SF/Napa Itinerary-Help Please

Old Mar 1st, 2013, 11:29 AM
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SF/Napa Itinerary-Help Please

Hi All,
My husband and I are flying into San Francisco on Saturday, April 6th and flying back to Atlanta on Thursday morning (April 11). As of right now, we have hotel reservations for Saturday and Sunday night in SF and Monday-Wednesday night in Napa. However, we would really like to somehow (magically) fit in Big Sur. Would it be do-able to rent a car early Sunday morning and head down to Big Sur, staying somewhere in Carmel or Monterey before driving up to Napa on Monday? Or is that just crazy? We have already been to SF and wouldn't mind sacrificing a day there if it meant we could see Big Sur. My main concerns are the drive from SF to Big Sur on Sunday and from Monterey to Napa on Monday. I've tried to estimate the drive times by looking at the routes but I know this doesn't factor in traffic etc... Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
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Old Mar 1st, 2013, 11:47 AM
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Cut a night from SF and a night from Napa, giving you 2 in Monterey or Carmel or Pacific Grove to base for Big Sur.
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Old Mar 1st, 2013, 12:00 PM
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I agree with Michelle. On the other hand, we have gone as far as Big Sur as a day trip (but didn't hike or anything), where we stopped at Pfeiffer Beach, Capitola and Nepenthe. Here's my report of that day:

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...art-way.cfm?38

Maybe you should skip San Francisco altogether on this trip? (Personally, I'd skip Napa, but I'm in the minority - I think it's very beautiful, but I'm not into wine tasting, so I wouldn't spend more than a day).
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Old Mar 1st, 2013, 01:13 PM
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The drive time from Napa to Monterey is less than 3 hours if you avoid commuter traffic. I think I would start in San Francisco, go to Napa, then to Monterey/ Carmel, then to the SF airport (SFO). If you spend the first night in SF, driving the next day (Sunday) to Napa will take 1 hour. You could spend one night but two very full days in Napa, heading to Monterey/Carmel at 6 or 7 PM on Monday night. You will arrive by 9 or 10 PM. Traffic will not be a problem. Then you would have 3 nights for Monterey/Carmel/ Big Sur.

If you chose to spend Sun and Mon nights in Napa, you will avoid traffic problems if you leave for Monterey/Carmel about 9AM.

Driving from Monterey to SFO requires leaving by 10 or 11 AM to avoid San Jose area traffic, which starts to get busy around 2 PM. The reason I suggest going from Monterey to SFO last is because the airport is south of San Francisco.
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Old Mar 4th, 2013, 05:08 AM
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Thanks everyone... this was very helpful!
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Old Mar 4th, 2013, 05:25 AM
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@elnap29: our flight leaves around 11 AM on Thursday so I do not want to stay too far from the airport on Wednesday night... which is why I was planning on saving Napa for last. The other alternative is to head straight from the airport on Saturday (flight gets in at 1 PM) to Big Sur and spend Saturday and Sunday there, then head to Napa and end our trip in SF on Wednesday night.
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Old Mar 4th, 2013, 06:58 AM
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Why not just rent a car the day you arrive at SFO and drive straight down to Monterey/Big Sur? SFO is south of SF and therefore would be less of a drive for you to get there. It'll be about a 2 1/2 hour drive to Monterey.

Weather may be a factor, it may rain (please G$d! Let it rain!) or it could be foggy. You may want to have some alternate plans in case the weather is not too friendly along the coast.
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Old Mar 4th, 2013, 07:25 AM
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Coming from either Napa or Monterey you will encounter plenty of traffic if you leave during commute hours (which you'll have to do if you want to arrive at the airport around 9:30). If it were me, I'd plan my itinerary, but either way stay overnight near SFO (have dinner and a stroll on the very nice Burlingame Avenue)
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Old Mar 4th, 2013, 11:26 AM
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Thanks everyone... We have decided to rent a car and head straight to Monterey, then on to Napa and end our trip in SF. It makes the most sense after looking at a map (duh!)
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Old Mar 4th, 2013, 01:10 PM
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nspotz: glad you looked at a map! Just kidding.

Here's what I'd suggest:

April 6 From SFO, drive down I-280, the more scenic route, as far as San Jose, then get on Highway 101, cross over to the coast on Highway 156 to Highway 1, the coastal road. Don't stop in Monterey. Just keep going on Highway 1 until you get to Point Lobos State Reserve. About 2 to 2 1/2 hour drive from SFO to Point Lobos.

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=571

Point Lobos isn't in quite Big Sur, it's just a few miles north, but it's one of the crown jewels along this part of the coast.

You will have enough daylight to enjoy PL for about 2-3 and afternoon is a good time to be there, as there may be fog in the morning.

Spend the night in Carmel. Have dinner there and stroll around a bit.

April 7 Start driving south to Big Sur. Don't remember if you wanted to hike or not, but the best place for you to see the redwoods and do some hiking would be Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=570

Pfeiffer Big Sur has all kinds of trails - long, short, hard, easy. You can decide what you want to do at the ranger station once you're inside the park. Enjoy Pfeiffer's redwood trails.

Lunch, drive just about 3 or 5 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur and have lunch at Nepenthe. The view is wonderful. The food ranges from average to very good.

http://www.nepenthebigsur.com/

You could drive further south on Highway 1 after lunch, but you do have to drive back along the same road and get yourself back at least to San Jose by nightfall, so budget your time accordingly.

The furthest south I'd advise going is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the waterfall.

Then you should start going back north, back along Highway 1 to Highway 156, crossover to Highway 101, go up 101 until San Jose. If you're too tired or it's too dark, there are several basic but good, clean hotels in the area where you could stay the night. There's a Hilton Garden Inn hotel in Gilroy or further north There's a Residence Inn in South San Jose.

I really suggest staying somewhere here, as the hotels are easy to find and you can do a quickie one-night stay with very few hassles.

April 8 Start in the early morning for Napa. It's important that from Highway 101 in San Jose you then take I-680 and avoid going into San Francisco or to Oakland - bad traffic. You'll be on I 680 for about an hour. On I680 once you have cross the Carquinez Bridge (Martinez, Benicia are the towns), get on I780 towards Vallejo (Do NOT continue on I680 towards Sacramento!). I780 is a very short connector road that will take you to I-80. You'll not be on I-80 long either, only a couple of miles before you see the signs for "Napa".

Spend the day in Napa. Not quite sure why you want to be in Napa. Overnight in Napa.

April 9 Most Fodorites, including me, prefer Sonoma Valley. You could either spend this day in Napa or cut over to Sonoma.

April 10 SF

I like sf7307's idea of staying the last night near the airport. For an 11am flight, you want to plan to be at the airport a couple of hours ahead of time (you still have to return the car).

April 11 Fly home


I just realized something: more vineyards will most likely be open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays instead of during the week. You may have to do this in reverse after all or have to make appointments ahead of time to those vineyards that you want to visit during the week.
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Old Mar 4th, 2013, 10:02 PM
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Generally, it's best to visit the Napa Valley during the week. Much less busy and accommodations are less expensive. The wineries are mostly open seven days a week so don't worry about them being closed.

Sonoma Valley does not compare with the Napa Valley. Those that suggest Sonoma are usually talking about the Northern Sonoma Wine Region around Healdsburg but that is not the Sonoma Valley.
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 05:38 AM
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@easytraveler: thank you for taking the time to put together that suggested itinerary, it sounds right on par with what we want to do. Would it be a bad idea to stay in Carmel again on the second night after touring Big Sur and drive up to Napa in the morning? (As opposed to staying somewhere in San Jose that night).
As far as the Napa area goes, we have never been and have always wanted to go. Also, we made reservations at the cottages at napa (which is near yountville). Is it possible to tour a little bit of both Sonoma and Napa in one day?
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 12:53 PM
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@nspotz: I'm planning almost this exact trip in June. However, I've never been to SF before. I'll be following this thread closely and really hope you publish a trip report!
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Old Mar 5th, 2013, 01:38 PM
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Sorry, Otis is correct. I meant to say Sonoma County, not Sonoma Valley.

Yes, of course, you could spend another night in Carmel. Then you could drive down much further along Highway 1 in Big Sur.

Not advisable to try and do Napa and Sonoma in one day. However, you have two days. The vineyards usually don't open until about 10am and if you leave Carmel early enough you'll have an entire day in Napa.

Whether you should attempt to go over to Sonoma or not really is a matter of personal taste. One day in Napa may not be sufficient for your purposes, in which case, you'll need to spend the second day in Napa. Even two days in Napa is a short visit. The wineries in Napa are fairly easy to find - they're mostly on a north-south axis on two roads, Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail; with some really nice wineries in the short crossroads between these two.

Sonoma is more the way one would imagine wine country to be: winding roads going all over the place with vistas and vistas of vineyards rolling over hill and dale. I believe the mustard will still be in bloom when you come, so the yellow adds some bright, happy color to the green landscape. However, because of these conditions, you will have to do more driving between wineries and so can't visit too many wineries, so you'll have to select a few of your choice, make certain they will be open, and use your GPS or TomTom.

At this point, one might ask: just what exactly in Napa is attracting you? Are there specific wineries that you wanted to visit there?

Also what about restaurants? Napa has some wonderful restaurants (again, comparatively easy to reach). You may want to stay in Napa just for the food experience. Other Fodorites can give you lots of good restaurant suggestions.

Hope this gives you a bit more info on which to make your decisions.
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 07:32 AM
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@mindibiz: Will try and post a trip report! We would definately allocate more time to SF if we had never been before... It is a great city!

@easytraveler: Thanks for the follow up. I am currently trying to make a list of things I would like to do/see in wine country and then try to make an itinerary from there. Like I mention earlier, we made reservations near Yountville so this area will be our base to explore from. We have reservations at Ad Hoc on Monday night. Other than that I don't have any other restaurants in mind that we must visit. Would like to see Oakville Grocery though. I think we would like to visit 2 or 3 wineries max. Maybe one that is more established where we can take a great tour and then a smaller more off the beaten path one for a tasting. I would also like to have a picnic at one of them. We have some friends who biked around Napa and they highly recommended it. We are not professional bikers by any means but we love to rent bikes when on vacation instead of touring in a car the entire time. Not sure if this would be advisable given our limited amount of time in the area...? Sonoma appeals to me because of how you just desciribed it...we love beautiful views.
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 08:05 AM
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I highly DON'T recommend it. There is far too much traffic for safe biking (not that I don't see people doing it all the time, but I've also seen more than one biker downed by a car on the Silverado Trail).
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 08:33 AM
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I wouldn't bike either. Too many distracted drivers going too fast.
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 09:42 AM
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And "slightly" tipsy drivers from a bit too much winetasting.

As between Napa and Sonoma, this is really a tough call with the limited time that you have. To fully enjoy Sonoma at leisure, I'd say you need at least a day or a better part of a day. Maybe you could give up the day in SF.
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 11:26 AM
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Maybe we could do Sonoma before we check in at our hotel in Napa on Monday and save Napa for Tuesday.

Ha ha.. that sounds like a resounding "no" on the biking.
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Old Mar 6th, 2013, 12:07 PM
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If you wanted to do both, it'll make more sense to do Napa first and then Sonoma, then SF.
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