A road trip from San Francisco to Big Sur is an experience that can’t be described with words. We hope you’ll share this experience of the beautiful coastline and California wilderness, which is just a few hours north of Los Angeles in one day.

The “san francisco to big sur tour” is a road trip from San Francisco to Big Sur. The route takes you through the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey Bay National Seashore.

The epic road journey from San Francisco to Big Sur is a lovely region of California famed for its coastline and mountain beauty, so if you’re searching for a weekend drive, consider it. Despite its short length, the trip is jam-packed with things to see and do.

The journey from San Francisco to Big Sur is 150 miles long and takes 3 hours to complete. Big Basin Redwood and Garrapata State Parks, Half Moon Bay, and places like Redwood City, Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Carmel-by-the-Sea are all worth visiting.

If you’re interested in going on this trip, keep reading for additional information on where to stay, the best routes, and the best time to travel.

What is the distance between Big Sur and San Francisco, and how long would the journey take?

a comparison of routes

Route Distance Time to Drive
The Coastal Highway 150 miles 3 minutes and 15 seconds
The Route Through the Bay Area 156 miles 3 minutes and 19 seconds

The trek from San Francisco to Big Sur will be around 150 miles long and take at least 3 hours. However, you should absolutely stop as much as possible along the trip, since there is enough to see and do.

If you have the time, try to dedicate at least a weekend to this road trip, which will allow you to relax and enjoy some of the sights along the route.

The Coastal Highway offers some beautiful scenery and a few more attractions than The Route Through the Bay Area. However, it has the downside of not passing by San Jose, which is one of the most interesting stops you could make.

Santa Cruz, California with colourful buildings overlooking the sea and a sunset behind. The Coastal Highway from San Francisco to Big Sur offers some fantastic coastal views, including Santa Cruz.

yhelfman/Shutterstock.com

Both routes mainly follow highways, making the drive easy and fun. There is the potential for traffic on both routes – The Route Through the Bay Area could experience more traffic, though, as it stays in urban areas for longer.

Around Santa Cruz, the roadways may be very busy, so plan your travel to avoid these regions during rush hour. You may anticipate considerable traffic in San Jose as well, but since it’s so near to San Francisco, it’s a little simpler to plan around.

The best way to go from San Francisco to Big Sur is via car.

For your road journey from San Francisco to Big Sur, you have two possibilities. One takes you through the bay region, while the other provides coastal vistas and additional outdoor activities. If you have the time, we recommend taking one to Big Sur and the other back.

The Coastal Highway

Before reaching Half Moon Bay, take Route 1 out of San Francisco, passing via Rancho Corral de Tierra. Butano and Big Basin Redwood State Parks are located farther down the road; visit both before going through Wilder Ranch State Park and arriving in Santa Cruz.

Get your bearings here, then proceed down the coast to Nisene Marks State Park to see the Forest of Nisene Marks. Separate from the coast for a short distance to cut via Watsonville, then re-join it for stops at Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Garrapta State Park is farther south; stop here for a while before going on via Andrew Molera State Park and into the Big Sur region.

The Route Through the Bay Area

Take Interstate 280 south for a short while before exiting at San Bruno and joining Highway 101. This route will get you past the San Mateo Bridge and into Redwood City.

Exit Highway 101 for Route 85 after spending some time here and at the Bayland Nature Preserve. This will take you from San Jose to Route 17 near Los Gatos (where you may visit if you have time).

San Jose, California with flower beds in the foreground and a street with various shops in the background. One of the more intriguing places on the road journey is San Jose.

mTaira/Shutterstock.com

To get to Santa Cruz, take Route 17 through the hills, through the Bear Creek Redwoods. The roads merge here, and you’ll take Route 1 the remainder of the way to Big Sur.

Between San Francisco and Big Sur, the best spots to stop are

Even though the distance between San Francisco and Big Sur is short, you should consider stopping for an overnight or two. Here are a few of the most gorgeous resorts along the route:

Relax and recharge at the Chaminade Resort & Spa

Santa Cruz is one of California’s most beautiful coastal towns, and a stay at the Chaminade Resort and Spa will provide you with a vista like no other. The resort is located on a lovely location set amid rolling wooded hills, perfectly blending natural views and excellent architecture.

The hotel’s décor is stylish and sophisticated, and the rooms are well-equipped with all of the amenities you could want.

There is a year-round outdoor pool as well as a superb spa – the latter being a significant feature of most visitors’ trips, so make a reservation if you want to stay here.

In addition, the resort features a well equipped fitness center with daily programs. With so much to do on-site, you’ll feel refreshed and energized when you leave the Chaminade.

In the evening, dine at The View, the hotel’s on-site restaurant, which is set on a terrace with breath-taking views of the surrounding countryside.

The resort is located a few kilometers from the Santa Cruz boardwalk, providing limitless opportunities for city fun while maintaining seclusion and solitude.

Take advantage of all Monterey Bay has to offer.

Spend a night in Monterey if you want to get a little closer to your goal before stopping for the night. The Hyatt Regency Monterey Resort and Spa is the place to go if you want a lovely community space and a quiet weekend spent golfing.

Monterey Bay, California with waves crashing against the rocky shoreline and a bright blue sky. This trip has several stunning coastline stops, including Monterey Bay.

Shutterstock.com/David A Litman

If you want to improve your swinging technique, here is the place to be. It’s located to some of the area’s greatest golf courses. Pebble Beach and Old Fisherman’s Wharf are both just a short distance away.

If golf isn’t your thing, the resort includes two hot springs, a massage center, a gym, and tennis courts, virtually checking every box in the entertainment category.

All of the rooms are spacious and come with all of the amenities you could want. The whole resort is well decorated, and it exudes a sense of elegance and modernity. The rooms feature fantastic views of the adjoining golf course and the surrounding countryside.

The Sea Root, the resort’s on-site restaurant and bar, is open daily. It provides Mediterranean-inspired cuisine made using ingredients gathered locally. You may have a drink in the bar after dinner, which provides handcrafted cocktails, beer, and wine.

If you’re looking for a more relaxed atmosphere, The Knuckles Sports Bar is the place to go for staples like burgers and wings, as well as a wide selection of draft beers.

On a road journey from San Francisco to Big Sur, there are many sights to view.

While the journey from San Francisco to Big Sur is short, there is enough to keep you occupied. We’ve included some locations below to help you organize your sightseeing.

  1. Gray Whale Cove State Beach – One of the region’s most understated panoramas, this gorgeous cove should be your first trip out of San Francisco.
  2. Half Moon Bay – Take a walk along the Half Moon Bay Coastline Trail, or watch the big wave surfers at Mavericks if the time is good.
  3. Butano State Park – This unassuming forest is a miniature of the nearby (and more well-known) Big Basin Redwoods State Park, but it too has some lovely hiking paths.
  4. If you have time, visit Big Basin Redwoods State Park, which is famed for its gorgeous redwood trees.
  5. Redwood City – If you take The Route Through the Bay Area, take a stop just before Redwood City to visit the Filoli Historic House and Pulgas Water Temple.
  6. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – Enjoy the ambience of contemporary Santa Cruz by strolling down the boardwalk.
  7. San Jose – Visiting this Silicon Valley treasure will make your vacation that much more memorable, even if you can avoid it entirely.
  8. Wilder Ranch State Park – If horseback riding and hiking are on your list of things to do on your road trip, this magnificent state park is the place to go.
  9. The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is a picturesque park that successfully blends wooded regions, hiking routes, and mountain views.
  10. Why not arrange a relaxed day sunning on the beach at Seabright Beach, one of Santa Cruz’s numerous beaches.
  11. The Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail is a great way to get some exercise while taking in some of the stunning views along this length of coastline.
  12. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a spectacular and picturesque piece of coastline with brilliant blue ocean.
  13. Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea are two of the most beautiful coastal towns in California. These lovely coastal towns have stunning architecture and are some of the greatest sites to see the Pacific Coast’s urban side.
  14. Andrew Molera State Park is located in the state of Florida. This park, which is unfairly overshadowed by Big Sur, is home to one of California’s most spectacular beaches.
  15. Big Sur – While there is much to see along the route, the end destination is well worth the trip. Allow at least one day to explore this section of California.

View towards Redwood City, California with a tall tree and fence at the foreground and rolling hills leading to the city in the distance. Make a point of stopping at Redwood City to see all it has to offer.

Shutterstock.com/Sundry Photography

When is the best time to go from San Francisco to Big Sur?

Any time of year is ideal for a road journey from San Francisco to Big Sur. Each season has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, which we’ll help you assess.

Big Sur’s peak season lasts for a long time, from April to at least September. This is due to the fact that they are the months with the maximum sunlight and the highest temperatures.

The most people go to the beach when the weather is nice. Tourist numbers and hotel costs both surge during the summer months. If you intend on visiting during the summer, be prepared to encounter a large number of people.

Because Big Sur has a large number of sunny days each year, the shoulder seasons may also be popular. Early spring is a particularly pleasant time to go since the temperatures are milder and spring flowers are in full bloom: the magnificent California Poppies are a must-see.

Orange California Poppies in full bloom in springtime along the coast, with sea and blue sky in the background In the spring, California Poppies are in full bloom along the coast.

Dancestrokes/Shutterstock.com

One of the nicest seasons to visit Big Sur is in the winter. Because there are less people coming, hotels frequently offer discounts at this time of year. The only drawback is that it rains more at this time of year, but that’s something you can plan for.

What you want to get out of your road trip will determine when you go. Every season is excellent for a vacation, so prioritize your activities and choose a season accordingly.

The “san francisco to big sur bus” is a service that connects travelers from San Francisco to Big Sur. The trip takes about 6 hours and costs around $50.

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