We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

Which San Francisco hotels are on sale?
dd/mm/yyyy dd/mm/yyyy
See hotels
Brisbane, Australia
Level Contributor
40 posts
22 reviews
Save Topic
Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

Hi, We are travelling from SF to Anaheim over 2 days and want to hire a car. We are a little concerned about traffic leaving SF on a Wednesday morning (around 8am) so are looking at the possibility of taking a Greyhound bus to Santa Cruz (or even San Jose) to get out of the city and hire a car from there. I have checked the price and it would be the same. I would be interested to hear from others if driving out of SF is best avoided or are we making too much of it. We could actually hire a car from Mason St where our hotel is and would be very convenient but this traffic situation and potentially getting lost is putting us off. In regards to getting to Anaheim, we plan to travel the stretch Santa Barbara late at night when hopefully the traffic has settled. Any input on the best route to stay out of the mainstream would be helpful. We have heaps of driving experience but not really on super fast freeways like those I imagine in SF and LA. Thanks.

Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
Level Contributor
31,955 posts
7 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

Yes, you are making too much of it.

You cannot easily get to Santa Cruz by Greyhound bus, first of all. And you do not want to take Greyhound to San Jose.

Get your car on Mason St. Go down Mason St to Market, probably 3 or 4 blocks. Turn left on Market and make an immediate jog right onto 5th St. In two blocks turn right on Howard, go one block and turn left on 6th Street. In 5 blocks this will lead you to the freeway entrance to Hwy 280. Follow this across the city, staying in the direction towards San Jose.

From here to Santa Cruz you can either take the Pacifica exit to Hwy 1, or wait until Hwy 92 and take it to Hwy 1 at Half Moon Bay, or stay on Hwy 280 to Hwy 85 to Hwy 17 and take that over to Santa Cruz.

If you had not planned on coastal Hwy 1, Hwy 280 is a beautiful 8 lane freeway going through the foothills of of the coast range. It is nothing like LA, nor will the traffic out of the city be like that.

Have a pleasant trip.

Limerick...
Level Contributor
1,484 posts
90 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

You can also rent a gps from the car rental agency.

San Francisco
Level Contributor
36,629 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

Completely agree with Puter. From Mason Street to the freeway isn't far and although there are some one way streets that can make it confusing it isn't more than a 5-10 minute drive to the freeway.

Once on I280 you won't hit much traffic as you're heading out of the city.

However, if you're really concerned about the city part of the drive you'd be better off hopping on BART to the airport and renting a car there. From the airport you're right at I380W which will connect to I280S.

Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
Level Contributor
31,955 posts
7 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

Warning about a GPS. Ours doesn't want us to take Hwy 280 when we go home to Santa Cruz from the city and keeps trying to get us over to Hwy 101, a traffic clogged, ugly route. I think it was programmed for truck routes. Perhaps the maps have been updated, but I wouldn't count on it.

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
Level Contributor
49,369 posts
149 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

I saw the part about driving at night to Santa Barbara. Most would suggest you enjoy Santa Cruz and take your time driving the Big Sur which is the most amazing part of the CA coast and land up say at Cambria or Pismo Beach or if you want to go further to San Luis Obispo and stay there.

You can then leave the next day for Anaheim.

By the way I agree with Puter and Midon1. Please go on Hwy 280 or cut across to Hwy 1 but also have a GPS in case you get lost -- and all it will say is recalculating :-) Once you are on Hwy1 It will be hard to get lost as you are pretty much going on Hwy 1 all the way to San Luis Obispo and then onto Hwy 101

San Francisco
Level Contributor
36,629 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

belo, the way I read the OP is that they are doing Santa Barbara to Anaheim at night to avoid LA traffic.

But I agree, driving Big Sur at night is not recommended.

Berkeley, California
Destination Expert
for Berkeley
Level Contributor
5,873 posts
79 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

Driving the extra distance from SF to Santa Cruz is not a big deal. It's a short drive to the I-280 on-ramp (south end of 6th Street) and 280 is not very congested in that direction. You can cruise on it at 55 mph until the city limit, and then from there it picks up to 65 mph until you reach the Highway 1 exit. I recommend taking Highway 1 the whole way, as it doesn't take much longer and you won't have to deal with much traffic or freeway speeds.

There is no advantage to renting the car from SFO. Also, the other options mentioned (Highway 92 and Highway 17) are rather twisty and I don't think you would find them pleasurable! Especially Highway 17, which has heavier traffic and lots of twists and turns at 45-55 mph. Save the twists and turns for the Big Sur coastline, which you can enjoy at comfortable 15-30 mph speeds.

San Francisco Bay
Level Contributor
3,092 posts
16 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

Regarding your concern about super fast freeways in San Francisco: they hardly exist! Most of the ways out of town are rather sluggish, especially downtown, and there are not really freeways downtown - they have been torn down.

Have the car rental company mark up a city map for you to get out of town, and make sure it's on Hwy 280.

I second DavDaven's advice above, for maximum views and driving pleasure.

Santa Cruz...
Destination Expert
for Santa Cruz
Level Contributor
31,955 posts
7 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

I280, which begins from 6th Street is not sluggish. It is a freeway, but not a speedway.

San Francisco
Level Contributor
36,629 posts
27 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: Car hire San Francisco downtown or Santa Cruz?

<<There is no advantage to renting the car from SFO>>

I suggested it in case the OP was worried about downtown city driving. Which seemed, by the way, to be the crux of their question. They did not seem to be worried about windy, twisty roads.