While San Francisco is a fantastic city in and of itself, one of the best things about living here is that it just takes a short drive to get to a world-class vineyard, a beach, or the top of a mountain. There are the wineries and oyster farms of the North Bay; the peaceful Tomales Bay; and the occasionally snow-capped Sierra Mountains to the east. Choose from these 11 simple weekend getaways from the San Francisco Bay Area whether you’re searching for a tranquil retreat or a change of scenery.11 BEST WEEKEND HOLIDAY IN SAN FRANCISCO


Healdsburg, California, is more than wine: Redwood forests and stretches of the Russian River to kayak are also accessible from this small town.

Photos by Jessie Beck


1. Healdsburg and Sonoma wine country

  • Distance: 90 minutes north of San Francisco
  • Best for: a low-key wine and food getaway

It’s hard to see all of Sonoma wine county in a single weekend—it’s larger and more spread out than neighboring Napa Valley. Instead, make the northern town of Healdsburg, which is experiencing something of a revival, your home base for the weekend. In the past two years, a long list of exciting new hotels, restaurants, and tasting rooms have joined the area—giving the historic town a burst of new energy.

What to do in Healdsburg

Yes, of course, you could spend an entire day tasting wine (it is Sonoma County, after all), but you’ll also want to explore the area’s natural beauty. To do so, join a cycling tour at Russian River Adventures to explore the area on two wheels with a knowledgeable guide, or combine your ride with a kayak adventure on Getaway Adventures’ pedal-paddle tour.

Healdsburg’s food scene is also a big reason to visit: It’s home to three- Michelin-starred restaurant SingleThread (and awardee of a Michelin Green Star), and the team’s newly opened vegan café, bar, and restaurant, Little Saint. (Pro move: You can also try their dips while sampling pinot noirs at the beautifully designed, downtown tasting room for Marine Layer.) For a more casual lunch or dinner, grab a pizza on the rooftop at the Matheson, or settle down for cocktails and fried chicken at Lo+Behold. The town also has an excellent farmers’ market on Saturdays.

Where to stay in Healdsburg


For a truly luxurious retreat, book one of the tree houses at the Montage Healdsburg, a 258-acre property that officially opened its doors in 2020, making it the first major resort property in the Healdsburg area. Or head over to the Madrona, a historic property originally built in 1881 as a private residence that is now a beautiful, maximalist boutique hotel designed by Jay Jeffers. Prefer something within walking distance of Healdsburg’s square? Then check into eco-friendly Harmon Guest House, a peaceful yet centrally located hotel only a block away from dozens of fantastic restaurants, tasting rooms, and bars. Coming in the summer? Rest assured: All three options have swimming pools.


Fill your weekend exploring tide pools on the beach and exploring small towns along the Mendocino Coast.

Photo by The Life in Pics/Shutterstock


2. Mendocino coast


The Mendocino coast is no secret weekend getaway spot. While most visitors will focus on exploring the coastal town of Mendocino and its surrounds, there’s much to be discovered along the 90+ miles of Mendocino’s coastline. That said, if it’s your first time in the area, go ahead and base yourself in the small town of Mendocino—beaten path or not, its proximity to trails, beaches, restaurants, and small locally run shops make it a must on any California getaway list. Or explore a new stretch of the coast, like the small town of Elk and nearby Salt Point State Park to the south of Mendocino.

What to do on the Mendocino coast

You could easily fill your weekend exploring tide pools on the beach and hiking trails with dramatic ocean views, but part of the Mendocino coast’s charms are in the small towns near the highway. Save plenty of time for pit stops from Guala to Fort Bragg; shop the variety store Matson Mercantile in Elk; enjoy vegetarian fare and wine at the hip and colorful Fog Eater Cafe in Mendocino; or sample fresh local seafood at Wild Fish.

Where to stay on the Mendocino coast


For classic Mendocino coast, book a stay in the town of Mendocino. Right in the heart of downtown is JD House, a six-room bed-and-breakfast with ocean views and decor that lands somewhere between ship captain’s home and modern hygge. Or immerse yourself in nature at Mendocino Grove, where you can stay in safari tents complete with beds, rugs, and firepits. The new for summer 2023 sauna and espresso bar make it an extra dreamy glamping experience.
For a more removed but no less beautiful home base, head 15 miles south to the small coastal town of Elk and reserve a room at the Harbor House Inn, a hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant perched on a cliff above a private, pebbled beach.


Turn off your phone and head to Wylder Hotel for a remote mountain getaway.

Courtesy of Wylder Hotel


3. Hope Valley

  • Distance: four hours east of San Francisco
  • Best for: a less-crowded escape to the Sierra Nevadas

A short drive south from Lake Tahoe, Hope Valley has all the beauty of a Sierra Nevada mountain getaway—minus the crowds. It’s an ideal weekend destination to retreat to the woods for a few days of digital detox amid alpine lakes and pine forests.

What to do in Hope Valley

Like much of the Sierras and Tahoe, Hope Valley is known as an outdoor destination. In warmer months, grab your hiking shoes or mountain bike to explore miles of trails in the nearby wilderness, like the range of trails around scenic Echo Lake or Snowshoe Thompson’s Cave, which is “a short 1.15-mile hike filled with lore,” says AFAR travel news editor Michelle Baran.

In the winter, opt for a snow-filled adventure snow-mobiling or snowshoeing on one of the trails at Hope Valley Sno-Park then warm up in the natural hot springs at nearby Grover Hot Springs State Park.

Where to stay in Hope Valley

Wylder Hotel, which has rustic but refurbished log cabins, yurts, and budget-friendly campsites, is an ideal homebase in Hope Valley.


Yoga among the redwoods is one of many activities at Canyon Ranch Woodside.

Courtesy of Canyon Ranch


4. Santa Cruz Mountains

  • Distance: one hour south of San Francisco
  • Best for: wine, hikes, and mountain bikes

Bay Area residents often come to the Santa Cruz Mountains for day trips and brief weekend adventures. But if you plan to stay longer, you won’t be bored—there’s enough winery hopping and hiking among the redwoods to fill an entire weekend.

What to do in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, road cycling, and rock climbing are the main draw for visitors to the Santa Cruz Mountains. After you’ve worked up an appetite on the trails, visit one of the area’s wineries, like award-winning, family-run Mindego Ridge, or the many ranches and farms—an afternoon picnic and visit with the goats at Harley Farms Goat Dairy is a local favorite—to relax and refuel.

Where to stay in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Book yourself into a luxurious tree house at Canyon Ranch’s Woodside Retreat, which includes a full schedule of activities, like hikes and yoga sessions, and three healthy, locally sourced meals each day.


Glamp in a classic Airstream or safari tent at Autocamp Russian River.

Courtesy of Autocamp


5. Guerneville

  • Distance: one hour, 45 minutes north of San Francisco
  • Best for: summer fun and food by the Russian River

Although scenic year-round, Guerneville’s location alongside the Russian River makes it an especially popular weekend destination in the summer, when you can float, kayak, or canoe in the water. Off the river, this tiny town is also home to a surprising number of delicious places to eat—with even more restaurants, breweries, and wineries a short drive away.

What to do in Guerneville

In the summer months, pack a floatie and a cooler full of snacks to spend the day lazing around on the Russian River. Visitors can also rent a canoe from Burke’s Canoes. Afterwards, this Sonoma County town is an excellent homebase for food and wine lovers—biscuits at Big Bottom Market, winetasting at Hartford Family Winery, beers at Stumptown Brewery, and ice cream at Nimble & Finn’s are a few of the area’s tasty highlights.

Where to stay in Guerneville

For classic Guerneville, you can’t go wrong renting a house by the river or booking a romantic retreat at the adults-only Boon Hotel + Spa, an intimate, LGBTQ-friendly boutique hotel with a pool, spa, and breakfast delivered to your room each morning. Prefer to glamp? Head to Autocamp and stay in a tricked-out Airstream trailer for the weekend.

Or, consider one of the newer hotels to the area: including the luxurious, 21-room boutique hotel, Stravrand (opened in 2021) located on a former orchard, and Dawn Ranch (opened in 2022), a collection of stylish cabins nestled in the redwoods, complete with restaurant and spa.


The Lodge at Bodega Bay is set on a quiet, scenic stretch of California coast—and has no shortage of scenic views.

Photo by Jessie Beck


6. Bodega Bay

  • Distance: 90 minutes north of San Francisco
  • Best for: escaping the summer heat, kayaking, and relaxing in a newly renovated lodge

If you’ve spent any time exploring Northern California, you’ve likely passed by Bodega—the Highway 1 goes through this small blip of a town, located between Tomales Bay and Jenner on the Sonoma coast. Although it’s close enough to San Francisco for a day trip, the newly renovated rooms at the Lodge at Bodega Bay are reason enough for locals, out-of-towners, and north-bound road-trippers to turn their visit into a full-fledged weekend getaway.

Pro tip: Although San Francisco residents rarely have any summer heat to escape from, folks elsewhere in the Bay Area should take note. Bodega can be as much 20 degrees cooler than inland areas, making it an ideal summer retreat for anyone who wants respite from high temps.

What to do in Bodega Bay


Although you might be tempted to spend the entire weekend with a book and a beverage while enjoying the coastal views (and we won’t judge you if do), the natural beauty of the area will likely convince you otherwise. If you’re so inclined, start your morning by kayaking along the coast (Bodega Bay Surf is a friendly spot for rentals) or hike on the scenic Bodega Head Trail. The area also happens to be an excellent spot for bird-watching, especially along the Birdwalk Coastal Access Trail in Doran Regional Park. In the mood for a beach day? Grab your blanket and head to Doran Beach or Campbell Cove.

After a day of adventuring, refuel with calamari at the Tides, fish and chips at Fishetarian Fish Market, or a cocktail and crudo at Drakes Fireside Lounge.

Where to stay


Book a room at the sprawling Lodge at Bodega Bay, a few minutes south of town. Each of the spacious 83 rooms features comfortable beds, plush robes, and westward-facing balconies with unobstructed views of the marsh and ocean. The area can get chilly at night and the lodge offers plenty of ways to warm up: in-room fireplaces, hot tub, sauna, or with a cocktail at its on-site bar and restaurant.

Cove and beach in Big Sur
Big Sur has something for varied adventures and budgets, from basic campsites to five-star luxury.

Photo by Pete Niesen/Shutterstock


7. Big Sur

  • Distance: three hours south of San Francisco
  • Best for: a classic California coastal getaway

With its dramatic coastlines, waterfalls plunging into the ocean, and expansive, rugged redwood forests, Big Sur is one of those quintessential California destinations—and also a fortunately easy weekend getaway destination from the Bay Area.

What to do in Big Sur

“Nature is one of the region’s biggest draws, but there’s plenty of exploration to do beyond the trees,” says AFAR senior editor Aislyn Greene. Places like Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, Hearst Castle, a California condor tour with Ventana Wildlife Society, and a tour of the Point Sur lighthouse, as well as shopping for local art at Hawthorne Gallery or Coast Big Sur are all excellent things to do while in Big Sur.

Where to stay in Big Sur

Accommodation in Big Sur ranges from basic campsites, like those at Pfeiffer State Park, to five-star luxury. Some of our favorite Big Sur hotels include the spectacular, all-inclusive Ventana Big Sur resort, which gives guests the option to choose between staying in one of its luxurious suites or getting in touch with nature in its safari-style tents, as well as the creative rooms at Post Ranch Inn—weekend retreat in a tree house, anyone?


Trees and vineyard in Carmel Valley
Carmel Valley (not to be confused with nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea) is less than three hours from San Francisco by car.

Courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch


8. Carmel Valley

  • Distance: two hours, 30 minutes from San Francisco
  • Best for: a wine country escape to the south

Napa Valley and Sonoma County aren’t the only places to go for a weekend of winetasting and sunshine (though you’ll rarely see us turn down a trip there). Carmel Valley (not to be confused with nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea) to San Francisco’s south is an equally fantastic, but often overlooked, destination for wine and food adventures.

What to do in Carmel Valley

Plan your weekend around winetasting at the area’s vineyards, like western-style Cowgirl Winery or Joyce, which specializes in wine from sustainability-minded vineyards. Then, decompress with an afternoon of hot and cool outdoor pools and a massage at Refuge Spa or a stroll through the shops at Carmel Valley Village.

Where to stay in Carmel Valley

Relax with a room at family-friendly Carmel Valley Ranch. Or for a more Tuscan-esque experience, stay at Bernardus Lodge & Spa, a wine country escape with rooms that overlook its 28-acre vineyard.


Footbridge over low tide at Tomales Bay
This 15-mile stretch of watery inlet is home to many dairy and oyster farms, as well as excellent natural vistas.

Photo by Jules Fairley/Shutterstock


9. Tomales Bay

  • Distance: one hour, 30 minutes north of San Francisco
  • Best for: oysters, cheese, and kayaking in the sea

If a weekend of eating fresh seafood, sampling locally made cheese, and kayaking in a tranquil bay sounds like your kind of getaway, then head to Tomales Bay. This area, just north of the Point Reyes National Seashore, refers to the 15-mile stretch of watery inlet separating Point Reyes Peninsula from mainland Marin County. It also happens to be home to many dairy and oyster farms, as well as scenic parks and natural vistas.

What to do in Tomales Bay

Start off your weekend in Tomales Bay with an outdoor activity or two, like watching elk in the Tule Elk Preserve, hiking to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, or kayaking in Tomales Bay. (Blue Waters Kayaking in Marshall is a great place to rent from.)

After you’ve worked up an appetite, eat your way through the area’s specialties, oysters and cheese, with a stop at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company just north of Point Reyes Station, oysters at Hog Island or Tony’s Seafood in Marshall, and a locavore dinner at Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness. Locals know: For oysters to go, no-frills Tomales Bay Oyster Co. is the best in the bay.

Where to stay in Tomales Bay

Point Reyes Station is where all the action is, but we prefer to cozy up in a bay-side Airbnb, like Enchanting Garden Getaway in the tranquil town of Inverness on the west side of Tomales Bay.


Wooden footpath along the Pacific Ocean near Cambria
Take a leisurely walk along the Pacific Ocean while relaxing in Cambria.

Photo by Mada_Cris, Shutterstock.


10. Cambria

  • Distance: four hours south of San Francisco
  • Best for: whale watching, wine, and relaxing on the beach

Equidistant from San Francisco and Los Angeles, the coastal town of Cambria is further than most of the other weekend getaways on this list, but it offers a blissfully relaxing break for those who brave the extra miles. Known as where the pines meet the sea, this low-key town is full of opportunities to get outside and hike, explore tidepools, or hang out on the beach—then fill up on delicious seafood and wine while admiring views of the sunset.

What to do in Cambria

Lean into Cambria’s laid-back charm and while away your day with walks along Moonstone Beach or hike the bluffs at Fiscalini Ranch. Come sundown, enjoy a glass of wine and bite to eat at one of several locally owned eateries, like seaside Sea Chest Oyster Bar or Madeline’s, which sits along the just-lively-enough Main Street. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a drive to explore nearby sights like the tiny town of San Simeon and Big Sur to the north, Morro Bay State Park for hikes or beach hangs to the south, or Paso Robles wine country to the east.


11. Napa Valley


Napa Valley may feel like an obvious choice for a Bay Area getaway (it is undeniably easy), but that doesn’t mean your itinerary has to be predictable. With an exciting array of new restaurant and hotel openings in the past two years, as well as lesser-known tours, activities, and tastings (and we don’t just mean wine), it’s easy to go beyond the most well-known attractions. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you could even turn your Napa getaway into a mini road trip from Napa Valley to Mendocino along the scenic Highway 128.

What to do in Napa Valley

Napa is about more than wine (though winetasting is certainly a top thing to do here). To see a different side, spend the day cycling its back roads with Napa Valley Bike Tours, hang out with a (very cute) crew of rescue animals at Oasis by Hoopes, or taste brandy at California Brandy House. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Empress M, the vision of entrepreneur Margaret Wong that features gourmet Chinese dishes like shrimp dumplings, Sichuan calamari, and roast duck; Lucy Restaurant at Bardessono, a tranquil restaurant with seasonally inspired dishes like asparagus en cocotte; or North Block, whose menu by Momofuku alum chef Nick Tamburo revolves around a wood-fired oven and features such items as sourdough pizzas and cured trout with almond milk and trout roe.

Where to stay in Napa Valley

There’s no shortage of incredible hotels and resorts throughout Napa Valley, but there are several new and noteworthy places to consider checking in to. The George in downtown Napa is a nine-room inn in a historic, recently restored, 19th-century home where guests are treated to plush towels, comfortable beds, and fresh English muffins from nearby Model Bakery.

Further north in Calistoga, the iconic Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs has been transformed with its chic, fully renovated, midcentury modern–inspired rooms, an on-site eatery, House of Better, that serves Southwestern-style fare, a new outdoor spa, and several new room concepts, like a stand-alone one-bedroom bungalow.




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