Though Californians are spoiled for choice when it comes to vacation spots within the state, it’s nice to know you can jump on a plane and land somewhere exotic within a few hours. West Coasters have a little further to go to get to Europe and the Caribbean compared to those on the Eastern Seaboard, but the beaches of Hawaii and Mexico are only a few hours away. And the best San Francisco flights will get you there without any stops.
Plus, travelers flying from SF-area airports can look even further than Hawaii. You can take a direct flight to Japan, Australia, or Fiji from the Bay Area, three incredible destinations that would require a stopover from most other states.
The San Francisco Bay Area is fortunate to have three international airports, all with their own pros and cons. San Francisco has its delay-inducing fog, but more than 100 routes to destinations across the globe. San Jose’s compact footprint makes for quick and easy transit, while Oakland boasts low fares to cities across the US and beyond.
Below are just some of the great direct San Francisco flights from Bay Area airports, listed in order of cost by airport. Despite inflation, there are great deals out there, especially if you’re willing to fly in the off-season. From a round-trip to Hawaii for under $300 to Tokyo flights for less than $700, here are some of the most exciting destinations to fly to from the Bay Area this year.
Flights from Oakland International Airport (OAK)
Oakland (OAK) is a Southwest Airlines hub, with an abundance of affordable domestic destinations. It’s more convenient if you live in the East Bay and is competitively priced compared to nearby rival San Francisco International Airport. The airport has a BART train stop just across from baggage claim in Terminal 1, which connects to the Coliseum station.
- Flight time: 5 hours, 40 mins
- Airline: Hawaiian Airlines
- Lowest round-trip price in 2023: $257 (April and May)
Basic economy tickets from Hawaiian Airlines include a carry-on bag, a personal item, a meal, a snack, and beverage service. Despite the low price, nothing about the onboard service feels basic.
Kauai, Hawaii’s fourth-largest island, is known as the Garden Island for its verdant landscapes and stunning beaches. Much of the island is undeveloped, accessible only by sea or air, making it the perfect destination for outdoor adventure enthusiasts.
Take a boat cruise to Fern Grotto, a natural lava cave surrounded by lush vegetation reserved for Hawaiian royalty until 50 years ago, when riverboats were permitted to visit. And be sure to head to Wailua Falls, another must-see. You can see the 80-foot-tall twin cascades from the road or admire them from the base after a muddy one-mile hike.
Thrill-seekers can take a multitude of tours, including ziplining through a tropical forest, taking a heart-pounding open-door helicopter ride, or floating on an innertube through mountain tunnels. Accommodations range from high-end hotels like the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort in Poipu Beach to low-key vacation rentals hosted on organic farms.
Read more about Kauai
Mexico City, Mexico
- Flight time: 4 hours, 10 mins
- Airline: Volaris
- Lowest round-trip price in 2023: $373 (April and May)
Volaris is Mexico’s most popular low-cost airline. A basic fare includes a personal item and a carry-on bag, but no snacks or meals (though you can buy them onboard).
A direct flight from Oakland will get you to Mexico City in under five hours, where you can explore world-class museums, fine art galleries, colorful outdoor markets, and delicious street food vendors.
Mexico City was built by the Spanish over the ruins of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. Remnants of the ancient capital remain across the city, like Templo Mayor in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed historic center. There’s even a shrine to the serpent god Quetzalcoatl inside a subway station (Metro Pino Suárez).
Mexico City’s art scene has also been gaining attention in recent years. Aside from visiting Frida Kahlo’s famous Casa Azul, you’ll find a slew of contemporary art galleries in the artsy neighborhood of Roma, and colorful street art throughout the city.
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Terceira Island, Portugal
- Flight time: 10 hours
- Airline: Sata Azores Airlines
- Lowest round-trip price in 2023: $1,224 (September)
Sata Azores Airlines, airline of the Azores (a Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean) offers one piece of checked baggage, a carry-on bag, meal service, and in-flight entertainment with basic economy tickets.
This is one of the best San Francisco flights if you’re longing for lush landscapes and an off-the-beaten-track adventure. Terceira is one of the world’s most remote islands and is a hiker’s dream, similar to New Zealand or Iceland in its abundance of breathtaking natural beauty.
Travelers can explore Algar do Carvão, an enormous cavern created by an ancient volcanic eruption, easily accessible to intrepid explorers down a flight of stairs. For a longer route, walk the stunning three-mile Black Mysteries Trail, which winds through dense cedar forests toward three jet-black volcanoes, contrasting dramatically with the green landscape.
After bathing in the natural beauty of Terceira, head into town to soak up some local culture. The island’s capital of Angra do Heroismo became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for its colorful plazas and beautiful architecture. Stop by Garoupinha, a wine bar in the city center, to try the local wines and sample Portuguese tapas dishes. For lunch, stroll toward the water to A Canadinha, a simple but highly rated Portuguese restaurant with a seafood-heavy menu.
Read more about the Azores
Flights from Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)
Smack in the center of San Jose, San Jose International is the airport of choice for Silicon Valley frequent flyers. As a result, it has the international connections to Europe and Asia of a larger hub, with the easy-to-navigate structure of a small airport.
Though San Jose doesn’t have the public transportation access of Oakland and San Francisco, it’s easy to pick up a rental or hop in a rideshare. An important note: don’t get confused between San Jose International Airport (SJC) and San Jose International Airport (SJO). They may sound the same, but SJO is in Costa Rica, not California.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
- Flight time: 2 hours, 50 mins
- Airline: Alaska Airlines
- Lowest round-trip price in 2023: $327 (April)
Alaska Air’s lowest-priced ticket to Cabo includes a free carry-on bag and non-alcoholic drinks, but any snacks and food (or booze) are extra. “Saver fare” passengers are seated last, so on a full flight, you may be forced to gate-check your carry-on.
This easy San Francisco flight takes off in the morning and arrives in the Mexican resort town of Cabo San Lucas in time for lunch. A favorite with Hollywood celebrities like the Kardashians, you’ll find fine dining, high-end spas, and a dozen golf courses spread out at dozens of luxury resorts. But look beyond Cabo’s glossy image, and you’ll find pristine waters ideal for ocean adventures.
In Cabo, you can scuba dive or snorkel with whale sharks, the largest fish in the world, or kayak and paddleboard next to dramatic cliffs. You can sign up for sailing or kayaking tours to see sea lions, or wake up early for a sunrise surf session. Or if you prefer to appreciate nature with a cocktail in hand, take a tour of a tequila factory or sign up for a sunset boat cruise.
Read more about Cabo San Lucas
- Flight time: 11 hours, 20 mins
- Airline: Zipair Tokyo
- Lowest round-trip price in 2023: $645 (September)
You can get a direct San Francisco flight to Tokyo, Japan, for as low as $645 with low-cost airline Zipair. Check-in bags and in-flight meals cost extra, but onboard internet is included, and upgrading to a lie-flat seat is an affordable indulgence.
Tokyo is a thrilling mix of traditional and modern. Travelers can immerse themselves in a stunning digital garden at teamLab’s Planets art installation, then visit a real-life zen garden at Shinjuku Gyoen. It’s easy to lose yourself in the narrow alleyways of Golden Gai, where red lanterns and neon signs beckon travelers into tiny dive bars late into the night. The next morning, if you need to relax a bit, enjoy some quiet away from the frantic pace of Tokyo life at one of the city’s Buddhist temples.
Read more about Tokyo
- Flight time: 10 hours 20 mins
- Airline: British Airways
- Lowest round-trip price in 2023: $740 (April/May)
British Airways offers two types of economy fares: “basic,” with a carry-on and assigned seat, and “standard,” which includes one checked bag and seat selection. Both tickets include in-flight meals, snacks, and entertainment.
London is at its best in spring when the city’s parks are in full bloom but the summer crowds have yet to arrive. San Jose International Airport has year-round flights direct to London Heathrow with British Airways, with normally reasonable fares — this year is a bit of an exception, price-wise.
Jump off your San Francisco flight to London and head to world-class museums like the British Museum, home to 8 million artifacts from around the world, including the Rosetta Stone and the Parthenon Sculptures. The Natural History Museum is great for families, with a huge collection of dinosaur skeletons, plus a blue whale. There’s also the Tower of London, where you can see the Crown Jewels up close and learn about the tower’s gruesome history.
Aside from London itself, the city is a great starting point for exploring other European countries. You can hop on the Eurostar and arrive in Paris in two hours or Amsterdam in TK Hours.
Read more about London
- Flight time: 4 hours, 45 mins
- Airline: Alaska Air
- Lowest round-trip price in 2023: $397 (September)
Okay, Anchorage is technically not an international destination. But it feels far removed from the mainland US, and there’s no denying it’s one of the best San Francisco flights if you want a change of pace from California.
Love the idea of hiking Alaska’s stunning landscapes, but eager for a chance to see the northern lights? September is the perfect time to visit the largest US state. By mid-September, the forests are at peak fall color, the days are still warm and long enough for outdoor activities, and nights are dark enough to glimpse the aurora borealis. In fact, Alaska’s aurora season is about nine months long. Take the Alaska Railroad’s clear-roofed train to Fairbanks for an overnight at Borealis Basecamp to maximize your chances of an evening light show.
With all the stunning scenery, it’s no surprise that the shoulder season is ideal for photography buffs. Join a fall photography tour from Anchorage with a company like Alaska Photo Treks, or rent a car and hit the road for Denali National Park. It’s about a four-hour trip from the city.
Read more about Alaska
- Go to Alaska’s Stillpoint Lodge for wilderness adventure and cliffside luxury
- See 26 glaciers in 5 hours at this Alaskan fjord near Anchorage
- How to roadtrip from Anchorage to Denali, even in winter
- 8 places to try panning for gold in Alaska
- These arctic Airbnbs will have you planning a trip up north immediately
- The best US small towns to visit in 2023
Viti Levu, Fiji
- Flight time: 11 hours, 10 mins
- Airline: Fiji Airways
- Lowest round-trip price in 2023: $653 (December)
Fiji Airways includes carry-on luggage, meals, snacks, and onboard entertainment in its lowest-cost tickets. You can get a San Francisco flight directly to Fiji with Fiji Airways for a surprisingly low price if you’re flexible with dates.
With soft white beaches, lush forests, and year-round warmth, Fiji is the tropical paradise of your dreams. The South Pacific has more than 300 islands, most of them uninhabited, and is famous for its stunning natural beauty. Though December is warm, it’s also the rainy season, so expect frequent downpours during your stay. If you don’t mind getting wet, the off-season is less crowded and offers a more relaxed flavor of island life. It’s also far less expensive.
The international airport is on the island of Viti Levu, a tourist hub with a plethora of resorts and activities. Fiji is known for its spectacular diving and snorkeling opportunities, with more than 1,000 fish species living around the archipelago. Honeymooners may want to stay at Outrigger Fiji, which offers luxury beachfront bungalows with butler service, while those seeking an authentic Fijian experience should head into the mountains to Namosi Eco Retreat for an off-the-grid getaway. And Nanuku Resort has sprawling beachside villas with private pools and hot tubs.
Read more about Fiji
- Flight time: 15 hours, 15 mins
- Airline: United
- Lowest round-trip price in 2023: $1,400 (November/December)
Long-haul trips on United include in-flight meals, and if you’re lucky, ice cream, too. The cheapest economy ticket also includes a carry-on bag, plus onboard entertainment. And WiFi is only $8 for the flight if you join Star Alliance.
You can escape to the Australian summer in November or December with one of the longest available San Francisco flights: a non-stop flight to Sydney. Though prices rise toward the end of the year as revelers gear up for the biggest party of the year on New Year’s Eve, flight prices dip at the beginning of the month.
Sydney is as fun as it is beautiful. You can catch a concert at the famous Sydney Opera House, sail on the bay, and walk across (or if you’re brave, climb) the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And don’t miss the chance to browse the Christmas markets in your flip-flops.
Sydney is also a great basecamp for exploring Australia’s extraordinary east coast. It’s easy to take a short flight to Queensland, where you can snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef, sail around the stunning Whitsunday Islands on a sunset cruise, or explore the rainforests of the far north on foot.
Read more about Sydney