The Northern California Coast is unlike any other in the U.S. It has so many different types of outdoor sights that are unique to the North Coast. I would highly recommend taking a few days to explore all the scenic beaches and views the North Coast has to offer. That is why I designed the guide as a “mini-road trip”, it is only a 3-hour drive straight from San Diego to Monterey Bay, you could do the trip one day if you wanted to. However, I find it better to split the 3-hour drive into a full 5-day outdoor adventure, with all the spectacular views and adventures to stop and admire along the way. This guide is open to complete customization, but these are some of my favorite places to see from San Diego to Monterey Bay. I will start with the beginning of the guide and walk you through a few of the highlights along the way.
First up, Point Reyes National Park sitting right on top of the San Francisco area. This spot is perfect for a relaxing beach walk to escape the city. I love Point Reyes because it is one of the lesser-known spots in the area, meaning fewer crowds to share the beach with. There are also small hiking trails through the grass pastures that surround the beach shore if you are up for more of an active look through Point Reyes.
Next up is the Muir Wood National Monument and Muir Beach Overlook is breathtaking. The Muirwood Monument is nestled among all the tall Redwoods. I recommend taking a hike through the Redwood forest. Way bigger than your person, the redwoods tower, making your hiking experience one of a kind and a truly unique experience to the Northern California Coast. The Muir Beach Outlook is jaw-dropping, it is an overlook pathed on top of a cliff for full 180 views of the beach and the San Francisco area.
The next activity is Año Nuevo State Park. Now, I know you are probably thinking, why another state park? Well, because each is unique and have their own set of tours and adventures that make them special. Año Nuevo offers elephant seal guided tours. These gentle giant creatures are awesome to observe from a safe distance and the careful protection of a trained tour guide.
Have you ever wanted to live among the treetops? Relaxed and free? Then Mount Hermon Adventures is for you, just strapped up, relaxed, and safe. Climb among the Sequoia and Redwood treetops packed with fun to tackle obstacle courses. If you are not up for such a testing challenge, I suggest trying their zipline canopy tours. At the height of 150 ft., you see really see it all. To your friends “omg no way face” to the very bottom of the Redwood trees. Mount Herman zipline tours include 6 ziplines, so you really get your money’s worth.
Carrera sailing tours are great, great in terms of sailing the seas on a beauty of a sailboat and letting someone else do all the hard work. Captain Gene is a great tour guide taking you through the bay of Monterey. In the Guide, I mention an afternoon tour but feel free to check out some of his other tours at sunrise or sunset.
For lodging most following the outdoor adventure trend, I recommend Costanoa Lodge, 7 minutes from Ano Neuvo State Park. Not really a hotel, think glamping with rustic luxury vibes. The coolest thing about Costanoa is that they pride themselves on environmental conservation. Costanoa Lodge uses all sustainable methods from their restaurant to their spa to maintain an environmentally conscious business. Their restaurant is beautiful and sources all their produce from their personal organic garden near the lodge, all other products and produce are sourced locally from other farms and gardens on the coast.
Not much of an “outdoor adventure” but everyone has got to eat! So, for food along the way I suggest two places that have the wow and yum factor to satisfy all your hangry passengers.
Abbott Square Market is an entertainment and food venue for all local vendors in the heart of Santa Cruz. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks, you can find anything to suit any time of day. It a popular place so prepare for a crowd, but it is worth it if you are looking for a unique Santa Cruz dining experience.
Sweet Maple is being mentioned only because it is just simply delicious. Sweet Maple is a great brunch spot in San Francisco. The menu is quite stacked, pun intended, with pancakes, egg scrambles, bacon, and added vegan and vegetarian options suited for anyone in your crew. I recommend trying their “Millionaires Bacon” and their “Marnier Citrus French Toast”, both extremely delicious and social media worthy.
Outdoor Adventures are a plenty moving down the Northern Coast of California. This guide is only some highlights that I would recommend considering when planning your own outdoor adventure “mini-road trip”. Have fun and enjoy the guide! Be sure to tag us on Instagram @tripvector if you decide to visit any places mentioned, we would love to see them!