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18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area

Escape to romance and rejuvenation with just a short drive from the San Francisco Bay Area!

Discover 18 Romantic coastal towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, each offering its own unique charm and allure.

From the bohemian charm of Mendocino to the fairytale-like setting of Carmel-by-the-Sea, these towns are sure to reignite the flames of love and adventure.

California’s coastal towns are renowned for their natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere, providing the perfect backdrop for a romantic getaway.

Imagine strolling hand-in-hand along sandy beaches, exploring charming galleries and cozy cafes, indulging in succulent local cuisine, and spending your days relaxing on pristine beaches.

Take a sunset walk along the shoreline and revel in the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Let yourself be swept away by the dreamy beauty and enchantment of these California coastal towns.

With a variety of towns and activities to choose from, couples can plan a customized romantic escape that suits their interests and preferences.

These 18 coastal towns, just a short drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, offer a world of wonder and romance for couples seeking a secluded escape. So why wait? Start planning your coastal getaway today and fall in love all over again!

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Map of 18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California near the San Francisco Bay Area

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1. Pismo Beach – A romantic Coastal town in California!

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Pismo Beach

San Francisco to Pismo Beach – It takes 248 miles and approximately 4 hours. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Pismo BeachIt takes 197 miles and approximately 3 hr 7 min. Driving directions here.

Pismo Beach is a charming coastal town that exudes romance and relaxation.

Nestled along California’s Central Coast, just south of San Luis Obispo, this laid-back town is the perfect destination for couples seeking a romantic getaway.

Where to stay in Pismo Beach

SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel is the perfect choice for your dream coastal getaway. Located on the sandy shores of Pismo Beach, this beautiful hotel offers a variety of amenities to help you relax and unwind. Take a dip in the pool, soak in a hot tub with ocean views, or gather around a fire pit on the patio. With free Wi-Fi and continental breakfast available, plus nearby golfing and wine-tasting opportunities, you’ll have everything you need for a memorable stay. Book your stay here!

Spyglass Inn is the perfect budget-friendly choice for your coastal getaway. Relax in a traditionally decorated room with cable TV, a mini-fridge, free Wi-Fi, or take a dip in the outdoor pool. Enjoy dining at the on-site restaurant with indoor and patio options and views of the bay. Located near Highway 101, golfing, beaches, and the Pismo Lake Ecological Reserve. Couples love this location – rated 9.1 for a two-person trip. Book your stay here!

Where to eat in Pismo Beach

Experience the unique coastal fusion cuisine at Ventana Grill in Pismo Beach. Set in a beautiful location perched next to the ocean. With excellent service, generous portions, and reasonable prices, Ventana Grill won’t break the bank for a fantastic meal.

Giuseppe’s Cucina Italiana is a top-notch Italian restaurant in Pismo Beach that you won’t want to miss. With a variety of delicious dishes, including Pismo Beach Clam Chowder, Popeye Pizza, Bolognese, and Ravioli, there’s something for everyone at this restaurant. Reviewers particularly recommend the main dining room, where you’ll be treated like family by the friendly staff and enjoy the energetic atmosphere. Don’t forget to try the housemade bread with dipping sauce and the fried zucchini blossoms as appetizers.

Cracked Crab in Pismo Beach is a must-visit for seafood lovers. With a casual atmosphere and a unique concept based on dumping a bucket of shellfish on your table, this restaurant serves the finest seafood. Featuring local and in-season products, the menu is constantly changing and always delicious. I highly recommend the large variety of crab options and the tasty berry cobbler. The staff is friendly, and the wine list is a nice bonus. Don’t miss out on this fun and flavorful dining experience.

Things to do in Pismo Beach

  • Take a Sunset Stroll at the Pismo Beach Wooden Pier
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
A sunset stroll at the Pismo Beach Wooden Pier

One of the most romantic features of Pismo Beach is its long wooden pier, which extends out into the Pacific Ocean.

This iconic structure provides the perfect spot for couples to take a leisurely stroll hand-in-hand as they watch the sunset over the water.

  • Visit Pismo Pier Plaza – A California Charm Under the Twilight Sky
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Pismo Pier Plaza – A California Charm Under the Twilight Sky

As the sun sets and twilight paints the sky in hues of pink and gold, Pismo Pier Plaza comes alive with a charm that is unmistakably Californian.

Dazzling lights twinkle and couples can settle in for a romantic evening as they take in the sights and sounds of the gorgeous plaza.

Enjoy each other’s company while listening to the soothing music of live performers, or grab a cup of coffee from one of the nearby cafes and watch captivating waves lap up against the shore.

Let the fresh sea breeze fill your lungs with its salty tang, invigorating you to make tender memories that will last forever.

  • Experience a Natural Spectacle at the Monarch Butterfly Grove in Pismo Beach from late October to February
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Discover the majestic Monarch Butterfly Grove at Pismo Beach. A natural spectacle that will take your breath away!

Each year, Pismo Beach transforms into a haven for thousands of vibrant orange and black western monarch butterflies, who flock to the town seeking shelter from the freezing northern winters.

From late October to February, the butterflies cluster in the limbs of a grove of eucalyptus trees at Pismo State Beach, creating a stunning natural spectacle that is not to be missed.

Experience the mesmerizing sight of thousands of Monarch butterflies fluttering about in a mirage of vibrant colors.

Feel your hearts fill with joy as these majestic creatures dance around you and whisper secrets in the rustling of their delicate wings.

  • Explore the stunning Pismo Preserve

Treat yourself to an unforgettable outdoor adventure and explore the stunning Pismo Preserve.

With over 10 miles of trails designed for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, visitors will find plenty of exciting routes to explore.

Traverse through the peaceful oak woodlands while you savor picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean stretching from the Irish Hills to Point Sal.

Feel your spirits soar as you witness this captivating natural spectacle amid a serene atmosphere and breathe in the clean, fresh air.

Enjoy an unforgettable hike that leaves you feeling exhilarated and re-energized!

  • Experience the thrill of riding the waves with the help of an expert instructor

Known as a hot spot for surfers from all over California, Pismo Beach offers the perfect setting to catch a wave and feel the thrill of riding it.

With the help of expert instructors, you’ll learn the basics of surfing and get to experience the waves firsthand.

Plus, there’s no need to worry about renting equipment, as a surfboard and wetsuit will be provided for you.

Book a surf lesson and enjoy the thrill of riding the waves!

The Best Time to Visit Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach is a great destination all year round, but the best time to visit depends on what you want to do.

If you want to see colorful coastal sunsets and overwintering butterflies in the Monarch Butterfly Grove, visit in the winter.

If you prefer clear, bright days with little to no fog and lots of wildflowers, spring is a great time to visit.

In the summer, the marine layer may obstruct ocean views in the morning, but the fog generally clears by noon, making the afternoons and evenings the best time for ocean photos.

Fall offers warm temperatures and clear days, making it a great time for hiking and water activities. Overall, Pismo Beach is a beautiful destination with plenty of activities to enjoy no matter when you visit.

2. Morro Bay – A cozy little coastal town in California!

San Francisco to Morro BayIt takes 238 miles and approximately 4 hr 19 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Morro BayIt takes 185 miles and approximately 3 hr 15 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Morro Rock is an ancient volcanic mound at the end of Morro Rock Beach.   

Morro Bay is a charming town located on the central coast of California and is known for its beautiful waterfront and a rock formation called Morro Rock.

Where to stay in Morro Bay

Estero Inn is a top-rated, boutique waterfront hotel situated on the Embarcadero in beautiful Morro Bay. You’ll love the elegant furnishings and breathtaking water views from your private balcony. Plus, you’ll be just steps away from shopping and dining options. Book your stay here!

Nestled among woodlands, Inn at Morro Bay offers spacious, contemporary rooms with comfortable furnishings and breathtaking views of Morro Bay and the Pacific Ocean. You’ll love waking up to the stunning water views from your room. Book your stay at this tranquil oasis and escape to nature!

Where to eat in Morro Bay

Windows on the Water is a must-visit restaurant located on the water in Morro Bay, celebrating the finest ingredients the Central Coast of California has to offer. With an extensive wine and beer list, live local music, and a stunning waterfront view, this restaurant has it all. The food is outstanding, with rave reviews for the giant meatball, clam chowder, and sand dabs.

The Galley Seafood Grill & Bar is the Central Coast’s finest seafood restaurant, located on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay. With hand-selected seasonal ingredients from their own farm, an impressive selection of world-class wines, and novel Island decor overlooking the scenic waterfront, this restaurant offers a new definition of taste. Reviewers rave about the excellent service, friendly staff, and delicious dishes, including the Ahi special, Seared Scallops, Surf and Turf, and Creme Brulee.

Things to do in Morro Bay

  • Take a romantic stroll along Morro Bay’s beloved Embarcadero
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Morro Bay’s beloved Embarcadero

Morro Bay’s Embarcadero is a charming waterfront area that is perfect for a romantic stroll. Walk hand in hand with your loved one as you take in the views of the bay and the surrounding hills.

Alternatively, you can choose to experience the beauty of Morro Bay in a unique way by renting an electric bike.

With the ease of navigation and the electric bike doing all the hard work for you, you’ll be able to set your own pace to explore the city’s top highlights, such as the Embarcadero and Morro Rock, without getting fatigued.

Rent an electric bike and discover Morro Bay at your leisure.

  • Head to the iconic Morro RockA California state Historic Landmark
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Morro Rock – A California state Historic Landmark

Take a romantic walk along the waterfront to see Morro Rock, the iconic rock formation that is a must-see for any visitor to Morro Bay. You can also take a boat tour for a unique perspective.

  • Go birdwatching

Go bird-watching with your loved one and spot a variety of species, including pelicans, herons, and egrets. You can join a guided tour or explore on your own.

  • Relax on a beach

Relax and enjoy each other’s company on one of Morro Bay’s beautiful beaches, such as Morro Strand State Beach or Morro Bay State Park Beach. These are great places for swimming or surfing as well.

The Best Time to Visit Morro Bay

Morro Bay is a great destination all year round, with a temperate climate that offers something special no matter when you visit.

In the spring, enjoy the beautiful wildflowers and green hills, and in the winter, see tons of migratory birds and migrating whales.

Summer is a popular time for water activities, and in the fall, enjoy fog-free, slightly warmer days.

Don’t miss out on the annual Avocado Margarita Food & Drink Festival in September or the Harbor Festival in October, both showcasing local food, wine, and arts and crafts.

No matter what time of year you visit, be sure to bring layers to stay comfortable by the water. Overall, Morro Bay is a beautiful destination with plenty of activities to enjoy no matter when you visit.

3. Cayucos – Experience the romance of the California coast!

San Francisco to Cayucos It takes 234 miles and approximately 4 hr 18 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Cayucos It takes 248 miles and approximately 4 hours. Driving directions here.

The laid-back town of Cayucos in California’s Central Coast, right on Highway 1, has miles of spotless white beach, perfect for taking long and contemplative walks.

Unlike the fast life of the San Francisco Bay Area, life moves slowly here, and you can feel your troubles drift away with the waves crashing on the beach.

It is often described as the last of the historic California beach towns. 

Where to stay in Cayucos

Shoreline Inn on the beach is the ultimate coastal getaway, located right on the beach and offering stunning ocean views. Each room includes amenities like cable TV, a small fridge, and coffee-making facilities, and many feature a private patio or balcony. On-site amenities include picnic and barbecue areas, as well as a beach shower. Book your stay here!

Cayucos Sunset Inn is a luxurious coastal retreat offering elegant rooms with 2-person hot tubs, spa services, and a full gourmet English breakfast. Located just three blocks from the beach, this charming bed & breakfast features uniquely decorated rooms with custom-made furniture, fireplaces, and DVD players. Guests can relax on the patio, enjoy free wine upon check-in, and take advantage of free WiFi. Book your stay here!

Where to eat in Cayucos

Duckie’s in Cayucos is a local favorite for seafood lovers. It is known for its delicious chowder, fish and chips, and fish tacos. The restaurant is located just steps away from the beautiful Cayucos pier.

Schooners in Cayucos is a must-visit spot for fresh seafood and stunning ocean views. With a nautical theme and a menu featuring fresh seafood and steaks prepared by Chef Beto Gonzalez, Schooners offers a memorable dining experience. The restaurant is known for its signature cocktails and famous calamari strips. The staff is friendly, and the atmosphere is chill, with a bar upstairs offering beautiful views of the ocean. Don’t miss the bbq oysters and spicy halibut slaw or the wasabi-crusted Ahi. You won’t be disappointed.

Things to do in Cayucos

  • Enjoy a Romantic Stroll on the Public Fishing Pier
Cayucos pier!

Take a romantic stroll along the 953-foot public fishing pier, enjoying the fresh sea breeze and the sound of waves rolling under the crimson sky.

  • Admire the Charming Murals of Cayucos

Explore the charming town of Cayucos, admiring the nine beautiful murals scattered throughout.

  • Go Surfing at the Beautiful Cayucos State Beach

Go surfing at Cayucos State Beach, known for its consistent waves and beautiful setting.

The Best Time to Visit Cayucos

No matter the season, Cayucos is a charming coastal town with plenty to offer.

Spring brings blooming wildflowers and clear ocean views, summer offers warm, dry weather and long daylight hours, fall brings warm weather and beautiful foliage, and even winter can be a great time to visit if you come prepared with a light jacket.

4. Cambria – A perfect romantic getaway in California!

San Francisco to Cambria It takes 238 miles and approximately 4 hr 25 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Cambria It takes 185 miles and approximately 3 hr 11 min. Driving directions here.

Nestled on California’s Central Coast, Cambria is a charming town located between San Simeon and Big Sur.

With its rugged cliffs, hidden coves, sandy beaches, and quaint downtown area with unique galleries and restaurants, Cambria is an ideal spot for a romantic getaway.

Where to stay in Cambria

Cambria Shores Inn is the perfect place for a romantic getaway, with its beautiful location on Moonstone Beach. The hotel offers a sun terrace and a beautiful garden. In addition, the hotel serves a delicious continental breakfast every day. Book your stay here!

Where to eat in Cambria

Sea Chest Oyster Bar in Cambria is a must-visit for seafood lovers. The restaurant serves delicious, fresh seafood, including a highly recommended Cioppino and Shrimp and Scallops Picatta. The service is prompt and friendly, and the atmosphere is lively and engaging, with a talented team of chefs in the kitchen.

Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria is a charming and cozy spot with a rustic vibe and a warm atmosphere. The staff is friendly and helpful with wine and food recommendations, and the food is fresh and delicious. The outdoor garden setting is delightful, and dogs are welcome

Things to do in Cambria

  • Stroll along the Moonstone Beach boardwalk

Take a romantic stroll along the Moonstone Beach boardwalk and watch the sunset together.

  • Walk through the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve

Experience the beauty of the ocean and the coastal bluffs on a romantic walk through the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve.

  • Visit Hearst Castle

Visit Hearst Castle and be transported back in time to a world of opulence and grandeur.

The Best Time to Visit Cambria

The best time to visit Cambria would depend on your personal preferences and interests. If you want to see the elephant seals at their peak breeding and birthing season, visit in January or February.

If you want to catch a glimpse of the California gray whales during their migration, visit between late December and early February.

Spring is a great time to visit Cambria, with wildflowers in bloom and green grasses covering the hillsides. October is a good time to visit for the Scarecrow Festival, and December brings the Christmas market.

No matter when you visit, bring layers, as the weather can be cool in the mornings and evenings.

5. Carmel-by-the-Sea – One of the most romantic towns in California!

San Francisco to Carmel-by-the-Sea It takes 120 miles and approximately 2 hr 31 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Carmel-by-the-Sea It takes 75 miles and approximately 1 hr 26 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Carmel-by-the-Sea – One of the most romantic towns in California!

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming seaside town on California’s Monterey Peninsula, known for its white-sand beaches, art galleries, and fairytale cottages.

Its tree-lined streets are adorned with Spanish-style buildings and Victorian homes, giving it the feel of an old European hamlet. It offers couples a picture-perfect setting for a romantic getaway.

Upon arriving in Carmel-by-the-Sea, you’ll be struck by the town’s quaint downtown area, with its winding streets and adorable shops and galleries.

Where to stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Hofsas House Hotel is just a short 5-minute walk from the restaurants and shops in Carmel’s city center. Hofsas House Hotel offers guests a heated outdoor pool and a continental breakfast with fresh pastries. Read my detailed reviewBook your stay here.

Tradewinds Carmel is a boutique hotel located just a few blocks from unique shopping, galleries, and fine dining options, and the main street, Ocean Avenue, is just a short walk away. Each guest room at the Tradewinds Carmel is decorated with an Asian fusion style and features premium linens for a comfortable and stylish stay. Book your stay here.

Carmel Garden Inn is a pet-friendly B&B. It offers rooms and suites with free Wi-Fi and a cozy wood-burning fireplace, perfect for relaxing after a day of exploring the area. Book your stay here.

Where to eat in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Mission Ranch Restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea is a must-visit for any foodie visiting the area. The outdoor patio provides stunning views of the sheep meadow, and the American-style menu has something for everyone, including delicious beef and seafood entrees. The service is top-notch and the atmosphere is comfortable and inviting.

If you’re looking for authentic Italian cuisine in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea, look no further than Little Napoli. With top-notch service and a menu full of delicious options like fresh calamari and mouthwatering pizzas, you won’t be disappointed. They even offer outdoor seating in a charming alleyway, making it the perfect spot to enjoy a meal

Things to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea

  • Step Back in Time at the Carmel Mission
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
The Carmel Mission

The Carmel Mission Basilica in California is more than just a state and national historic landmark – it’s a window into the past. Carmel Mission’s official name is Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Río Carmelo.

  • Take a stroll on the Carmel Beach
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Watching the sun dip below the horizon at Carmel beach, painting the sky in a sublime pink and purple hue!

Visiting the many beautiful beaches in the area, such as Carmel Beach or Garrapata State Park Beach, for romantic walks and picnics

Exploring the charming downtown area, with its winding streets, unique shops and galleries, and a variety of restaurants

Playing a round of golf at one of the town’s many golf courses

Enjoying a sunset cocktail at one of the many rooftop bars and restaurants in town

  • Enjoy a super scenic drive on the 17-Mile drive
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
The spectacular Lone Cypress!

Take a romantic drive along the 17-Mile Drive, one of California’s most breathtaking scenic routes.

As you and your significant other wind your way along the winding roads, you’ll be treated to sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, rolling green hills, and towering cypress trees.

Stop at one of the many picturesque overlooks along the way to snap a photo or simply sit and watch the waves roll in.

With its stunning natural beauty and endless opportunities for romance, the 17-Mile Drive is the perfect way to spend a day with your loved one, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

  • Take a leisurely stroll down Ocean Avenue
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Carmel-by-the-sea

A stroll down Ocean Avenue in Carmel is sure to impress even the most sophisticated travelers. The adorable Carmel village is just one square mile, but it packs in plenty of charm.

Ocean Avenue serves as the main thoroughfare running from Highway One to the beachfront, making it an ideal spot for strolling and exploring.

It is a picturesque street with an incredible array of shops, cafes, and art galleries.

Pro Tip: check out my comprehensive guide about 40 Top Things to Do in Carmel, California. The blog post covers all the must-see sights and activities in Carmel.

The Best Time to Visit Carmel-by-the-Sea

The best time to visit Carmel-by-the-Sea depends on your preferences.

If you’re a fan of spring wildflowers and dining al fresco in the evenings, you’ll love a visit in the spring. If you’re a beach person, you might prefer a fall getaway when the weather is warm and clear.

Winter is also a great time to visit Carmel, with the village decked out for the holidays and seasonal menus at local restaurants.

And if you’re visiting in the summer, you can expect pleasant temperatures and plenty of beach-goers, although the mornings may be foggy.

No matter when you visit, be sure to check out the local events, such as the monthly art walk or the live music at Carmel Plaza in July.

6. Pacific Grove – A charming coastal city in California awaits you!

San Francisco to Pacific Grove It takes 118 miles and approximately 2 hr 34 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Pacific Grove It takes 72.9 miles and approximately 1 hr 22 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations

Nestled along the coast of Northern California, Pacific Grove is a small town with a big charm.

With its picturesque main street, beautiful beaches, and abundance of outdoor activities, Pacific Grove offers couples plenty of opportunities for romantic outings and date nights.

Couples can enjoy romantic walks along the beach, picnics on the shore, and sunset viewing from the many scenic overlooks in the area.

One of the highlights of Pacific Grove is its charming downtown area, which features winding streets, quaint shops and art galleries, and a variety of restaurants.

Where to stay in Pacific Grove

Andril Fireplace Cottages in Pacific Grove is a great choice for a cozy and comfortable stay near Asilomar Beach. The hotel offers a variety of amenities including a 24-hour front desk, fitness center, and outdoor seating areas with barbecue facilities. Book your stay here.

Consider staying at Butterfly Grove Inn located adjacent to the Butterfly Grove Sanctuary. This inn is the perfect place to stay especially from October to March to catch a glimpse of the Monarchs. The inn also features an outdoor pool and hot tub. The inn is located just a short distance from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Pebble Beach. Book your stay here.

Where to eat in Pacific Grove

If you want to enjoy lunch or dinner in a restaurant overlooking the ocean, then Beach House in Pacific Grove is a beautiful option. I loved watching the setting sun and the waves roll by while savoring a sumptuous and delicious dinner of lamb shanks and beef stroganoff!

I also had an amazing meal at Passionfish in Pacific Grove. The appetizers, main dishes, and desserts were all delicious and perfectly paired with the recommended wines.

The focus on sustainability and the Sea Food Watch Program is an added bonus, and it’s clear that the owners and chefs at Passionfish truly care about the food they serve and its impact on the environment.

The service was top-notch and the atmosphere was cozy and inviting. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting the area.

Things to do in Pacific Grove

Pacific Grove is the perfect place to visit at any time of year. Spring is a particularly wonderful time, with beautiful wildflowers, mild temperatures, and lots of birds for spotting.

Summer days are perfect for outdoor activities, while fall brings crisp mornings and deep blue skies. Winter may bring some rain, but it’s still a great time to enjoy the many parks and gardens that Pacific Grove has to offer.

Visit Pacific Grove and experience something unique each season!

  • Visit the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary

Experience the magic of nature at the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, where thousands of vibrant orange and black monarch butterflies flock to Pacific Grove during their annual migration.

  • Explore the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History

Explore the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, including the Butterfly House, where you can see a variety of butterfly species up close and appreciate their beauty.

  • Visit the Point Pinos Lighthouse
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Point Pinos Lighthouse

Visit the Point Pinos Lighthouse in the city of Pacific Grove and learn about its rich history while taking in the stunning views of the coastline.

  • Play a round of golf

Play a round of golf at one of the town’s many golf courses, enjoying each other’s company and the beautiful surroundings.

  • Hike or bike along the scenic coastal trails in the area

Take a romantic hike or bike ride along the scenic coastal trails in Pacific Grove, admiring the breathtaking views of the ocean and surrounding countryside.

  • End the day with a sunset picnic

End the day with a sunset picnic on the beach, soaking in the warm glow of the setting sun and the romantic atmosphere.

The Best Time to Visit Pacific Grove

When planning a scenic drive in Pacific Grove, I suggest taking the weather into consideration. I find that the clearest skies and least crowds occur in the spring and fall. However, summers, particularly June, often bring fog and overcast conditions due to the persistent ocean marine layer. It may be worth waiting for a clearer day to appreciate the beauty of the area fully.

7. Monterey – Perfect for creating romantic memories that will last a lifetime!

San Francisco to Monterey It takes 117 miles and approximately 2 hr 28 min . Driving directions here.

San Jose to Monterey It takes 71.6 miles and approximately 1 hr 17 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Dolfin fountain in Monterey!

Located along the beautiful and scenic coastline of Northern California, Monterey is a charming town that offers couples a unique and memorable experience.

With its historic downtown area, beautiful beaches, and abundance of outdoor activities, Monterey is the perfect destination for a relaxing and enjoyable getaway.

Where to stay in Monterey

InterContinental The Clement Monterey is the perfect choice for guests looking to experience the vibrant culture of Cannery Row. Located in the heart of Monterey, the hotel is within walking distance of numerous attractions, including shopping, wine tasting, and delicious local restaurants. Guests will also find a plethora of amenities on-site, including a spa and a children’s club. With spacious and elegantly furnished rooms, each offering partial or full ocean views, guests are guaranteed a comfortable stay. Book a stay here!

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa offers an unparalleled experience for travelers in search of luxury and relaxation. With breathtaking views of the Monterey Bay, a private beach, a full-service spa, and only steps from Cannery Row and 10 minutes walk from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, this hotel is sure to delight even the most discerning traveler. Book a stay here!

Portola Hotel & Spa makes for an ideal getaway. Located in downtown Monterey, you can easily stroll to the many shopping and dining spots nearby. Their onsite spa is highly rated, offering guests a chance to relax and unwind with luxurious treatments. It offers convenience, comfort, and relaxation in one package! Book a stay here!

Where to eat in Monterey

If you are in Monterey, then you have to try “Monterey Style” clam chowder. Old Fisherman’s Grotto, the oldest restaurant on Old Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey, California, is the proud home of “Monterey Style” clam chowder.

This iconic recipe has been served to residents and visitors of the peninsula for more than half a century and continues to be an absolute favorite amongst seafood lovers around the world.

The delightful bowl of creamy chowder is served in an even more delectable garlic butter-toasted bread bowl, giving it added flavor and texture.

You can also try the creamy “Monterey style” clam chowder at Rockfish Harbor Grill and Schooners Monterey if you want to enjoy a heated outdoor patio.  

Things to do in Monterey

  • Stroll along the scenic coastal trails

Take a romantic walk or bike ride along the scenic coastal trails in the area, such as the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail or the Pacific Grove Nature Sanctuary, admiring the stunning views of the ocean and surrounding countryside.

Visit the many beautiful beaches in the area, such as Monterey State Beach or Del Monte Beach, for romantic walks and picnics. Take in the fresh sea breeze and bask in the beauty of the ocean.

  • Explore Cannery Row
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
The Cannery Row Monument

Cannery Row is the historic waterfront district of Monterey. It’s where the city’s sardine industry was based in the early 20th century

  • Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where couples can see a variety of marine life and learn about ocean conservation.

  • Enjoy a sunset cocktail

End the day with a sunset cocktail at one of the many rooftop bars and restaurants in town, taking in the breathtaking views of the ocean and the city skyline.

Travel Tip: check out my comprehensive guide about 50 Top Things to Do in Monterey, California. The blog post covers all the must-see sights and activities in Monterey.

The Best Time to Visit Monterey

Monterey is the perfect place to visit any time of the year. Spring brings lush wildflowers and mild temperatures, while autumn offers stunning sunsets and warm days.

In summer, the marine layer provides a unique atmosphere ideal for nature lovers, while in winter, occasional rain creates a romantic backdrop.

With its diverse beauty, Monterey is sure to provide something unique each season!

8. Big Sur – Perfect for a cozy getaway!

San Francisco to Big Sur It takes 145 miles and approximately 3 hr 7 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Big Sur It takes 99.3 miles and approximately 2 hr 7 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Take a moment to appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge!

Nestled between winding mountain roads and the rugged coastline of Northern California, Big Sur is a destination that exudes romance and beauty.

Here, where the hills meet the sea, couples can escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse themselves in the serene and peaceful surroundings.

Whether taking a leisurely stroll along the sandy beaches, hiking through the stunning redwood forests, or relaxing at one of the many luxurious resorts, Big Sur offers an abundance of opportunities for couples to reconnect and reignite the spark of love.

With its breathtaking views, laid-back vibe, and abundance of romantic activities, Big Sur is the perfect place for a couples’ getaway.

Where to stay in Big Sur

Big Sur Lodge was a wonderful choice for our getaway to Big Sur. Nestled within the stunning Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, the lodge offered a peaceful retreat surrounded by redwoods. Our room was spacious and comfortable, with a deck that overlooked the beautiful natural surroundings. We particularly enjoyed the onsite dining options and found the food to be delicious. Overall, we had a fantastic stay at Big Sur Lodge and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting the area. Book a stay here.

Big Sur River Inn, set alongside the Big Sur River and surrounded by stunning natural beauty, this hotel offers comfortable accommodations with private entrances. You can relax in the seasonal outdoor pool or take a hike through the Redwoods at Andrew Molera State Park, just 3 miles away. When it’s time to eat, head to the on-site restaurant, which serves American fare and has a bar where you can enjoy a drink. The hotel is located just a 10 minute drive from Pfeiffer Day Use Beach. Book a stay here.

Where to eat in Big Sur

I highly recommend Nepenthe in Big Sur for its excellent service, delicious food, and breathtaking ocean views.

The outdoor heaters made our visit comfortable despite the cool weather, and the staff were friendly and welcoming.

The view from Nepenthe is a major draw, and we always take our time to appreciate the scenery while we eat.

I highly recommend the Big Sur River Inn Restaurant for its locally grown fine food, friendly service, and warm hospitality.

The dining room and outdoor seating options, including the deck and lawn, offer a charming ambiance with views of the ocean.

The bent willow chairs by the river provide a unique and relaxing experience, and the 100-year-old tradition of locally grown food sets the restaurant apart from others in the area.

During our visit, we enjoyed the Black Angus burger, Portabello chicken, and Salmon with chips, and found the food to be good and tasty.

The staff were friendly and attentive, and the views over the ocean were breathtaking.

Things to do in Big Sur

  • Visit Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park for a romantic outdoor adventure

Experience the magic of nature together at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, a picturesque location named after a respected pioneer woman in the Big Sur region.

Stroll through the park’s stunning landscapes, from the Big Sur coastline to the nearby 3,000-foot ridges, and marvel at the beautiful redwood, tan oak, madrone, and chaparral trees.

Don’t forget to visit the breathtaking 80-foot waterfall that drops from granite cliffs into the ocean waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Hold hands and take in the beauty of this natural wonder together.

  • Spend some time at the Majestic Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur

Take a romantic walk along the soft purple sands of Pfeiffer Beach, hand-in-hand with your loved one, as you take in the breathtaking views of the ocean and the iconic Keyhole Arch.

The constant flow of ocean water through the iconic Arch at Pfeiffer Beach on California Highway 1 will leave you mesmerized.

The unique purple sands, created by the manganese garnet rocks at the cliff, add to the magical atmosphere of this special place.

  • Admire the Bixby Creek Bridge

Make a memory together as you stand hand-in-hand admiring the iconic and breathtaking Bixby Creek Bridge.

This architectural masterpiece, located in Big Sur, is one of California’s most popular and photographed bridges.

Soak in the stunning views of the surrounding landscape and the Pacific Ocean, and snap a romantic photo to remember your special getaway.

  • Visit the Henry Miller Memorial Library

This quaint and charming library is dedicated to the life and works of Henry Miller, a famous American writer who spent a significant part of his life in Big Sur.

The library is filled with rare books, manuscripts, and other memorabilia that provide an intimate look into the life of this literary icon.

Spend an afternoon browsing the shelves and learning more about this fascinating figure, while enjoying the peaceful and serene atmosphere of the library.

The Best Time to Visit Big Sur

Big Sur, California, is a destination for outdoor adventurers all year round! From March to May and again from September to November, visitors can find mild temperatures and little rain.

Summer brings bright days and cool ocean air, perfect for exploring the area’s natural beauty. While winter may bring chillier nights, it’s still an unforgettable experience with its stunning views!

No matter what time of year you choose to visit, Big Sur will be sure to impress with something special every season!

9. Aptos – Witness breathtaking views and unspoiled beaches.

San Francisco to Aptos It takes 81.3 miles and approximately 1 hr 44 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Aptos It takes 38.5 miles and approximately 58 min. Driving directions here.

Aptos is an idyllic coastal town tucked away between Monterey Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains.

A short drive south of San Francisco, this romantic destination offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, pristine beaches, and unforgettable sunsets.

Whether you’re looking for a secluded hideaway or an adventurous weekend getaway, Aptos has everything you need to make your escape to romance complete.

Where to stay in Aptos

Book your stay at Seascape Beach Resort, a luxurious oceanfront resort in Aptos. Enjoy three outdoor pools, hot tubs, two on-site restaurants, ocean or garden views from your room, a spa and fitness center, tennis courts, and more. Perfect for a relaxing getaway. Book a stay here.

Rio Sands Hotel is located off Highway 1 in Aptos and offers comfortable rooms with free WiFi, an outdoor pool, a hot tub, and a continental breakfast. Santa Cruz Boardwalk is just 10 miles away. For a relaxing and convenient experience, book your stay here.

Where to eat in Aptos

Cafe Sparrow in Aptos is a quaint and intimate restaurant known for its exceptional food quality, perfect service, and cozy atmosphere.

The staff are happy, friendly, and committed to serving the best dishes in the area. The menu offers a wide range of seafood and meats, including filets, rack of lamb, pork chops, and venison, all with a French twist in regards to flavorful sauces and spices.

We had the venison and filet and were delighted by the expert cooking and presentation. The service was attentive and prompt, and the romantic setting made for a perfect dinner.

Bittersweet Bistro in Aptos is the perfect spot for anyone looking to enjoy a delicious meal in a cozy, relaxed atmosphere.

From creative takes on classic dishes to an extensive wine and beer list, this fine-dining establishment offers something for everyone.

We were particularly impressed by the deliciousness of their burgers and Bolognese pasta, as well as the incredibly rich chocolate mousse for dessert.

The sweet potato fries, belly buster, and Brie are all must-try options too! With its spacious indoor area as well as outdoor covered seating with heaters, Bittersweet Bistro is undoubtedly worth a visit!

Things to do in Aptos

  • Visit the Forest of Nisene Marks State Park
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Nisene Marks State Park

Take a romantic hike through the beautiful Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, with its towering redwood trees and serene trails.

  • Spend a day at Seacliff State Beach

Spend some quality time together at Seacliff State Beach, with its peaceful setting and stunning views of the ocean. Relax on the sandy beach or take a dip in the refreshing water.

  • Go for a romantic walk along the Seacliff Promenade Trail

Go for a romantic walk along the Seacliff Promenade Trail, admiring the stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding landscape. This is the perfect spot to enjoy a sunset together or just spend some quality time with your loved one.

The Best Time to Visit Aptos

Aptos is an ideal destination for any season! From March to May and again from September to November, expect pleasant conditions with warm temperatures and minimal rain.

June through August bring sunny days and cool ocean breezes, making it the perfect time for a beach getaway.

During the winter months, temperatures at night can become chilly, but with its incredible scenery, Aptos will provide a special experience regardless of when you visit!

10. Capitola – The perfect romantic escape, with charming beaches, quaint shops, and delicious restaurants

San Francisco to Capitola It takes 78.3 miles and approximately 1 hr 36 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Capitola It takes 35.4 miles and approximately 50 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Capitola Village!

Capitola is a charming and romantic beach destination, with its colorful houses and peaceful atmosphere.

As the oldest seaside resort town in California, it’s the perfect place for couples looking for a picturesque and relaxing getaway.

Where to stay in Capitola

Best Western Plus Capitola By-the-Sea Inn & Suites is the perfect spot for a beach getaway. Enjoy the beautiful views of Capitola Beach, relax in the outdoor pool and hot tub, and start your day with a complimentary continental breakfast. With amenities like a fitness center, business center, and laundry facilities, you’ll have everything you need for a comfortable stay. Book a stay here.

Escape to the picturesque seaside town of Capitola and experience the ultimate coastal luxury at Capitola Venetian Hotel. It is just a short walk from Capitola beach. Book a stay here.

Where to eat in Capitola

If you’re looking for a unique dining experience with delicious California cuisine and a great wine list, Shadowbrook Restaurant in Capitola is the place to go.

The quirky dining rooms and views of Soquel Creek add to the ambiance, and the staff is friendly and accommodating.

From the Osso Bucco to the Scampi, the food is always delicious. We highly recommend giving Shadowbrook a try and think you’ll be returning again and again, just like us!

If you’re looking for a great beachside spot to grab a bite in Capitola, I highly recommend Paradise Beach Grille.

The patio offers a fantastic view of the beach and ocean, and the food is excellent. The fish tacos and coconut shrimp are particularly noteworthy.

Things to do in Capitola

  • Stroll through the charming streets of the Capitola Village

Take a walk through the charming streets of the village, and let the bright colors and laid-back atmosphere transport you to a world of relaxation and romance.

  • Spend some time at the Capitola Wharf, a charming wooden pier

Spend some time at the charming wooden pier and enjoy the fresh ocean air while taking in the stunning views of Monterey Bay

  • Relax on the Capitola State Beach

Relax on the sandy beach, watching the waves roll in as you enjoy each other’s company.

The Best Time to Visit Capitola

Capitola, a charming beach town located in California, offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors throughout the year.

The best time to visit depends on your preferences and what you want to do during your trip. If you’re looking for comfortable weather and fewer crowds, the spring months of March through May or the fall months of September through November might be the best time for you to visit.

During these times, the weather is mild, and there is less precipitation. The summer months of June through August offer warm, sunny weather and are the busiest time of year for tourism in Capitola.

If you don’t mind crowds and are looking for warm weather, this might be the best time for you to visit.

11. Davenport – Find romance amidst the rugged natural beauty of California’s coastal town!

San Francisco to Davenport It takes 67.5 miles and approximately 1 hr 24 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Davenport It takes 43.6 miles and approximately 1 hr 1 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
The majestic Davenport coast. Let your worries and stress drift away in the wild waves of the Davenport coast!

Nestled along the rugged coastline of Northern California, Davenport is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

Davenport is the perfect destination for couples looking to escape from the hustle and bustle of the San Francisco Bay Area and find a little romance.

Where to stay in Davenport

Davenport Roadhouse Inn is the perfect blend of historic charm and modern amenities. This cozy inn, located above the renowned Davenport Roadhouse Restaurant, offers breathtaking ocean views and a wrap-around veranda perfect for taking in the beautiful California coast.

Where to eat in Davenport

Whale City Bakery in Davenport is a must-visit spot for anyone traveling along Highway 1. This little cafe/restaurant/bakery has become a magnet for locals and tourists alike, and it’s easy to see why.

The food is delicious and super fresh, served by local farms, and the staff is friendly and genuine. Service is relaxed and impeccable, and the prices are moderate.

The indoor seating and outdoor tables offer a great view of the ocean in the distance, and it’s a terrific spot to watch the sunset.

The menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are huge, with reasonable prices and generous portions. Even if you’re just stopping in for a coffee, be sure to try one of their house-made pastries.

Things to do in Davenport

  • Visit Shark Fin Cove Beach

Take a short (but steep) hike down to the beach and enjoy a romantic picnic while taking in the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. The unique shark fin-shaped rock formation provides a beautiful backdrop for photos and memories to last a lifetime.

  • Hike through the beautiful Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve

Take a leisurely hike through the Bonny Doon Ecological Reserve and discover the natural beauty of the area. Stop to take in the views and enjoy each other’s company surrounded by the peaceful surroundings.

  • Relax at the Davenport Beach

Spend a day at the Davenport Beach, basking in the sun and enjoying each other’s company. Take a walk along the sandy beach and watch the waves crash against the shore. The peaceful atmosphere of the beach is perfect for a romantic getaway.

The Best Time to Visit Davenport

Davenport is a great destination to visit at any time of year. The best time to visit depends on your preferences and what you want to do during your trip.

If you’re looking for mild temperatures and fewer crowds, visit from September through November. December, January, and February are also good times to visit, with cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.

The spring and early summer months of April through May offer increasing temperatures and special events. Throughout the year, temperatures in Davenport range from the mid-50s to the mid-70s, so be sure to bring layers.

Don’t miss the opportunity to see the monarch butterflies at Natural Bridges State Beach (Check the driving directions here) during the winter months. With its beautiful coastline and variety of attractions, Davenport is a must-visit destination.

12. Pescadero – Enjoy the endless romance!

San Francisco to Pescadero It takes 47.2 miles and approximately 1 hr 4 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Pescadero It takes 51.2 miles and approximately 1 hr 9 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Pigeon Point Lighthouse – the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States!

Pescadero is a small town in San Mateo County located just 30 minutes south of Half Moon Bay and is known for its charming bed and breakfasts and close proximity to Pigeon Point Light Station.

Nestled between the rugged coastal cliffs and the bright blue Pacific, Pescadero offers an idyllic backdrop for a romantic escape.

Where to stay in Pescadero

Nestled on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean, HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel offers a truly romantic getaway for couples.

Imagine waking up to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore, with the Pigeon Point Lighthouse standing tall in the background, the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States.

Take a stroll on the beach, or simply relax on the property’s secluded and peaceful setting. The hostel offers cozy, rustic accommodations and all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay.

Book your stay here and experience the beauty of the Pacific Ocean and the historic Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Where to eat in Pescadero

I recently had the pleasure of dining at Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero and was thoroughly impressed. The artichoke and green chile cream soups were incredibly unique and delicious, and the blackened snapper was perfectly prepared and deeply flavorful.

The oyster sandwiches and grilled snapper were also excellent, and the berry pie with ice cream for dessert was superb. The bar had great drinks and the service was efficient, even when there was a line out the door.

Things to do in Pescadero

  • Explore the iconic Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Admire the historic Pigeon Point Lighthouse, a romantic spot with breathtaking oceanfront views. Consider the unique experience of staying at the lighthouse for a romantic getaway.

  • Visit the beautiful Año Nuevo State Park

Spend a day exploring the breathtaking landscapes of Año Nuevo State Park, where you can witness the majestic elephant seals that call this place home. Take a walk along the trails and enjoy each other’s company as you take in the natural beauty of the area.

  • Finish off your stay with a romantic wine-tasting experience

Savor a romantic wine-tasting experience at Harley Farms, surrounded by the picturesque countryside in a rustic barn setting.

The Best Time to Visit Pescadero

If you’re looking for a beach getaway with year-round mild temperatures, then Pescadero is the perfect destination!

From February to April and again from October to December, the conditions are ideal – sunny days, cool ocean breezes, and minimal rain.

June through September bring dry spells and warm sunshine, perfect for taking in the stunning scenery.

In May and November, expect foggy mornings that clear into sunny afternoons. No matter when you visit, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable experience in beautiful Pescadero!

13. Half Moon Bay – Experience the wonder of its dramatic coastlines

San Francisco to Half Moon Bay It takes 29.6 miles and approximately 42 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Half Moon Bay It takes 40.5 miles and approximately 49 min. Driving directions here.

Where to stay in Half Moon Bay

With its perfect location perched atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and only 30 minutes away from San Francisco, Seal Cove Inn is the ideal spot for adventure and relaxation. Indulge in modern luxury and enjoy free gourmet breakfast and nightly wine receptions. Plus, you’ll find easy access to Half Moon Bay State Beach just 6 miles away. Book a stay here.

Budget friendly Harbor View Inn is also a great choice. It offers offers breathtaking Pacific Ocean views. Here you can explore the local beaches and take in the sights along California’s coastline. Book a stay here.

Where to eat in Half Moon Bay

Navio at Half Moon Bay is a must-visit for anyone seeking an unforgettable dining experience. Enjoy breathtaking Pacific sunset views alongside a world-class menu and wine selection – with helpful staff to guide you through each dish.

Whether you choose steak, halibut, or one of the signature wine pairings, you won’t be disappointed.

At the end of your meal, you’ll understand why this restaurant is renowned for its convenient service, atmosphere, and outstanding food. An unforgettable experience awaits!

Sam’s Chowder House in Half Moon Bay is a must-visit spot for seafood lovers.

Overlooking the Pacific ocean, the restaurant serves up New England-style seafood, including fresh catch of the day, award-winning lobster rolls, fresh Maine lobster, fried calamari, fish and chips, delicious chowders, shrimp scampi, farm fresh salads, ahi tuna poke, and other seafood specialties.

There are also gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options available, as well as a kids menu for 12 and under. The staff is polite and professional, and the live music adds to the atmosphere.

The portions are huge, and the food is always delicious, with no disappointments. The service is excellent, and the ocean views are a bonus.

Things to do in Half Moon Bay

  • Relax and unwind at the luxurious Ritz Carlton hotel

Enjoy a romantic getaway at the Ritz Carlton, a luxurious hotel located right on the coast with breathtaking ocean views and free coastal access.

  • Visit the beautiful Seal Cove Cypress Tree Tunnel – a hidden gem

Take a romantic walk through the beautiful Seal Cove Cypress Tree Tunnel in Moss Beach, admiring the stunning natural surroundings.

This is one of the Super scenic Cypress Trees and Tunnels near San Francisco that I visit often.

  • Explore the stunning Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Explore the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, a stunning protected area filled with diverse marine life and beautiful coastal views.

  • Go for a scenic hike

Take a romantic hike along the Cowell-Purisima Trail, taking in the stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

The Best Time to Visit Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is a must-visit destination no matter what time of year you go.

In the winter, brave the chilly temperatures and rough surf to catch world-renowned big-wave surfing at the Mavericks competition or go whale-watching as thousands of grey and humpback whales migrate through the area.

Spring brings mild temperatures and a variety of outdoor activities, such as horseback riding through the redwood forests and kayaking in the Pacific.

Summer is the perfect time to hit the beach and explore the tidepools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and Miramontes Point or test your swing at one of the area’s championship golf courses.

And in the fall, don’t miss the world’s biggest pumpkin festival and contest, complete with a parade and huge cash prizes for the biggest gourds.

With average temperatures ranging from the mid-40s to mid-70s, there’s always something to do and enjoy in Half Moon Bay. So pack your layers and head to this beautiful coastal town for a memorable getaway any time of year.

14. Point Reyes National Seashore – A picturesque coastal destination in California

San Francisco to Point Reyes National Seashore It takes 37 miles and approximately 1 hr 19 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Point Reyes National Seashore It takes 82.2 miles and approximately 2 hr 22 min. Driving directions here.

Located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County, California, Point Reyes National Seashore is a beautiful and wild natural sanctuary that offers couples a chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

From the thunderous waves crashing against the rocky headlands to the peaceful sunsets over the open grasslands, Point Reyes is a place where you can truly connect with nature and each other.

With over 1500 species of plants and animals to discover and several cultures to learn about, Point Reyes is a tapestry of stories waiting to be explored and enjoyed together.

Where to stay in Point Reyes National Seashore

Make your vacation more exciting and stay at HI Point Reyes Hostel on Point Reyes National Seashore! Enjoy comfortable accommodations with hardwood floors, access to a shared bathroom, and free parking for your convenience. Located just 5 minutes from Limantour Beach, you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking beauty. Plus, you’ll also have numerous activities within easy reach, such as Tomales Bay State Park which is only 14 miles away! Experience the best of what the Point Reyes area has to offer. Book a stay here.

Alternatively, you can choose to stay in Olema at Olema House, just 5.5 miles from the Point Reyes National Seashore. Olema House is close to highway 1 and it is a great location for exploring the Point Reyes area. Here, you can enjoy four acres of private grounds with expansive lawns and tranquil gardens that stretch to the banks of Olema Creek. Book a stay here.

Where to eat in Point Reyes National Seashore

If you’re in or around Point Reyes National Seashore, the Station House Cafe is the spot to eat. This restaurant offers great food, friendly and personal service, and wonderful outdoor accommodations.

Despite being busy for dinner, the staff is attentive and accommodating. The food is delicious, with highlights including the vegetarian Nicoise, halibut, and mussels, and popovers.

Things to do in Point Reyes National Seashore

  • See the native tule elk and enjoy the bucolic feeling of the green valley

As you wander through the green valley, take in the peaceful surroundings and watch the tule elk bask in the sun. This native California species adds to the rustic charm of the area, making it the perfect spot for a romantic stroll.

  • Walk through the Cypress tree tunnel
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
The enchanting Cypress Tree Tunnel

Cypress tree tunnel is a must-see spot on the way to Point Reyes Lighthouse. Walking under this canopy, through the towering trees, creates a sense of enchantment, making it a great place for a romantic walk with your loved one.

  • Spend a day at Drakes Beach, where you can appreciate the wildness of the Pacific Ocean

Drakes Beach is known for its wild and rugged beauty, with thunderous ocean breakers crashing against its shore. Take in the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and enjoy the feeling of being away from it all with your significant other.

  • Admire the beautiful sunset while walking to Point Reyes Lighthouse
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Point Reyes National Seashore – A picturesque coastal destination in California

There’s nothing quite like a sunset walk to set the mood for a romantic evening. As you make your way to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, take in the stunning views of the setting sun and the ocean.

  • Visit the white visitor center and savor the beauty of the natural sanctuary

The white visitor center at Point Reyes National Seashore is a must-see for any nature lover. This beautiful building is surrounded by stunning landscapes and is the perfect place to learn about the history and wildlife of the area.

The Best Time to Visit Point Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes National Seashore offers a unique and varied experience no matter when you visit. The weather can be unpredictable, so it is best to dress accordingly. Be sure to bring layers and rain gear, no matter what time of year you visit.

With its mild Mediterranean climate, the most ideal time to visit is during the transition months of late September, October, and early November or late May and early June.

During these months, visitors are likely to experience clear days with light breezes and warm temperatures.

Winter brings frequent rains, while summers have foggy mornings that burn out by mid-day.

15. Bodega Bay – Embrace the natural beauty of the California coast!

San Francisco to Bodega Bay It takes 66.8 miles and approximately 1 hr 33 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Bodega Bay It takes 111 miles and approximately 2 hr 45 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
aking in the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean at Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay is a tranquil coastal village nestled in Sonoma County, California. Its sheltered bay and protected harbor provide a tranquil escape.

Enjoy the fresh sea air as you explore miles of unspoiled coastline.

Where to stay in Bodega Bay

The Inn at the Tides in Bodega Bay is situated along the Sonoma Coast, and offers rooms with bay views and a complimentary bottle of wine. Guests can also enjoy an on-site heated outdoor pool, hot tub and sauna. The Inn is conveniently located within 1 mile of Sonoma Coast State Beach. Book a stay here.

Where to eat in Bodega Bay

If you’re in Bodega Bay, be sure to stop by Spud Point Crab Company. Known for their fresh clam chowder, this restaurant is a must-visit every time we visit the area.

The clam chowder is the best we’ve had, and the crab in a cup with sauce on the side is delicious. There are also several other fish dishes available, and the vibes are always good.

The restaurant is a great place to grab a cup of chowder and head to Bodega Head for spectacular views.

Things to do in Bodega Bay

  • Hike Bodega Bay Head

This scenic hike offers breathtaking views of the coastline and is the perfect opportunity for a romantic walk with your partner. Take in the fresh sea air and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.

  • Explore Bird Walk Coastal Access Trail

This beautiful trail is perfect for birdwatching and offers the chance to see a variety of species in their natural habitat. Take a leisurely walk and appreciate the beauty of the surrounding nature.

  • Check out the filming locations from Hitchcock’s The Birds

Take a trip down memory lane by visiting the filming locations from the classic horror film, The Birds. This is a unique and memorable experience to share with your partner.

The Best Time to Visit Bodega Bay

Bodega Bay, California, is the perfect destination, no matter what time of year you visit. From mild winters to warm summers, the weather and climate are always inviting and comfortable.

For tourists looking for a quieter experience, the months of January, February, and March offer fewer crowds as well as mild temperatures and light rainfall.

April, October, November, and December also have smaller crowds, although temperatures may be slightly cooler.

May, June, and September are popular times to visit Bodega Bay, with high numbers of visitors due to their warmer temperatures and lower rainfall.

With its beautiful Mediterranean climate, Bodega Bay offers an ideal getaway any time of year!

16. Gualala – One of California’s charming coastal towns

San Francisco to Gualala It takes 115 miles and approximately 2 hr 56 min. Driving directions. here.

San Jose to Gualala It takes 160 miles and approximately 4 hr 6 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
The Gualala Arts Center’s sculpture garden is a true hidden gem, nestled amidst the towering redwood trees. The sculptures take on new life amongst the natural beauty of the forest, and the redwoods add an ethereal touch to the art.

Gualala, a beautiful and secluded stretch of the Northern California coast, is an ideal getaway for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Boasting a stunning landscape surrounded by towering redwood trees and fresh ocean air, Gualala is the perfect combination of natural beauty and peace.

A mere two-hour drive from San Francisco’s Bay Area makes Gualala easily accessible for a day trip or for a perfect weekend getaway.

However, many travelers choose to stay for longer periods to immerse themselves in its tranquil atmosphere fully.

Where to stay in Gualala

Gualala Country Inn features amazing views of the ocean. You’ll also be within walking distance to Gualala Regional Park Beach as well as close to activities like windsurfing, diving and snorkeling. Book a stay here.

Where to eat in Gualala

Trinks in Gualala is a must-stop destination for anyone in the area. The selection of food is impressive, with highlights including the ginger scone and smoothie.

The ginger cookies are a must-try for the road. On our second visit, we enjoyed a delicious lunch with a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean from the garden terrace.

The breakfast and lunch options are delicious, with a standout burger and yummy baked goods.

Things to do in Gualala

  • Romantic Paddling on the Gualala River

Rent canoes or kayaks and enjoy a romantic paddle down the Gualala river, taking in the stunning views of the surrounding redwood forests.

  • Artistic Exploration at Gualala Arts Center
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Gualala Arts Center

Visit the Gualala Arts Center and explore the art galleries together, admiring the work of local artists.

  • Explore Gualala Point Regional Park

Take a leisurely walk through Gualala Point Regional Park, holding hands as you explore the beach and estuary, and enjoy the peaceful surroundings of the small, forested campground.

The Best Time to Visit Gualala

The best time to visit Gualala in California is during the spring and fall seasons, which fall between March and November.

While the winter months of December through February can bring rain to the region, the spring and summer offer the best combination of pleasant weather and fewer crowds.

Summer is also a great time to escape the hot temperatures in other parts of California.

No matter when you visit, it’s always a good idea to pack layers and be prepared for potentially cooler coastal temperatures.

17. Mendocino – An escape to romance!

San Francisco to Mendocino It takes 155 miles and approximately 3 hr 22 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Mendocino It takes 206 miles and approximately 4 hr 32 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park

Mendocino is an enchanting and picturesque coastal town located in Mendocino County, California.

It is renowned for its scenic beauty and sweeping panoramas of the rugged cliffs and sandy beaches that line its shoreline.

Famous for its redwood forests, vineyards, and charming towns, Mendocino is a great destination for a romantic weekend escape.

Where to stay in Mendocino

The Hill House Inn in Mendocino is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Nestled in the heart of the charming town, it’s just a short walk from the Mendocino Art Center and the many shopping and dining options that downtown has to offer. The Victorian-style Inn offers rooms with fireplaces and views of the stunning Pacific Ocean or the tranquil Victorian garden. It is very close to the Mendocino Headlands State Park. Book a stay here.

Agate Cove Inn is the perfect getaway for those looking to escape to the picturesque coastal town of Mendocino. The charming inn offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and is only a short distance away from some of the town’s most beloved attractions, including the Mendocino Art Center, Temple of Kwan Tai, and the Highlight Gallery. You can also enjoy a delicious two-course organic breakfast every morning. Book a stay here.

Where to eat in Mendocino

We tried food from two restaurants and loved them. I highly recommend the restaurant in the Little River Inn. It is within a few minutes drive, and it’s a gem.

If you don’t want to drive, then I recommend Trillium Cafe.

Things to do in Mendocino

  • Visit Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park

Take a romantic stroll through Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park, admiring the historic lighthouse and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

  • Explore Mendocino Headlands State Park
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Mendocino Headlands State Park

Hold hands and enjoy the stunning views of the coast as you walk along the bluffs at Mendocino Headlands State Park.

  • Visit Mendocino Art Center
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
The highlight of the visit for me was the Zacha Sculpture Garden, with its serene tiled courtyard surrounded by art studios, it was truly magical.

For art enthusiasts, a stop at the Mendocino Art Center is a must-do.

Nestled atop the picturesque headlands and overlooking the breathtaking ocean, the Art Center has been a haven for professional artists and students of all levels since 1959.

This special place offers a retreat away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, where the soul can find peace, the imagination can soar, creativity can flourish, and friendships can bloom. With a long-standing tradition of excellence in the arts, the Mendocino Art Center is truly a destination not to be missed

  • Go wine tasting in the Anderson Valley
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Navarro Vineyards & Winery in the Anderson Valley in coastal Mendocino

Indulge in a wine-tasting experience in the scenic Anderson Valley with your partner by your side. Savor each sip while taking in the breathtaking surroundings.

The Best Time to Visit Mendocino

The best time to visit Mendocino is any time of the year! This coastal village has temperatures that stay pleasant but cool throughout the year, with daytime highs generally in the 60s in the summer and the 50s in the winter.

Spring brings wildflowers and green landscapes, while the winter months may bring some rain but also plenty of sunny and fog-free days. Summer can be foggy, but the fog usually clears up by midday.

Fall may bring the warmest temperatures of the year. Mendocino Village hosts various festivals throughout the year, including a whale festival in March, a film festival in May, a music festival in July, and a wine and mushroom festival in November.

Don’t forget to pack layers and rain gear for your trip, depending on the season.

18. Fort Bragg – An idyllic destination for a romantic escape!

San Francisco to Fort Bragg It takes 171 miles and approximately 3 hr 25 min. Driving directions here.

San Jose to Fort Bragg It takes 216 miles and approximately 4 hr 27 min. Driving directions here.

18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations

Fort Bragg is a coastal city in Mendocino County, California that is steeped in history and natural beauty.

From its stunning coastline and spectacular redwood forests to its quaint downtown area, Fort Bragg is sure to provide the perfect backdrop for your romantic getaway.

Where to stay in Fort Bragg

I highly recommend Ocean View Lodge in Fort Bragg. I had the pleasure of staying there and was blown away by the breathtaking views of the Mendocino Coast.

The lodge’s location is truly magical and offers panoramic ocean views from the room and patio.

Every morning, I awoke to the grandeur of the sun rising over the horizon, painting the sky with its magnificent hues, and every night, I could hear the symphony of waves, with the stars as my canopy.

The lodge is also conveniently located near Glass Beach, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, and the historic Fort Bragg Skunk Train, making it a perfect base to explore the area. Book a stay here.

Where to eat in Fort Bragg

Mayan Fusion is a must-try restaurant in the Fort Bragg area, offering delicious Mayan-influenced dishes and excellent customer service. Don’t miss out on the chance to try their fresh oysters, flavorful shrimp ceviche, heavenly coconut prawns, and tasty Mayan burrito and panuchos. Save room for the unique Mexican chocolate ice cream for dessert.

Things to do in Fort Bragg

  • Experience Timeless Romance on the Skunk Train in Fort Bragg
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
The chugging of the engine, the whistleblowing, and the picturesque views passing by are etched in our memories forever!

Take a romantic ride on the Skunk Train through the beautiful redwood forests of Fort Bragg. Enjoy a truly romantic experience, conjuring up visions of old-fashioned chivalry and timeless love.

Riding a steam train through the towering redwoods is a romantic experience like no other. The gentle chugging of the engine, the whistleblowing, and the rush of steam create a sense of nostalgia and wonder.

The passing views of the giant redwoods, with their towering heights and ancient grandeur, are nothing short of breathtaking. As the train winds through the forest, the scenery is nothing but captivating.

Pre-book tickets for the Skunk Train ride

  • Explore the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden
18 Romantic Coastal Towns in California within a Short Drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, Travel Realizations
Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden

Stroll hand-in-hand through the gorgeous Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden and enjoy the colorful blooms and stunning ocean views.

This public garden, with numerous meandering paths by the Pacific Ocean, is one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in California.

  • Romantic Clifftop Exploration at MacKerricher State Park

Explore the rugged coastline together at MacKerricher State Park, with breathtaking ocean views and plenty of secluded spots for a romantic picnic

The Best Time to Visit Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg in California is a great place to visit at any time of year. With mild temperatures and plenty of activities to enjoy, there’s always something to do in this beautiful coastal town.

In the spring, you can enjoy the lush greenery and wildflowers, while summer and fall offer beautiful blooms in the botanical garden and great weather for beach activities.

Winter is a great time to visit for sunny, fog-free days, but be prepared for rain in the winter and spring. No matter when you visit, be sure to pack layers and rain gear if needed to be prepared for the local climate.

Overall, Fort Bragg is a wonderful destination no matter when you decide to visit.

Dreaming of a coastal getaway? These 18 romantic towns in California are perfect for a quick escape from the Bay Area #Travel #California #BayArea #SanFrancisco Click To Tweet

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Take a road trip to one of these 18 romantic coastal towns in California, all within easy reach of the San Francisco Bay Area #Travel #California #BayArea #SanFrancisco Click To Tweet

Travel Realizations

There’s something special about a coastal town that makes it the perfect setting for a romantic getaway. The fresh sea air, stunning ocean views, and charming streets all add to the atmosphere of romance.

If you’re looking for a romantic escape within a short drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, California has no shortage of charming coastal towns to choose from.

There are so many options to suit every couple’s preferences. So why wait? Pack your bags and head to one of these romantic coastal towns for a memorable and romantic getaway with your loved one.

As the famous Scottish novelist James Matthew Barrie once said,

God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December

James Matthew Barrie

Make the most of your time together and create lasting memories in one of California’s beautiful coastal towns.

Leave a comment below if you have any questions, or DM me on Instagram @travelrealizations.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to 18 Coastal Towns, a short drive from the San Francisco Bay Area. You may enjoy these other Bay Area and San Francisco travel guides:

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Chirasree Banerjee

Hello. My name is Chirasree. I have been traveling for almost 11 years to places all over the world. I enter into a separate reality during my travels and enjoy the allure of escape from the mundane. I seek beauty through nature and human-made creations. Because beauty is powerful. I seek knowledge. I observe, absorb, and write about the places I visit and the profound realizations and inspirations that each place has to offer.

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1 Comment

  1. Wow! It is so difficult to choose one out of them. They all look so serene and dreamy.

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