8. San Francisco: 2-Day Guided Tour of Monterey and Big Sur
Revel in the laid-back beach towns just a few hours south of San Francisco on a 2-day tour along the Pacific Coast Highway. Take a day in Monterey Bay, the crown jewel of the Californian Coast. Then, a day to walk through the biggest trees in the world in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
Meet at a central San Francisco hotel and begin the journey south along the beautiful and rugged Pacific Coast Highway. On the way, you’ll pass through the ‘salad bowl of the nation’ so make sure to keep an eye out for produce stands filled with everything from fresh artichokes to juicy strawberries.
Depending on the time of year, you may even catch the famous super blooms, an explosion of wildflowers that yields a vibrant scene of poppies, primroses, and lilies.
Reach Monterey County, and stop for your first chance at spotting marine wildlife at Elkhorn Slough, an estuary known for being critical habitat for sea otters, harbor seals, cormorants and brown pelicans.
Here, you have the option to take a guided kayak tour of the slough to learn even more about the water dwelling residents up close.
Around lunchtime, take in expansive ocean views as you arrive to the beautiful, Monterey Bay. A crown jewel of the Central Californian coast, Monterey has a range of activities to pick from.
Choose to explore the coastline and 17-mile drive on an e-bike tour or, if you’d rather, get a closer look at what's beneath the water (like the world’s largest octopus), by heading over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Check out historic Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf where adventure, history, and clam chowder await. Once you’ve enjoyed the best of what this picturesque city has to offer, stay overnight in Monterey County at a nearby hotel.
The next morning, get ready to explore. Lace up your walking shoes and pack your camera, as you trade in the small-town charm for the brilliant beauty of the rural Big Sur coastline.
As you ride south on the Pacific Coast Highway, stop for photos of the dramatic scenery and famous landmarks such as the iconic Bixby Bridge. Don’t forget to watch for whales too, depending on the time of year you can sometimes spot Gray and Humpback whales breaching from the highway.
Venture through the lush greenery in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where you’ll see one of the most photographed waterfalls on the Pacific Coast, McWay Falls, nestled in a beach enclave of emerald water.
Enter next, the tallest trees in the world, the Coastal Redwoods of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and enjoy an afternoon of hitting the trails.
After a full day exploring this memorable stretch of coastline, make your way back to San Francisco. Depending on the time of year, you’ll make a stop at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk for classic Americana culture or in the quaint town of Half Moon Bay to grab a bite to eat.
With hints of saltwater still on your skin, arrive back to the twinkling lights of San Francisco at night.