San Francisco - Monterey
Replies: 14 - Last Post: Aug 10, 2012 4:47 PM Last Post By: ianw6705
Aug 9, 2012 5:43 AM
San Francisco - MontereyHi All,
As some of you will know, I'm planning a trip to America next year, early June-mid July.
I have already changed my original trip thanks to everyone's good advice on here, and am now looking for some further tips to do with another part of my trip.
Basically, I want to drive (gonna pluck up the courage!!) from San Francisco down to Monterey. I have looked on Google Maps and think I would like to take the Caprillo Highway (CA-1 S) from San Fran down to Monterey, as if follows the coastline. Google suggests that this drive will take approx. 2-3 hours.
Is the coastline nice along this section? Is it worth driving down for scenic purposes. I have 7-8 days set aside for my trip to Monterey, and plan to spend 2-3 days in Monterey itself. Is this a reasonable amount of time? Here's a small itinerary for this trip within my trip:
Day 1 - Get car, travel out of San Fran on CA-1 and head south. Take my time - the drive is not long by my standards (live in Wales, takes me ages to get anywhere!!). Am going to meander down and take detours if I want/stop for photos etc. Questions here: are there good places to stop for such photographic opportunities? What detours would you suggest, along the lines of scenary/worthwhile places to visit? Plan to arrive in Monterey late afternoon-ish. Is parking good in Monterey? I am yet to look into the hostel situation there, but generally?
Days 2-5 - Get out and explore Monterey. Have not yet properly researched activities. Possibly boat trip, aquarium/s, walk around, scenary etc. Does Monterey have enough to keep me going for 2-3 days?
Day 6 - I'd like to visit a couple of the state parks - there are quite a few in this area. Can anyone suggest a couple of good ones e.g. a nice walk/photographic opportunities again etc. End day in Santa Cruz.
Day 7 - Day in Santa Cruz, if it's worth it. Much the same as Monterey, sight-seeing etc. Do people think it's worth it? Or should I use Santa Cruz as a base and visit other state parks?
Day 8 - A leisurely drive back to San Francisco, stopping off in a state park or two again along the way. Maybe follow a different route home, but not sure yet.
Overally, do people think this is a good plan? Too long/too short? More time in some places? Less in others? What is the driving like? Are there any other scenic, photographic, nature, out-doorsy things you'd recommend?
Thanks in advance,
Aug 9, 2012 7:00 AM
1For the real special scenic coastal drive, take one of your days in Monterey to continue driving south on Highway 1 through Big Sur. Go to http://images.google.com and enter "Big Sur" to see what I mean.
The aquarium is definitely worth a visit. They specialize in organisms from the Pacific ocean, but also have a jellyfish exhibit that is getting rave reviews. It's your bet bet for seeing sea otters.
On the way south from San Francisco, you can stop at Año Nuevo State Park to look at elephant seals. You can also stop at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve if you like tide pooling.
Aug 9, 2012 8:09 AM
2You'll do fine driving on Hwy 1. This should be your first stop; http://www.scaruffi.com/travel/sweeney.html From here back on 1 heading south to Half Moon Bay where you should stop to explore the shops and cafes. See if Duck Duck is still at the Half Moon Bay feed store. Have coffee at La Di Da. Back out onto Hwy 1. Elephant seals aren't at Anno Nuevo in June or July so no need to stop. Instead you might stop at San Gregorio, Bean Hollow, Pescadero State Beaches. There's a fee to visit State parks. http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=527. Lunch at Duarte's Tavern is Pescadero is fun. Wilder Park State Ranch is nice. Personally my favorite beach on Hwy 1 between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz is Waddell Creek. Good for long walks, tide pooling if the tides out, wind surfing. Across the Hwy and up a short road is the new and interesting visitor's center. Housed in the house that was once owned by President Herbert Hoover's niece. Lovely trails to explore amidst coastal redwoods. http://www.ranchodeloso.org From here back on 1 south to Santa Cruz. Do you like wooden roller coasters? Then a stop at the Boardwalk to ride the Big Dipper is a must. http://beachboardwalk.com/giantdipper/ If you have time and it's open the small Santa Cruz natural history museum is charming. Besides the drive along Cliff drive lets you see some nice homes. It's also the natives way to get from Santa Cruz to Capitola. Capitola should be on your stop and visit list anyway. Why not spend the night there? Harbor Lights Motel is older but clean and for that area during the summer months reasonably priced. Just expect to hear children. http://www.harborlightsmotel.net Next morning breakfast at Lola's and on your way south to Monterey. Try to stop at the Elkhorn Slough http://www.elkhornslough.org just outside Moss Landing. Some good spots for photo ops in Moss Landing and surroundings. As much as I love Monterey I always stay in pacific Grove instead. yes, more expensive but I love the vibe of the small town atmosphere. One thing to keep in mind is June Gloom. May mean that fog and a greyness cover the beach areas until noon, then clear blue skies and sunshine. I know. Grew up in Los Gatos which is over the hill from Santa Cruz and when we played hookey from Summer School we'd drive over Hwy 17 and freeze our butts off watching the surfers at Steamer's Lane. Cowabunga! Have a nice visit to my home state.
Aug 9, 2012 9:01 AM
3Agree with all the above. Be sure to spend one of your Monterey days driving down to Big Sur and back. Go as far as Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the famous waterfall dropping into the ocean.
Something people haven't mentioned - Point Lobos State Reserve just south of Carmel is gorgeous, especially in morning and evening. Definitely worth a stop.
If you're up for the drive, Big Basin Redwoods State Park is also excellent. Take Highways 9 and 236 north from Santa Cruz, about an hour each way. The roads are slow and winding but scenic. If you like to hike, there's a fantastic 11 mile loop here. To do it, you should probably take a day away from Monterey and add it to Santa Cruz so that you can spend a full day here.
On the same note, I do think three full days in Monterey is plenty. One day for the aquarium and Point Lobos (let's say), one day for whale watching and visiting Elkorn Slough, and one day for heading down to Big Sur. I think that would be sufficient for me.
Then add a day in Santa Cruz (not the biggest fan, but some people love it), plus another Santa Cruz day to head up to Big Basin.
Driving that route is very easy, you'll have no trouble.
There is a highly regarded hostel in Monterey (but I've neve stayed there) - book ahead just in case. There is also a wide assortment of budget motels for under $100 per night.
Aug 9, 2012 9:38 AM
4Yes Santa cruz is worth visiting! I would say Monteray is more of a day stop. Santa Cruz you can hang out all summer and not be bored.
They have an awesome downtown with good night life. A fishermans wharf. Dozens of nice beaches (Sunny cove being the best) also a boardwalk with rides and such. heres an example itinerary for you.
Sanfran- mystery spot- santa cruz day 1 ( mystery spot is a must do cheesy attraction)
santa cruz all day - day 2
santa cruz- Montarey- Big sur day 3 ( book campsite way ahead of time)
Big Sur park - julia Phiffer burn park - kirk creek campground day 4 ( hundreds of great viewpoints)
kirk creek all day 5
kirk- LA day 6 . ( stay at HI hostel) fly out of LA
Aug 9, 2012 9:40 AM
Big Basin is, indeed, excellent. However, a much shorter detour to enjoy the redwood forest would be Henry Cowell Redwood SP, only about a 15 minute drive from Santa Cruz.
While in Santa Cruz don't neglect to visit the campus of the University of California in the hills above the city. Set in a redwood forest and with sweeping views of the Monterey Bay, it regularly tops lists of the most beautiful college campuses in the US.
As others have said, Point Lobos is a terrific little state park very near to Monterey. More spectacular vistas, however, are to be found further down the coast in parks like Pfeiffer Big Sur SP and Andrew Molera SP.
One caveat to keep in mind. During the summer months the coast--particularly the stretch from San Francisco to Monterey--is often wrapped in what locals quaintly call the "marine layer," but which most of the world would call foggy or overcast skies. It's not at all unusual for it to be 60 F on the coast when only a few miles away as the crow flies its 85 F inland. This doesn't make for dangerous driving conditions--it's not that kind of ground-hugging fog--but has spoiled the plans of many would-be photographers. It's often better to get a late start when driving down the coast, as the marine layer often (but not always) dissipates in the early afternoon.
Aug 9, 2012 9:48 AM
Aug 9, 2012 9:50 AM
Aug 9, 2012 11:21 AM
8I guess I would have 'Northern California' starting as you cross the Golden Gate Bridge ...
Aug 9, 2012 11:50 AM
Aug 9, 2012 11:58 AM
Northern California generally refers to points Monterey and north.
Southern California generally refers to points Santa Barbara and south.
In between is the "central coast."
Aug 9, 2012 2:41 PM
Aug 9, 2012 8:43 PM
12My family and I did the drive down Highway 1 from San Francisco just a few weeks ago. While the drive from San Francisco (once you get past Pacifica) to Monterey is pretty, I think the really incredible views start past Monterey. Since you have so much time, you may want to consider driving farther south ending in Morro Bay or someplace near there. Maybe a night or two in Santa Cruz, then monterey and then Cambria or someplace else along the coast. That would give you ample time in the day for exploring, hiking (the drive will take you past a TON of state parks with incredible trails), and photography. You could probably find a place to go kayaking or boating if you like. At Morro Bay (or even further south) you can cut over to HWY 1 on your last day & just head straight back to SF, which should take you about 5 hours from that part of the state. The drive up HWY 101 has some pretty stretches - rolling hills, etc. - as well, but nothing like HWY 1.
As an example: it took our family of four about 9 hours in one day to drive from SF to San Luis Obisbo (south of Morro Bay) and that included a 1.5 hours hike at Andrew Molera State Beach (south of monterey) and a quick dinner. Our kids are young, so we also made very short stops every once in a while for diaper changes, etc. My husband and I must have said "this is so beautiful" or "oh my gosh look at the view" about a million times that day... Have fun!
Aug 10, 2012 4:27 AM
13Thanks for all your hints and tips and ideas for things to do guys!! Really useful, can plan a nice little trip now :) This is part of my trip that I'm really looking forward to, so I'm glad it sounds as if there's some great country and things to do and see. Thanks for the tip re. the fog too, I'll bear it in mind if I want to be taking photos!!
My next question is: could any recommend a good, cheap car rental company? I'll be 24 and only want to drive something small and economical that gets me from A to B.
Edited by: Beth_Lou
Aug 10, 2012 4:47 PM
14We have happily used carhire3000.com for US road-trips - but there might be local (SF) outfits that specialise in the Monterey-and-back market.
Coober PedyBook now
(4 star Hotel)
From US$170.26 per night
(0 star Hotel)
From US$35.58 per night
Turangi & AroundBook now
(0 star Hotel)
From US$29.56 per night