This day trip is just for mom! The rest of my recs are for the fam.
Refuge is a spa with massage and hot and cold plunge pools in Carmel. I heard about it and just had to try it. It is a great ¾ day trip, depending on where you live in the Bay Area. Book your massage ahead of time, go with a girlfriend and leave your kids at home. Enjoy some time catching up in the car on your way to and then after you arrive…
Get massage. Put on your swimsuit (naked not an option! Yay!) in the locker room and head outside. Steam. Sauna. Try a zero gravity chair. Plunge into freezing water. Soak in super hot bubbly tub. Repeat the plunge part and warm up again. Wrap in a cozy robe and read a book by the fire pits in the beauty of Carmel. Whisper to your friend, “This is so awesome!”
Burnt out mamas rejoice. Other people are not allowed to talk to you. There are signs that say you have to be quiet. Amazing! It is truly so relaxing. You can wind down and decompress.
Long day but so worth it. If your kids don’t mind a road trip. https://www.bigsurcalifornia.org/beaches.html
Pack a lunch, water and ons of snacks. Food is a little hard to come by as Big Sur is big on camping and not a foodie destination. There is no city. I am always looking for “the downtown,” and there is none. You need to pack it in and out. You are there for the gorgeous views, trails and beaches, which are incredible. You can take note of any interesting looking lodges to come back to stay in! You will be driving on Highway 1- which is iconic California. Beautiful coastline. Nepenthe has beautiful views and is worth eating at and sitting on their outdoor patio, but the menu is very simple.
Half Moon Bay
A few options:
You can eat at the Ritz Carlton and enjoy the views or sunset. Walk the beach and trails near the hotel. I’ve stayed overnight at this Ritz (on points!) and it felt busy. Honestly, I prefer a day trip to enjoy the views and food. Not my favorite overnight trip.
Half Moon Bay farms for pumpkin patch fun and Christmas trees are awesome when those are in season! You can’t miss the farms. There are so many. Stop at whatever suits your fancy and farm hop. There are farms near the beaches too. https://www.visithalfmoonbay.org/downtown/directions-half-moon-bay
Less fancy but super fun is to take a picnic to Dune Beach (or any of the beaches!) and hit the Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin Robbins or Starbucks in town when you are done with kiddos at the beach. If you’re an East Coast transplant—get your Dunkin’ on!
Here is Dunkin’ Donuts info for Half Moon Bay. There’s a drive through if you are in a rush to get home!
Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito
Stop at a Golden Gate Bridge viewpoint (there are many so search what is easiest for you!) before going to Sausalito. Be careful if you have nice camera equipment as the Bridge spots are a known hot spot to attract thieves. I have never had problems but I roll with an I-phone.
Get lunch in Sausalito, which is also accessible by ferry from San Francisco. Ferry guide
Ok, foodies, this is your kind of road trip. There are really good restaurants and the town is so clean and cute and has the best views of San Francisco.
17 Mile Drive
This is a jewel in Northern California! If you have been to the Cliffs of Mohr in Ireland or like a rugged coast, you will love this drive. You can park and hop out along the way to look and take photos. Drive the long way down 17 Mile Drive.
The historic Pebble Beach Golf Course is one of the few top courses open to the public. There is a super yummy restaurant called The Bench at the 18th hole. If you are a golfer, it is a very cool spot, as the PGA Tour comes here. I also had major giggles while eating at The Bench watching buses of tourists pour out of buses, run down the hill to the 18th hole, take tons of pictures, get back in the bus, and then another bus would roll up and the whole scene would repeat.
At the end of the drive, you can stop at the beach in Carmel to put your toes in the sand. Take a walk through town with kids to get some ice cream or lunch and then drive home.
THE Monterey Bay Aquarium is great if you love ocean critters but don’t mind hoards of people. I have tried to go during the week to avoid crowds and it is ALWAYS busy. If you have tips for going off-peak hours let me know. Expect there are going to be lots of people, lines and parking woes so you don’t get frustrated. If you have kids who are sensitive to crowds, you can prepare them too.
You can get a Ghiradelli ice cream sundae in Monterey too. Their fudge sauce is the best! Might be a good bribe to get through the aquarium.
You can also just walk the waterfront—the old homes are beautiful– and explore the shops and get your feet in the sand. I’ve stayed overnight and done day trips to Monterey. Both are fun!