In 1817, three decades before California joined the United States, four Spanish priests founded the Mission San Rafael Arcángel a few miles north of San Francisco. Intended as a hospital and named for the patron saint of good health, the mission was constructed in a place known for its ideal sunny weather. Today, downtown San Rafael still enjoys impossibly beautiful surroundings and the best climate in all of Marin County, but it has also distinguished itself as Marin's oldest and most culturally diverse city. And there's no better way to explore this vibrant community than by renting one of our charming San Rafael vacation rentals.
Although the original mission buildings were razed in 1870, the city of San Rafael grew up among them and was officially incorporated in 1874. Now a thriving municipality of more than 57,000 residents, San Rafael sits on the western shores of San Pablo Bay just 15 miles north of San Francisco, 19 miles east of Point Reyes National Seashore, 28 miles south of Sonoma, and 35 miles southwest of Napa.
Get acquainted with San Rafael by strolling the downtown shopping district, where you'll find a lovely collection of shops, galleries, restaurants, and Victorian buildings. Learn more about the city's origins by touring a replica of the Mission San Rafael Arcángel, which is also the backdrop of Italian Street Painting Marin each June. Getting a bit hungry? Join the locals at Sol Food to sample traditional Puerto Rican favorites, from mofongo to intensely flavorful pollo al horno.
In a county known for its natural beauty, it only makes sense for the local government to be housed in an architectural landmark. The Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael is one of the last major works of Frank Lloyd Wright and is open for docent-led tours each Wednesday. It is also the site of the Agricultural Institute of Marin Thursday and Sunday farmers markets, the latter of which is the third-largest farmers market in all of California.
Looking to explore the great outdoors? Nearly one-third of San Rafael's area is parkland and open space, including the 1,600-acre China Camp State Park. The site of a Chinese fishing and shrimping village in the late 19th century, China Camp offers 15 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails through salt marshes, meadows, and oak forests.
Surrounded in every direction by the splendor of Northern California, San Rafael is just a short and scenic drive from rugged ocean beaches, oak-studded hillsides, and bustling city streets.
Head west through the San Geronimo Valley to reach Point Reyes Station, the gateway to Tomales Bay and the greater Pacific Ocean. Pick up a few lunch fixings at Cowgirl Creamery, reserve a picnic table and grill at Hog Island Oyster Company in Marshall, and drive the gorgeous length of Point Reyes National Seashore to watch the sunset from Chimney Rock.
Go north to explore the heart of California wine country in Sonoma and Napa Valleys, both of which are known for their stunning vineyard vistas, charming towns, and world-class wineries and restaurants.
In search of a more urban environment? Drive across the Golden Gate Bridge (or hop on the Golden Gate Ferry in Larkspur or Sausalito) to reach San Francisco, where you can take in awe-inspiring views from Baker Beach and Lands End, catch a Giants game in one of Major League Baseball's most beloved stadiums, or enjoy a memorable meal at Lazy Bear, Zuni Cafe, or Flour+Water.
Discover the unforgettable beauty of Marin County in one of its most welcoming communities - reserve your stay at a San Rafael vacation home today!