Home For Travelers "Best of" Lists Top San Francisco Suburbs Worth Visiting

Top San Francisco Suburbs Worth Visiting

San Francisco Bay Area

Perhaps you’ve explored San Francisco, sampling the mouthwatering Ghirardelli chocolate, snapping a photo behind bars at Alcatraz, winding down Lombard Street or enjoying any other countless activities. But, have you ever crossed the glorious Golden Gate Bridge to see what lies on the other side of the bay? Or, have you climbed aboard a commuter rail train and traveled south down the San Francisco Peninsula to the high-tech towns that have given birth to successful companies, such as Facebook and Google? Like San Francisco itself, the surrounding suburbs are diverse and offer something different for travelers seeking a place to stay outside the city.

We’ve compiled a list of San Francisco suburbs that you can discover during a short trip out of the city. You’ll quickly find that these destinations are just as travel-worthy as San Francisco itself, and that places like Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Sausalito, provide the perfect compromise between quiet rural living and the excitement of an urban environment.

Public Transportation to San Francisco Suburbs

The Caltrain rail service provides an easy way for visitors to get around the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Caltrain rail service provides an easy way for visitors to get around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Part of what makes the San Francisco suburbs on our list so appealing is that they are easy to reach via public transportation. The Bay Area Rapid Transit system, often abbreviated as BART, is the primary transit operator in the Bay Area. Its extensive train network links San Francisco with the suburbs just south of the city as well as those on the East Bay. An estimated 126 million passengers utilize BART each year, and it is considered the fifth-busiest heavy rail rapid transit system in the United States. Caltrain offers another convenient commuter rail line into San Francisco from the suburbs on the San Francisco Peninsula. In addition to an abundance of train options, there are also ferries, bus lines and many major highways that make getting to and from the suburbs of San Francisco a cinch.

Top San Francisco Suburbs

Alameda

With a mandatory speed limit of only 25 miles per hour and its peaceful island setting, Alameda is a welcome reprieve from the busy streets of San Francisco. Start your vacation early by taking the ferry on a scenic ride from Oakland to the island, or take the Posey Tube underwater to access this San Francisco suburb. The shoreline is one of the main attractions in Alameda, so make plans to walk from Crab Cove to Crown Memorial State Beach. The nature walks along the Bay shoreline are family-friendly and fun to explore on a sunny afternoon. For history buffs, the USS Hornet offers a great exhibit about this famous World War II aircraft carrier, and the Alameda Museum is a unique attraction dedicated to the preservation of the town’s local history. Rent a cozy beach home or stay in a beautiful Victorian (Alameda’s known for them!) and bask in the peace and quiet that Alameda offers its visitors.

Lowest rental rate: $98/night

Atherton

Atherton is known for its luxurious mansions and exquisite homes just thirty miles south of San Francisco. With only six square miles of tree-lined roads and picturesque streets, it is one of the safest San Francisco suburbs in the Bay Area. Part of its appeal is that you can visit this town and simply relax. Book a spacious vacation rental in Atherton with an immaculate master suite, magnificent grounds that include a tennis court or swimming pool, a gourmet kitchen and more. If you make it out of the house for a bit, enjoy spending time at the 22-acre garden setting of Holbrook-Palmer Park, where the kids can climb all over the playground while adults stroll along the walking paths.

Lowest rental rate: $151/night

Brentwood

Cherry picking is a popular activity for visitors in Brentwood, CA.

Cherry picking is a popular activity for visitors in Brentwood, CA.

With a pleasant year-round climate, a stunningly beautiful landscape and many superb rentals to choose from, Brentwood is an obvious choice when planning a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area. Unlike other San Francisco suburbs that are closer to the city, agriculture remains important to Brentwood’s local economy. Plan your visit for Spring or Summer to enjoy picking fresh cherries, peaches, strawberries and more at a nearby farm, such as Papini Family Orchards and Farm. If you simply want to relax, plant yourself by the gazebo at Hannah Nicole Vineyards & Winery for a picnic and beautiful views. Other things to do when vacationing in Brentwood include playing a round of gold at Brentwood Country Club, hiking the Round Valley Regional Preserve and indulging in a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants downtown.

Lowest rental rate: $749/night

Daly City

Daly City is nicknamed the “Gateway to the Peninsula” because of its enviable location on the Pacific Ocean just minutes away from San Francisco Bay. It is situated immediately south of San Francisco and major highways, commuter rail stops and bus lines conveniently link this suburb to the big city. Thornton Beach State Park is a great place to spend an afternoon at the beach surrounded by incredible ocean views. Pack a picnic and bring your pets to enjoy this uncrowded slice of suburbia. Another must-do in Daly City is to take advantage of being in the suburbs by attending a rodeo show at the Cow Palace. This indoor arena was formerly the home of the Golden State Warriors, but today it hosts diverse events that you can’t normally find in urban settings. You’ll find the best of both worlds here with its convenient access to San Francisco and it’s small town activities.

Lowest rental rate: $128/night

Menlo Park

The Victorian-styled Menlo Park train station offers access to neighboring cities.

The Victorian-styled Menlo Park train station offers access to neighboring cities.

About 30 miles south of San Francisco sits the town of Menlo Park. It is one of the many charming San Francisco suburbs in the area, and it is a wonderful destination for families looking for a quieter setting than the city offers. Designated a Tree City USA community because it has more than 10,000 trees scattered throughout the area and with its location on the San Francisco Bay, Menlo Park is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. Soak up some sun and devour a picnic surrounded by native Oak and Bay trees at Flood Park. There are also softball fields, tennis courts and more for active family member to utilize. For those that prefer shopping to sports, Downtown Menlo Park has a thriving dining and shopping area that visitors can explore. Other interesting facts about Menlo Park are that the historic El Camino Real intersects the town, and it is where the headquarters for Facebook is located.

Lowest rental rate: $81/night

Mountain View

Situated at the southern end of the San Francisco Peninsula in the heart of Silicon Valley, Mountain View is one of the larger suburbs of San Francisco. The Caltrain commuter rail system runs through the town making it easy for visitors and locals alike to travel to and from San Francisco. For those that plan to spend most of their vacation in Mountain View, the downtown area has a plethora of cafes and eateries as well as many specialty shops to browse at. Grab breakfast at Scratch in the morning then explore the Computer History Museum to learn about the roots of the Internet and play a game of Spacewar. Enjoy the fresh air by strolling along Stevens Creek Trail, or if you’re in town on a Sunday, walk around the first-rate Farmer’s Market in Mountain View where you’ll find everything from seasonal vegetables and flowers to fresh coffee and breads. With more than 1,000 acres of park and wildlife areas as well as a thriving performing arts community, this San Francisco suburb has many diverse offerings.

Lowest rental rate: $98/night

Palo Alto

A portion of Stanford University's renowned campus is located in Palo Alto, CA.

A portion of Stanford University’s renowned campus is located in Palo Alto, CA.

If you’re familiar with the prestigious Stanford University or you have an interest in following the technology industry, then the chances are that you’ve heard of Palo Alto. Because of the town’s unique blend of business, education and residential areas, it is a hot spot for visitors of every interest. From sophisticated works of art on display at the Cantor Arts Center and classic films screened at the Stanford Theatre to scenic paths through the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve and the entertaining Junior Museum & Zoo, you can find it all in Palo Alto. If you feel like heading to downtown San Francisco for an evening, it’s just over a thirty minute drive to the city. There’s also a train that will take you right to San Francisco Station.

Lowest rental rate: $45/night

San Mateo

Situated within the high-tech enclave of California’s Silicon Valley, San Mateo is less than a thirty minute drive from downtown San Francisco. Because it is one of the larger suburbs in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is a lot to do here. If you’re looking for a break from exploring nearby San Francisco’s bustling neighborhoods, take some time to reflect in this San Francisco suburb’s Japanese garden. The San Mateo Japanese Garden is free and offers a quiet respite within Central Park. Coyote Point Recreation Area is another popular place to spend time and is known for its ideal location for sailing and windsurfing. Because the commuter rail service is easily accessible in San Mateo, this suburb of San Francisco is a perfect choice to rent a home in if you’re looking to stay just outside the city.

Lowest rental rate: $93/night

Sausalito

Sausalito, California with fog coming rolling in along San Francisco Bay.

Sausalito, California with fog coming rolling in along San Francisco Bay.

Directly across the bay from San Francisco, Sausalito is an upscale oasis in northern California. It’s largely bound by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which offers an abundance of hiking trails, places to picnic, historic structures to see and more. Walk along the Sausalito Boardwalk where there are many eclectic shops and restaurants or head to Battery Spencer, a lookout spot that is less crowded than Vista Point. Although Sausalito is known for its million-dollar homes with breathtaking views, booking a rental in this San Francisco suburb will have you feeling like a millionaire for a few days. Unlike some other San Francisco suburbs, Sausalito can be reached very easily by car, rail and ferry making it a great vacation destination.

Lowest rental rate: $110/night

Vallejo

Travelers can get to Vallejo in about 35 minutes via car or they can head to this suburb of San Francisco via ferry. The San Francisco Bay Ferry departs from the Ferry Building and takes about 60 minutes to chug through the waters of the bay. Vallejo’s waterfront location plays a role in its economy as this town has become an important harbor for commercial shipping, ferry transportation and the military. During your visit, tour the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, which was the first United States Navy base on the Pacific Ocean. Today it is a California Historical Landmark and an interesting place to learn a bit about naval war history. Afternoons in Vallejo can be spent shopping for fresh produce at the farmers market or experiencing the fun of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

Lowest rental rate: $45/night