of the waterfront and a coffee break at the Ferry Building. Once you’re done touring the island, the rest of the day will be spent exploring popular attractions.
- Tour Duration: 8 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: It’s a short ferry ride to Alcatraz from Pier 33. About 15 minutes, to be precise.
- Transportation: Pick up from hotel or convenient location/ ferry to and from Alcatraz
Redwoods & Wine Country Tour
Okay, so you’re an oenophile and a “nemophilist” looking to satisfy both those interests on the best day trip, San Francisco. Well, we have just the tour for you! On the Redwoods & Wine Country Tour, you will not only get up close to some of the world’s tallest trees but will also enjoy wine tasting.
This full-day tour will first take you into the shadows of these giant trees. Some of the redwood trees are so massive that in the past, people would carve through the trees so you could drive through. That no longer happens as people have become more conscious of their actions. However, getting up close to these trees is quite overwhelming.
Once you’ve satiated the tree-lover in you, head to California’s wine country to indulge further. A gourmet lunch is included in the tour. You can enjoy a three-course meal paired with different wines. However, if you have children with you, you will need to pay separately at the restaurant.
- Tour Duration: 10 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: About 40 minutes from San Francisco
- Transportation: Pick-up from most hotels in an air-conditioned vehicle
Carmel and Monterey
Many people head to the picturesque seaside towns of Carmel and Monterey to enjoy a day out. Both towns stand out for their breathtaking surroundings and old-world charm. The seaside village along Carmel Bay is one of the most romantic destinations. Carmel is truly charming with its fairy-tale cottages, windswept cypress trees, and pristine beaches.
Monterrey is less touristy than Carmel, but it has its special draw. The famous Cannery Row, the historic waterfront fish-packing district, is worth visiting. Apart from these charming towns, the 17-Mile Drive will also leave you wonderstruck.
One of the best ways to enjoy a trip here is on a Guided tour to Carmel and Monterey. As you marvel at nature’s display, you will get deeper insights from your tour guide.
- Tour Duration: 11 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: About 2 hours drive from San Francisco
- Transportation: air-conditioned bus
For someone who wants to enjoy some fun in the sun, head to the beach town of Santa Cruz on Monterey Bay. Sant Cruz sees a heavy footfall of visitors in the summer because of its historic Beach Boardwalk and amusement park.
The Main Beach is also a popular space with its wide shoreline and shallow waters. You’ll find many holidaymakers along this stretch, sunbathing, playing beach volleyball, or building sandcastles. Since the town is just about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from San Francisco, it’s one of the best day trips.
A good idea would be to head straight to Santa Cruz when you land in San Francisco. You can take a private transfer from SFO to Santa Cruz and back when you’re done exploring the town. Alternatively, you could check into a hotel and extend your stay before heading back.
- Tour Duration: Flexible
- Distance from nearest town/city: Two and half hours from San Francisco Airport
- Transportation: SUV or Sedan
The seaside town of Sausalito in Marin County is another of the best day trips San Francisco. The scenic ferry ride to the town from San Francisco is often referred to as one of the most exciting rides in the world. Apart from the ride, the destination itself is special.
The picturesque town is similar to a Mediterranean fishing village. Moored along the waterfront, you will find a quaint community of floating homes. Downtown Sausalito is where most people choose to spend their time. The National Historic Landmark District has much to offer with its Victorian-era buildings filled with interesting boutiques, restaurants, and cafes. Once you’re done exploring the historic district, take a stroll along Bridgeway, where you can enjoy beautiful views of the marinas.
You can combine your trip to Sausalito with a tour of Muir Woods and SF Bay Cruise. This half-day tour begins with a 90-minute stop at Muir Woods before moving on to Sausalito. Your last stop after returning to San Francisco will be a one-hour cruise of the bay.
- Tour Duration: 6 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: About 45 minutes to Muir Woods from SF and another 20 minutes from there to Sausalito
- Transportation: Luxury air-conditioned coach/cruise boat
Many visitors to San Francisco find the best day trip from San Francisco to marvel at the big trees is a trip to Muir Woods. Three well-groomed hiking trails make this an easily accessible forest. It’s one of the closest redwood forests in the Bay Area, just 12 miles north of San Francisco.
If you’re short of time, you can combine the Muir Woods Tour with a tour of the wine country. On this particular tour, you’ll not only get to marvel at these towering trees but will also indulge your taste buds. From Muir Woods to Napa and Sonoma with a photo op at the Golden Bridge, this tour is perfect for those who want more.
- Tour Duration: 10 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: Approximately 45 mins from San Francisco
- Transportation: Eco-friendly mini-coach
Undoubtedly the best day trip San Francisco is to Yosemite National Park. While it is a bit of a drive to the park from San Francisco, the destination is worth it! Situated in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the park is breathtaking.
Yosemite National Park may not be the most amazing national park on earth, but that does not make it any less spectacular. The park is a designated World Heritage site, renowned for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, giant trees, etc. With 1000-foot waterfalls and crystalline lakes, Yosemite Valley will mesmerize you. You will need more than a day to discover all the park offers.
However, on this tour, you’ll spend about four hours in the Yosemite National Park. While one hour is a guided tour, you’ll have three hours to yourself to explore any park area you want.
- Tour Duration: 13 hours
- Distance from nearest town/city: About 4.5 hours from San Francisco
- Transportation: Luxury air-conditioned coach
Just So You Know
- San Francisco is home to one of the ‘most crooked’ streets in the world. Lombard Street has eight steep and sharp turns, a great place to test your driving skills!
- Both Irish coffee and denim jeans were invented in San Francisco
- If you’re looking for places to stay in San Francisco, you’ll find plenty to suit all budget types. From the best hostels in San Francisco to the best luxury hotels in San Francisco, there is no shortage of accommodations.