A Californian Experience Through My Lens : 10 Must Visit Places In And Around San Francisco

Never knew that this deserted land had so much in store, for me to experience. Be it , the colourful hues of the California sunsets which are one of the most beautiful sunsets, or the stunning deserted landscapes with windmills and a clear blue sky, or the scenic beauty of the Pacific coastline – West Coast surprised me in many ways!!

With just a week in San Francisco, let me just take you through my experience, do’s and dont’s!


Best time to visit : September to October (I was there during the start of September)

Temperature : It usually varies between 25-30˚C. In the main city of SF, you can expect cold breeze. However, when you step out of the city, the temperature along with hot breeze during the day will give you a tough time!

Accommodation : We stayed at an airbnb close to the golden gate bridge. The rates for a decent airbnb range from INR 4-6 grand per night. You can check out our airbnb here

Internal Travel : This is probably the worst part of SF, the public transport is definitely not going to help you in any way. There is BART which is a cheaper mode of transport to reach SF. Apart from that, Muni is San Francisco public transport (Bus, Metro, Cable Cars) [Find more details here] . It’s advisable to rent a car if you know driving (Uber and Lyft are other options). We used our personal vehicle to roam around.

10 Must Visit Places In And Around San Francisco

1. Visit Tenaya Lake of Yosemite

This one tops all the places that I visited. I initially stepped into Yosemite with a perception to witness the legendary rock formations and this lake, which is certainly a 2 hr drive from the main Yosemite area is a genuine surprise. It’s beauty couldn’t be comprehended!! The serene surroundings of this lake just made me stay there till the sun set behind those huge rocks and trees. We had the place entirely to ourselves. It is of-course, not-so-explored among the tourists.

Tenaya Lake
El Capitan

We did a day trip to Yosemite from SF but I would recommend you to stay there for a day or two to spot such amazing non-touristy gems. It is around a 3 hr drive from SF.

Apart from the Tenaya Lake, do stop by those legendary rock formations of Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil falls and the Tunnel view
(I was not able to cover tunnel view as I decided to stay back at Tenaya for a while!! :/ )

2. Witness the Beauty of Lake Tahoe From The Top Most View Points
Lake Tahoe, a 4 hour drive from SF, is definitely a must-visit. The view looking down on the Emerald Bay of Southern Lake Tahoe is the best. Preferred view points are Inspiration Point, Emerald Bay Lookout. There are many other view points along the road that you can stop by, as per your convenience. Parking is a problem at these view points during peak hours.
There are few hikes which give you amazing view of Lake Tahoe. Explore them if you are interested. We did a day trip to Lake Tahoe, but again, if you want to experience this place by hiking, stay back for a day or two.

Emerald Bay LookOut
At Emerald Bay LookOut

3. Experience Lake Tahoe From Zephyr Cove Resort and explore the Tahoe City
Zephyr Cove Resort has a private beach area which even the visitors can access if you can pay a minimum charge of 10$. This beach is comparatively less crowded and gives you stunning view of the sunset.
Explore the Lake Tahoe Boulevard of Tahoe City which is a pretty place with shops and restaurants.

Zephyr Cove Resort Beach

4. Drive Along Big Sur
With just a 2 hrs drive from SF, Big Sur offers an incredible view of coastline and sea side cliffs. Do check out the weather conditions before heading to Big Sur as it is mostly misty. It was extremely misty when we reached, which got cleared by noon.

Visit the Bixby Bridge an Carmel River State Beach (Non-touristy  and less crowded beach in a pretty neighbourhood). There are definitely other spots that you could visit but the heavy mist spoiled our day 😦

Carmel Beach

5. Don’t Miss The ’17 Mile-Drive’
The 17 Mile-Drive is close to Big Sur and it is a coastal drive in a private property area. You need to pay a toll of 25$ per vehicle to get into this area. Describing the drive along 17 Mile-Drive as beautiful would be an understatement!!
It offers exhilarating views of sea-side cliffs, pebble beach, golf courses along the coast. A must-visit if you happen to visit Big Sur.
Big Sur could be done as a day trip from SF. (Not easily accessible by public transport)

View Along 17 Mile-Drive

6. Watch The Bay Area Sleep From Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve
It is a place which is mostly familiar among the locals. Head to this place in the night (not accessible by public transport) to see the city that is entirely lit up. It is known for its sunset view too.

Sierra Vista

7. Head to Treasure Island to get the best view of SF Skyline in the Night
Treasure Island which is an artificial island in SF city neighbourhood is the apt spot to enjoy the SF skyline in the night. (Not easily accessible by public transport)

SF Skyline From Treasure Island

8. Explore Ghirardelli Square, Lombard Street, Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf &
Taste the Famous Crab Cakes and Clam Chowder Sourdough Bowl in SF City
Pier 39 is a lively area with music, street performers, restaurants and shops. You can even get a view of the sea lions from this Pier. It’s good for an evening stroll.
Fisherman’s Wharf is famous for crab cakes and clam chowder served in sourdough bowl. Grab one of these and enjoy them, if you are into sea food.

Pier 39
Near Pier 39

Ghirardelli Square is good for an evening stroll along side the river. You can just sit and watch the sun set. You can try Ghirardelli chocolates at their cafe which are famous, however they didn’t beat Godiva for me 😛

Crab Cakes

Lombard Street renowned as the crooked street, is located in a good neighbourhood. Try to reach this place by sunset to get a good sunset view of the city.

9. Enjoy A Closer View of Golden Gate Bridge from Battery Spencer
This is the best among the other view points of Golden Bridge. It gives a closer view of the bridge from the top of a hill. Do explore the beach view points, if you have time.
Also, if mist is a spoiler and you don’t get to see the golden gate bridge, you need not be surprised as it is the case for most of the times!! 😦

Golden Gate Bridge (Battery Spencer)

10. Head to the Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz
Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz experiences a gravity anomaly. There are demonstrations which are done to show you how the laws of gravity don’t hold true in that spot.
This spot is an hour drive from SF but again, not easily accessible by public transport.

WhatsApp Image 2019-09-22 at 7.08.40 PM
Outside the Mystery Spot
Look at me enjoying the slant position at the Mystery Spot without falling!!

If someone said shopping in US is cheap, I would just laugh out loudly now!! It’s not the case unless you earn in USD!!
Most of the clothes or accessories are expensive. The designs of affordable US brands were not appealing. I would prefer European affordable brands over US affordable brands, any time!
However, you may find cosmetics at a steal price compared to India. So, stock up on those. The Market Street in SF is a good shopping area. If you want to explore discounted options, outlet malls would be the place to go. However, I personally didn’t like the stock over there as the collection would be one to two seasons old.


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Photos by Satwik Kodangal Varala, Vyomika Lekkala

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