CA - San Fran, Napa, Monterey, Cambria

Old Mar 30th, 2011, 08:19 AM
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CA - San Fran, Napa, Monterey, Cambria

Just looking for some comments on an itinerary for vacation. Me and my girlfriend will be in Northern CA between 5/29 and 6/7. This is our plan:

Sun- Arrive in San Fran, Stay Dowtown
Mon - Explore San Fran, stay in San Fran
Tues - Explore San Fran, stay in San Fran
Wed - Drive to Muir Woods, then on to Napa, Stay in Napa
Thursday - Explore Wine Country, Stay in Napa
Friday - Drive to Santa Cruz and Monterey, Stay in Carmel
Saturday - Explore Monterey and Carmel, Stay in Carmel
Sunday - Drive PCH to Cambria, Stay in Cambria
Monday - Explore Hearst Castle, Drive back to San Fran, Stay at airport
Tuesday - Leave

Thanks!
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 09:39 AM
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You'll be driving a lot. It's a pretty long haul from Napa to Carmel. You'll be driving most of the day - it's a beautiful drive, though. And at least you've left yourself a day to explore the Monterey Peninsula.

Then, another long drive from Carmel to Cambria. You probably won't be able to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. I'd be surprised if the landslide is repaired by then. Here's a link for current info: http://bit.ly/hoqYXK

From Hearst Castle to SF airport is another long haul. You'll have to drive south to Paso Robles, then north to SF. If you hit rush hour traffic in the bay area, expect to spend most of the day in your car.

This itinerary can be done if you don't mind driving a lot.

Hope you have a great trip!
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 10:32 AM
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I disgree with most of the above posting.

The only day I have a concern with is the last day. You may want to check the Hearst castle website, pick the tour you would go on, and see if you will be okay with that very full day. Going back on Hwy 101, allow about 5 hours.
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 10:36 AM
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Driving times, per googlemaps (and experience, I live near SFO) are:

Napa to Carmel (regardless of route) - a little under 3 hours
Carmel to Cambria - about 2 hours (but depends on road closure)
Hearst Castle to SFO - about 4 hours

So, definitely doable, depending on the reconstruction of Highway 1. Is Hearst Castle of particular importance? It's great, but if you cut it out, you could cut out the uncertainty of the Highway 1 closure, and the long drive back to SFO maybe spend an extra day in San Francisco, a day in Sonoma, and another day in the Monterey/Carmel area.

If you do decide to stay at SFO the night before your flight, have dinner in Burlingame (just the other side of the freeway from the airport hotels). Let me know if you want a suggestion.
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 10:39 AM
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This looks like a really good trip to me. You will see a lot, but not be overly rushed. You don't have many 1 night stays, which is good - allows a more relaxed pace. And it doesn't look like too much driving to me - yes it is a road trip and you will have some driving, but it isn't overly ambitious.

May 30 is Memorial Day, so it is good that you are heading down the coast after that - Memorial Day weekend is the kick off for summer, so the beaches and coastal areas tend to be crowded. I am not sure what SF will be like then - based on traffic patterns, it appears that people are fleeing the cities on holiday weekends so maybe it won't be crowded.

Definitely make your lodging reservations as soon as you can because things will fill up - esspecially on the coast.

For your Napa to Carmel drive - I would take the whole day for this drive - you will pass through some beautiful places. The drive itself is probably 3.5 hours without traffic - plan on traffic through SF though and had a bit to the estimation. From SF, I would take Hwy 280 to hwy 92 and cut over to Hwy 1 at Half Moon Bay. Then take 1 all the way down to Carmel. HMB is a cute little town - if you've left Napa early, it makes a nice stop for a late breakfast. Then all along that stretch of coastline to Santa Cruz are neat little beaches - beachcombing type beaches rather than swimming beaches since the water is cold and fairly rough here. Then I'd stop in Santa Cruz and/or Capitola to wander around and probably have a late lunch. Plan to arrive in Carmel around dinner time.

For your drive north at the end of your trip - to SFO after Hearst Castle - expect this to take about 4.5 hours without stops. The the route I would take is Hwy 46 from Cambria to 101 north - then when you get to south San Jose, take Hwy 85 to 280. You can actually take Hwy 101 all the way to the airport, but 280 doesn't take much longer and it a much nicer route - plus, it isn't as prone to traffic backups. This is a reasonably scenic route - farmland, green hills, etc. If you hit San Jose between about 4 and 7, you'll probably hit traffic, but 101, 85, and 280 have carpool lanes you can use so it shouldn't be too bad - the 85/280 interchange will probably be the worst of it.

I'd reserve a morning tour of Hearst Castle, have lunch in Cambria, and then head north to SF. There are some interesting stops on Hwy 101 - if you are at all interested in CA history, I recommend stopping in San Juan Bautista. Since your plan is to just stay at an airport hotel so you can fly out in the morning, you can take the entire day for this drive - even perhaps planning to have dinner in San Juan Bautista and driving the remaining part in the evening.
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 10:39 AM
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This looks like a really good trip to me. You will see a lot, but not be overly rushed. You don't have many 1 night stays, which is good - allows a more relaxed pace. And it doesn't look like too much driving to me - yes it is a road trip and you will have some driving, but it isn't overly ambitious.

May 30 is Memorial Day, so it is good that you are heading down the coast after that - Memorial Day weekend is the kick off for summer, so the beaches and coastal areas tend to be crowded. I am not sure what SF will be like then - based on traffic patterns, it appears that people are fleeing the cities on holiday weekends so maybe it won't be crowded.

Definitely make your lodging reservations as soon as you can because things will fill up - esspecially on the coast.

For your Napa to Carmel drive - I would take the whole day for this drive - you will pass through some beautiful places. The drive itself is probably 3.5 hours without traffic - plan on traffic through SF though and had a bit to the estimation. From SF, I would take Hwy 280 to hwy 92 and cut over to Hwy 1 at Half Moon Bay. Then take 1 all the way down to Carmel. HMB is a cute little town - if you've left Napa early, it makes a nice stop for a late breakfast. Then all along that stretch of coastline to Santa Cruz are neat little beaches - beachcombing type beaches rather than swimming beaches since the water is cold and fairly rough here. Then I'd stop in Santa Cruz and/or Capitola to wander around and probably have a late lunch. Plan to arrive in Carmel around dinner time.

For your drive north at the end of your trip - to SFO after Hearst Castle - expect this to take about 4.5 hours without stops. The the route I would take is Hwy 46 from Cambria to 101 north - then when you get to south San Jose, take Hwy 85 to 280. You can actually take Hwy 101 all the way to the airport, but 280 doesn't take much longer and it a much nicer route - plus, it isn't as prone to traffic backups. This is a reasonably scenic route - farmland, green hills, etc. If you hit San Jose between about 4 and 7, you'll probably hit traffic, but 101, 85, and 280 have carpool lanes you can use so it shouldn't be too bad - the 85/280 interchange will probably be the worst of it.

I'd reserve a morning tour of Hearst Castle, have lunch in Cambria, and then head north to SF. There are some interesting stops on Hwy 101 - if you are at all interested in CA history, I recommend stopping in San Juan Bautista. Since your plan is to just stay at an airport hotel so you can fly out in the morning, you can take the entire day for this drive - even perhaps planning to have dinner in San Juan Bautista and driving the remaining part in the evening.
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 10:39 AM
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This looks like a really good trip to me. You will see a lot, but not be overly rushed. You don't have many 1 night stays, which is good - allows a more relaxed pace. And it doesn't look like too much driving to me - yes it is a road trip and you will have some driving, but it isn't overly ambitious.

May 30 is Memorial Day, so it is good that you are heading down the coast after that - Memorial Day weekend is the kick off for summer, so the beaches and coastal areas tend to be crowded. I am not sure what SF will be like then - based on traffic patterns, it appears that people are fleeing the cities on holiday weekends so maybe it won't be crowded.

Definitely make your lodging reservations as soon as you can because things will fill up - esspecially on the coast.

For your Napa to Carmel drive - I would take the whole day for this drive - you will pass through some beautiful places. The drive itself is probably 3.5 hours without traffic - plan on traffic through SF though and had a bit to the estimation. From SF, I would take Hwy 280 to hwy 92 and cut over to Hwy 1 at Half Moon Bay. Then take 1 all the way down to Carmel. HMB is a cute little town - if you've left Napa early, it makes a nice stop for a late breakfast. Then all along that stretch of coastline to Santa Cruz are neat little beaches - beachcombing type beaches rather than swimming beaches since the water is cold and fairly rough here. Then I'd stop in Santa Cruz and/or Capitola to wander around and probably have a late lunch. Plan to arrive in Carmel around dinner time.

For your drive north at the end of your trip - to SFO after Hearst Castle - expect this to take about 4.5 hours without stops. The the route I would take is Hwy 46 from Cambria to 101 north - then when you get to south San Jose, take Hwy 85 to 280. You can actually take Hwy 101 all the way to the airport, but 280 doesn't take much longer and it a much nicer route - plus, it isn't as prone to traffic backups. This is a reasonably scenic route - farmland, green hills, etc. If you hit San Jose between about 4 and 7, you'll probably hit traffic, but 101, 85, and 280 have carpool lanes you can use so it shouldn't be too bad - the 85/280 interchange will probably be the worst of it.

I'd reserve a morning tour of Hearst Castle, have lunch in Cambria, and then head north to SF. There are some interesting stops on Hwy 101 - if you are at all interested in CA history, I recommend stopping in San Juan Bautista. Since your plan is to just stay at an airport hotel so you can fly out in the morning, you can take the entire day for this drive - even perhaps planning to have dinner in San Juan Bautista and driving the remaining part in the evening.
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 10:41 AM
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Oh geez - sorry for the triple posting.
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 11:04 AM
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Thanks for all of the comments -

I enjoy driving, so not worried that there is a lot of it. We plan on stopping at all the interesting places in between.

We will continue to monitor the route 1 closure.
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 11:41 AM
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I agree 100% with nm's plan for your day of driving from Napa to Carmel. If you happen to pass through Pescadero when you're hungry, eat at Duarte's cafe, a total throwback. Even if you're not hungry, stop in for a piece of ollalieberry pie.
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 04:13 PM
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If planning for dinner in Cambria some good spots are Robins, Sow's Ear and, on Moonstone Beach Drive, the Sea Chest Oyster Bar (no reservations and no credit cards).
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 04:27 PM
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The drive from Napa to Monterey/Carmel is easy if you avoid commuter rush hour in the morning, and it will take 3 hours or less. I'd prefer to get to Monterey/Carmel as soon as possible (the other route mentioned is very very long, but if you want a full day of coastal scenery, you could do that - it's not as powerful a view as the Carmel/Big Sur area, though, but nice if you want to get your fill of ocean views). The fast route from Napa would be Hwy 29 South to 780 to 680 to 101 to 152 to 1.

So now you have 2 options! Have a great trip!
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 04:31 PM
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Mmmmm Duartes. I could totally go for some of their pie - or their soup

boom_boom - Thanks for the Cambria dinner recommendations. We'll be down there for 3 nights next month. We are staying on Moonstone Beach, so glad to know that the Sea Chest is good. There is another restaurant there - Moonstone Beach Bar and Grill. Do you know anything about that place?
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Old Mar 30th, 2011, 05:05 PM
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>>Napa to Carmel (regardless of route) - a little under 3 hours
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Old Apr 1st, 2011, 06:13 AM
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bkmking as i'm looking into an almost-identical trip. i hope you'll post a trip report!
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Old Apr 1st, 2011, 02:19 PM
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Looks like a great itinerary to me. My suggestion is for your Monday return trip to SFO. If you do Hearst Castle in the morning and then head north, it's 4 hours to Palo Alto, accessible by either 280 or 101, then another 20 minutes to SFO hotels. You could stop over in downtown Palo Alto, walk the 8 block area of University Avenue, have one last memorable California dinner and head up to SFO afterwards. The Palo Alto/Menlo Park area has better dining options than the cities nearer the airport.
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Old Apr 1st, 2011, 02:23 PM
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>>

Palo Alto and Menlo Park do have some nice dining options, but I live in one of those cities nearer the airport, and I beg to differ -- there are plenty of good options where I live, too, particularly if you're not looking for very upscale dining (there are a few of those, too, but many more choices in "mid-range" dining).
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Old Apr 1st, 2011, 03:17 PM
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Beg to differ with what, that the airport area has better options than PA/MP? I didn't say there were no options, only that Palo Alto is better. It's not personal, just a fact.
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Old Apr 1st, 2011, 03:24 PM
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>>It's not personal, just a fact
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Old Apr 1st, 2011, 04:16 PM
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Hey, thanks guys, for covering this because except for the Napa portion, I'm doing a similar trip (with 3 nights Santa Barbara thrown in). And, I was having trouble figuring out fastest highways. My map is worthless.

Now, on the way back, I'm not flying out. We're staying on the Embarcadero, but getting rid of our car. Should we take it into the center of San Francisco to drop off?
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