Whether you want to sip a glass of chardonnay at a family-owned, boutique winery or to stand next to a 600-year-old redwood in Muir Woods, Extranomical Tours can make it happen. And the tour company’s smaller vehicles—minibuses and 13- to 15-passenger shuttle vans—render the journey a more intimate, flexible experience. What began as a single van and one man's determination to showcase the Bay Area to friends and tourists has grown into a fleet that leads acclaimed tours across northern California. Dawn Cuthbertson of the Huffington Post went on the Wine Country and Redwoods Escape tour, one of the company's many offerings "Get your camera ready as you wander through the fog-drenched forest," she suggested to future visitors, describing the "hundreds of shades of green" visible in the cool, emerald forests.
The company trains its guides individually, regularly testing them on local knowledge and tidbits such as how long it takes the fire department to rescue a cat from a giant sequoia. The team also offers tours of Alcatraz, Monterey, and Carmel, as well as ferry- or boat-based adventures and walking or biking tours.
Red and White Fleet’s inaugural launch in 1892 came courtesy of founder Thomas Crowley, a 17-year-old seafarer whose vision has since spawned one of the Bay Area’s most sought-after guided sightsees. The placid shores of Fisherman’s Wharf host a bobbing quartet of wave-riding vessels, each crewed by a savvy staff of sailors versed in the Bay’s stunning maritime marvels, including rock seals, easily recognized by their Dee Snider wigs and Flying V guitars.
Other tours with Red and White Fleet include the Bridge 2 Bridge Cruise, which sails beneath the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridges, its iconic red-and-white boats dwarfed by the imposing structures. Passengers can venture onto the open-air deck to take in unobstructed views of the skyline, or gaze through large windows within indoor cabins furnished with plush seating and a full-service bar. A host of other tours is available; click here to view the full schedule.
Richard Bothwell has hiked Mount Kilimanjaro, scaled Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, and surfed the waves of four continents. But perhaps his greatest feat was establishing the Outdoor Adventure Club in 1996, where he leads others in conquering nature's challenges. He and a staff of seasoned outdoors enthusiasts escort visitors of all fitness and experience levels in local excursions and international vacations, all centered on exploring the great outdoors. On the local level, the guides lead rock-climbing classes at Castle Rock State Park in addition to hiking, backpacking, whitewater-rafting, kayaking, and skydiving excursions. International adventure vacations expose folks to surfing in Costa Rica, rafting in Patagonia, and mountaineering in Peru. The expeditions marry the camaraderie of a social club with the expertise of professional guides, who are each trained in emergency wilderness care in case of squirrel attacks.
Rendezvous Charters’ crew helps people to experience the San Francisco Bay providing lessons, yacht and sailboat charters, and fractional- sailing boat-sharing memberships. During lessons, staffers challenge students to turn theory into hands-on action, using American Sailing Association guidelines to transform landlubbers into landlubbers who can sail. For those who prefer to outsource steering, Spinnaker Sailing’s captains load up to six passengers for private cruises aboard skippered 30- to 50-foot yachts. Parties can request to sail around Angel Island or stop in at Sam’s in Tiburon to grab drinks or dinner. Meanwhile, Spinnaker Fractional members share luxury Beneteau boats, indulging in the benefits of boat ownership without being bogged down with the cost of insurance, fees, and vessel upkeep.
Sailing out of Central Basin in Oakland or Treasure Island, Afterguard Sailing Academy's Intro to Sailing courses are a great way to get a taste of the passion held by so many people across the world. For more in-depth instruction, multi-day courses are available, giving participants the chance to learn some of the knots, lingo, and practices.
Thanks to the academy's team of seasoned captains, tours are only one way to experience sailing's thrills. Their instructors also teach comprehensive American Sailing Association certification courses, which aim to transition ordinary passengers to crew members and skippers for more independent sailing adventures of all types. As students progress, instructors teach more advanced lessons, such as bay basics and ocean sailing. Aside from these lessons, the captains also run a nonprofit sailing academy for youth.
The San Francisco Sailing Company and the San Francisco Sailing School offer charters, sailing tours, and sailing lessons. They provide customers a chance to cruise the Bay as if on their own private yacht, or teach customers how to sail through their American Sailing Association certified facility. On a typical sailing tour, seasoned captains give passengers a memorable experience as they enjoy unique panoramic views of the entire Central San Francisco Bay. Tours pass the water front from Fisherman's Wharf all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, Aquatic Park, Alcatraz, The Bay Bridge and views of Sausalito, and Angle Island. In sailing lessons, students will learn theory and terminology, as well as spend the majority of the time on the water practicing maneuvers such as tacking and jibing. In two days of lessons, students are half way through Basic Keelboat certification.