Ultimate Guide: Solo Female Travel in San Francisco
UPDATED AUGUST 2018
Solo female travel in San Francisco is incredible. I speak from personal experience here. If someone offered me a plane ticket back to this beautiful part of California, I’d be long gone, because my solo trip to San Francisco was that amazing.
Embarking on solo female travel in San Francisco, I had many fantastic opportunities unfold including chances to meet a lot of amazing people at my hostel, eat a lot of fresh seafood and chocolate, learn all about one of the most notorious prisons in history, and experience an American life far different from my daily existence on the east coast in good ol’ New Jersey.
My week in California wasn’t nearly enough.
And yes, San Francisco is the perfect solo female destination for any woman looking for a new adventure. Solo female travel in San Francisco is safe and easy. Even if you feel anxiety before travel, this destination will still suit your needs and make you feel empowered as a traveler.
Ultimately San Francisco is a beautiful action-packed city with amazing hills and views of a sweeping bay. In my honest opinion, I seriously think San Francisco is the most picturesque city that I have visited in the United States. It’s a playground for a solo female traveler looking for a chic and exciting holiday! Is San Francisco cheap? Uhhhh, no, but we can talk about budget options later.
As for my own visit, I decided to check out San Francisco in April over my school’s Easter Break. I hadn’t done much solo travel around the US, and I wasn’t sure if it would be as exciting as solo travel in Europe.
Talk about misconceptions! Spring was an especially wonderful time to see all San Francisco has to offer, although I’m sure any time of the year would be enjoyable for visitors. A solo trip to San Francisco was just what the doctor ordered, haha.
Below are some of my (great) suggestions for solo female travel in San Francisco. It’s a special destination and holds a place in my heart, but as always, a little careful planning goes a very long way! It’s a smart idea to utilize local guides to San Francisco to ensure you see the best attractions and neighborhoods, especially if you only have limited vacation time available.
So begin your research and enjoy! Visiting San Francisco alone will absolutely brighten your life, I promise!
1. Stay aware of the weather, especially the temperature.
Okay, mostly importantly, make sure you pack for the weather in San Francisco! Sure, California is synonymous with “fun in the sun,” but San Francisco is a different beast entirely.
Now it’s true you can enjoy many sunny days. I didn’t experience a drop of rain in April. Nonetheless, you need to bring a jacket, preferably with you at all times! Due to San Francisco’s location on the bay, the winds’ chill isn’t something you want to trifle with. You can even have brisk days in July and August.
Especially don’t forget a jacket on the ferry ride to Alcatraz! You’ll freeze without one. I don’t care how bright the sun is shining. Bring. A. Jacket. To. Alcatraz.
2. Where Should I Stay?
If you’re a solo female traveler and don’t mind sharing space, hostels in San Francisco provide great options. I stayed at USA Hostel located in Lower Nob Hill. It turned out to be the perfect choice for me! I met travelers of all ages at this hostel so you won’t feel out of place regardless if you’re young or old. There are also planned activities for each day of the week, as well as free breakfast for travelers who are looking to save a couple of bucks.
If you’re over the hostel scene, explore TripAdvisor to find the perfect boutique hotel for you! San Francisco has no shortage of accommodation.
3. My Favorite Districts and Neighborhoods
Chinatown: San Francisco has one of the coolest Chinatown’s in the country! Take a walk. Even better, get lost!
Haight Ashbury: This neighborhood was the birthplace of the counterculture movement in the 1960s. You can also visit the beautiful Painted Ladies near Alamo Square Park (more on them later!). And the cool vintage shopping options? Amazing! Your credit card will be … very happy. Gulp.
The Mission: I didn’t spend too much time here, but it’s definitely a funky neighborhood that boasts plenty of delicious and authentic Mexican food for your stomach. Nom, nom, nom.
Union Square and Financial District: Union Square is where most of the best hotels are located. My hostel was only a few blocks away and it turned out to be the perfect central location. You can find lots of great shopping in this area including an iconic Saks Fifth Avenue.
4. Super Fun Things to do Solo in San Francisco.
Need some solo things to do in San Francisco? Look no further! My many suggestions are all listed below. Feel free to tweak them according to your own personal interests.
Alcatraz Penitentiary: Alcatraz was one of the biggest highlights of my trip. The audio tour was one of the best that I have ever taken in my years of travel. The visit is also thought-provoking and makes you think about prisoners’ rights in the United States. Totally a great visit. Just make sure you reserve a space on a ferry way, way, way in advance. Keep in mind that Alcatraz Island is a National Park. Don’t litter and respect all wildlife. And, uh, I don’t think I need to say this, but don’t attempt to swim in the bay. The currents are very dangerous. For more reading, check out my post called “Is Alcatraz Worth Visiting?”
Coit Tower: Go to Coit Tower a 210-foot tower in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood for some of the best views of San Francisco.
City Lights Booksellers and Publishers: Calling all book nerds! San Francisco is home to one of the most famous bookstores in the country. City Lights Booksellers and Publishers was founded in 1953. It is independently owned and specializes in world literature and politics. A treat for all readers.
A Free Walking Tour: My hostel offered a wonderful free walking tour in the morning. Free walking tours are excellent ways to learn all about a new city’s history. They also provide an overview of neighborhoods and give solo travelers a chance to meet people. On my tour, I chatted with three awesome girls, and we spent the remainder of the day together. It was freakin’ wonderful.
Ghirardelli Square: Mmm, do you love chocolate? Then you must visit Ghirardelli Square for your chocolate fix! I ordered a chocolate milkshake and it was divine even though it was so delicious that I couldn’t finish it, haha! Your sweet tooth will be in heaven here.
The Golden Gate Bridge: Um. I don’t think I need to say more, do I? The views of the Golden Gate Bridge are iconic for good reason! You can’t miss them especially on a sunny afternoon! Keep in mind the Golden Gate Bridge is a far walk. Feel free to rent a bike or hop on the trolley when you go visit the bridge.
Lombard Street: Not a street I’d wanna drive on though plenty of tourists do! Make sure to see this steep, one-block road with a crazy eight – eight! – hairpin turns.
Ogle at the Painted Ladies: We’re all familiar with the Painted Ladies, all lined in a row on Steiner St & Hayes St.I would love to move into one of these brightly painted Victorian houses. Can you say cuuuuuuuuute?
Seals in Fisherman’s Wharf: Fisherman’s Wharf can be a little tacky and touristy, but I didn’t mind, haha. My favorite part of the wharf was Pier 39. Why? Adorable seals everywhere! Take plenty of pictures.
Trolley Ride: You can’t come to San Francisco and not do a trolley ride! I loved going up and down the hills, and laughed for practically the entire time I was on the trolley. Personally, I recommend you stand outside. Much more liberating.
5. Safety and Solo Female Travel in San Francisco
Ahhhh. Time for the biggest question of all: Is San Francisco safe to travel alone?
As solo female travelers, we care a lot about safety on the road. This is a topic I extensively cover in my beginners guide to solo female travel. Honestly, I thought San Francisco was fine regarding safety, but I’m used to big American cities like Philadelphia and New York. Simple street smarts should prevent too much trouble.
My one concrete piece of advice would be to avoid the Tenderloin either alone or at night. This neighborhood is very close to Union Square so it’s easy to mistakenly stumble into. A few pals and I, uh, accidentally wandered through this area after chowing down on a good meal in the Mission District. I wasn’t afraid but definitely uncomfortable.
So why avoid the Tenderloin area? Right or wrong, the area is known for drug dealers, prostitution, and homelessness. I don’t speak ill of anyone, but your safety takes priority. If you want to help San Francisco’s homeless population, then research some reputable charities in the area and donate your time or money to them.
Over all, going to San Francisco alone is safe. Don’t lose sleep over it, girl.
6. Day Trips outside of San Francisco
Napa Valley: You are so close to one of the best wine regions in the nation. Enjoy it. However, public transportation options to Napa Valley are quite limited. Plus the wineries are spread out. You can rent a car, but I personally recommend taking a wine tasting tour for convenience’s sake. Carefully read reviews before making your choice.
Calistoga: If you’re seeking an area that less touristy than Napa itself, then spend a couple of days unwinding in the city of Calistoga. You can enjoy plenty of beautiful nature and spas.
Muir Woods: The redwoods are a natural wonder you shouldn’t miss. The trails are easy to follow, and you’ll enjoy some fantastic views of these unique gigantic trees.
Sausalito: I absolutely fell in love with Sausalito on my solo trip. I felt like I had been dropped into a beautiful Mediterranean paradise … in the United States! Sausalito has many eating and shopping options, and provides an easy escape from the big city. It’s only a quick ferry ride across the scenic bay — which makes Sausalito a great time if the sun is shining.
7. Wear comfortable shoes or else!
I know what you’re thinking: solo female travel in San Francisco, huh? I gotta look extra cute!
Oh god, please don’t make my mistake and actually pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes for your adventure in San Francisco instead.
What did I do wrong? On my biggest walking day, I chose to wear adorable open-toed shoes with a fat heel. They were super cute and matched my dresses … but walking to the Golden Gate Bridge from Fisherman’s Wharf wearing those heels? I was ready to chuck them in the bay because my feet were so pissed off.
As you sightsee, forget the “cuteness” and bring the most comfortable pair of sneakers you own with you. Trust me.
8. Solo Female Travel in San Francisco and How to Get Around
Rent a Bike: Bike rentals exist all throughout San Francisco. I know my hostel easily arranged bike rentals for visitors. Bikes will keep you mobile, but again, stay aware of the hills. I don’t know if I would’ve had the physical energy to bike or not.
Take the Cable Cars: The Cable trolleys, like I said, are a fun way to navigate San Francisco. They don’t go to all relevant places and are pretty packed at times, but riding a cable car is a “must do” in San Francisco.
Take the BART: Honestly, I only took the BART coming from San Francisco’s airport. It’s an easy way to get downtown when you first arrive in this gorgeous city.
Ride Share: Uber or Lyft is a simple app and request away! These are especially useful for going out at night!
Do you think solo female travel in San Francisco sounds like fun? Have you ever been to San Francisco? Did you like it?
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