It had been six months, almost to the day, that I last took a week off – back in January I visited Costa Rica for 10 days (blogs coming soon). Phil, on the other hand, hadn’t taken a vacation since we went to Ireland in March 2016. Needless to say we were due for an amazing time in some place we’ve never been.
When deciding where to go back in March, we knew we needed to vacation on a budget because our lease for our current apartment is up in August this year. We limited our search to areas where we had family and/or friends so we could have a free home base. Phil has an uncle who lives in Monterey, and considering San Francisco has been on our travel bucket list since our first year of dating (and my obsession with the Monterey-based HBO miniseries Big Little Lies) we knew Northern California was our next destination.
After relentless searching and some extreme patience, we found an amazing deal on non-stop direct flights from Boston to San Francisco for $300 each. We immediately let Uncle Pierre know when we were headed his way and the wish list creation commenced.
Three-four months later, we were off on what would be one of the most active and adventurous vacations we’ve had. Full of strenuous hiking to unique landscape views, short road trips to sight-see breathtaking cliffs and coastlines, and exhilarating must-do experiences, Northern California is a must at least once a lifetime. In our case, we’re counting the days until we can go back. Keep reading for the highlight itinerary of our Week-Long Northern California Getaway, and keep an eye out for some additional, more detailed posts to come!
Week-Long Getaway in Northern California
- If flying, look for your tickets at least three months ahead of when you would like to go. This is usually when there are the most options and the best deals.
- Bring layers! Average temperatures during the day can vary from 60s in San Francisco to over 100 degrees inland. Pack the essential tees and pants or shorts, but don’t forget a few jackets and thicker sweaters on the days you head to the coastline.
- Hiking state or national parks is a must on a trip out west. There are trails with various level of difficulty, but any type of hiking shoe is a necessity. Take this from a girl who fell due to lack of traction on her sneakers, you will slip if not prepared. 😉
- Rent a car. Even though we were based in Monterey, CA, there is so much more you can experience if you are able to drive along the scenic coast of Route 1, cruise along 101 to another majestic location or jet off to one of the amazing cities in the area, including San Francisco, San Jose, or Santa Cruz.
Where to eat, drink, and be merry:
- First Awakenings: Great breakfast option offering larger than life homemade pancakes. Get one as a side to the Bacado omelet to fill you up before a day of hiking.
- Cannery Row Brewing Company: Ever heard of a restaurant with bacon biscuits and short rib grilled cheese? Check out this amazing establishment with friendly and knowledgeable staff and over over 70 beer options on tap. Oh, and it was also featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, enjoy.
- In-N- Out Burger: Yes, this may be a fast food joint, but it’s the freshest of the bunch. You can even find the cooks cutting real potatoes before throwing them into the fryer. There’s a reason why this west coast franchise decided to stick to just burgers, trust me. Try one animal style just once after a day of hiking.
- Water + Leaves: Hit this amazing cafe located on Old Fisherman’s Wharf for a one-of-a-kind pick-me-up. Try the blueberry iced tea – it’s amazing!
- Old Fisherman’s Grotto: This place is supposed to have the best ‘Monterey’ style clam chowder in the county. (I won’t tell you my opinion as my taste buds are used to ‘New England’ style). Be sure to check it out for yourself, there are free samples of chowder along the entire wharf to compare.
- burger.: With what feels like dozens of choices, you will definitely find something to curb your appetite after riding the roller coasters on the boardwalk. Try the Johnny Cash featuring fries in the sandwich, or the Bruce Lee for a delicious turkey burger/avocado combo. Also, the slaw is a must!
- Back A Yard: If you’re up for a culinary adventure a little outside San Fran, head to this Jamaican restaurant. Take it from Phil and Uncle Pierre’s Haitian routes, this place is the real deal. The oxtail is amazing!
- B on the Go: Looking for a mid-day sandwich shop? Try this awesome, fresh joint offering up special sandwiches every day. With a large rotisserie in the center of the kitchen, you know they’re poultry will be moist and scrumptious.
What to do:
- Walk the Golden Gate Bridge: They sell ‘I survived walking the Golden Gate Bridge’ shirts for a reason. As someone who liked the idea of walking across and is scared of heights, this 1.7 mile walk isn’t for the faint of heart. But boy was it worth it – from the views of Downtown San Fran to humpback whales leaping out of the water this is an experience you don’t want to miss!
- Skip 17 Mile Drive in Favor of Point Lobos State Park Hike: For those looking for picturesque coastal views of NoCal, skip the $10 entry fee to the 17 mile drive and head over to Point Lobos for a twisty turny hike lining beaches. Park on the street and walk to the access points for a free adventure.
- Stand below the towering Redwoods: California Redwoods can stand hundreds of feet tall. Though not as big as their sequoia cousin, these trees still make you feel like an ant among giants.
- Explore Monterey Bay: If you haven’t watched HBO’s Big Little Lies, take it from me, this town is mysteriously magical. From the one of the most unique aquariums in the nation to sunsets at Lover’s Point, I felt like a fan-girl walking around town, knowing that these sights were also on TV.
- Visit Santa Cruz: Looking for an adrenaline rush next to the clear ocean waters? Head over to Santa Cruz Boardwalk. With classics like a Ferris wheel, a wooden roller coaster, and a tilt-a-whirl this amusement park has something for everyone. Then head over to burger. for a bite.