San Francisco's Chilled Summer Vibes: A Sustainable Travel Guide

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Mark Twain

Summer in San Francisco usually doesn’t feel like summer thanks to the seasonal thick fog that rolls in and keeps the city cool. After living in San Francisco for nearly 18 years, I’m quite used to it and even enjoy it (though I’m from warm, tropical Costa Rica).

I’m especially grateful for our cool summers when reading of the unrelenting heat waves across the US. Even more reason to visit San Francisco between July and August!

And so, as a local resident and a member of the maker community in San Francisco, I invite you to experience the joy of a cool, foggy summer in our beautiful city. From exploring our parks and embracing eco-friendly transportation to supporting sustainable businesses, San Francisco offers the perfect backdrop for the sustainable traveler seeking authentic experiences and a greener future.

What to Visit

San Francisco Sustainable Travel Guide. Tap Tap Organics

Parks & the Outdoors: San Francisco is the first US city that has a park within a 15 min walking distance from each resident and though there are plenty of traditional, tourist options (such as Alamo Square next to the Painted Ladies and Golden Gate Park), my recent favorites include: Presidio Tunnel Tops with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Crissy Field and Alcatraz, Ocean Beach’s Great Highway Park which is exclusively for pedestrians on the weekends, and Crane Cove Park, a seven-acre park designed by yours truly in the trendy Dogpatch neighborhood. (I lead a dual life as a landscape designer and the founder of Tap Tap Organics!). 

San Francisco Sustainable Travel Guide. Tap Tap Organics

And I cannot leave out Dolores Park, in the heart of the Mission District. The views of the city skyline are gorgeous and you’ll find groups of people lounging and picnicking throughout all hours of the day. There’s a large, exciting playground there as well for the little ones.

For a memorable day trip, rent a bike or use bike share to embark on a scenic tour, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, exploring Sausalito, and returning via ferry. 

Remember to dress in layers! It might be sunny one minute and the next, windy and foggy. And even if it is sunny, unless San Francisco is experiencing a heat wave itself, sunny days are not actually that warm!

San Francisco Sustainable Travel Guide. Tap Tap Organics

Museums: There are so many museums to choose from and some are conveniently located downtown in close proximity to each other, such as the SF MOMA and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. However, I love museums that also have an important outdoor or garden component, such as the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences, both facing each other within beautiful Golden Gate Park. The California Academy of Sciences is particularly interesting for nature lovers and kids, as it houses impressive aquariums, a planetarium, a biodome (with a Costa Rican ecosystem!) and a green roof.

San Francisco Sustainable Travel Guide. Tap Tap Organics

Neighborhoods: One of my favorite, most vibrant neighborhoods in the Mission District. It’s full of delicious Latin restaurants, impressive art murals, art galleries and shops. I highly recommend scheduling a mural tour and visiting the historic 24th Street. Other beautiful, interesting neighborhoods include Chinatown, the Castro and Dogpatch. 

Some neighborhoods are facing serious challenges related to the opioid epidemic and homelessness. San Francisco has been criticized quite a bit in recent years about these issues. To visitors coming from other parts of the country or world where these issues are less prominent, it might come as a bit of a shock. I like to remind myself of the story of Siddhartha and that insulating ourselves from the struggles of others is not a healthy way to live. I recommend keeping an open mind and acting with compassion when seeing others less fortunate. That said, with a bit of research and preparation, you can safely walk almost anywhere and avoid certain areas that might be problematic.

San Francisco Sustainable Travel Guide. Tap Tap Organics

Last but certainly not least, there is an attraction that never fails to surprise visitors: the wild parrots of San Francisco. For reasons unknown to us, this bustling city has become a haven for a vibrant flock of tropical parrots. Their chirping, as they gracefully soar through the sky, evokes memories of Costa Rica for me since parrots often gather around my parents' fruitful trees.

Interestingly, these very parrots hold a special significance in the origin of Tap Tap Organics. When our eldest daughter was little, she would point to the sky and say, "Tap Tap! Tap Tap!" as she mimicked the parrots' playful chatter. It was this that inspired me to name my skincare line Tap Tap Organics, as a tribute to these radiant birds that symbolize the two places I hold dear: San Francisco and Costa Rica.

Where to Eat

Zero Waste Grocery Options: For those staying in accommodations with a kitchen, you may want to do your grocery shopping at Rainbow. They have an impressive bulk item section where many living a zero waste lifestyle do their regular grocery shopping. Other options include the Ferry Building’s Farmers Market, set along the Embarcadero waterfront where you can shop fresh produce and enjoy the gorgeous views of the bay.

You’ll find that San Francisco has water bottle refill stations almost everywhere. So don’t forget your bottle and you’ll be able to refill at museums, parks and other tourist attractions.

Restaurants: Where to even begin! One of the things I love most about San Francisco is the cuisine variety. My favorite vegetarian and vegan restaurants include Wildseed in the Marina and Cha-ya in the Mission. For Latin food with a scenic view, I love El Techo, which is part of Lolinda, also in the Mission. Also the Mission’s burritos and taco options are legendary, so be sure to skip Chipotle and go to the authentic taquerias.

For a romantic dinner, you can’t go wrong with Chez Maman, a small french bistro. There are two locations, one in the quaint Potrero Hill neighborhood (my favorite) and the other in buzzy Hayes Valley. Japan Town is another favorite with dozens of sushi and ramen options.

San Francisco Sustainable Travel Guide. Tap Tap Organics

Coffee & Bakeries: I feel so fortunate to live in a city that has some of the best coffee and bakeries in the world. A must is visiting the Tartine Manufactory, also in the Mission, for a bite of  their buttery, flaky and gigantic croissants or their famous sourdough country loaf. Dandelion Chocolate is absolute chocolate heaven. They have two locations, one on Valencia St in the Mission, which is a great stop while sightseeing and window shopping in that neighborhood. Their other location is their 16th Street Chocolate Factory, which is fun for serious chocolate lovers. And finally, the best cappuccinos and lattes IMHO is Sightglass, with many locations across the city. Other favorite cafes are the Verve, Andytown and Ritual. 

Many cafes give customers a small discount for bringing their own cup. It’s common practice for San Franciscans to bring their own insulated canteen, so don’t be shy to make the request as well!

Where to Stay

San Francisco Sustainable Travel Guide. Tap Tap Organics

With such a variety of Airbnb options and hotels in San Francisco, the best is to consider which neighborhoods are centrally located and have some charm. Most hotel chains are located downtown or along the Embarcadero and the Marina neighborhood. 

Airbnb accommodations allow you to stay in local neighborhoods like Potrero Hill, which is central and has classic San Francisco views. Other beautiful scenic neighborhoods include Russian Hill and Pacific Heights, though rates in those areas might be higher. Western neighborhoods like Portola, Outer Sunset or Inner or Outer Richmond are also great options, but less central. 

Either way, all neighborhoods in San Francisco are unique in their own way and it’s a wonderful way to experience day to day life in the city.

Other travel tips

San Francisco Sustainable Travel Guide. Tap Tap Organics

Traveling as zero waste as possible is one of the reasons we created our minis. I make sure to pack the Mini Head To Toe Beauty Butter and Mini Regenerate Beauty Oil on every trip. They are extremely convenient for travel, not only for their size, but for their multi-tasking power. These two products are so versatile and keep my face, body and hair nourished and moisturized.

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Be sure to also check our previous travel post Three Days in Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast!

Photo credits : Presidio Tunnel Tops /  Field Operations, Neighborhoods / San Francisco Magazine / Other photos taken by Patricia Fonseca Flores.