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Napa Valley Airport Choices

What's the Best Napa or Sonoma Airport?

This page gives you the pros and cons of the various airports that serve Napa and Sonoma—the California Wine County. You will be able to pick the one best for you.

Although there are no commercial airports in the Napa and Sonoma valleys, you have a choice of four nearby.

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Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (STS)

Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport, also known as Santa Rosa Airport and Wine Country Airport, puts you close to the towns of Napa and Sonoma. You’ll avoid Bay Area congestion.

Via very scenic Highway 12 from Santa Rosa—a route lined by wineries, some world-renowned—you’re just one hour from Napa and 45 minutes from the Sonoma Plaza. St. Helena in the upper Napa Valley is just over 30 minutes from Sonoma Airport, but you should have either onboard navigation or a very detailed map to reach St. Helena via the shortcut. Otherwise, drive via Napa.

Unfortunately, only four flights serve Sonoma Airport each day. Alaska Airlines’ Horizon Air flies nonstop from Los Angeles (LAX), Portland, San Diego, and Seattle. This lack of competition may mean higher ticket prices.

On the other hand, garden-filled Santa Rosa and adjacent Petaluma and Rohnert Park near the airport offer many more lower cost hotels than in Napa or Sonoma. See:

Express Deals, Hotels up to 60% off with NO bidding!

Yes, that’s Charles Schulz in the airport name, as in Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Charles Schulz lived and worked in the Santa Rosa area for more than 30 years.

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Sacramento International Airport (SMF)

Although the least popular Napa Valley airport choice, Sacramento International Airport enjoys important advantages. You can reach Napa with in 75 minutes from Sacramento.

Unlike Oakland or San Francisco airports, you do not have to drive through urban areas in order to reach Napa Valley or Sonoma. You avoid downtown Sacramento.

With a metro area population of nearly 1.5 million, Sacramento benefits from extensive air service. This includes budget airlines like JetBlue and Southwest, which help keep the fares of all airlines down.

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San Francisco International (SFO)

San Francisco International Airport offers the most nonstop flights into Northern California.

With airlines like JetBlue, Virgin America, and Southwest Airlines now serving “SFO,” San Francisco no longer deserves its higher fare reputation compared to Oakland. In fact, most airlines other than Southwest usually have less expensive fares into San Francisco.

When using San Francisco International to access Napa and Sonoma, congestion is your biggest concern. Avoid downtown San Francisco and the Oakland-Bay Bridge.

Instead, turn right out of the rental car facility, then

  • West on Interstate 380,
  • North on Interstate 280,
  • North on Highway 1,
  • North on Highway 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge,
  • East on Highway 39,
  • North on Highway 121.

For Napa and St. Helena, continue on 121, then north on Highway 29.

For Sonoma, continue on 121, then north on Highway 12.

Although taking this route avoids the worst congestion, avoid crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge northbound during the late afternoon rush hour weekdays and southbound during the morning rush hour. Have $6 cash (as of December 2012) available for the bridge toll southbound.

TIP: Northbound, stay in the right lane on the Golden Gate Bridge and then turn off to the vista point just north of the bridge. If the weather coorperates, this nets you quintessential views of the bridge, Bay, and San Francisco skyline.

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Oakland International (OAK)

Oakland International gives you largely freeway access to near Napa, but you usually face considerable congestion.

Traveling toward Napa on weekday mornings, you’ll battle the rush hour going toward San Francisco, even though you’re not entering the city. On weekend afternoons, you’ll battle the rush from San Francisco on another portion of your drive.

Moreover, the drive from Oakland International to the southern Napa Valley is the least scenic from any of these airports. In fact, as you approach the valley, you’ll pass downright ugly suburban sprawl.

Although my least favorite Napa Valley airport choice, Oakland benefits from JetBlue and Southwest budget fares into Northern California. 

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Hopefully, this Napa Valley airport guide leads you to a perfect Wine Country visit!

Napa Valley scenic drive 


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