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Efficient use of first day in SF

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Need some help deciding what to do on day 1 of our trip. We get into SFO around noon on a Saturday in October and need to be in Carmel by late Sunday afternoon, so basically we have 24 hours in SF before we need to head down to Carmel. How about going directly from airport out to Muir Woods? Try to hike that afternoon, then drive back into SF for dinner/hotel? Or spend that first night near Muir Woods, hike early Sunday morning, then drive directly to Carmel? I should mention that after the 3 days in Carmel we will be coming back to SF for 4 days, but I would rather not keep the rental car as I know parking is so expensive in the city, (thus my reasoning for not waiting until we are back in SF to go out to Muir Woods). What do you think? I can't remember how long it really takes to get out there with traffic. Hotel/dinner suggestions that would be convenient for this route?
Thank you...planning is half the fun!

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