Experience two of the most scenic coastal cities of California as you cruise along the spectacular coast-clasping highway 1 on a relaxing Monterey and Carmel day trip from San Francisco. Driving down the mansions of the breathtaking pebble beach on the spectacular 17-Mile Drive, you’ll pass through the magnificent Monterey Peninsula—which is renowned as the greatest meeting point of land, sea and sky!
Enjoy free time to explore the gorgeously rugged city of Monterey as you spot a wide variety of aquatic life at the mesmerizing Monterey Bay Aquarium or stroll down Steinbeck’s Cannery Row to unveil the true beauty of Mother Nature and plenty of good memories to cherish for a lifetime. Bring your tour to a picturesque end with a stop at the postcard-perfect town of Carmel-by-the-Sea and browse its ritzy boutiques on the return drive to San Francisco.
How to get to Carmel & Monterey from San Francisco?
There are several means of travel to reach Carmel and Monterey from San Francisco:
By car: Most people prefer to either drive a rental car or ride as a passenger on a Monterey and Camel day trip from San Francisco because of the unrivaled views of the Pacific Coast from 17-mile road. It’s a significant drive in terms of distance, but you’ll savor every moment of the gorgeous drive.
By bus: An even better option is to consider a scheduled tour that takes you from San Francisco to Monterey-Carmel. That way, you don’t have to worry about driving or following directions. Guided tours to Monterey and Carmel are pretty affordable.
How long does it take to get from San Francisco to Monterey & Carmel?
Your Monterey and Carmel day trip from San Francisco takes approximately two hours drive one-way. The overall round trip is four to four-and-a-half hours. Some of the variables depend on traffic in San Francisco and San Jose.
When leaving downtown San Francisco, you merge onto Highway 101 South before merging onto Interstate 280. After reaching San Jose, you divert southwest on Hwy. 17 through Sierra Azul Preserve and The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park before reaching Coastal Highway 1, which hugs the Pacific Coast until you reach Monterey. Carmel-by-the-Sea is four miles south of Monterey.
How much does a Monterey & Carmel tour from San Francisco cost?
There are many tour operators offering full day tours to visit Monterey & Carmel from San Francisco. Full-day small group tours range between US$ 80 and US$ 120 depending on the luxury of the service.
Make sure to use our search engine and compare all the deals available.
When is the best time to visit Monterey & Carmel?
If you are looking for the ideal weather, visit Carmel and Monterey in spring. The skies are usually sunny with warm and pleasant temperatures. Rain is more common in the late fall and winter, while summers can get cool, windy, and foggy. Also, there is the highest concentration of people since school is off.
What are the best things to see and do in Monterey & Carmel?
Monterey is an artistic town with popular attractions like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Cannery Row. Meanwhile, Carmel-by-the-Sea (usually shortened to Carmel), is another snazzy artistic community just south of Monterey. It features a plethora of dining, shopping, and entertainment selections.
A Monterey and Carmel day trip from San Francisco is a sensational opportunity to explore south of the city along the central coast of California. Popular things to do in the area include:
Monterey and Carmel both exist along the Pacific Coast. Therefore, the views of the ocean are spectacular with equally impressive cities. The small communities each produce an artistic vibe. The architecture is splendid with several historic and unique buildings. The road trip down the Pacific Coast from San Francisco to Monterey-Carmel is especially gorgeous.
Monterey and Carmel have convenient locations directly on the Pacific Coast. Monterey Beach features two miles of sandy beachfront along Monterey Bay. Spend a day hanging out by the water whether you choose to get into it or not. Monterey Bay is also next to Fisherman’s Wharf.
The aquarium is one of the highlights of Monterey. It has pushed the boundaries on recreating marine habitats in the past, like being the first public aquarium to take care of a great white shark successfully. Monterey Aquarium houses several other marine life native to the area, including a living kelp forest.
Fisherman’s Wharf exists as an open fish market in Monterey. The market includes a series of seafood restaurants and bars. It primarily caters to tourists as opposed to the rest of Monterey and Carmel, which avoids selling souvenirs.
Cannery Row is another popular tourist attraction in Monterey. The street exists on the waterfront and caters to visitors. It is the inspiration for John Steinbeck’s novel “Cannery Row”. There are plenty of places to shop and dine for an enjoyable afternoon or evening.
Are there any other places to visit on the way from San Francisco to Monterey & Carmel?
Your Monterey and Carmel day trip from San Francisco will take a couple of hours in drive time. As a result, you may want to break up the long drive with a couple of stops along the way:
17-Mile Drive is not one single place but a stretch of road that takes travelers from Pebble Beach to Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula. The 17-mile stretch is one of the most scenic roads along the Pacific Coast. Some of the stops along the way include Bird Rock and Lone Cypress.
Del Monte Forest
Del Monte Forest is outside Monterey, and it offers 5,300 acres of public land access. Visitors appreciate the Monterey Cypress trees, which dominate the landscape. There are opportunities to sightsee and hike in the area.
San Jose is a lesser-known part of the Bay Area. You pass through the outskirts of San Jose during your travels south from San Francisco toward Monterey-Carmel. The major attractions of the city include Santana Row, Municipal Rose Garden, San Pedro Square Market, and Winchester Mystery House.
The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park is among a section of more remote land south of San Jose before you reach Monterey. The state park offers hiking and sightseeing throughout the area. There are more opportunities to explore at nearby Big Basin Redwoods State Park and the Sierra Azul Preserve for outdoor enthusiasts.
- Prepare for a lengthy drive. Monterey and Carmel are doable in a day trip from San Francisco, but you’ll be on the road several hours. Make sure you bring comfortable clothing, plenty of water, and something to keep you occupied in case you need a distraction (especially for young children).
- Don't forget your camera. The stunning scenery along the 17-Mile Drive offer awesome photo opportunities.
- Taste delicious seafood at the Old Fisherman's Wharf in Carmel-by-the-Sea and don't miss a visit to the aquarium.