San Francisco

The sparkling jewel of northern California, SF has wine, food, beautiful architecture and world-class parks. While there is much to do in the city itself, we highly recommend tacking on a day or two to visit the surrounding areas.

Depending on time of day and traffic, take a cab or Uber from the Airport to the city, or the local BART train (30 minutes).

EAT


Akiko's Sushi (Bush St.) Unassuming from the outside, this small Japanese restaurant serves excellent, fresh sushi sourced daily from local purveyors or directly from Japan.

Bar Bocce Great food, wine and outdoor seating with a fire-pit on the waterside in Sausalito.

Brenda`s French Soul Food hearty brunch spot near the Tenderloin. Unpredictable wait times so plan accordingly.

Ferry Building Marketplace Stalls, gourmet food stuffs and a farmers market are all inside this historic building.

Good Mong Kok Cantonese bakery and dim sum in Chinatown.

Leo’s Oyster Bar Old school vibes, cool cocktails and oysters. Recommended by a friend.

Murray Circle Restaurant Admire the view from across the Golden Gate Bridge at this restaurant on Cavallo Point. Go for brunch, sit on the deck and order the pastry basket (a friend’s brother is the pastry chef!)

Taqueria El Buen Sabor An unassuming taqueria in the Mission District.

DRINK

Mikkeller Bar industrial craft beer bar in the Tenderloin district.

Napa Valley and Sonoma Just an hour north of the city, it is worth exploring California’s most famous wine regions. We love Patz & Hall and Three Sticks in Sonoma.

The Pour House Wine bar and tasting room in Nob Hill.

Vertigo Bar Cash-only dive with dancing on Polk Street.

PLAY

Alcatraz Island Tour the island’s old military and federal prison. Book tickets in advance!

Big Basin Redwoods State Park Make a day trip to visit these gentle giants two hours south of the city.

Golden Gate Park This urban park offers stunning views of the world’s most famous bridge.

Fisherman’s Wharf While touristy, it does offer a great vantage of the bridge and Alcatraz. Pick up a few homegrown chocolates from Ghirardelli Square.

Mission District “The Mission” is a vibrant, eclectic neighborhood with Latino roots, street art and no short supply of tacos and hipsters. Spend an hour people watching in Mission Dolores Park or take a stroll down Valencia Street.

The Painted Ladies For children of the 80s and 90s, these Victorian houses were made famous by the Full House sitcom.

Presidio This former military post is a large park at the tip top of the peninsula with beautiful views of the bay and bridge.

Sausalito This cute, artsy town overlooking the water lies directly across the bay. Bikee from Golden Gate Park and take the ferry back, or take the ferry both directions from the Ferry Terminal in the Embarcadero.

STAY

If you are just in town for a long weekend, choose an AirBnb in Pacific Heights or Russian Hill to be near the sights, restaurants and nightlife.

LOCATIONS NEARBY

Vancouver

If traveling through the Pacific Northwest, be sure to include a stop in Vancouver! The city is wedged between the Pacific and coastal mountains which makes for a beautifully unique skyline. The city and its residents have seemed to master the balance between big city life and the mountains while charming its visitors with a laid back, friendly vibe.

Vancouver International Airport is about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the city center. It typically takes about 30 minutes by car to arrive into downtown from the airport.

Vancouver is a bike friendly city and has the infrastructure for comfortable, self-guided tours. There are several rental shops located throughout the city. We rented near Davie Village to spend the day biking around Stanley Park.

EAT

Burgoo Kitsilano Their slogan states food is for comfort. Throw on your finest sweatpants and order the mac’n’ cheese with no regrets!

Catch 122 Cafe Bistro Cute, rustic lunch spot serving a modern take on traditional Canadian dishes.

Granville Island Public Market Located on a tiny peninsula south of the city, this is a must do in summer. The market hosts a variety of food stalls, locally sourced products and art vendors.

Wildebeest This restaurant is known for its meat-heavy farm to table menu.

DRINK

For serious beer drinkers, head to East Vancouver to experience the city’s top breweries. A few of our favorites are listed below.

Alibi Room Modern bar in Gastown with a trendy, bustling vibe. The avid IPA drinker will not be disappointed as the pub offers 50 taps of local and imported craft beers.

Granville Island Brewing Canada’s first microbrewery with tours and formal tastings. Stop here while visiting the Public Market.

Vancouver Urban Winery A stroll away from the Alibi Room, this winery offers local, Canadian wines sourced from grapes in Railtown, Vancouver. The winery also has a wide selection of ciders and beers alike.

PLAY

Gastown Head to this historic neighbourhood to explore local shops and restaurants.

Granville Island A great place to bike through and grab lunch.

Kits Beach Historically known for its hippie culture, this is a perfect spot to enjoy a day soaking in the sun and taking in the mountain views.

Stanley Park Bike through Vancouver’s “backyard”, a massive outdoor park with swimming, beaches, an aquarium, zoo, and more. Check out the Brockton Point Totem Poles which pay homage to the indigenous Salish people and their culture.

STAY

Gastown Stay here for unlimited dining options. Known for its food and young professional scene, this historic part of the city will not disappoint.

Kitsilano Kits is the place to be for hipsters and bohemians. The neighborhood offers easy access to the beach, pools and a cute Main Street (West 4th Avenue) with boutique shops and restaurants. Lululemon fans will find the city’s flagship store here.

West End A 10 minute walk from downtown, this neighborhood provides more of a relaxed, residential feel but is close to Coal Harbour, Stanley Park and the city’s beaches. Most hotels are near Robson Street.

Big Sur

The mystical California coastline between Santa Barbara and Carmel-by-the-Sea is a blend of dreamy mountains, jagged clliffs, stunning vistas and zero cell phone service. Connected by Route 1, this is the road-trip of a lifetime.

Big Sur is book-ended by Santa Barbara and Carmel-by-the-Sea, both worth stopovers on their own. Santa Barbara has incredible wine bars and Carmel-by-the Sea is an adorable storybook town.

EAT

Brass Bear Brewing and Bistro Craft beers at a casual eatery in downtown Santa Barbara.

Deetjens Restaurant

Nepenthe Enjoy dramatic views over lunch.

DRINK

Dawn’s Dream Winery Family-owned winery in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Area 5.1 Cool winery in Santa Barbara.

PLAY

Bixby Bridge The emblem of Big Sur.

Elephant Seal Vista Point Just outside San Simeon, park and get out at this view point to observe elephant seals sleeping on the beach.

Esalen Institute Hot Springs This healing center offers public bathing in its hot springs between 1am and 3am every night. Reservations must be made day-of, and are released each morning on their website at 9am.

Hearst Castle Located in San Simeon, book a tour or admire from afar.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Home to redwood trees and good for hiking.

Pismo Beach Spend a morning here and admire the beautiful, monarch butterflies.

Point Lobos State National Reserve Spend a morning or afternoon at this wild reserve.

McWay Falls An 80-foot-tall waterfall flowing year-round into the Pacific Ocean.

Solveng This Danish-style town is a delightful stop along the way from Santa Barbara to Pismo Beach. Visit any local pastry shop.

STAY

Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn Rustic, country-style inn and cabins. Recommended by a friend.

Ragged Point Inn Absolutely amazing views.

Treebones Restort Yurt-style glamping. Book way in advance. Recommended by a friend.

LOCATIONS NEARBY

Cabo San Lucas

Cabo San Lucas is the jewel of Baja California. Come for the sunshine and clear Pacific waters, and stay for the fantastic Mexican food!

The airport is a 45 minute drive from Cabos San Lucas. Take a taxi on arrival or arrange pick-up through your hotel or resort.

While many places will accept USD, keep small bills handy for tipping, souvenirs and boat tours. Alternatively, take out pesos from an ATM on arrival.

EAT

Hacienda Cocina y Cantina Celebrate something special here. The views of the beach, water and sunset are stunning and the food is excellent.

Koi This hole in the wall serves amazingly fresh sushi. Recommended by a friend.

Los Claros Tasty and cheap tacos!

Los Tres Gallos Romantic, old world Mexican restaurant.

DRINK

Bar Esquina Attached to Bahia Hotel, this place comes alive at night and is a hip hang.

Mango Deck Restaurant & Beach Bar Chill spot for sunset and happy hour drinks on Medano Beach.

PLAY

Medano Beach

Pelican's Rock and Lover's Beach Accessible only by water taxi, a round trip to this iconic spot will set you back $5 a person.

Snorkel and catamaran cruise We had a great afternoon cruise with SunRider Tours, and have heard excellent things about Cabo San Lucas Tours.

STAY

Avoid the spring break crowds and stay at a boutique hotel or classy resort near Medano Beach. Check out the Bahia Hotel and Beach House or its neighbor, the slightly more upscale Casa Dorada.

Guanacaste

Guanacaste is the northwestern-most province in Costa Rica. The region is incredibly diverse, boasting volcanoes and green mountains, dense rain forests and airy deciduous forests, lush sugarcane fields and peaceful beaches.

Liberia Airport is the gateway to Guanacaste and offers daily direct flights from major US cities.

Costa Ricans are known for their kindness and laid back personalities. They live by the code of “pura vida” and love using this term in greeting and farewell.

A quarter of the roads in Costa Rica are paved, making long distance travel bumpy and occasionally painful. While many areas are accessible without four-wheel drive, if you are renting a car reserve a four-wheel drive vehicle.

All beaches in Costa Rica are public, meaning that locals and neighbors are welcome on the beach connected to your resort. This is a boon as you will get a better priced massage on the beach than the resort spa.

EAT

Soda Viquez Excellent, traditional Costa Rican food in La Fortuna.

DRINK

Imperial The most popular beer in Costa Rica, Imperial is a home grown, American-style lager. It claims to be the world’s first “water positive” beer, meaning that it conserves water throughout the brewing process.

PLAY

Arenal Volcano National Park While Arenal has been active since 1968, hiking along its base is safe and offers extraordinary views on a clear day.

Balsa River whitewater rafting Admire the magic of Arenal’s forests while white water rafting class II and III rapids in the Rio Balsa.

Buena Vista del Rincon An eco and wellness adventure park near Ricon de la Vieja National Park that offers canopy zip-lining, horseback riding, natural hot springs and mud baths.

STAY

We loved the Royal Corin Thermal Water Spa and Resort near Arenal. While a bit outside of La Fortuna town (10 minute cab ride), it had lovely views of the volcano and a heated thermal water pool.

In Guanacaste we stayed at Dreams Las Mareas, an all-inclusive beach-side resort a few miles from the Honduran border and 1.5 hours from Liberia airport. While the property and our room were lovely, the food was ok. There are many other beach resorts in Guanacaste, but if you are looking for a more authentic trip we heard excellent things about Tamarindo, a coastal town in southern Guanacaste.