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Outdoor Activities in San Francisco: Adventure City Guide

Find out the best Outdoor Activities in San Francisco with our latest comprehensive Adventure City Guide to San Francisco in USA.

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San Francisco Adventure City Guide - Golden Gate Bridge

Are you looking for an insider’s adventure travel guide for the best outdoor activities in San Francisco?

As part of our Adventure City Guide series, Bobbi from Heels and Wheels, shares with you her expert insider tips on the top adventure and outdoor activities to do in San Francisco.

San Francisco Adventure City Guide - Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco Adventure City Guide – Golden Gate Bridge

Why visit San Francisco for adventure?

The Bay area offers an endless supply of thrills, from riding waves on the same beaches as Kelly Slater to sailing on an America’s Cup racing yacht. Out of the water the explorations just get better. Golden Gate National Recreation Area covers a large portion the the Bay Area, providing visitors with untouched forests, exciting walking trails and peaceful lookout points.

Whether by land or sea, San Francisco has something for all types of adventurers.

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco

Sailing the San Francisco Bay

San Francisco’s pride and joy is its stunning bay. From these waters, people can go under the Golden Gate Bridge, visit America’s most famous prison, Alcatraz, and even escape the city with a few hours on a secluded beach. On a sunny day visitors will see these waters decorated with sailboats and sea lions.

Several sailboats operate out of San Francisco offering a variety of trips, from private charters to public tours and more. Whether it’s a quiet or sporty day on the water you seek, the city can accommodate.

Getting to sailboat operators on the Bay

Boats depart from a few spots around the city and across the bay. You’ll find most board from around Fisherman’s Wharf. The Powell Mason and Powell Hyde cable cars, F streetcar line, 30 Stockton trolley bus, 47 Van Ness bus and more run to this area regularly.

Cost of sailing in San Francisco

Free to $140 per person and more.

Additional information

Find a listing of sailboats operating in the city on the San Francisco Travel website. Cal Sailing Club located at the Berkley Marina offers holds one Free Sailboat Day per month. Thrill-seekers with a bigger budget can hop on America’s Cup racing yacht USA76 at Pier 39 starting at $140 per adult.

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco – Sailing the Bay

Surf Ocean Beach

California is known for its surfing and Ocean Beach is where the pros go to catch some of the state’s best waves. A historical spot in the surfing world, Kelly Slater won his record 11th ASP world championship here.

A few surf shops operate along the beach here allowing visitors to hire equipment, but this day at the beach is not for the faint of heart. The ferocious rips and icy waters make this a dangerous spot for swimmers and surfers alike. Talk to locals to learn about the dangers before paddling out.

Getting to Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is located on the city’s western coast in the Richmond District near Golden Gate Park. Several parking lots are located here for those arriving by car. Take Muni Bus 23 to reach the beach destination by public transit.

Cost of surfing at Ocean Beach

Free if you have your own equipment. Surfboard and wetsuit rentals cost a total of about $40 per day.

Additional information

Surf shops in this area include Mollusk and Aqua. Visit these shops as well as Surfline to learn more. Those who want to try surfing for the first time or take more lessons while in the city should check out WB Surf Lessons.

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco - Surfing at Ocean Beach

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco – Surfing at Ocean Beach – Photo by Max Goldstein

Hike the Lands End Trail

One of many great walks available in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the Lands End Trail is a moderate, three-mile round trip route that runs from Point Lobos to Eagles Point. On top of breathtaking views of San Francisco’s rocky coast, people will see Sutro Baths, Legion of Honor, a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Eagles Point and more.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area covers about 75,000 acres, including land on both sides of the famous bridge. Whether you want to explore urban parks in the city or rural lands across the bay, this state park has something for everyone. Highlights include Alcatraz Island, Muir Forest and the Lands End Trail.

Getting to Point Lobos

Parking is available at Point Lobos, the start of the trail. Alternatively, people can take bus #18 and #38 to Geary and 48th then walk to the start.

Cost of hiking the Lands End Trail

Free! Look at prices for entrance to other sections of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Additional information

Learn more about the trail and park at Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco - Hiking past Sutro Baths

Outdoor Activities in San Francisco – Hiking past Sutro Baths – Photo by Randy Chiu

Best time of the year to visit San Francisco for adventure?

Locals prefer Autumn in San Francisco, but that could be because the Giants are reigning World Series Champs. There’s really no bad time to visit the city, though the weather can be a bit unpredictable here, the main concern being fog.

Finally, the reason I love San Francisco for adventure is because…

It has a busy city center, but peaceful parks and nature areas. The city is home to loads of festivals, events and activities. Further, the locals are extremely active and friendly.

BIO:

Bobbi Lee Hitchon writes about her travel adventures on Heels and Wheels. She loves road trips, hiking, scuba diving, wine and food markets. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Jeremy Branham

    April 11, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    San Francisco is a great outdoor city. However, there are other hiking trails in the area – one very popular as it is a national park (Muir Woods) and the other very popular with locals (Mt Tamalpais or Mt Tam). They are just across the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Mt Tamalpais – http://www.budgettraveladventures.com/traveldestinations/hikes/hiking-mt-tamalpais-wrong-turns-ewoks/

    Muir Woods – http://www.budgettraveladventures.com/traveldestinations/california/norcal/walking-among-the-giants-muir-woods-national-monument/

    • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

      April 12, 2013 at 11:27 AM

      I kept going back and forth as to whether or not to use Muir Woods or the Lands End Trail. Muir Woods is amazing, so I’m glad you gave a link, but I just thought for this guide, city adventure, I’d mention a trail that would be easiest to reach using public transportation. Thanks for commenting! I’ll have to try Mt. Tamalpais.

  2. Erohisms

    April 12, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    I agree that it’s the city for adventure! We moved to San Francisco almost 4 years ago and can say we adventure more both in and outside of the city than when we lived in New York (where we mainly stayed inside of the city). San Francisco is a great base city for day and weekend trips, whether you want wine, trekking or other adventures.

    With respect to time of year… fall is the warmest, summer the coldest, and winter the rainiest. Fall is harvest time in wine country, which makes a trip there even more beautiful.

    • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

      April 12, 2013 at 11:28 AM

      Great to hear! It is a great city. Yes Fall is the best for many reasons. Thanks for sharing and commenting.

  3. Mindy and Ligeia

    April 12, 2013 at 12:33 PM

    Fantastic post. Very thorough. We love watching the sea lions the best when going to San Fran. Walking the labrynth in front of Grace Cathedral is a must do as well.
    I loved the hiking ideas you mentioned in the post. The next time we’re there, we’ll have to check them out. 🙂

    • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

      April 18, 2013 at 12:39 PM

      Thanks so much! I love the sea lions too! They are so cute. It’s so strange that they just showed up. Labrynth at Grace Cathedral? I must try that next time. Cheers for the tip.

  4. Christina

    April 13, 2013 at 10:32 AM

    That is great info for my upcoming road trip from SEA to SFO! Thanks!

  5. Sand In My Suitcase

    April 14, 2013 at 7:11 AM

    On our recent visit, we loved biking across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito – amazing to bike through the fog then hit gorgeous sunshine in Sausalito.

    • Cole Burmester

      April 14, 2013 at 8:45 AM

      That sounds like an awesome experience!

    • Bobbi Lee Hitchon

      April 18, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      That sounds amazing! So many great biking trails in and just outside the city.

  6. Sara@Travel Escapism

    April 16, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Thanks for the info. I will put this on my list.

  7. Jeff Stinson

    May 30, 2013 at 6:41 PM

    This is one the best post. I visited SF last year. When the season of love calls, you can’t do much but agree to what your partner say. I and my wife were looking for a vacation spot to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I was really excited when my wife chose SAN FRANCISCO. What is more special than Golden Gate Bridge to a Civil Engineer like me. It was amazing experience visiting golden gate and other places. Also we came across a guy who knew a lot about the history of Golden Gate. It was one knowledgeable and awesome experience. SF made our special day even more special.

  8. Samantha

    June 2, 2013 at 12:53 AM

    Awesome information! I’ve heard so many great things about San Francisco and now that two of my best friends have moved there, I’m definitely in need of a visit, especially for the surfing. Everybody tells me it’s like Seattle but with better weather!

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Adventure Travel

Tips for Planning Your Uluru Tour

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Located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the magnificent sandstone of Ayers Rock or Uluru stands tall at 1,142 feet above ground. The natural formation is widely known for being one of the most sacred places to the indigineous peoples in Australia. At the same time, it is also popular for attracting tourists from all over the world to the land down under.

If you want to visit Uluru in order to pay tribute to this wonder of nature, then doing so through the right tour is in your best interest. It’s not only because Uluru is located at least a few hours from civilization, but it also because such a tour allows you to enjoy the picturesque sights that come along the way within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

So what sights are there to see along the way and what other general tours suggestions you should keep in mind while visiting Uluru? To help you answer these and some other important questions, here are 5 top tips to keep in mind while visiting Uluru.

Don’t Climb the Monolith

First things first, while it is legal to climb atop Uluru, it is recommended that you do not attempt such an action in order to show your respect to the indigenous peoples.

It is a pretty easy rule to follow when you pay attention to the emotions of the indigenous tribes who have recommended time and again for people to not climb Uluru.

But that doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the natural beauty that Uluru has to offer. In fact, you are encouraged to visit the sandstone and take in its natural glory by standing right beside the formation. That’s why 4WD tour is highly recommended. The tour guides would be able to tell you what you can and can not do.

Visit During Sunset

Ask anyone who has visited Uluru about the best time to see the formation, and you will instantly get the answer as “sunset.”

It’s because Uluru is not an ordinary monolith, but one that is formed through arkosic sandstone. This allows the rock to actually change its color according to the position of the sun. As a result, you can expect the formation to sport a different color depending upon what time of day you reach it.

At sunset, Uluru projects an amber glow that is surreal to take in, especially when you are seeing the formation in person for the very first time. That’s why, it is recommended that you time your trip in a way that allows you to experience this magnificent sight.

3. Take Your Time to Plan the Trip

Perhaps the best way to visit Uluru is through the nearby town of Alice Springs, which has various amenities and accommodation options for tourists who are making their way to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The drive from Alice Springs to Uluru can take around 5 hours, which is why it is recommended that you arrive at least a day before you are planning to tour Uluru.

This way, you can reach the national park while feeling fresh and rested. This also gives you time to plan longer trips to the park in order to enjoy all that it has to offer.

4. Take in the Sight of the Rock Art

Uluru is not just a wonder to look at by itself, but it also holds several little pieces of wonderful art within it.

The caves at the bottom of the formation hold several pieces of rock art that can only be found at Uluru. If you love learning about other cultures through their art, then this will be a must visit.

Just make sure that you take the time to learn about this art through a local tour guide or via the information provided within these exhibits. This ensures that you have an immersive and informative experience which you can remember for a long time.

5. Don’t Forget the Natural Attractions Around the Rock

Enjoying the breathtaking sight of Uluru sounds rewarding enough for a trip to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. But it’s not all that you can do during a tour of Uluru.

From seeing the red kangaroos and other marsupials to spending some time with the camels, and from seeing the one of a kind formations of Kata Tjuta to taking a walk by the Valley of the Winds, there’s so much to see and do around Uluru.

That is why, it is recommended that you take your time at the park and put aside at least two days to enjoy all of the unique activities that the area has to offer. It would give you a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of daily life while also allowing you to make the most out of your long journey to the sandstone.

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Adventure Travel

Best Time to Visit Panama and Costa Rica

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The fact that Costa Rica and Panama are close makes both countries perfect for visiting. During your holiday there, it’s easy to travel back and forth between the two countries and enjoy all the wonders they have to offer. Keep in mind that the timing of your holiday will influence what sorts of sites you can visit and what activities you can make part of your plans. By understanding a little about what to expect, it’s easy to determine the best time of year to visit both countries, based on what you would like to do.

Learning More About the Dry and Rainy Seasons

If you’re the type who prefers the hustle and bustle that comes with holidays during the tourist season, plan on being in Costa Rica and Panama during what’s known as the dry season. Expect plenty of sunshine and warm weather during this part of the year. Many of your activities will be outdoors, although you will find a number of indoor sites that you will want to include in your plans.

The dry seasons in both countries overlap. The dry weather for both typically arrives during the first to the middle part of December. In Costa Rica, the dry season usually lingers until sometime in April. Panama enjoys a slightly shorter dry season, with it usually ending sometime in March.

Keep in mind that since this dry period is the height of the tourist season, the cost of visiting from December to April will be higher than at other times of the year. Even so, if your plans include spending a lot of time exploring the rain forests or soaking in the rays on one or more of the beautiful beaches, the dry season is the only time to consider.

Making the Most of the Dry Seasons

During the dry season in both nations, do expect the weather to be more humid and the day temperatures to be a little higher. There is some variance depending on which regions you plan on visiting. As a general rule, locations nearer the coast will include warmer weather and higher levels of humidity. By contrast, the more mountainous areas will offer slightly cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels.

During this time, do plan on enjoying the lush greenery found in the rain forests. During much of the dry season, the abundance of rain from what’s known as the rainy or green season ensures that the forests are at their best. Consider adding some variety to your holiday by spending time at the beach, soaking in the nightlife along the coast, and doing some shopping at many of the open air districts. This is also the perfect timing to enjoy some of the local cuisine while dining outside.

There are special events to celebrate during the dry season. President’s Day in Costa Rica occurs during this period. Along with locals, you can enjoy a number of celebrations, open-air festivals, and just about any type of entertainment that one can imagine.

Since the dry season does attract more tourists, it pays to book your lodgings in advance. Along with President’s Day, there’s also spring break and the Easter Season to consider. While you could look at different hotels and other properties near beaches, there are also hostels that make perfect places to sleep. After all, how much time do you plan on spending indoors when there’s so much to do?

Things to Do During the Rainy Seasons

In spite of the name, it isn’t always raining during the rainy or green season. Most days, there will be brief periods of sunshine that do allow you to spend some time at the beach and other outdoor venues. Do expect the evenings to be cooler. At times, the temperature may make wearing long sleeves or possibly a sweater a good idea.

Even if you’re out and about while it’s raining, there are plenty of things to see. Towns and cities in both nations offer indoor concerts, a number of restaurants catering to all sorts of tastes, and clubs and other settings for entertainment. You will find museums that will tell you more about the history of indigenous peoples and the complexity of their cultures.

What are some of the activities you can enjoy during this time of year? Both Costa Rica and Panama offer options to go horseback riding. Generally, this will happen during the morning when the sun is most likely to be out. Walking tours are also a great way to learn more about the culture and possibly find some interesting places that you will want to return to a little later. Don’t overlook the opportunity to get in some fishing when there’s a sunny morning coming your way. There are changes to engage in freshwater fishing as well as charter boats that will take you to some of the better places to enjoy salt-water fishing.

Coffee and rum tours are also something to consider during the rainy season. These tours allow you the opportunity to see different facilities and how they produce their products. As a bonus, you get to enjoy some taste-testing at many of the places that you visit along the tour. Some of the sites will also have bistros or restaurants included, allowing you to enjoy a nice meal or snack with your coffee or rum.

In terms of museums to visit, San Jose offers some of the most interesting museums in Costa Rica. Many of them are located in or adjacent to what’s known as the Central Market. It’s a great way to enjoy time indoors during the rainy afternoons and early evenings.

In Panama, check out the Panama Canal Museum in Casco Viejo. You can make use of headphones that offer the guided tour in multiple languages. If you happen to be proficient in Spanish, feel free to check out each exhibit on your own. You can also check out the Biodiversity Museum, which features exhibits on the over 1,000 species of animals and plants that are found in the country. Make the most of the discounts offered on Sundays. Retirees also get to enjoy discounts when visiting these museums.

Which season is the best time to visit Costa Rica and Panama? It’s really up to you. For those who prefer a slower pace and don’t mind rain during the afternoons and evenings, the raining season is ideal. Those who thrive on activity, sunshine, and plenty of tourist activities will enjoy going during the dry season. Whatever your choice, plan on coming back a second time. It’s rare for anyone to see everything they want to see during a single holiday.

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Adventure Travel

Most Underrated Travel Destinations

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Everyone knows about Paris and Rome and London but there are so many other beautiful travel destinations that are amazingly underrated. The fact that so many beautiful countries go unexplored by travelers is a tragedy. Not only because so many people are missing out on rich cultures and picturesque views, but also because a lot of these destinations tend to be a lot cheaper to travel to than popular cities. 

A majority of Americans, when asked about traveling abroad, will likely shake their head and say they can’t afford such trips. Many people deal with multiple monthly bills, such as mortgage or rent, student loans, and title loans, which are all stress inducing. 

But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are gorgeous, underrated foreign cities one can visit for a fraction of the price of touristy European cities. Forbes recently published a collection of the ten most underrated destinations you should consider visiting. 

Here are a few of them:

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is known for its magnificent sights of Mount Ararat, historical monasteries, and its many striking temple ruins. Armenian cuisine is other worldly with classic dishes like rabbit stew, sautéed eggplant rolls, and lamb tartare. 

Telč, Czechia

Telč is a colorful town with Italian influences in Czechia. It boasts of Baroque-Renaissance architecture and has a castle of its own with exciting tunnels and passageways that you can explore underneath the town.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago is the capital of Chile and features gorgeous architecture from the neoclassical era. There are towering cathedrals and, of course, plenty of quality Chilean wine. Plus, the city of Santiago is a great place to kick off your exploration of Chile’s wine country. 

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Rotterdam is often ignored due to the popular neighboring city of Amsterdam, but it is a bastion of underground music and street art. The architecture is strikingly modern since the city was heavily bombed during World War II and thus had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The city is filled to the brim with amazing cuisine and museums.

Lagos, Nigeria

If you are looking for a big city destination, Lagos is a metropolis that has plenty to see and do so that you’ll never be bored. And whenever you need a break from the urban marketplaces, private beaches are just a short drive away.

Con Dao, Vietnam

Con Dao is a Southeast Asian island that makes an excellent beach destination with two resorts and tons of fascinating history. Once host to a brutal French prison, the island is also home to the tomb of the Vietnamese martyr Vo Thi Sau. 

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay dating back to the 17th century. The city has a vibrantly decorated historic quarter and a three-century-old convent. It’s also only a short trip away from the bigger city of Montevideo.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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