Santa Cruz to San Francisco -

Trip overview

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TransportationToTimeFareRuns every
Walk/bike/drivePacific Station (Metro Center)
920 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz
Highway 17 ExpressSan Jose (Diridon) Station1 hour$4.001-2 hours
CaltrainSan Francisco (4th&King) Station1.5 hours$7.5030-60 min
700 4th St, San Francisco
San Francisco MuniAll points in San Francisco$1.50
Trip parameters
Total fare$11.50
Total travel time2 to 3 hours
Latest departure timePM
Latest return timePM

You can walk lots of places in San Francisco, so the last step is optional and not covered. The Muni Metro N and K/T streetcars are just a few of the many local transit routes that serve San Francisco (4th and King) Caltrain Station. Tip: If you travel frequently, print your own wallet-size Highway 17 + Caltrain schedule, only available here!

1st Step: Highway 17 Express to San Jose

Please review the Santa Cruz to San Jose page. When you are finished with that page, use your Web browser’s “Back” command to return here. Differences to note:

2nd Step: Caltrain to San Francisco

You will use Caltrain to get from San Jose to San Francisco. Caltrain’s double-decker cars have comfortable seats and ample storage space. The newest cars, used mainly during commute hours, have tables and electric outlets. You can bring food on board — even alcohol! Each train has a restroom.

Buying a Caltrain ticket

The Caltrain ticket machine is a large red and white console. It says "tickets" and "Caltrain".

Using the machine is the fastest way to buy a Caltrain ticket. There is no need to go to the counter in the waiting room. Enter San Jose (Diridon) Station by the side door, which is to your right as you get off the Highway 17 Express bus. Buy a one-way ticket from the current zone to Zone 1. The fare is $7.50. Keep the ticket with you until you get off the train, in case an agent asks to see it.

Finding the train

After buying your ticket, check the black sign board, which is to the left of the waiting room door. It lists departure times and platform numbers. Now, go down the ramp, find your platform, and go up. Make sure that your train says “Caltrain”, and that it’s going to San Francisco (north). Avoid trains bound for Tamien or Gilroy (south). Also avoid trains marked ACE, Amtrak, or Amtrak California. If in doubt, ask!

Preparing to get off in San Francisco

San Francisco (4th and King) Station is the last stop. An agent will announce it.

Selected attractions in San Francisco

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Selected attractions in San Francisco
Happy DonutsGenerous sandwiches. Near Caltrain.Leave station, cross 4th Street, and go right, to King Street. Go forward one block on King, and cross 3rd Street. Address: 761 3rd Street
SBC ParkSan Francisco Giants baseball.Go to Happy Donuts, then cross King Street. Address: King and 3rd Streets
Union SquareCable cars, shops, same-day theatre ticket booth.Leave station and go right, to King Street. Cross King part-way, to platform. Deposit $1.50 in machine. Take ticket and hold on to it. Get on Muni Metro N streetcar. Get off at Powell Street Station. Exit to street and follow cable cars.
ChinatownRestaurants, bakeries, shops.Leave station, cross 4th Street, and go left, to Towsend Street. Get on Muni 30 Stockton trolleybus and deposit $1.50 in farebox. Take a transfer and hold on to it. Get off after tunnel.
Sam WoExcellent Chinese food. Menu reads, “Low prices, everyone welcome.” Open late. Simple atmosphere.Follow directions for Chinatown. Go forward to Washington Street. Turn right and go 2 short blocks. Address: 813 Washington Street
North BeachRestaurants, cafes, bookstores.Follow directions for Chinatown, but stay on bus until just before Columbus Avenue and Broadway (look for big neon signs).
Stella PastryAuthentic Italian pastries. Sidewalk and indoor seating. Closed Mondays.Follow directions for North Beach. Cross Columbus Avenue and Broadway. Turn left and go 2 blocks on Columbus. Address: 446 Columbus Avenue
Golden Gate ParkGardens, trails, museums. (California Academy of Sciences temporarily closed.)Follow directions for Union Square, but stay on streetcar until just before 9th Avenue and Irving Street (look for Starbucks on the right or Jamba Juice on the left). Turn right on 9th and go 1 block.
Central YMCAAffordable overnight lodging. $50 for a private room with shared bath, basic breakfast, gym access, TV, wireless Internet. Welcomes people of all genders and all faiths. Old but well-maintained.Follow directions for Union Square, but stay on streetcar until Civic Center Station. Exit to street. Find Burger King and go 3 blocks up Hyde Street. Turn right and go 1 block on Golden Gate Avenue. Address: 220 Golden Gate Avenue
Golden House RestaurantExcellent Vietnamese food, including made-to-order imperial rolls. Closed Sundays.Follow directions for the Central YMCA, but go left on Golden Gate Avenue. Address: 336 Golden Gate Avenue

The Shakespeare Garden in Golden Gate Park has a black metal gate with an arch. Beyond the gate is a tree-lined brick path. / Cable cars are small, wooden vehicles that run on "tracks" in the street. Passengers can hang from the sides. / Stella Pastry has many cookie shapes, including swirls, rings and candy canes. Some cookies are dipped in chocolate or topped with fruit. Photos: Shakespeare Garden at Golden Gate Park; cable car near Union Square; cookies at Stella Pastry in North Beach.

Returning home

Finding the return train

After buying your ticket (current zone to Zone 4) from one of the machines at San Francisco (4th and King) Station, look up and down the hall. Caltrain agents hang wooden signs over the platform doors to indicate when each train will leave. All trains stop in San Jose (though some skip stops on the way).

An agent will unlock the platform door a few minutes before the train is scheduled to leave. If your bus connection in San Jose will be tight, sit in the first or last car. In San Jose, those cars will be closest to the exit ramps.

Preparing to get off in San Jose

Get off at the first — and sometimes only — San Jose stop, called Diridon. An agent will announce it. Avoid Tamien.

Planning your trip

There’s no need to plan your San Francisco trip in advance. The Highway 17 Express bus runs every one to two hours and Caltrain, every half hour to an hour. In case you do have to wait, all points on this itinerary have stations with indoor waiting areas, restrooms, water fountains, telephones, and food vendors.

If you do check schedules in advance, you can find a short connection and a fast train. There are three kinds of trains:

Caltrain service types
WhenTravel TimeTimetable ShadingTrain NumbersType
Commute1 hourRed300-seriesBullet
Weekday1 hour:20 minutesYellow200-seriesLimited
Every day1 hour:40 minutesPlain100- or 400-seriesLocal

Telephone numbers

For the Highway 17 Express, dial 1 877 9-RIDE-CC (nationwide, toll-free). Ask for schedules between Santa Cruz and San Jose. For other transportation services, dial 511 (San Francisco Bay Area, toll-free) or 1 408 817-1717.

Know before you go

The information on this Web page might be incomplete, out of date, or incorrect. Also, there is always a risk of delays and missed connections.

© 2001-2008, Paul Marcelin. This Web site is a public service, not affiliated with any transportation provider.