A GUIDE TO NAPA VALLEY’S TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS
Along its 27 miles, the Napa Valley is home to more than 500 wineries, many of them nestled on picturesque hillsides accessible via narrow, winding roadways. Thus, the first challenge faced by visitors planning a trip is, “What’s the best way to get around to visit Napa’s wineries?”
Fortunately, there are a wide range of transportation options in Napa Valley to suit every visitor’s need and budget. The following guide outlines a full spectrum of Napa Valley transportation options, starting with the most economical and building up to the most luxurious private car services for visitors seeking the kind of top-tier wine tour that only comes from personal connections.
Ridesharing Services, e.g. Uber, Lyft, etc.
Ridesharing services are strictly A-to-B transportation, so Napa Valley visitors who opt to rely on Uber or Lyft or similar services will ultimately be in charge of their own wine tour itinerary. You’ll most likely get a different driver each time you request a pickup (drivers are usually dispatched according to whichever available driver is closest to your pickup location). This also means, you won’t be able to store your belongings – including any wine purchases – in a vehicle. Imagine carrying your wine purchases from one winery into another winery – definitely awkward. There’s also no guarantee your driver will be familiar with the area – this could become problematic if you’re trying to visit off-the-beaten path wineries that can be located down unmarked driveways. Additionally, data roaming networks can be unreliable in many parts of Napa Valley; it’s entirely possible you could find yourself in an area where you are unable to connect to the app. This category of driving service is still very new to Napa Valley, so it’s difficult to anticipate of how many Uber drivers might typically be available at any point in time, making wait times largely unknown, particularly farther upvalley in St. Helena or Calistoga. Travelers have been weighing in on their experience using Uber in Napa Valley on this thread on TripAdvisor.
Within the past few years, a new trend in Napa Valley for-hire driver services has been companies that provide “designated drivers” to conduct wine tours while driving the client’s rental car or personal vehicle. Because these drivers aren’t furnishing the vehicle or gas, they are able to offer their services at a reduced rate. Be advised: This category of driver-for-hire still must be licensed by the PUC (have a valid TCP number) and must be commercially insured (commercial insurance is a requirement to obtain a TCP permit). Many are not. The best way to determine whether a company is licensed and insured is to look them up on the California PUC’s Transportation Carrier Lookup page. Carrier type should be PSG, you can leave Carrier Number blank (since you don’t know it) and type in any portion of the business name to search. No need to specify county, as the system will search statewide if no county is selected (some operators may be licensed out of a neighboring county, so better to leave this empty).
Van & Small Bus Tours
Small bus and van tours, such as Platypus Wine Tours, Napa Valley Wine Country Tours and the Napa Valley Wine Trolley are semi-private, meaning you’ll join a small group hosted by a driver. All of the advertised wine tour companies operating in wine country are licensed with the CPUC (most publish their TCP number on their website or will gladly provide it when you inquire) and commercially insured (required to be issued a TCP permit). The price of these organized wine tours most often includes a picnic lunch. Because these wine tours are semi-private, the wineries are determined by the tour operator based on winery availability and the tour group size. This is a popular option for wine country visitors who are looking for a social wine tour experience and are not overly concerned with which specific wineries they’ll be visiting.
Private Driver Wine Tours
– via large transportation companies
The most economical way to hire a private wine country driver for a day of wine tasting is to enlist the services of one of the larger tour companies such as Pure Luxury Transportation, Napa Valley Tours & Transportation or Beau Wine Tours. These transportation companies maintain a robust fleet of vehicles and employ a stable drivers to host private wine tours. Rates vary depending on the type of vehicle you want to tour wine country in from hybrid sedans to limos or luxury SUVs. Most often, these companies have a dedicated administrative staff with whom you will communicate with to plan your wine tour itinerary in advance of tour date. Your driver is supplied with a copy of your final trip manifest on the day of your tour.
Premium Private Driver Wine Tours
– via boutique operators
When you’re looking for a top-tier private wine tour driver, there are a growing number of ultra-boutique – often one car, one driver – services in Napa Valley to choose from. You’ll find that the wine country drivers who operate their own driving service as opposed to driving for another company most often have unique qualifications as well as personal connections to premium wineries. These unique connections, along with exceptionally personalized service, are really what set this tier of private Napa Valley drivers apart and it is the main consideration factor when you are looking for an ultra-personalized experience.
At this level, you can expect your driver to be your personal concierge at every step of the process. Your driver will call you to discuss your itinerary and will leverage his personal relationships to open doors to extraordinarily private wine tasting experiences that are not available to the general public. Your private Napa Valley driver will handle your itinerary from start to finish, from securing your wine tasting appointments to personally hosting you on the day of your wine tour and making your personal introductions at the wineries you visit. The value here, of course, is that you will get exclusive access to experiences that are not available to the general public. Private Napa Valley wine tours do not get any more highly customized or personal than this.