Best Towns & Cities To See Near San Francisco

There’s much more to see than just “The City”
The towns and cities near San Francisco Bay abound with treasure troves of natural wonders, especially along the coast lines and mountain tops. Below we’ve cherry picked out a few of the very best things to do  in towns near San Francisco. Our SF Bay Area city & town maps also identify specific local highlights and current weather conditions.

See different towns within these major areas below:
marin  half-moon-bay-coast  san-mateo-county
silicon-valley  santa-cruz  east-bay

Marin — north of SF across Golden Gate Bridge

Sausalito map Nifty village easily accessible by ferry
Marin Headlands map Beautiful views from just across Golden Gate Bridge
Tiburon map Small bayside town further north
  • Sausalito— One of the best little seaside towns in the world is just an exciting 30 minute ferry boat ride away (or a longer bike ride via the Golden Gate Bridge). See the Sausalito-Tiburon map for exact locations.
  • Marin Headlands— Stunning views and unique things to do just across Golden Gate bridge. Also see the Headlands map.
  • Tiburon— Tiburon means “shark” in Spanish. It’s a beautiful little town a few minutes north of Sausalito by car or ferry. See Sausalito-Tiburon map

Half Moon Bay Coastline — just south of SF

Beaches & Trails map Beaches & trails along the coast
Coastal Towns map shows ALL coastal towns below
Half Moon Bay map Spanishtown-oldest town in county
Montara map Beautiful little residential town
Princeton-by-the-Sea map Princeton Harbor and more
El Granada map Little-known parks
Pescadero map Nice Sunday drive
  • Best towns and sights to see while driving Cabrillo Hwy (Hwy1) down the coast south of San Francisco. From Montara to Santa Cruz is a superb stretch of coastal road for a Sunday drive; but, start reasonably early (e.g., 9:30-10 am) to avoid slow traffic. Also see coast map.
  • Best trails & beaches along the Half Moon Bay Coast. Also see trails map.
  • Half Moon Bay— County’s oldest settlement known as Spanishtown in the 1840s. Still the biggest little town on the coast. See coast-town map
  • Montara— A relaxed hidden jewel with great weather and ocean views.
  • Princeton-by-the-Sea— Excellent beach walks, restaurants, & some retail. See map
  • El Granada— Sleepy residential town with great parks for hiking. See map
  • Pescadero— A short & particularly beautiful coastal drive gets you there.

San Mateo County — just south of SF

Skyline Ridge map A great Sunday drive on the mountains
Bicycle Sundays map Scenic ride along Canada Rd to Woodside
San Mateo County map Things to do in county
Foster City map Like a beautiful resort with water sports
Redwood Shores map Marshland nature hikes
  • Skyline Ridge— Driving or biking Skyline is a treat most SF dwellers have never heard about. Also see Skyline map.
  • Bicycle Sundays— Canada Road in Belmont provides a low-key biking adventure for adults and kids. See map. Nearby is also Sawyer Camp Trail, a very popular biking and hiking venue.
  • San Mateo— A pleasant suburb between San Francisco & Palo Alto. See a San Mateo County map.
  • Foster City— It feels surprisingly like a resort yet is just off Hwy 101 & Hwy 92. A walk along the lagoon is a nice urban break or rent a paddle boat or go swimming.  See map.
  • Redwood Shores— Like Foster City but newer with better nature trails. Both Foster City and Redwood Shores have excellent family biking along the shoreline around their perimeters. See map.

Silicon Valley — further south

Stanford-Palo Alto map The origin of Silicon Valley
  California Ave map Nice older commercial street near Stanford
Mountain View map Home of Google
  Castro Street map The happening place in Mt View
San Jose map Bigger population than SF
Los Gatos map Good destination near San Jose
Morgan Hill map A suburb south of San Jose
Hollister map A nice day trip even further south
  • Stanford-Palo Alto— Home of Stanford and Hewlett-Packard, Inc. Lots of wealthy Stanford grads, doctors, and famous businessmen like Steve Jobs live around here for a reason; they like it. Also see Stanford-Palo Alto map.
  • San Jose— Has a larger population than SF (948,000 vs 809,000) and is ranked among the top 10 most livable large cities in the US. Feels more like a giant suburb than a city. Has a few interesting gems to check out. Also see San Jose map.
  • Los Gatos— This upscale little town is a great place to visit Sunday mornings. We like it better than Mill Valley in Marin. Also see Los Gatos map.

Santa Cruz & south

Santa Cruz Old resort area, new college town
Capitola Beautiful little old resort town
Carmel by the Sea map Famous artist town
Hollister map A nice inland day trip
  • Santa Cruz— Resort community with a famous old (1907) oceanfront amusement park with its Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster. Home of UC Santa Cruz.
  • Capitola— Historic little resort town. It has the nicest weather & beach around as well as an adjacent shopping area.
  • Carmel by the Sea— Former artist haven with nifty main street shops, a unique little beach, and the famous 17 mile drive. Clint Eastwood was once the town mayor. But, it’s a long round trip for one day. Also see Carmel map.

East Bay

East Bay map Has a few good attractions
Niles map Interesting old railroad town on the east side of Fremont

“The Big City” is obviously great. But so are the many other fabulous cities, towns, beaches & mountains near San Francisco Bay. Don’t miss them!

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