I have taken two cruises from San Francisco.
One time, it was a 17-day voyage through the Panama Canal on a repositioning cruise that would end in Fort Lauderdale. That cruise on Celebrity Infiniti stopped at ports in Monterey, California, Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Caribbean islands. It was a long and rewarding journey.
My other cruise from San Fran went north to Alaska on Regent Seven Seas Mariner. Combining the beauty of an Alaska adventure with a luxury cruise experience? Pure bliss.
I already knew the itineraries would be amazing, but each time I got on the ship to sail away from San Francisco, I realized that I wished I had allotted more time to visit that great U.S. destination. Regrettably, I had planned for just one overnight before embarking on my cruise.
Next time, I'll take more time to enjoy the city because there are so many things that are easy to do right neat the cruise port. Here are seven cool things to check out before your cruise in San Francisco.
This area got its start in the 1800s as a chocolate factory. Today, it's a sprawling modern specialty retail and restaurant complex with so much to offer.
Ghirardelli Square is one of the iconic sites near the waterfront area and serves as a model around the United States for successful restoration projects involving old manufacturing facilities.
San Francisco Brewing Co. has opened there, and you'll also find restaurants like McCormack and Kuleto's Seafood and Steaks and The Pub BBQ, as well as a cheese shop, artist and culinary programs, mini golf, and the namesake chocolate boutique, of course.
This is THE hot spot along the San Francisco Bay, with so many activities available. We like to go for the restaurants and bars because it's scenic spot to enjoy the sunset while enjoying good food (seafood reigns here) and cocktails. The Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood is a bustling spot -- with nice wide pedestrian areas -- that runs approximately from Ghirardelli Square east to Pier 35.
You can't miss the most-famous residents at the wharf. Pier 39 is home to the colony of sea lions that haul out onto the floating docks in the bay and create a delightful ruckus (and not so delightful smell). Hundreds of these creatures are always on display, splashing around and wrestling with each other.
Also, within this stretch, you'll find bike rental shops, access points to ride the famed cable cars, tour operators running day cruises in the bay, plenty of retail outlets and the ferries to Alcatraz Island.
The island is a National Historic Landmark, and aside from being known as the home of the infamous federal penitentiary, Alcatraz also is site of the first lighthouse and first U.S. constructed military fortress on the west coast. It's a top destination for many visitors, especially if it's your first time in San Francisco.
Book your ferry trip and Alcatraz tickets online through Alcatraz Cruises ahead of your trip because Alcatraz tours almost always sell out.
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park (just across the street from Ghirardelli Square) is an area of beach and protected cove that offers a haven for avid swimmers and place for pretty sailboats to anchor. Swim clubs train and hold events in the bay that is mostly encircled by the long and curved municipal pier. There is a maritime museum on site.
Not brave enough for a dip in the always-chilly waters? No worries. Just plop down in the stadium seating, on the seawall or at a grassy patch at nearby Victorian Park -- or take a stroll on the pier -- while enjoying the sunset or sunrise.
This long historic ferry pier is part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park and is situated at the edge of the Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood. The pier offers a variety of interesting interactive exhibits and has retired landmark vessels anchored that are worth a visit to learn more about the region's seafaring history.
Located at 2765 Hyde Street, Buena Vista Cafe sits at the end of Fisherman's Wharf near the Aquatic Park. Buena Vista is the reputed home of the first Irish Coffee in the U.S., and you can drop in to warm up with the same recipe that brought the concoction to the States in 1952.
San Francisco is a fantastic city explore on a run or by biking. The Bay Trail offers a wonderful way to easily get in a workout while enjoying the scenic surroundings. The 500-mile planned trail features a nice stretch that is easily accessible near the port area.
Start on the Embarcadero anywhere between the Bay Bridge in the south and run or pedal northwest past the cruise port, Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, municipal pier and into the hills until you reach historic Fort Mason. In this direction you are heading toward the Golden Gate Bridge and Land's End. You can find multiple bike rental outfits in Fisherman's Wharf and the surrounding area.
Thanks for reading,