So why solo female travel in San Francisco?
Solo female travel in San Francisco is incredible. I speak from personal experience. San Francisco is a beautiful action-packed city with amazing hills and views of a sweeping bay. 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!
As for my 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 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.
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! Begin your research here.
Stay aware of the weather, especially the temperature.
Okay, mostly importantly, pack for the weather in San Francisco! Sure, California is synonymous with “fun in the sun,” but San Francisco is a different beast.
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.
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.
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.
My Super Fun Suggestions for San Francisco
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. For more reading, check out my post called “Is Alcatraz Worth Visiting?”
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? 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.
Ogle at the Painted Ladies: 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, but I didn’t mind, haha. My favorite part of the wharf was Pier 39. Why? Adorable seals everywhere!
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.
Safety and Solo Female Travel in San Francisco
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 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.
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.
And finally … wear comfortable shoes or else!
Oh god, please don’t make my mistake and actually pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes for your adventure in San Francisco. I wore adorable open-toed shoes with a fat heel. They were super cute … 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.
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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