Taking Lyft / Uber: San Francisco, Napa Valley and Back

Updated on September 28, 2015

Lyft Uber to Napa Valley Sonoma Valley

Background – San Francisco/Napa Valley/Sonoma

My friends and I had a 4 day trip to San Francisco booked for Labor Day weekend and one of the toughest things to plan was wine-tasting in the Napa/Sonoma region.  Do we go with Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley?  Do we stay overnight at the Andaz Napa or do we just commute back?  Which vineyards should we visit?

What about transportation?  How do we get from San Francisco to Napa Valley and Back? Do we rent a car, join a tour, hire a limo, or rely on Lyft and Uber?  If the same questions are running through your mind, I hope this post will make your decisions easier.

Napa Valley

Deciding Factors

  • Napa or Sonoma: This wasn't too hard of a decision.  Cakebread was on the top of my list based off my last Napa Valley visit ~10 years ago.
  • Vineyards to Visit: Since Cakebread was not to be missed, we called for reservations and the only slot available for the reserve tasting was 11AM. Mondavi was right across the street and opened at 10AM – perfect.  We wanted to hit up 4 vineyards that day so we just rolled the dice on the other 2: Acacia and Domaine Carneros.
  • Overnight in Napa Valley or Commute Back to SF: I wanted to take advantage of the Citi Prestige's 4th night free benefit at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco.  I combined my Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrade certificate with the 4th night free benefit on a paid rate of $309 / night to land the Executive Suite.  Staying overnight in Napa meant that I would not be able to take advantage of this perk since our entire trip was only 4 days and 4 nights. We decided to just do a day-trip to Napa and commute back to San Francisco.
  • Commuting to/from Napa Valley: We wanted to go on our own schedule so joining a tour was out.  Hiring a limo came in the tune of $400-$500… too rich for my blood.  Renting a car was the cheapest option: all-in (rental car, insurance, taxes, fees, tolls, gas) would have cost no more than $130 for the day.  We were all drinkers and didn't want to drink and drive. There was also an option to hire someone in Napa to be the designated driver of your rental car, but that costs ~$250 on top of the rental costs, no thanks.  And then it hit me…

Let's Lyft and Uber It!

Here are the Lyft rates for Napa Valley (left) and San Francisco (right).

Lyft Napa Valley San Francisco Rates

As you can see, the rates are about half as expensive as NYC ($2.15 / mi + $0.40 / min), where I reside.  Google Maps shows the distance between the Grand Hyatt San Francisco and Mondavi to be ~60 miles and travel time to be ~90 minutes (with minimal traffic).  Estimate heading to Napa: 60 miles x $1.35 + 90 minutes x $0.27 + $2.25 + $11 tolls = $119.  Estimate heading back to San Francisco: 60 miles x $1.10 + 90 minutes x $0.18 + $1.13 + $11 tolls = $83.  As for commuting within Napa, I was fairly confident each ride would be in the $10 – $20 range.  Lyft was marginally cheaper than Uber and the Uber fare estimates confirmed that.

Napa Itinerary

Here is a list of places visited and reservations made:

  1. Robert Mondavi Winery 10AM reserve tasting (no reservations made; they open 10AM)
  2. Cakebread Winery 11AM reserve tasting
  3. ZuZu Tapas Restaurant 1PM walk-in
  4. Acacia Winery 2:15PM premium tasting
  5. Domaine Carneros 3:30PM tasting with caviar and cheese apps
  6. Ad-Hoc Restaurant 5PM dinner reservations
  7. Off-The-Grid San Fran 9PM arrival (no reservations made; they close 10PM on Friday)

Actuals vs. Estimates (Lyft / Uber Ride Details)

Grand Hyatt San Francisco to Robert Mondavi Winery – Cost: ~$128


Robert Mondavi Winery to Cakebread Winery – Cost: $0 (walked it!)


Cakebread Winery to ZuZu Tapas Restaurant – Cost: ~$22


ZuZu Tapas Restaurant to Acacia Winery – Cost: ~$15


Acacia Winery to Domaine Carneros – Cost: ~$9


Domaine Carneros to Ad-Hoc Restaurant – Cost: ~$23


Ad-Hoc Restaurant to Off-The-Grid San Fran – Cost: ~$93


Total Cost – Lyft and Uber Rides

Whole Trip - Napa Valley - Lyft Uber

The total cost for all the Lyft and Uber rides was ~$290.  My friends and I had several $20 Lyft credits from referring new users and a few $30 credits from the limited time Lyft $30 referral promo, so my true cost after discounts was ~$190. Keep in mind you cannot apply more than 1 ride credit for a single ride.  I used the $30 credits on the two long-hauls and $20 credits for the other rides.  The Uber ride was only $9 so I didn't bother using any credit.  My estimates were off by ~$10 for each of the long-hauls but that's because we made a quick pit-stop on each trip.

If I ever return to San Francisco, I plan to check out Sonoma next time. Perhaps Citi will have removed the 4th night free benefit and I will be more incentivized to stay overnight in Sonoma. In terms of transportation choice, I am sticking with Lyft and Uber.  They were readily available. The only time where I broke sweat was at Acacia when the closest Lyft was 15 minutes away and Uber was surging 1.3x.  Even then, the surge ended up costing only $1.91 extra.

Best Vineyard in Napa

My pick of best vineyard in Napa:

Cakebread Cellars - Napa Valley - Lyft Uber

Cakebread was so good, we ended up ordering 2 cases (24 bottles) for shipment back to NYC.  Mondavi was a disappointment and Acacia and Domaine Carneros were not memorable.  It was cool that Acacia had outdoor Bocce ball for us to play.  Other than that, nothing really stood out, both wine and decor.

Other Considerations

Additional data points for those staying in San Francisco:

  • Lyft line from SFO airport to San Fran city center was capped at $30 flate rate.  Don't do this option because a regular Lyft ended up costing only $28 – less than Lyft line.
  • Lyft line from San Fran city center to SFO airport was ~$20 vs. a regular Lyft ~$32.  I was in a rush to check out the SFO Centurion Lounge so I splurged for a regular Lyft.  I ordered Lyft lines for 2 of my friends who had earlier flights and didn't have Centurion Lounge access.

Napa Valley - Lyft Uber

Shameless Plugs

If you do not have Uber or Lyft yet, click here to sign up for Lyft and here to sign up for Uber.  You and I will receive $20 ride credit each.  If you are considering becoming a driver, Lyft is offering up to $750 and $1000 bonuses depending on city. Finally, if you plan to sign up for the Citi Prestige to take advantage of the 4th night free perk, learn how to reduce the annual fee to $350.


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  1. If you’re going from SF to Napa Valley, the drive up through Marin (over the Golden Gate Bridge and up Highway 101, then take Highway 37 exit) is quite a bit more scenic than the route through the East Bay you’re reporting the Uber/Lyft took. With no traffic, the Marin route is about 15 minutes longer to Napa and about the same to Sonoma. But…East Bay traffic, especially at the Bay Bridge, is notoriously bad certain times of day.

    Looks like the map you have was put into google after the fact and shows a different route than your Lyft actually took? The return route shown there is the better one.

    Also, if you’re ever up that way again, check out V. Sattui winery as well as the Lagunitas Brewery! Anchor Brewing in SF is also worth a visit!

  2. So if you book a ride to Napa from SF how do you know if the driver is willing to take you? Do you call them ahead of time? I’m very interested in doing a similar trip but I am just nervous of not being able to find a driver willing to go that far out of their way.

    • The driver sees your pickup and drop-off locations before accepting your request. If you want to play it on the safe side, call the driver immediately after scoring a Lyft/Uber just to confirm he/she has no qualms about driving such long distance.

      As FYI, quite a few Napa drivers do it as a side gig to pull in some extra cash and the ones I spoke with try to hit $100-$200 a day. The driver that took me from Napa back to SF said I made his day since most of his daily quota was met with just 1 ride. In fact, he noted that Napa->SF was becoming more common and it works out well for him since the driver pay rate is higher in SF than Napa (helping him hit the daily quota faster).

      • Hi,

        We are actually planning basically the same trip. Also staying at the Grand Hyatt. (Good?) Did you have the same driver the entire time?

        • Grand Hyatt was excellent, esp if you are a diamond member. We had diff drivers each time. I must warn you their standard lyft cars there are on the smaller side. Tight fit if you have 4 people like I did.

    • Within a few minutes. Keep in mind this was a while back. Driver availability may have changed since. Best is to drop a pin at the vineyard within the app n see how many Uber and Lyfts you see around there.

  3. I just wanted to thank you for using a local Napa Business that pays a living wage and is properly permitted and licensed to carry passengers for hire.
    The Uber’s and lifts are mostly from outside the area.
    That’s the kind of Napa experience your promoting? Maybe you should skip the winery’s and tour your local Bevmo while your at it !! Cheeeeeep! Walmart has wine.
    Just my opinion as a lifelong Napa local.

    • Your concerns are echoed at a national if not worldwide level and not specific to your Napa region. Under your logic I guess everyone should pay more for goods at a local grocery store than try to save through shopping at a national supermarket.

      • At least that national supermarket ad hears to labor laws & safety regulations! Uber is being called the Enron of the Silacon valley! And the most disruptive company in the world! Let’s just take a minute and think about this so your recommending to your readers that they save money but they may get Raped, battered,scammed and all manner of misfortune but it’s cheap, that’s like saying take the way across the swamp watch out for the quick sand pitfalls and vipers it’s cheap and easy. There’s a big difference. Do you think a Wall Street Venture Capitalist funded company has your readers safety in mind. Over a hundred years of labor and safety laws are there for a reason!
        And do you or your readers care about the drivers that are being exploited oh ya I forgot it’s cheap you save money! Or that Uber’s and Lyfts entire business model is built opon a lie and a self described loophole and mantra that F-U the rules don’t apply to us!
        People are waking up, sorry to rip you one but I’m getting tired of the bull crap corporations are feeding us.
        To sum up your cheap fare is UNETHICAL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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