It’s likely that you already have a clear image of San Francisco in your mind, as is the territory that comes with being such a loved and recognisable part of the United States. Perhaps it’s the bridge, the cable cars or the winding, sloping streets. Happily, this is one holiday destination that really does live up to its reputation. It’s all of those things, but it’s also much, much more.
San Francisco is a city of hidden gems: full of depths and talents that few other than the lucky locals know exist. For every major tourist attraction, there’s also something new and exciting around the corner. The bay area might have plenty to celebrate from the past, but it also has plenty new to offer as well.
Beaches in San Francisco
For some reason, San Francisco – a city quite literally known as the bay area – doesn’t seem to get as much credit for its spectacular beaches as it should. This is a great shame and we can only assume it’s simply because there’s so many amazing things to experience, that these sandy stretches just slip some people’s mind. In fact, there’s so many beaches that instead of picking a couple of individual ones, we’ve instead decided to split it into beach areas to give you a better overview of what’s on offer.
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First up are the beaches you can find west of the Golden Gate Bridge at the Pacific Shoreline. Here you can choose from a selection of great beaches, from the small (China Beach) to the supersized (Ocean Beach). Lastly, there’s Baker Beach, which is known for two things: having some truly astonishing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and arguably less spectacular views of its well-known Nude Beach: although that, of course, is all a question of personal preference.
Image source: Jérôme Decq
Next, there’s those found to the north of the Golden Gate bridge in Marin County. All three options here offer some truly stunning locations to spend an afternoon and are considered by many to be some of the city’s hidden gems. Known for their dark sands, Kirby Cove, the aptly titled Black Sands Beach and Rodeo Beach, are all fantastic choices for those looking for something a little out of the ordinary.
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Finally, we’ve got three Downtown waterfront beaches, which can be found east of the bridge. Crissy Field is split between its east and west distinctions and is well known for being a big spot for high-energy activities, such as surfing, swimming and even kite flying. Finally, there’s Aquatic Park, which is an excellent choice if you’re in the downtown area.
Fun Facts About San Francisco
- A diverse culture: It has one of the largest Chinatowns outside of Asia. With over 100,000 people living there, it’s of the most densely populated areas in the city. This is also joined by the largest Japantown in the United States: one of only three that remain in existence.
- It’s densely populated: Part of the reason for the city’s high population density is its rather small size. San Francisco is only seven miles long and seven miles wide, hence also the lack of a need for many people to drive.
- Hilly landscapes: You may notice that this city has a lot of climbs. This is because San Francisco is built upon no less than 50 hills.
- A different kind of send-off: The city no longer buries the dead due to space limitations and only two cemeteries remain there.
Top Tips for Travelling to San Francisco
- Be aware of the weather: While your image of San Francisco is probably one of bright sunny days, and that is often the case, it can get very cold there. Therefore, make sure you bring some warm clothing just in case.
- Make reservations: With a city as busy and popular as San Francisco, it should come as no surprise that things fill up fast. With that in mind, if you’re going to anywhere particularly popular, then you’ll want to book way ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
- Expensive doesn’t mean better when it comes to food: While there’s certainly an amazing selection of fine dining restaurants in San Francisco, don’t be afraid to go cheap when it comes to eating out. It’s far better to go to a great takeaway joint than a mediocre restaurant.
- Take advantage of what’s free: There’s plenty of amazing San Francisco experiences that are either very cheap or completely free, so do as many of these as possible. But better yet, there’s also often free events on, especially at Union Square, so have a look online to see if anything is happening during your visit.
Exploring San Francisco is a breeze with their convenient Hop-On/Hop-Off Big Buses. With a professional guide on board providing live commentary, it is one of the best ways to learn about the city’s history, culture and see the top sights, including Fisherman’s Wharf, Coit Tower, North Beach, Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury and the Golden Gate Bridge.
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Getting Around In San Francisco
San Francisco is a unique city, and this is no more obvious than when you first begin to start making your way around the place. However, its often confusing layout is helped by the fact that it’s rather small and, with a little guidance, you should be moving around with the ease of a local. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to take advantage of Google maps and any other tools at your disposal to make your journey less stressful.
Image source: Justin Ennis
Let’s start off with the worst possible transportation option. There’s a reason no one drives here and, unless you’re absolutely determined to do so, we advise you don’t either. Getting a parking space is both a logistical nightmare and expensive. If you rent a car, you’ll likely regret your decision.
With a city as small as San Francisco, walking is a good option. Do keep in mind though that you may find it trickier than you think unless in good shape, due to the hilly landscape. Most people mix walking with use of other public transport for a combination of ease and cost efficiency whenever possible.
Image source: Mike Roqué
Getting on a cable car is a great deal of fun and feels like a necessary experience for newcomers in the city. However, they’re not necessarily the most convenient, as you’ll likely soon discover. They can be of use in certain location but there’s usually better options with shorter wait times.
City Bus System
The bus service in San Francisco is fairly decent, with routes that travel to a wide variety of places. They are especially useful to get to beaches and the Golden Gate (both the bridge and park).
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These are certainly a better option than driving, although they can be expensive. It’s definitely worth it though if there’s several people wanting to travel to the same destination.
Bay Area Rapid Transit
A cheap, effective way of getting around the bay area, this covers six routes and 46 stations. It’s one of the most useful transportation methods in San Francisco.
Flights to San Francisco
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When landing in the bay area, you will arrive at the San Francisco International Airport. The largest airport in Northern California and the second busiest in the whole of the state, it serves as a travel hub, welcoming holidaymakers from across the globe to this iconic USA destination. It is also conveniently located just 21km south of downtown San Francisco, so it is easy enough to travel into the city via train or hired vehicle.
There are two airlines that fly between Singapore Changi Airport and San Francisco, with around 15 flights available per week. The total journey between the two airports is 13,596km, with an average flight time of 16 hours and 15 minutes.
Visit the Expedia website to find the best prices for flights to San Francisco.