Active Fun in San Francisco Bay Area

This post was originally featured on July 25, 2012 in Women’s Adventure Magazine’s Blog

By Gigi Ragland

Sure, the acclaimed “city by the bay” boasts a cultured culinary scene, cable cars, and the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge, but the San Francisco Bay area is also home to one of the largest urban parks in the world.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA), a sweeping swath of bay and ocean shoreline, encompasses 59 miles of sublime outdoor paradise with an endless variety of excursions—from hiking and mountain biking to windsurfing and sea kayaking—for every level of adventurer.

Argonaut Hotel, San Francisco

What’s beyond the souvenir shops at Fisherman’s Wharf? Plenty. The boutique Argonaut Hotel sits waterfront across from Hyde Street Pier, which is part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park within GGNRA. The four-star hotel offers plush, modern comfort, offset with a nautical flair, in its 252 guest rooms. Plus, its historical location echoes the vibe of 1905 San Francisco. The Argonaut amenities offer a complimentary wine hour, an onsite fitness center, and—our personal favorite—an in-room yoga program. Fuel up for your adventures at the adjacent restaurant, the Blue Mermaid, for homemade seafood chowder. Rates from $250;

Featured Activity: Running

Up and down the hills of Pacific Heights, through the Marina Green, along the promenade shoreline trail, then to the Golden Gate Bridge and back, truly, there is no limit to the running options right from the hotel. Ask the concierge for recommendations.

Special Event: Bay to Breakers Race, May 20. Considered the first cross-city running race in the U.S., this popular event takes over the city for the weekend.

Other activities: Cycling, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, surfing, and hiking. Rent a bike from Blazing Saddles, near your hotel, and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito. Return on the ferry.

The Inn Above Tide, Sausalito

Another coastal hotel experience is the boutique beauty known as “your box seat on the bay.” From the 29 guest rooms and the suites’ private balconies, you are a stone’s throw from water, which makes The Inn Above Tide the perfect location for aquatic pursuits. Plus, from Sausalito’s charming waterfront community you’ll enjoy views of the San Francisco skyline.

In addition to panoramic bay views, all guest rooms feature elegant contemporary furnishings in a luxurious setting, but don’t hole up in your room. The outdoor splendor that surrounds Sausalito begs to be explored. Cruise on a loaner bike (included in the amenities) then return in time for the hosted wine hour. Rates from $315;

Featured Activity: Sea Kayaking

Inexperienced paddlers can take lessons from Sea Trek Kayak, steps away from the hotel. All gear and training is included. The outfitter offers standup paddleboarding, kayak classes, and guided kayak tours, including the popular “Full Moon Paddle” tour for views of San Francisco’s lights and the rising moon over Angel Island.

Other activities: Hike or bike the steep trails on coastal hills along the Marin Headlands, a branch of GGRNA. Or just stroll the side streets, watch the sea lions from the docks, or soak up the ambiance in one of the many open-air cafes.

Mill Valley Inn, Mill Valley

North of Sausalito on Hwy 101, Mill Valley is tucked within the embrace of nearby Mount Tamalpais, rolling coastal hills, and Stinson Beach. While “pretty as a postcard,” Mill Valley is also a mountain-biking hub, for its maze of trails winding through verdant redwoods and spiraling across Mount Tamalpais, a California state park.

The Mill Valley Inn is so under-the-radar, despite its location in the center of town. It’s small and unassuming, great for a private getaway. Intimate and cozy, this small gem of a property has the feel and charm of a European hotel. Plus, the handcrafted furnishings in each of the 25 guestrooms reflect the easy-going lifestyle of the area. Amenities include a sun terrace lounge, deluxe continental breakfast with espresso bar, evening wine hour, and free use of Trek mountain bikes. Rates from $169.

Featured Activity: Mountain Biking

Some label Mount Tamalpais as the birthplace of mountain biking. Early pioneers, like Gary Fisher, Jacquie Phelan, and Joe Breeze, were riding the area’s trails while most of us were still on trikes. Get directions to Old Railroad Grade Trail, where you can embark on a steady, winding climb to the top of the 2,571-foot Mt. Tam.

Other Activities: From the Inn, hike through redwood forests, along streams, and on the DipSea Trail.