New ways to experience the Bay Area this season.

Carmel By The Sea Big Sur California
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The city of San Francisco may boast a temperate climate all year round, but spring is the perfect time to venture out of the city and into greener pastures. This year, after a much-needed rainy winter, this will be the first spring in a while to promise an abundance of California wildflowers and cool, misty forests. Here are a few spring break destinations to get your escape started.


This quiet town three hours south of San Francisco might be known as a sleepy coastal village, but this spring it’s gaining momentum with the opening of Hotel Carmel in March. The cornerstone of the rustic seaside-chic boutique property with 27 rooms is a lush, oversized courtyard appointed with modern outdoor furniture ideal for mingling. A Jacuzzi and communal fire pits help you take in the first days of spring, ensuring you’re bound to spend the majority of your weekend perched right here.

From the hotel, amble out onto the town’s main drag, but be sure to stray when inspired: cobblestone side streets and alleys lead to tucked-away artisanal stores (like the Cheese Shop), galleries (the Weston Gallery), hidden art installations, and now more than a dozen boutique wine tasting rooms, like the new one at Alexander-Smith by Paraiso wedged inside the storybook Court of the Golden Bough passageway.

Mill Valley

Break from urbanity for a dose of nature, just ten miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. While many people head to Sausalito for a quick getaway, Mill Valley has less crowds and just as many worthy draws. Start with an all-day hike on Marin’s Dipsea Trail, which links downtown Mill Valley to the Pacific Coast—though you might want to do only part of it, as the entire trail is 13.7 miles round-trip. Hike through misty redwood groves and wildflower-strewn meadows, with plenty of vistas along the way.

Refuel with dinner at Molina, Mill Valley’s trendy live-fire restaurant serving rustic California cuisine like black cod with chanterelles in a Douglas Fir-infused miso broth. Tucked among the ancient trees on the side of Mt. Tamalpais sits the Mountain Home Inn, a century-old bed and breakfast. Any of its 10 well-appointed rooms offer a good perch for watching the ethereal fog roll in over the hills.

Santa Cruz

Lately this far-out ’60s surf town has been inching its way toward modernity, if only for its burgeoning empire of pop-up dinners. It takes a bit of planning ahead to catch them at the right time, but the dinner party-inspired events are worth the effort. Check out LionFish SupperClub’s new high-minded global fare that brings a fresh perspective to the traditional Central Coast dining scene, like Mumbai street food made with local ingredients.

The Curated Feast also hosts travel-themed dinners in sleepy Santa Cruz, like a six-course “Silk Road” meal. Work it off with a hike among trees and waterfalls in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Stay at the beachside retro-chic Dream Inn, which channels the local surf culture with long boards that decorate the communal space and fish tacos at the casual Jack O’Neil lounge.

Jenna Scatena is on the San Francisco Bay Area beat for Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.