Efficient use of first day in SF

Old Jul 15th, 2013, 03:15 PM
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Efficient use of first day in SF

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!
tx360
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Old Jul 15th, 2013, 03:23 PM
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There are nice rewoods to visit on the way to Carmel (Big Bssin and Henry Cowell state parks); no need to drive to Muir Woods. Stay in SF for the first night and pick up your car on the way out. I have heard that pickups in SF proper are cheaper than oickups at the airport. Visit Coit Tower for its view and murals on the first day. Or visit the Maritime Museum (including its ships) near Fisherman's Wharf.
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Old Jul 15th, 2013, 03:34 PM
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Or maybe don't even go into SF until you return, pick up the car when you arrive, head over to the coast, easy to do from the airport and stay on the coast on your way to redwoods and Carmel.

There's a redwoods park, Butano State Park, near Pescadero as well as the ones Michael mentions. It seems a waste of time to bother with the City until you get back.
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Old Jul 15th, 2013, 03:59 PM
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Both good suggestions..I was not aware of the redwoods between SF and Carmel. I will check that out. Thank you!
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Old Jul 15th, 2013, 06:14 PM
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I'd forget about Muir Woods -- especially on a weekend. It will be very crowded and really isn't the best stand of redwoods. It is popular/famous mainly because it is so close to a major metropolitan area. Now don't get me wrong - I've been t the park lots of times and it is lovely - but never on a summer weekend and never as a hectic detour from somewhere else.

Since there are amazing redwoods better located for your itinerary - visit them instead.
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Old Jul 15th, 2013, 07:05 PM
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I agree with those who say head south on arrival. You can hike at Big Basin (entrance near Saratoga) or Henry Cowell (near Santa Cruz).
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Old Jul 15th, 2013, 08:20 PM
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Henry Cowell would be much easier to get to than Big Basin. Not sure how much of a hike you're looking for, but HC has a lovely .8 loop through an old growth redwood grove - with a visitors center right there with lots of natural history info, as well as history of the park (which was a resort at one time about a hundred years ago). There is also a trail along the San Lorenzo River (adjacent to the loop) that allows for more hiking.

If you head south from SF along the coast - Highway 1 - you will reach Santa Cruz in about an hour and a half and can get to Felton via Hwy 9, where Henry Cowell Redwoods State park is. Both the Hwy 1 and Hwy 9 parts of this drive are beautiful in very different ways: one along the ocean and the other through the redwood forest.

Carmel is about an hour south of Santa Cruz.
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Old Jul 15th, 2013, 09:08 PM
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If you do, in fact, get your car on arrival and leave from the airport, take Hwy 380, go west from the car rental end of the airport, to 280 and south to 92. 92 west to Hwy 1 at Half Moon Bay. It's by far the easiest route and nowhere near San Francisco.
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Old Jul 16th, 2013, 11:32 AM
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Thanks for all the suggestions. I think we will skip Muir Woods and just go south. How about ideas for hotel or restaurants near Henry Cowell or Big Basin? We can't check into our Carmel hotel until Sunday afternoon (at least as availability stands now...).
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Old Jul 16th, 2013, 12:19 PM
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For Henry Cowell - you could stay anywhere in/near Santa Cruz. MANY choices. what is your budget?
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Old Jul 16th, 2013, 12:49 PM
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Or north of Santa Cruz along the coast - Half Moon Bay (including a Ritz Carlton overlooking the Pacific) , Pescadero (B&B's), Costanoa Lodge south of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse.
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Old Jul 17th, 2013, 08:22 AM
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Almost just across the road from Henry Cowell is a nice place called Oak Tree Ristorante. They have a really beautiful shaded outdoor dining area (it's lovely indoors too) and good food - great breakfast and lunch on weekends, as well as elegant Italian dinners all week. You can google them - put Felton in the topic and you will get plenty of info.

As far as hotels in Santa Cruz, janisj is right - there are plenty. If you decide to stay in Santa Cruz, avoid any lower priced (relatively speaking) places near the beach-Boardwalk area. They can be very funky, and not the best (safe) surroundings. If you want a really nice beachfront option, Dream Inn is amazing. Right on the beach, great view balconies, nice beachfront pool, next to the SC Wharf for lots of restaurant choices. It's pricey, but worth it for the experience. Hotel Paradox is also very nice, but it's not on the beach.

Late September and early October have the best weather of the year in Santa Cruz ... the summer fog is pretty much gone, and the days can be warm with cool evenings. We call it "weather for the locals."
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