Traveling San Francisco & Big Sur

Exploring and staying along the coast for a refreshing, relaxing weekend.

Traveling to San Francisco for a business meeting, I enjoyed an early morning visit morning to Golden Gate Park, one of San Francisco's greatest treasures. The botanical garden and the Conservatory of Flowers were definitely worth the early morning jaunt. (Botanical garden opens at 7:30 am )

Off to the meeting, but ended the day with a glorious drive up the Great Beach road and dinner at the Cliff House, a San Francisco icon that has provided elegant meals and amazing ocean views since 1863. We enjoyed a dinner of fresh halibut, San Fran sourdough bread, and an incredible sunset watching the condors and Californian pelicans whizzing by over the ocean.

After my last meeting, we headed out to Big Sur, with a late lunch stop in Santa Cruz, an eclectic beach town. We stopped at The Picnic Basket, a small beachside diner dedicated to simple, delicious food and treats, seasoned with lots of love. Local farmers, foragers, and artisans, including the famous Penny Ice Creamery, are the cornerstone of the seasonal menu. Sitting outside watching the college students, families and couples wander Beach Drive and the boardwalk provided for a delightful afternoon. Nearby is the Natural Bridges State Park that features a natural bridge across a section of the beach. It is also well known as a hotspot to see monarch butterfly migrations.

Continuing on Hwy 1 to Big Sur Lodge, a little rustic, but in a Redwood Forest and the Big Sur River, clear river water runs through it. On our first morning, we enjoyed coffee at our cottage porch feeding the stellar blue jays and then off for our Valley View hike. Within our first 200 yards, we were greeted by a doe, who just munched away as we walked passed.

Suckered in by the perfect path, in the beginning, we started our climb to the Valley View Vista. The path wasn’t as perfect as we continued but wasn’t overly challenging either. Lucky we started early so we had the vista view to ourselves. What a quiet morning overlooking the Big Sur coast.

From there after enjoyable (but long waited, service friendly but slow) breakfast at the lodge, we headed north on Hwy 1 to Andrew Molera State Park. For a quick and scenic adventure, I highly recommend visiting Molera Beach. We parked directly in the Andrew Molera parking lot which is just a one-mile walk to the beach. Many were hiking the Creamery Meadow Trail to the beach; it's flat and easy to walk although a bit dusty (come prepared with an old pair of sneakers). We saw some families wading in the water there and it looked very relaxing. We also had the opportunity to explore the Discovery Center located in the park, where you will see and interact with the exhibit bringing the Condors Home and learn about condors and the efforts to recover the birds to the wild. Also, while here we visited the Moliere Ranch House which showcases the rich heritage of the coast. View displays and artifacts about Big Sur artists, authors, early pioneers, indigenous peoples, and life in Big Sur over a period of years.

Heading back south, we visited The Henry Miller Memorial Library, a nonprofit arts center, bookstore, and performance venue, championing the late writer, artist, and Big Sur resident Henry Miller. For those not familiar with Henry Miller's novels, they were. censored and banned in the US due to their sexually explicit content until 1960. Then a late leisurely lunch at Nepenthe Restaurant offering world class views. Nepenthe sits 800 feet above the ocean and watched over by the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains. This mecca of poets, artists, travelers, and vagabonds has served guests for over 68 years, opening for business on April 24, 1949.

Up again up early mainly to beat traffic along Hwy 1 north, we traveled a near empty road to Monterrey. Our first stop...First Awakenings, a little restaurant that serves a wide variety of big breakfasts. It's popular and very close to the aquarium.

Onward for a little history, we went to explore Monterey's historic downtown, shops, restaurants, museums starting at Custom House Plaza, Which presided over Mexico's primary port of entry on the Alta California coast. Following the marked historical path, we enjoyed incredible restored 1850 buildings, lovely gardens, and ending up at the Royal Presidio Chapel, one of California's oldest and most historic churches.

Because of limited time, we did not get to enjoy Carmel but look forward to visiting what began as an artist colony. It grew, but only in a very tightly controlled way. I was hoping to enjoy dinner at Carmel Mission and Mission Ranch, a cute restaurant, and hotel that was saved by Clint Eastwood. (Restaurant and Piano Bar open nightly, Cocktail service starts at 4:00 pm And Dinner service starts at 5:00 pm)

We had flown non stop to Oakland which is 12 miles from San Francisco and only 2-hour drive from Monterrey on Hwy 101. It would have been delightful to stop at the many true farmer's markets with cherries, avocados, strawberries artichoke and ... fresh picked along the way, time just did not allow.

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