Best ways to get to Napa from San Francisco

Posted on October 17, 2018 |

There are numerous ways to get to Napa from San Francisco, depending on your budget and how much time you have. These are our picks!

The Napa Valley brings to mind images of rolling vineyards, sunny days, and beautiful scenery. If you’re a wine enthusiast, or even if you’re not, Napa is a must-see destination to visit in California.

And it’s not just a region that’s known for its wine, although the locals vineyards are world-renowned and thought to be some of the best in the world. The valley also offers a relaxing weekend away from the busyness of the Bay Area.

The Napa Valley is made up of 5 towns, the largest of which is Napa City. And believe us when we say that there’s plenty to love about downtown Napa, the place where most people stay on a trip to the valley.

Explore vineyards on a Napa Valley wine tour

Get a behind-the-scenes look at California’s wine culture on a Napa Valley wine tour

The city boasts a striking promenade along the water, boutique shops, food trucks, a vibrant nightlife, and an impressive art scene, just to name a few attractions.  

We could go on, but let’s just say that there are numerous reasons to make a visit to Napa, and chances are you already know this if you clicked on a post about how to get there!

The good news is that Napa Valley is easy to access, especially if you’re based in the Bay Area. From San Francisco, Napa is a mere 50 miles (about an hour north), meaning there are a wealth of options for how to get to Wine Country, no matter your style, budget, or timeframe.

Before you leave San Francisco to take on Napa, don’t forget to check out one of Dylan’s Tours around the city. Our ‘Famous Tour’ is a great overview of San Francisco and its most popular neighborhoods, whether you’re a newbie or a repeat visitor. Check it out here.

How to get from San Francisco to Napa – the options

Guided tours of Napa Valley give you an intimate look into California wine

Driving to Napa from San Francisco

Getting from San Francisco to Napa can be as easy as renting a car and driving for an hour north to get to the Valley.

The best route to take to Napa depends on traffic and recent accidents, but usually I-80 E to CA-20 N is the most straightforward and quickest drive up to the Napa Wine Country. However, you can also take the US-101 N to CA-37 E to CA-121 N to CA-29 N as a backup.

Just keep in mind that there are going to be tolls no matter which route you choose.

On weekends, that hour or so of driving can easily turn into two or more with traffic. If you’re only going up for the day, leave as early as possible. Most wineries open around 10am.  

Local Transportation to Napa from San Francisco

If you’re on a budget, or simply don’t want to drive because you plan to be wine tasting all day, you can take advantage of the local transportation to Napa from San Francisco.

The easiest option is to buy a combination Amtrak train and bus ticket from Wanderu – the best site to find affordable transit options to Napa from San Francisco.

The Amtrak service to Napa leaves from Emeryville, which is easily reached by BART or Uber, and takes anywhere from 2-3.5 hours to get to Napa.

The cost starts at around $30 for a one-way trip.

Discover all the best way of getting to Wine Country from San Francisco

No need to figure out who is designated driver on a Napa Wine Tour Bus

Local Transportation from SFO to Napa

If you’re flying into San Francisco and you’re wanting to leave for Wine Country right away, there are a couple of options for local transportation from SFO to Napa.

Take the yellow BART line heading toward Pittsburgh/Bay directly from SFO. Get off at MacArthur station and transfer to the red BART toward Richmond.

Next, you’ll take BART all the way to El Cerrito Del Norte Station. From here you can take VINE 29 Express bus that will take you to Soscol Gateway Transit Center, the main transit hub of Napa.

In total, the trip should around 2.5 hours. Just note that the VINE 29 bus doesn’t run on weekends, so this option is only possible during the week.

Alternatively, you can take BART from SFO to MacArthur Station, and take an Uber from there to the Emeryville Amtrak station to use the bus and train services mentioned above.

Chartered Napa Wine Tour Bus

If you’re looking for an easy way to get to Napa from San Francisco, and you want to explore Wine Country at your leisure, a chartered Napa bus tour is a good option.

Hiring out a San Francisco to Napa Valley Shuttle Bus is the perfect way to enjoy a day or weekend in Napa with a big group of friends, or for a bachelorette party.  

There are numerous options for hiring out a Napa wine bus, the most popular company to use is the California Winery Shuttle. They offer a Napa Valley wine tours bus that starts at $109 per person for transport, three wineries, and lunch.

Limo from San Francisco to Napa

If you want to take it up a notch, you could instead opt for a limo from San Francisco to Napa. This is a great option for those who like to travel in style, with a large group of friends, or want a romantic and classy weekend away.

Napa Shuttle Limousine offers various chartered limo services, as well as bus charters, and airport and dinner transfers to Napa from San Francisco.

Flying to Napa from San Francisco

Although it’s the least popular option because of the expense and closeness of Napa, flying to Napa from San Francisco is also possible.

If you’d rather fly to Napa and you have some extra cash to spend, you can take a quick chartered flight from San Francisco.

The Napa Airport is not well known, mostly because they don’t have any commercial airline services that fly into it. However, you can browse chartering options here and get a quote from SFO to Napa County airport.  

Soar into Napa Valley from San Francisco

Guided Napa Wine Tours from San Francisco

If you don’t want to deal with the headache of getting to Napa via public transit, renting a car and driving, or taking a limo or chartered flight, there are plenty of options for guided Napa tours from San Francisco.

These are the best Napa wine tours from San Francisco that pick you up and drop you off back in the city, depending on what type of experience you’re looking for.

Private Napa Wine Tours from San Francisco

For those who are looking for quality private Napa wine tours from San Francisco to enjoy one of the most beautiful wine regions in California, these two tours are highly recommended.

Napa Valley Tour by Private Car from San Francisco

Get picked up by a private car from your accommodation in San Francisco to start off your 6-hour tour to the wineries that you’re most interested in visiting around Napa and Sonoma.

The tour includes visits to 3-4 wineries, transportation to and from San Francisco (including highway toll fees), and recommendations from a knowledgeable private driver.

See availability and prices here.  

Enjoy your own private Wine Country experience

Experience all California Wine Country has to offer on an intimate private Napa Valley wine tour.

Private Napa Valley Wine Tour

One of the best private wine tours from San Francisco. This stress-free tour to Napa allows you to pick your own wineries and restaurants, and includes recommendations of where to go and what to see from your private chauffeur.

The tour includes pick-up and drop-off in San Francisco in a luxury vehicle that has space for up to 5 people, and a scenic full day up in Napa with an itinerary of your choosing.  

See availability and prices here.

Small Group Wine Tours from San Francisco

For those who don’t need a private tour but want a small group to explore Napa with, these are our favorite small group wine tours from San Francisco.  

Minibus Tour of Napa and Sonoma Valleys

This 8.5 hour small group wine tour from San Francisco takes you to 3 boutique wineries in Napa and Sonoma – and a lunch stop at the famous Oxbow Public Market.

This is one of those rare Napa Valley bus tours that includes tastings at all of the wineries. It also includes a detailed explanation of the wine making traditions in both regions, and transport via minibus from and back to San Francisco.

If you’re looking for Sonoma and Napa wine tours, this is the perfect option to see both regions in a day.   

See availability and prices here.

Discover California's Wine Country on a minibus tour

Join a minibus tour of Napa to go behind-the-scenes of active California wineries

Wine Country by Helicopter with Wine Tasting and Food Pairing

If you’re feeling fancy and wanting a more unique way to explore Wine Country, there’s no better way to see its beauty than from the sky.

This small 3-hour group tour, limited to 6 people, picks you up in San Francisco and flies you out to either Napa or Sonoma Valley, taking in the sights of San Francisco and the rolling vineyards below along the way.

You’ll touch down at one of the most famous wineries in the region for wine tasting, a tour of the property, and some delicious tapas.

See availability and prices here.

San Francisco half day wine tours

For those who are short on time in the Bay Area, but still want to see the best of what Wine Country has to offer, this is one of the best San Francisco half day wine tours.

Premium Half-Day Napa Valley Wine Tour
This 6.5 hour small group tour is a quick overview of the Napa region and its world renowned wineries.

The tour picks you up from San Francisco, and includes a private tour and tasting at the Robert Mondavi Winery and a tasting at the LE Winery in the Carneros region, bringing you back to San Francisco before sunset.

See availability and prices here.

Discover California's Wine Country on a minibus tour

Join a minibus tour of Napa to go behind-the-scenes of active California wineries

Best Ways to Get Around Napa Once You’re There

The biggest question for those who are traveling to Napa for the first time is how to best get around the region. The wineries aren’t always close to each other, and when there’s wine tasting involved you don’t want to drive yourself.

So, what are the options?

Luckily, because it’s such a popular wine region in California, there are plenty of ways to get around, even if you choose to pass on a guided tour from San Francisco.

Drink your way through Wine Country on a guided tour of Napa Valley

Enjoy tips from Napa Valley on guided tours.

Napa Valley Shuttle/Trolley

The most popular option to easily visit your favorite wineries once you’re in Napa is the Napa Winery Shuttle, also known as the Napa Trolley!

The Napa Trolley is a motorized replica of the San Francisco cable car from the 1890s, so it’s not only an easy way to get to a few different wineries, you also get to travel in historic style.

The trolley stops at 4 wineries and offers a French-inspired picnic lunch along the way. You can grab your tickets for the Napa Trolley here.

Guided Tour of Napa Valley

If you would rather leave all the planning and transport in the hands of someone else, a guided tour of Napa Valley is an ideal option.

Napa Valley Wineries Tour

If you’re looking for a perfect overview of some key wineries around the region, this small group tour (limited to 10 people) is a good one to sign up for.

Your guide will choose 4 wineries to visit based on the preferences of the group, and whisk you away to each one in a luxury Mercedes Sprinter Limousine. A gourmet picnic lunch and complimentary champagne toast with your fellow tour mates is included.

See availability and prices here.  

Bikes and barrels on Napa Valley bike and wine tours

Treat yourself to wine tastings while on a Napa Valley bike tour.

Half-Day Napa Valley Bike and Wine Tour

There’s nothing better than a little fresh air and exercise if you plan to be drinking all day. This half-day bike and wine tour around the Napa Valley allows you to take in the beauty of Wine Country at a slower pace.

The 5-hour tour includes visits to two wineries and finishes in the early afternoon, so you have plenty of time to visit other attractions around Napa.

See availability and prices here.

Note: If you’d rather not go on a guided tour, there are bike rental shops all over Napa where you can rent your own bike and create your own itinerary. A couple favorites include Calistoga Bike Shop and Napa Valley Bike Tours, who both have daily bike rental options.

Lyft and Uber in Napa

Another great option if you want more flexibility and aren’t a huge fan of guided tours is to simply take a Lyft or Uber in Napa.

There are plenty of Lyft and Uber drivers in the region that are happy to pick you up and drop you off at the next winery on your itinerary.

This can be your cheapest and most convenient option to visit different Napa wineries in a short amount of time, especially if you’re traveling with 1-3 other people.

Local Napa Valley transportation

If you’re on more of a budget, you can take the local Napa Valley transportation to get around Napa City, but you will be restricted mostly to the tasting rooms in and around the city that are near bus routes.

The good news for those from the Bay Area is that you can use your Clipper Card on Napa Valley Transportation, otherwise, a one-way fare is $1.60.

Using local Napa Valley transportation can be a good option to check out some of the non-wine related attractions around Napa, but, to get out into the country and the actual wineries, your best options are the above choices.

Planning a trip to Napa can be overwhelming with how big and popular the region is, but we hope this guide gives you insight into the best ways to get to Napa from San Francisco, and also how to get around Napa once you’re in the region.

We also wanted to show that Napa can be for everyone, no matter your budget. Yes, it’s known as the most expensive wine region to visit in California, but it is also possible to do it on the cheap.

Happy wine tasting and enjoy Napa for us!

See San Francisco like a local

Bookend your Napa Valley wine tour with a tour of San Francisco from 100% local guides

Once you’re back from wine tasting, don’t forget to see what makes San Francisco so special through the eyes of a local.  

Sit back and soak up the ‘city by the bay’ from the back of a speeding tuk-tuk with Dylan’s Tuk-Tuk Highlight Tour, because why not? You’re in San Francisco, anything goes.  

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