I love taking Weekend getaways to the nearby cities within the USA. I have been doing that since I moved to the States. I have been wanting to go to SFO for really long but tickets were kinda expensive from Texas so the plan always got postponed. Things worked out after moving to Washington. I bought my tickets for $143 round trip to San Jose instead of SFO:D I had to take this trip after I got back from India and Bhutan trip and after working for two straight weeks and weekend 😛
I had first planned a very unrealistic itinerary for two days in SFO where I was going to drive to Yountville to take hot air balloon pictures from Vintners Golf Club and then check out Lake Berryessa, then drive to Muir Woods and then visit SFO city- everything in one day. I know right!! So I decided to be a little realistic and change it to something that’s achievable. I hope you enjoy my itinerary for two days in SFO and Big Sur ❤
Day 1: San Jose, Castor Street
Got off work, took a cab straight to the airport around 4 PM, my flight was at 5:59PM and I landed at 8:00PM in SJC. My friend picked me up at the airport and we headed straight to Castor street for some dinner first. This basically is the party street of Mountain View. You will see a lot of restaurants, bars and clubs here. The ones that caught my attention were Ephesus, Sakoon and Eureka! I was more into nice dinner, catching up with engineering friends after 4 years and wine kinda mood so we decided to check out Oren’s Hummus restaurant. This place has really good and unique variety of hummus. We got a Hummus Sabachi, Falafel pita sandwich, and some wine. It was indeed the best falafel I have ever had ( crispy and soft at the same time, loved it and it cost around $20 per person).
We then decided to drive to Golden Gate. Less traffic, smooth drive, uninterrupted view of the bridge, definitely good decision. So after crossing the bridge, we stopped at Vista Point from where you can see the skyline and the bridge, an amazing view for sure.
We then drove to Lombard’s crooked street, we were the only ones on the street at that time :p another good decision!
Day 2: SFO city
I booked a rental for two days (sat-sun) that cost me around $150 including insurance (this was the cheapest rental ever, courtesy: Fox car rentals at SJC airport). So my first stop was Muir Woods. I was staying in San Jose at my friend’s place, so it took me around 2hrs to get here including traffic, detours etc and you pass Golden Gate to get here. I also missed a turn and had to take a detour. But frankly speaking, no complains because this detour took me on Skyline Blvd/State route 35 which is a very scenic drive. The drive is on the ridge of Santa Cruz mountains and is a delight to the sore and sleepy eyes. So I would say definitely take the detour and check out this drive i.e state route 35.
I don’t really like places that are super crowded and in Muir woods that’s exactly what you will see. So finding parking over here is difficult. I would recommend coming here early morning to avoid such situation. I could not find parking here since I was there around noon and after seeing so much crowd I just drove by without wasting another second!
My next stop was Baker’s beach. I had to cross Golden Gate to get here. So Muir woods (north of the bridge) and bakers beach (south-west of the bridge) are basically on two ends of golden gate bridge. While driving to the beach, I came across this overlook point from where I got a really good picture of the bridge. You will see the sign to overlook point while driving to the beach, it’s hard to miss. Once you get to the beach, the view of Golden Gate is astonishing. Its one of the best lookout points.
My next stop was Ghirardelli’s square. I parked my car at impark parking which is right next to Ghirardelli square sign. I am not a huge fan of sweet stuff be it ice cream or chocolate. So I wasn’t really keen on doing this, but I did it anyway :p I guess to just cross it off my list and never having to do it again! The square is pretty cool though. They have their famous chocolate sundae store which is separate from the actual ice cream store. In the square, the only thing that caught my attention was Wattle Creek Winery :p and Lori’s Diner.
After some wine and food, I walked a little ahead towards Fisherman’s Wharf. These two stops are adjacent to each other so it was pretty convenient. I stopped at jack’s cannery bar to get some beer. So the patio bar is cash only but the restaurant takes cards, cash etc.
After a walk here, I left for Mission district. This area has pretty cool graffiti. There isn’t a particular street where you can park your car and see graffiti all together like you see in graffiti alley in Toronto or in Austin. I would suggest parking on Mission Street and then walk around the district to check out the graffiti.
I then decided to head to Twin Peaks to see the sunset. The view of the sparkling city from here is spectacular.
After spending a couple of hours here, I left for Curran Theatre Music in Union Square. I had booked an Airbnb experience here. This was the best thing in the entire day I would say. This was a Bluegrass Band– Blue Summit. The concert was supposed to start at 7:30PM and I got there a little early so I decided to take a stroll till then. I would say this was the best concert I have ever been to. You enter the theatre through backstage door and the seating is on stage. It was pretty intimate I would say. The band played southern style music and some murder ballads that I had never heard before and was a refreshing experience.
After 2hrs of alleviating music, I had an hour and a half ride back to SJC.
Day 3: Big Sur ❤
I would say this day made me super happy. Big Sur is to the south of San Jose at about 2 hrs drive away. I think Location wise and my itinerary wise San Jose was perfect to stay at. It’s in the middle and 2hrs drive away from Napa, San Francisco and Big Sur. I left in the morning around 9:30am. It was an unexpectedly beautiful drive to Monterey Peninsula on Highway 1. My first stop here was Bixby creek bridge. It’s on your way towards Big Sur so its hard to miss. You will see stops over here so you can park your car for picture break! Before leaving I had read up a bit about driving here and knew that there will be no network in the area. So I had downloaded all the destinations on google maps on my iPhone. Turns out that was a good idea because as soon as you enter Bixby bridge you will see no signal on your phone.
My next stop was Pfeiffer Beach. It’s about 20 mins drive from Bixby bridge and is a very narrow one-lane road. You need to pay $10 parking fee and its cash only. There is no other option for parking since the entire area is residential. The beach is unique. Since its a little off the beaten path, it’s this unspoiled beach and is apparently famous among locals. What I noticed at this beach is purple sand. This purple colour is the manganese garnet washing down the hillside. If you walk a little further North of the beach you will see more of purple sand.
My next stop was Mcway falls. This trail of 0.5 miles round trip was the easiest and most convenient one. I parked my car on highway 1 instead of paying another $10 for parking. And walked down to the falls. The actual access to falls is blocked but you can check it out from the overlook point.
After that, I stopped at Nepenthe Restaurant for some drinks and snacks just to get a good view of the peninsula. It’s definitely a recommendation for people to get their lunch or dinner. Everyone likes food with a good view! My next stop was Big Sur restaurant and bakery. This place has an amazing beef burger and coffee must try. (burger and coffee here cost me around $20)
I then left for SJC airport which was another 2:30 hrs drive. So my flight was around 9:10PM and I left around 3:30PM. I, however, stopped a couple of times to get some pictures. So I still had enough time to get to the airport, drop my rental and go through security. I was glad that I could cover all the points that I wanted to in Big Sur effortlessly. I definitely wished to spend more time at Pfeiffer beach till sunset. But I saw the sunset at Monastery beach in Carmel on my way back.
Other points of interest around the area would be Garrapata State Park, Point Lobos, Lone Cypress, Carmel Beach.
What I really liked about SFO was how the city is built. Loved the Lombard street and trolley experience! But my most favourite part was Big Sur and the breathtaking views it had to offer.
Some more pictures from the trip ❤