15 Best Day Trips From San Jose, California - Updated 2022

day trips from san jose

World-famous for being the home of Silicon Valley, San Jose is the biggest city in Northern California in the USA. The city is not only a prominent technological hub but also a cultural gem in the Bay Area of California. Several iconic architectural landmarks adorn the city. Explore architectural wonders from Italianate-style structures dating back to 1883 to surreal developments boasting Spanish Colonial Revival style. Technology enthusiasts should not miss visiting Tech Museum of Innovation which features an incredible display of technological exhibits. Just like San Jose, cities in its vicinity are home to many outstanding landmarks. So, if you are visiting San Jose for work or holidays, embarking on a day trip from here to neighboring cities will gift you fantastic travel experiences. Check out some of the best day trips from San Jose, California, to fill in your spare time.

1. Half Moon Bay

View of the coastal cliffs in Half Moon Bay, California
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Elena.laps used under CC BY-SA 4.0

One of the closest destinations from San Jose if you want to enjoy the waves of the beach and the boundless ocean views is Half Moon Bay. The distance between the cities is only 41 miles (65 km) which takes 50 minutes by car. The city sees a fairly mild climate all year long, with January being the coolest and September the warmest month. A day trip here will never be wasted and just the drive alone is a trip in itself, with the valleys and the ocean being your backdrop. Besides the beaches and harbors, Half Moon Bay is home to a thriving downtown with plenty of charming shops, restaurants, and galleries.

2. Silicon Valley

Industrial Building - Silicon Valley
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jitze Couperus used under CC BY 2.0

You don’t have to travel far to enjoy a day trip from San Jose. Just around the city is the hub of start-ups and technology companies—Silicon Valley. It is only a 15-minute drive to this destination which is filled with attractions like Palo Alto Art Center, Intel Museum, The HP Garage, and Computer History Museum. It’s a tech buff’s paradise. Outside technology, Silicon Valley offers attractions like Winchester Mystery House, Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo, and CuriOdyssey. With the abundance of things to do in the region, a day trip might not even be enough!

3. Pescadero

Pescadero State Beach edit2
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Brocken Inaglory used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the best places to visit close to San Jose, especially if you enjoy the peaceful vibe of idyllic towns, is Pescadero. This ranching and farming community is a little over an hour of drive, with a distance of 59 miles (94 km) from San Jose. This town is an especially popular destination in the summer due to its scenic beaches and countryside attractions. Some points of interest that you should see while vacationing here are Butano State Park and Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

4. Bodega Bay

Boats in Bodega Bay Harbor
Source: Photo by Flickr user Don DeBold used under CC BY 2.0

One of the scenic destinations around San Jose is Bodega Bay which is a 2-hour drive away, with a distance of 111 miles (178 km). The shallow bay is actually an inlet of the Pacific Ocean. The town may be small but the community sure is warm and welcoming. While there are not many attractions in the area, there are some charming seaside shops and galleries that you can visit. Of course, what’s a coastal town without seafood restaurants? Come hungry to Bodega Bay and fill up on the freshest seafood fare you’ll ever have!

5. Jenner

Jenner, California
Source: Photo by Flickr user Ken Lund used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Learn the ways of simple living by taking a trip to Jenner, a tiny coastal town in Sonoma County. It is about a 2.5-hour drive from San Jose, with a distance of 122 miles (196 km). Since Jenner is a town located far from the city, the things to do here heavily rely on nature. You can hike its rugged hills with the ocean as your backdrop, you can go kayaking with loved ones on the beach, or you can simply take a moment and lounge by the shore under the sun. There are a few roadside eateries in town where you can enjoy hearty meals and a coffee.

6. San Francisco (from USD 76.0)

Add charm to your San Jose holiday by planning a day trip to San Francisco, one of the most beautiful destinations in the USA. This spectacular jewel of Northern California is just 48.4 miles (77.89 kilometers) away. Begin your day trip as the sun rises and reach the city in just 49 minutes. Nestled along the breathtaking ocean, marvelous Golden Gate Bridge and exquisite rolling hills adorn San Francisco. The wanderlust-bitten shouldn’t miss exploring fascinating Alcatraz Island and enchanting Fisherman’s Wharf. Nature lovers are sure to admire mesmerizing parks and green spaces, such as Golden Gate Park, Lincoln Park, and other green areas. If you are fond of arts, make sure you visit Palace of Fine Arts and Asian Art Museum here. With all the things to do in this city, your road trip from San Jose is going to be worth it!

San Francisco California Sunset/Twilight Cruise

Duration: 2hrsDuration

22 reviews

7. Gilroy

Old City Hall, 7410 Monterey St., Gilroy, CA 9-23-2012 3-25-51 PM
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Sanfranman59 used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Famous as the Garlic Capital of the World, Gilroy is a lovely city in the southeast of San Jose in Northern California. A drive of 34 minutes covering 32.4 miles (52.14 kilometers) from San Jose will take you to Gilroy. Nature and animal lovers should visit Gilroy Ostrich Farm and explore beautiful hiking trails in the city. If you are an aviation buff, make sure you visit Wings of History Museum and have a close look at real helicopters, sailplanes, airplanes, and Wright Flyers. Peep into the past by visiting the historic Gilroy Museum in the city.

8. Sausalito (from USD 79.0)

Embark on a refreshing road trip to Sausalito from San Jose to fill in your lazy weekend. A pleasant drive of an hour and eight minutes covering 57.9 miles (93.18 kilometers) takes you to Sausalito. The picturesque city is famous for its fascinating houseboat enclaves present on Richardson Bay. Gaze at the sweeping views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge as you unwind here. Do not miss visiting Muir Woods and explore the towering and some of the oldest trees on the planet, such as redwood sequoia trees.

Muir Woods & Sausalito Half-Day Tour (Return by Bus or Ferry from Sausalito)

Duration: 5 hours

3305 reviews

9. Carmel-by-the-Sea (from USD 7.0)

Enjoy a beach excursion by going for a day trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea when in San Jose. A winding route of about 74.9 miles (120.53 kilometers) will take you to Carmel-by-the Sea from San Jose. The small, charming beach city is home to incredible museums, gorgeous beaches, and beautiful galleries. Ride the waves at Carmel Beach, which is a well-known surfing destination. Spot lovely birds at mesmerizing Carmel River State Beach. Connect with nature by exploring Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in the south of the city.

Off the Beaten Path in Carmel-by-the-Sea: A Self-Guided Audio Tour

Duration: 1 hour

4 reviews

10. Monterey (from USD 105.0)

Tucked away on the rugged central shore of beautiful California, Monterey is another enchanting destination to explore. Reach the scenic city in 1 hour and 22 minutes by covering 71.2 miles (114.42 kilometers) from San Jose. If underwater life and marine animals fascinate you, make sure you visit Monterey Bay Aquarium here. The aquarium is home to plenty of species of marine animals and eye-catching plants. Kids will have a great time viewing underwater displays and peculiar interactive exhibits here. Also, explore Monterey’s street-side gift shops and relish delicacies at the restaurants serving savory seafood here.

Day Trip to Monterey and Carmel via California Coast

Duration: 11 hours

111 reviews

11. Berkeley

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user brainchildvn used under CC BY 2.0

If you want to witness open-air concerts during your time in San Jose, plan a day trip to Berkeley, which is just 45.8 miles (73.7 kilometers) from the city. It houses the incredible Hearst Greek Theater, an open-air theater hosting concerts. Also, the University of California is located in Berkeley. Sather Tower in the city offers you spectacular views of the campus and enchanting bay. Do not miss shopping at music stores and lovely shops at and near the fascinating Telegraph Avenue.

12. Alameda

Ballena Bay, Alameda, California
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jenn Heflin used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Set on Alameda Island and mesmerizing Bay Farm Island, Alameda is a fabulous city to explore by planning a day trip during your excursion in San Jose. It is just about 42.3 miles (68.07 kilometers) away from San Jose and it takes about an hour and three minutes to reach Alameda. Visit noteworthy USS Hornet Museum and learn about the ship’s crucial role in the Apollo moon missions. Bask in the sun at the shore of beautiful Crown Memorial State Beach.

13. Livermore

Concannon Winery
Source: Photo by Flickr user squidish used under CC BY 2.0

Set on the scenic eastern edge of the Bay Area of San Francisco, Livermore is a spellbinding city that you should explore when holidaying in San Jose. A 44-minute drive covering 33.3 miles (53.59 kilometers) will lead you to Livermore. Connect with nature by exploring panoramic Livermore Valley. Have fun sailing on the water, windsurfing, and swimming at the pleasant lake at Del Valle Regional Park. Offer your prayers at sacred Livermore Shiva-Vishnu Temple in the city.

14. Santa Cruz

Natural bridges state beach Santa Cruz California
Source: Photo by user Dvortygirl used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Adorning the central coast of mesmerizing California, Santa Cruz is a charming city for a day trip. Take a train from San Jose and reach this enchanting destination in just 53 minutes. Enjoy vintage rides at Beach Boardwalk here. Have fun at Giant Dipper roller coaster and breath-taking Looff Carousel. Marvel at the jaw-dropping rock formation which resembles a bridge at Natural Bridges State Beach.

15. Napa (from USD 279.0)

On the hunt for tours from San Jose? Head out to Napa and explore the spectacular Napa Valley wine field during your sabbatical. A road trip of about 1 hour and 46 minutes from San Jose covering 99 miles (159.32 kilometers) takes you to Napa. Tour through this region and admire marvelous architecture dating back to the initial 1900s and late 1800s in the downtown. Have a stroll on the refreshing riverfront promenade having many restaurants and shops. Do not miss shopping at Oxbow Public Market, which features an outstanding farmer’s market and cheese stores. Explore the panoramic wine region in an antique train which is famous as the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Napa from San Francisco: Wine Tasting, Vineyard Tour, Lunch

Duration: 9 hours 30 minutes

10 reviews

Enjoy fun-filled excursions from San Jose

San Jose is an enchanting destination in the USA with plenty of attractions, including shopping malls and nightclubs. Also, various cities in its vicinity boast countless attractions greeting you for refreshing day trips. So, pack your bags and head out to any of these best places to go for a day trips from San Jose.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Manjiri Kochrekar is a travel blogger from India. She loves exploring and learning various destinations, their history, culture, and peculiarities. Writing is her passion, which means she enjoys...Read more

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