Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Without a doubt, San Francisco is an amazing place to be. But it’s just one of many incredible cities in the Bay Area, and there are so many other destinations worth getting to know. Whether you enjoy the outdoors, top-notch cuisine, fun craft breweries, or boutique shopping, the Bay Area has a bit of everything for everyone. It’s so easy to get caught up in city life and become consumed by all the festivals and events going on. But why not branch out and see what else the region has to offer?
Whether you plan to base your stay in the Golden Gate City and want to do some exploring from there, or you’re a local seeking an amazing escape, these getaways from San Francisco are sure to fit the bill. These are some of the easiest and most beautiful weekend getaway destinations from San Francisco.
YOU'RE ALL SET!
Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.
Little River is a tiny town on the California coast, just over 150 miles north of San Francisco. It’s home to the Little River Inn, which is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens designed to create a nature lover’s paradise along the tranquil shores of the Pacific. Greeting guests for five generations, it boasts beautiful Victorian architecture, charming guest rooms, and jaw-dropping ocean views. Rooms feature romantic fireplaces, elegant decor, steam showers, and Jacuzzi tubs, along with private decks. The award-winning on-site restaurant boasts a creative menu of classic American-regional fare, while the exclusive day spa offers a range of treatments and massages. Other popular activities include beachcombing, golf, tennis, and hiking in the picturesque woods around the property.
Big Sur, located a couple of hours south of San Francisco, sits along an epic Mediterranean-style stretch of coastline that’s been called the “American Riviera.” The Santa Lucia Mountains rise on one side, while the dramatic coast and its wild, beautiful beaches, and even the occasional waterfall plunging to the sand below are on the other. It takes about three to four hours to reach Big Sur from the city. Outdoor enthusiasts will fall in love with Big Sur. This is the place to come for amazing hikes and scenery. Visit Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park for camping and hiking, as well as a huge waterfall that’s 80 feet tall. You can take a soak in the hot springs at the Esalen Institute, which is a New Age retreat, check out artwork from regional artists at the Hawthorne Gallery, and get the very best views of the ocean and mountains wherever you go. If you like the idea of spending the weekend outdoors but not exactly “roughing it,” consider staying in a canvas yurt with a hot tub at Treebones Resort. Ideal for a romantic escape, you’ll have your pick of fabulous accommodations, like the cozy cabins at Lucia Lodge, which boasts a jaw-dropping panorama of the coast, or Post Ranch Inn, set 1,200 feet above the Pacific offering couples massage, a candlelit restaurant, infinity hot pools overlooking the waves and incredible stargazing after dark.
Located on the edge of Point Reyes National Seashore only about an hour north of San Francisco, Point Reyes is a small town that serves as the hub for a magnificent stretch of coastline that hosts miles and miles of scenic hiking trails and a healthy oyster fishery. The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse, built in 1870, offers panoramic views of the rugged coast and the Pacific beyond. It’s lined with dramatic cliffs and even a number of pretty waterfalls, while harbor seals can often be seen lounging on the rocks. Point Reyes National Seashore is also home to nearly 500 elk, one of the largest populations in the state, and can often be spotted in the Tule Elk Preserve, as well as along the road into the preserve.
In town, you’ll find a number of interesting shops and outstanding eateries like the Station House Cafe which features meals based on local, organic ingredients, while Tomales Bay Foods, set within an old hay barn, serves as the creamery and tasting room for the famous Cowgirl Creamery.
A trip to Napa and Sonoma are a must for anyone living in San Francisco for so many reasons. Not only is this the most renowned wine country in America, but it’s also a haven for foodies who appreciate farm-to-table delights and anyone looking to slow down the pace of life. This region is only about an hour and a half from San Francisco. There are so many wineries to choose from, including Scribe Winery and Gundlach Bundschu next door. While you’re in the area, you can also check out an indoor market with lots of local farm stands and restaurants. Sonoma has a quaint town kind of vibe that adds a unique flavor to this wine-themed getaway. Recommended places to stay include the Napa River Inn, Andaz Napa, and the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.
Lake Tahoe, straddling the California-Nevada border, is a little more than a three-hour drive from San Francisco and is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the state. Here, you’ll have access to a wide variety of outdoor adventures, gorgeous views and, an especially lively nightlife with casino hotels on the Nevada side. The West and the North Shore are known for their stunning scenery and powdery beaches. While snowboarding and skiing are famous wintertime activities, you’ll find a variety of things to do all year long. In the warmer months, hike in the surrounding Sierras, take a lake cruise, paddle across the water, or play volleyball on the sand. There are beaches with restaurants, marinas, and water toys, beaches with live music that host sunset BBQs and more secluded stretches of sand for quiet relaxation in the sun. Lake Tahoe is a summer haven and a winter haven, so feel free to come here for a weekend getaway any time of year. This is a premier place to visit during ski season, but also for the hiking trails in warm weather. The destination is also a great place to visit family-owned vineyards, listen to local bands play their best songs, and get to drink some of the best coffee in the region. Not only are there some amazing restaurants to try here, but also wine and food festivals that are perfect for a weekend getaway from San Francisco.
Monterrey and Carmel are neighboring towns that can easily be combined into a weekend getaway from San Francisco. The two towns are only about four miles from each other. Less than two hours south of San Francisco, Monterey is home to the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, which, unlike most stand-alone aquariums you’ll find in other cities, actually sits right in the bay by Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row. You can also head out to beautiful beaches like Lovers Point or Pebble Beach to enjoy the bay’s cool coastal breezes, or join a whale-watching excursion. There are a number of award-winning wineries, tasting rooms, craft breweries and beer houses, along with multiple acclaimed eateries. Meanwhile, Carmel is a seaside town known for history, art, and wine. The Carmel Mission is worth a visit to see the Spanish-era missions, and don’t miss Point Lobos State Reserve for hiking trails along the coast. Depending on what weekend you visit, you may also be able to check out a fun festival in Carmel, like the Carmel Art & Film Festival with its quirky and soulful independent films.
Mendocino, 156 miles north of the Golden Gate City, is an especially charming coastal town, and the only one on the California coast designated s a historical landmark. Established in the 1850s, it’s famous for its grand Victorian buildings and pretty saltbox cottages. It’s also renowned for its art galleries, breathtaking ocean scenery and as the fictional home of the popular television series, “Murder, She Wrote,” starring Angela Lansbury, which featured exteriors of the town and also used a Victorian B&B as Jessica Fletcher’s home. Nearby, you’ll find numerous vineyards and wineries to sample fabulous local wines along with scenic trails that wind through soaring redwood trees. The Elk Cove Inn & Spa is a picturesque bed and breakfast known for having one of the most beautiful views on the Mendocino Coast. Relaxing on an outdoor patio while witnessing migrating whales and otters is a memory not easily forgotten.
Just a little over an hour’s drive south along the coast from San Francisco, this charming town makes an ideal weekend beach getaway for San Francisco Bay Area residents and visitors with its fresh, clean air and pristine, uncrowded stretches of sand. Visit Ano Nuevo State Park, known as the home for elephant seals who use the sand dunes here to rest and mate, as well as the multitude of wonderful beaches in either direction where you can explore tide pools teeming with all sorts of sea creatures. Outdoor activities abound, with mountain biking and hiking trails winding through the majestic redwoods in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains, while downtown is home to a number of colorful shops and eateries. Pie Ranch, a sustainable working farm shaped like a slice of pie, features a farm stand with fresh produce and seasonal pies along with picnic tables.
You’ll only need to travel about 70 miles from San Francisco to reach Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is another one of the state’s most popular holiday destinations, thanks to its legendary surfing opportunities, vintage shopping, and of course, the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, renowned for its nearly century-old wooden roller coaster and a host of other amusement rides. On Friday nights in the summer, you can enjoy free live concerts while soaking up the sun and the sand. For shopping, hit the outdoor Pacific Garden Mall, and when it’s time to dine, visit the Santa Cruz Wharf adjacent to the Boardwalk. You might want to take a peek at the sea lions who hang out on the rafters underneath first, and then you’ll have your pick of restaurants, from upscale dining with ocean views to small seafood markets where you can pick up a crab cocktail and a beer to enjoy while taking in the entire scene. Other popular things to do in Santa Cruz are taking a scenic drive along West Cliff Drive, spending the day at Natural Bridges State Beach, and taking a tour of a very weird attraction called the Mystery Spot.
Located in the heart of the Mother Lode, Jamestown is a historic town with lots of character, its streets lined with Victorian-era buildings, some of which have been converted into hotels that make the perfect base for enjoying all sorts of outdoor adventure in the Sierras. You can go hiking in the hills, swimming, fishing and gold panning in the rivers, and explore wine country too. The Kennedy Gold Mine, located nearby, was famous for being one of the world’s deepest gold mines. Visitors can tour the mine office building, check out the gold mining equipment and watch a historic video of men working in the mine back in the early 1900s. After a day of fun, return to the circa 1852 National Hotel for a comfortable night’s stay with historical ambiance.
This California town in Marin County is just a little over an hour from San Francisco, making it a very easy weekend trip if you’re pressed for time. In Sausalito, you can visit the Point Bonita Lighthouse and get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge across the water. Popular things to do here include soaking up the sun at Stinson Beach and admiring the dramatic cliffs at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Yountville is another relaxing little California that’s a wonderful getaway from the city. It’ll only take you about an hour and a half to get here, and this is an ideal place to de-stress and rejuvenate yourself. There are relaxing spas here and excellent food choices. One recommended place to stay is Hotel Yountville, which is downtown and near all the best restaurants and winery tasting rooms to help you conveniently explore the area on foot.
You’ll only need to travel about 50 miles north of San Francisco to reach Sebastopol, which blends the best elements of hippy, artsy, and foodie. When you visit, a stop at The Barlow is a must because there are four blocks of breweries, distilleries, art galleries, and restaurants here. You can also check out the junkyard art on Florence Avenue, and the hippie town of Freestone is nearby as well. Iron Horse Vineyard is definitely worth a stop to sample its sparkling wines and spend some time at the open-air wine bar on the hilltop.
Take a weekend trip to Healdsburg if you love browsing interesting antique shops and drinking delicious wine. Healdsburg is only about an hour and a half north of San Francisco. This is also a fun place to visit if you appreciate high-quality architecture and design. SHED combines the best aspects of a market, event space, café, and home and garden store, while there are lots of antique and vintage shops to explore on Healdsburg Avenue. One of the most fun ways to experience wine country here is to rent bikes or bring your own to travel between vineyards. Just make sure to pace yourself! Recommended accommodations include h2hotel, and a couple of wineries to visit are the Hawley Winery and Roadhouse Winery.
Muir Woods is the place to visit to see hundreds of acres of huge and ancient redwoods towering above you. You may also see various species of wildlife here, including deer and various types of birds. The park is close to the town of Mill Valley, but Sausalito isn’t far away either. There are six miles of trails here, including a 1/2 hour loop, one hour loop, and a 1.5 hour loop. Visitors should know that parking at this popular park is limited, so it’s best to carpool. Unfortunately, pets are not allowed in Muir Woods so you’ll have to leave your pup with a dog sitter while you visit the park.
If you drive about 3.5 hours from San Francisco, you’ll reach an otherworldly environment that is nothing short of fascinating. Yellowstone and Yosemite might be more famous parks to visit, the Lassen Volcanic National Park has fewer crowds and is very unique. You can climb Mount Lassen and explore caves on your own. This is great because so many parks with caves require you to pay for guided tours to explore them. It pays to bring, rent, or buy a helmet and a flashlight though because the caves have low ceilings with sharp points and are very dark. While you’re in the area, don’t miss Bumpass Hell, which is a large hydrothermal region with volcanic heated pools. Hotels are available in the nearby towns of Chester, Mill Creek, and Mineral.