Santa Cruz to San Francisco

The route between Santa Cruz, CA and San Francisco, CA boasts beautiful views of the countryside, waterways, sunny skies, and breathtaking views. With California being famed for its beaches, you don’t want to miss out on taking this trip from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. Photo: Photo: offfstock/Fotolia

»Santa Cruz to San Francisco by Car

Santa Cruz to San Francisco by Car


Santa Cruz is between about 75 miles from San Francisco (roughly 1 hr 15 min if you drive). So if time is of the essence, then it’s recommended that you drive there. The fastest route is to take the CA-1 South out of Santa Cruz, then drive through San José and take the CA-17 North to Palo Alto (Switching onto the US-101 North, via the 24B exit). After that, you are well on your way to San Francisco.

A more scenic route would be to turn off the CA-17 at Los Gatos, and drive on the I-280 (via the CA-85) for 50mi. This route will take you past the California Nature Preserves, all of which are full of green plants, animals, beautiful lakes, and magnificent hills and mountains. Photo: forcdan/Fotolia

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»Santa Cruz to San Francisco by Train

Santa Cruz to San Francisco by Train


Amtrak offers daily trips from Santa Cruz (via their transfer service stopping in San José) to San Francisco. The value seats start at $26, and have some restrictions (such as no refunds if cancelled 48 hours or less before departure), the flexible seats start at $43 (with free refunds allowed at any time), or the premium tickets starting at $54, which comes with a business class seat. Or, if you prefer to lie down, you can pay anywhere from $104 for a Superliner Roomette, which has two reclining seats, which convert into beds. Alternatively, for the family you can hire the Superliner Family Bedroom, starting at $295, which boasts four beds, electrical outlets, and personal service. All Superliner rooms come with Meals included (if applicable), fresh bed linens and towels, and climate control.

By Bus

There are many bus services that travel from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. Greyhound offers many trips daily, starting at $14, all the way to $16. The earliest bus leaves at 7:00am, and the last bus leaves at 10:20pm. If you needed to, you could catch the early-morning bus to San Francisco, spend the day there, and catch the bus back in the evening.

All greyhound busses offer free Wi-Fi, personal power outlets, reclining seats, onboard restrooms, air conditioning and leg room for those that need those extra few inches for their legs. Photo: spvvk/Fotolia

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»By Private Transfer Service

By Private Transfer Service


Private shuttle services (starting at $17.15) are always available to take you from Santa Cruz, to San José, where you can catch a flight or a train to San Francisco.

If you wish to take a taxi from Santa Cruz directly to San Francisco, the costs will start at $260, so it’s recommended that you avoid this method of transport.

By bike or on foot

Google Maps shows three different routes for cycling from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. The recommended route follows the coast, and it goes past the half-moon bay (one of the recommended stops along the route). The scenery is breathtaking, and the fresh air will do wonders for your lungs. Cycling will take 8-9 hours, but the memory of the trip will be worth it.

If you would like to walk, CaliforniaCoastalTrail.info shows information about hiking the California coastline, and provides tips and tricks about hiking, and lodgings for the night. Hiking will take you between 2-5 days, so bring something to eat and a sleeping bag.

Half-Moon Bay is a must-see if you’re cycling or walking the California Coast. You can stop off there and find lodging starting at $129, or find more comfortable accommodations in one of the beachfront hotels, starting at $245. The list of activities in the area is endless. You can listen to live music at one of the many local venues, buy fresh-caught fish daily, and go shopping in the small boutiques and shops, and many more. Photo: sborisov/Fotolia

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»Santa Cruz to San Francisco by Plane

Santa Cruz to San Francisco by Plane


There are no flights that leave from Santa Cruz, CA. However, you can fly from San José (a quick 40min drive from Santa Cruz down the CA-17 N). Flights from San José International (SJC) to San Francisco International (SFO) start at $283, and will take around 3 1/2 hours (as there are no non-stop flights from SJC to SFO).

San Jose Airport in based right in the middle of Silicon Valley, which is home to Google, Apple, Intel, and many of the big names in the computer technology industry. Because of this, San José International is a modern airport, with scores of restaurants, pet relief, and lots of aid for the handicapped, with wheelchair services, Telecommunication to Text devices for the deaf, and security checkpoints to ease your mind about safety and security.

Once you land in San Francisco International Airport, you will be greeted by free Wi-Fi, stores to shop at, places to dine, or you can peruse the SFO museum, and improve your knowledge of art and culture. You can stock up on Sun Screen or Sun Tan Lotion before hitting the streets of San Francisco to explore.

Things to see and do
Before leaving Santa Cruz, there are some amazing attractions you can view, such as:
The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk; Spend the day watching the sea, eating local delicacies, playing at the arcade, or for just $44.95, get yourself an all-day pass for the theme park, and have a blast riding the famed “Giant Dipper” rollercoaster, get dizzy from the spinning “Fireball” ride, or have some fun bashing your friends in some Bumper Cars. These are just SOME of the thrill rides that the Boardwalk has to offer.

Whilst travelling on the scenic route, you can visit one of the many Nature Preserves along the I-280, and if you bring a picnic basket (remember not to litter), you can have a relaxing day in beautiful nature, as well as get to experience the beauty of the Californian coastline.

If you take the more straightforward route through San José, you can visit the “Happy Hollow Park & Zoo”, which is a conservation-centered centre for families to explore and enjoy, with tickets priced at $14.25 each. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in history and culture, you can visit the “Winchester Mystery House”, built by Sarah Winchester in the late 1800s, with staircases that lead to nowhere, no set construction plans, or mirrors on the walls, it’s an eery and fascinating place to visit. Guided tours are conducted daily, and they start at $36 for a tour of the mansion, or $44 for the entire estate.

Once you get to San Francisco, you have to make sure you visit the Golden Gate Bridge. These iconic landmark (first opened in 1937) transverses the Golden Gate straight, and is 1.7 Miles long! Stop at Fort Point to get some amazing photos of the structure, or if you’re feeling adventurous, you can go on the “Golden Gate Bay Cruise”, and view both the San Francisco waterfront, sail under the bridge, and then around Alcatraz Island. Starting at $30, this tour would be something memorable that you would never forget.

Once in San Francisco, don’t forget to try out the iconic trams they have running through the city. For as little as $7 per trip, you can experience the city in a way that you’ve never experienced another before, by travelling through the heart of town, and up all the hills on the San Francisco Cable Car system, the world’s last manually operated system still running! It’s definitely something not to be missed out on! Photo: MaciejBledowski/Fotolia

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»Which Method of Transportion

Which Method of Transportion


If time is of the essence, and you don’t mind the effort, then taking a car would be the most efficient way to travel from Santa Cruz to San Francisco. Taking the car is also recommended if you feel like sight-seeing en-route to San Francisco, as you can stop if and when you wish.

If you are looking at the mode of transport that requires the least amount of effort, then taking the bus would be the way to go, as it’s a straight trip from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, with no interconnecting transfers needed.

If you have a family, then you can either take the car, or take the train, and hire the “Superliner Family Bedroom’, which can take a family of four. Photo: offfstock/Fotolia

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Santa Cruz to San Francisco: Distance & Other Travel Tips