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CISL SF Student Activity: Hiking in the Bay Area (and phrasal verbs with “walk”)

August 29, 2013

San Francisco is known for its culture, charm, food, architecture . . . the list goes on and on! But did you know that SF is also home to hundreds of incredible hiking trails? The trails in and around San Francisco provide a nature escape within an urban environment. If you are looking for a hike while studying English in San Francisco, check out our list of some of the more popular hikes in the Bay Area. This list of short hikes (just 1-3 hours) provides a perfect way to unwind after English classes at CISL. Lace up your hiking boots, grab some water and your camera, and lets go!

Hiking in the Bay Area

Angel Island Perimeter Road

Angel Island port

Ferries to Angel Island arrive in this port in Ayala Cove.

In the past, Angel Island has served as a Mexican land grant, an army artillery post, an immigration station, and even a quarantine area for sick soldiers returning to the U.S. from tropical islands: today it is a beautiful state park and a haven for bird-watchers and hikers. Expect to see beautiful rocky coves, sandy beaches, grasslands, and forests on this small island’s well-developed hiking trails. Old buildings–including soldiers’ quarters and small chapel–pepper the trails (which also provide gorgeous views of the city and the Golden Gate).

Angel Island view

View from Angel Island of San Francisco. Both photos from Wikicommons.

To arrive, you must take one of the two ferries that service the island. The ferry from Tiburon runs more frequently: for information about ferry service to island from Tiburon, call Tiburon Ferry at (415) 435-2131. There is also a ferry service from San Francisco from the Blue and Gold Fleet; however, it runs less frequently: for more information, call (415) 773-1188. Both ferries land at Ayala Cove on the northwest side of the island. Ayala Cove can be found on this Angel Island map.


Batteries to Bluffs Trail

Batteries to Bluffs

Batteries to Bluffs runs along the rock coast and provides a beautiful view of the Gold Gate Bridge. Photo from Yelp.

The Bay Area Hiker, a great website for hiking trails, says of this trail, “Think  of a dream San Francisco hike: a path overlooking the ocean, with gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge, a peaceful place where you could sit and watch the waves crash, or get your morning exercise running through a scenic landscape while birds sing and flowers bloom.” Not bad for a two-mile hike that takes roughly one hour!

The Batteries to Bluffs trail runs along the rocky coast near the Bay, so you can always expect breathtaking views of the ocean. Although the trail is well-manicured and relatively easy, there are quite a few stairs, so be prepared to climb! There are also very few trees, so make sure to wear sunscreen if hiking on a sunny day (but don’t worry too much about the heat: the ocean breeze does an excellent job of cooling hikers down on hot days).

This little video on YouTube, made by a local hiker, shows some great footage of the trail.

Briones Regional Park


The rolling hills of beautiful Briones are surrounded by towns . . . but you’d never know from its secluded landscape! Photo from Briones Regional Park Facebook page.

Briones is a hidden nature park surrounded by the Contra Costa County towns of Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and Martinez . . . but from many points in the park, you would never know: there is nothing but unspoiled land for miles. The hike offers beautiful rolling rolls covered in soft grass and flowers, and from the Briones Peak, the highest point in the park, there are breathtaking views of the area. Because the area is so secluded, wildlife such as foxes and deer are common sights. After spring rains, the wildflowers add a splash of color to the green landscape.

In addition to its hiking trails, Briones has an archery course, Briones Arches, which is accessible from the Crescent Ridge Trail. For more information, visit the Briones Archers website.

Coyote Hills Regional Park: Bayview Trail

Coyote Hills

A view of the marshlands of Coyote Hills. Photo from Wikipedia.

Coyote Hills Regional Park consists of marshlands that are home to much local wildlife–making it a popular hike for birdwatchers and animal lovers–while the flat trails make the park a favorite for bicyclists and joggers. A well-manicured picnic area makes for a perfect stop on your trip: the area has access to picnic tables, water, and barbecues. Campers can enjoy overnight excursions as well.

Those looking to learn more about the area wildlife can check out the Nectar Garden, a butterfly and flower garden located next to the visitor center, and get a free tour from a knowledgeable staff member. Guests can also check out the Coyote Hills Visitor Center, which has several exhibits on local wildlife, or check out the Tuibun Ohlone Village Site that is dedicated to the Ohlone people who once lived here. During a tour, visitors can tour an Ohlone-style family house and see the way of life for the Ohlone people. (Tours are by reservation only: call the visitor center at (510) 544-3220 for information.)


Crissy Field

Crissy Field

The Crissy Field hike takes you through an old airfield. Several historic sites are along the route, along with shops and cafes.

Called “San Francisco’s Best Urban Hike,” this beautiful walk offers views of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bay Bridge while strolling through neighborhoods and nature. Throughout the walk, hikers encounter small shops, cafes, a visitor center and locals fishing, swimming, or enjoying the view. The path is well-marked and well-traveled, making it an easy route.

Land’s End


Nearly every view from Land’s End hike is stunning!

Located in the northwestern corner of San Francisco, Land’s End passes through hills full of cypress and wildflowers. It has views of old shipwrecks, access to the famous ruins of Sutro Baths (at one time the largest bath house in the world) and small beaches. Recently, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservacy added a new Lookout Visitor Center with a great ocean view.

Make sure to check out the labyrinth located at Eagles Point, at the end of the Coastal Trail. The labyrinth was constructed by local artist Eduardo Aguilera and is a great place to stop and take a photo.


The Land’s End Labyrinth was constructed by a local artist. Standing on it, you have a great view of the Bay.

Panoramic Hill-Chaparral Peak-Strawberry Canyon Loop 

Panoramic Hill

Photo from TripAdvisor.

With words like “hill” and “peak” in the title of this trail, it is no surprise that this 6.7 mile trail near Berkeley is quite the workout! Yet there are many rewards to breaking a sweat, including the opportunity to hike through eucalyptus and pine forests and view the Bay, Oakland, and San Francisco from high above sea level. Locals suggest taking this hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon because the view of the Bay with the coastal fog rolling in is breathtaking and serene.

Hiking boots are suggested on this trail because there are several parts with a lot of loose gravel. In addition, local hiking sites note that the trail is not incredibly well-marked, so keep your cell phone with a GPS handy, or print out this guide from

Happy hiking to our CISL San Francisco students! If you go on one of the these hikes (or any of the many others that the Bay Area has to offer) make sure to post a pic to our Facebook page!

To celebrate hiking in San Francisco, we are offering several phrasal verbs with “walk.” How many of these do you know?

Phrasal Verbs with “Walk”

Walk away

Definition: to leave an unpleasant situation.

Example: I won’t fight with you. I’m going to just walk away


Walk in on someone

Definition: to interrupt someone when they are doing something they don’t want you to see.

Example: I walked in on my roommate eating my chocolate! We laughed about it. 


Walk in to something 

Definition: to obtain something easily.

Example: He just walked in to his job. He’s so lucky. 


Walk something off

Definition: to go for a walk in order to stop focusing on something unpleasant.

Example: That was a huge meal. I’m so full! Let’s go walk it off

Example: After I got hit by the baseball, I walked it off



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Best bike routes in SD and SF + biking vocabulary

October 17, 2016

There are so many ways to enjoy nature and stay in shape while studying English at CISL San Diego or CISL San Francisco. From the running routes to the hiking trails to the yoga classes, there is always something to do that will keep you in shape!

Another great way to exercise while you are an international student in California is by biking. San Diego and San Francisco both have great bike paths to help you see the cities while exercising. Check out some of the best sites to plot your next ride, but before you do, be sure to learn some bicycling vocabulary!

Bike paths in San Diego

It probably isn’t surprising that many of the bike paths in San Diego are near the ocean. Ride with the ocean breeze in your face and the smell of the salty sea in the air, and make sure to stop along the way to enjoy some of the boutique shops and beautiful natural sights!

Mission Bay’s scenic 12-mile route

CISL students love the Mission Bay ride, which is 12 miles in total. The many bike rental companies in Mission Beach make it easy to rent a bike if you don’t have one! Check out the City of San Diego’s website for an excellent article about the Mission Bay Bike Ride.


San Diego Union Tribune’s Guide

The local SD newspaper, the San Diego Union Tribune, has published an excellent guide to biking. This detailed article provides information on the level of difficulty for each trail, tips on where you can stop for bathroom breaks, and other pertinent information such as where to park, things to look out for (such as traffic, or pets on the trail), and ways to extend the trail if you’re not tired once you’ve reached your destination.

Silver Strand Bikeway

This trail, which takes you from Coronado to Imperial Beach, is a favorite for San Diegans (it can also be walked)! Choose between starting or ending in Coronado, home of the famous Hotel del Coronado and the beach voted the Best Beach in the U.S.


Bayshore Bikeway

Are you ready for a strenuous ride? Check out the Bayshore Bikeway! This route, which is recommended by the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, is a total of 24 miles: 13 of these miles are car-free, and the remainder is on designated bike lanes or bike routes. After a ferry ride across the San Diego Bay, your route begins at the Coronado Ferry Landing. Cyclists go through Coronado, the Silver Strand, Imperial Beach, and Chula Vista before ending Downtown.


Bike paths in San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito

See the iconic bridge in an entirely different way with this famous cycling trip! Starting in San Francisco, make your way across the bridge and ending in charming Sausalito. (Don’t forget to enjoy the view from this side of the Bay!) Numerous cycling companies offer bike rentals and tours.


SF Gate’s Guide to Flat Routes in SF

Don’t want to bike uphill in a city known for its steep terrain? Check out SF Gate’s excellent Guide to Flat Routes in SF. The secret to avoiding the hills? Knowing when to turn off of heavily traveled streets onto smaller, less-traveled ones in a way that avoids inclines. These routes are known to locals as “wiggles” and, according to SF Gate, “The best known of these serpentines is the one Weiss now correctly uses to connect central Market, via the path behind Safeway and through the Lower Haight, to the Panhandle and the western neighborhoods beyond.”


SFist’s Guide to Bike Paths

In addition to some of the more popular routes, SFist’s Guide to SF Bike Paths provides routes that are slightly lesser known, such as the beautiful Baker Beach ride that’s just 5 miles from the Panhandle. Locals know best!

Bike Vocabulary


Do you know each of these words? If not, look them up!

Bike parts

  • Handlebars
  • Pedals
  • Gears
  • Brakes
  • Spokes


  • To pedal
  • To brake
  • To switch (gears)
  • To pump (tires)



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Running vocabulary + running routes in San Francisco

September 21, 2016

San Franciscans are some of the most in-shape people in the U.S., and it’s no wonder why: the city’s abundant farmer’s markets selling fresh California produce and the numerous parks and open spaces suit those who love the outdoors! San Francisco’s terrain and cool weather also make it a runner’s paradise. Whether you’re a novice or a marathon runner, you’ll find a route that works for you in SF. Here are some suggestions for websites, articles, and apps to help you run in San Francisco.



Running Routes in San Francisco

Map My Run

These maps include details of the route length and elevation. Routes are plotted on a large map of the city, so you can easily see where the routes are located.  The mobile app is excellent!



Routes include a map, photos, length, elevation, and a description of the route and its highlights.



Beginner, intermediate, and advanced routes are mapped out for you in this informative article.



Running Vocabulary


Warm up

Definition: to do movements that prepare the body for intense exercise. Warming up prevents injury because it prepares the muscles for a workout.

Example: We suggest that you warm up for about ten minutes before you begin running.

Cool down

Definition: movements that help the muscles relax after an intense workout. Walking and light stretching are examples.

Example:  To cool down, we walked through the park after our run.


Definition: the speed in which you run.

Example: My pace has increased a lot since I learned how to control my breathing.


Definition: sweat!

Example: A little perspiration is good for you!


Definition: the ability to exercise for a longer period of time.

Example: He is a great endurance runner, but he’s a very short sprinter.


Definition: to run very fast, usually for short distances.

Example: We sprinted at the end of the race.


Check out some of our other articles about exercising while you are an international student in California!

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5 ways to unwind in SD + words for relaxing

April 19, 2016

After a long day of studying English at CISL, you need to relax a little . . . and the laid-back California culture is perfect for doing so! Here are some suggestions for ways to unwind: but first, five words for relaxing to use as you talk about this important part of a study/vacation.

Beach Skateboard Boy California

Five Words for Relaxing


Part of speech: verb (slang)

Example: I think I’m going to chill for a few hours before dinner.

Wind down

Part of speech: phrasal verb

Example: Before bed, I usually wind down by listening to music.


Part of speech: verb

Example: Dinner with friends is the best way to unwind.


Down time

Part of speech: phrase/expression

Example: I like to enjoy some down time by taking a walk at sunset.


Part of speech: verb (slang)

Example: I just chillaxed all Sunday. It was awesome.

Five Ways to Relax in SD

Need some ways to relax? California has everything you need to unwind. Here are some staff suggestions for ways to wind down.

San Diego La Jolla Surf Sunset

Watch the sunset

It’s California: watching the sunset is almost a religious experience. Go to Mission Beach or Pacific Beach to watch the sun set over the water, or enjoy the view from Downtown. Wherever you are, the colors are beautiful.

Gym Exercise

Hit the gym (or a yoga class)

Fitness is important to Californians, so you’re never in short supply in places to exercise! Take a job, a long walk along the Embarcadero, visit one of the many topnotch yoga studios in SD, or go to your local gym for a class or to work out on the machines. Click here to read our Guide to Exercise for International Students.


Escape to nature

Believe it or not, it’s quite easy to escape to nature in SD, even when you live Downtown! Check out our guide to Picnics in SD for information on places where you can enjoy a meal while you get your daily dose of Mother Nature.

E and O cocktails

Enjoy the happy hours

San Diego’s warm weather makes it the perfect place for happy hour patios. Click here to learn about some of the best happy hours in SD, including some award-winning restaurants in Little Italy.


Explore Balboa Park 

The pride of SD, Balboa Park, is not just the largest park in the West: it’s also a haven of museums, cultural centers, theaters, gardens, and parks. There is always something to do! Our Guide to Balboa Park is a great place to learn some insider tips on this incredible gem of San Diego.

Photos from Shutterstock.

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Top Reasons to Study English in Beautiful California

January 10, 2016

Are you thinking of studying English in California? The state’s laid-back culture, beautiful beaches, and amazing weather are of course appealing . . . but what else makes California so special? We asked some of our California natives and then compiled a list of some of their favorite things about living in The Golden State.

Top Reasons to Study English in Beautiful California Beach Students Group Fun California

The People


The beautiful weather and laid-back vibe of California attract people from all over the world, so it’s no wonder that the state is so diverse. In fact, California is known as a “minority-majority” state, meaning that no one group of people makes the majority of the population. (Click here for more info!)


Not surprisingly, languages are important to Californians: while English is of course the spoken language of the state, over 40% of Californians also speak another language at home. The beautiful diversity of Californians means you are in constant contact with many cultures, languages, people . . . and great food! (See “Food Culture” below.)


Californians are also known for being incredibly friendly, happy people. Perhaps it’s the sunshine? The beautiful landscapes? The delicious food? We aren’t sure what makes Californians so happy, but you see it on the faces of residents, and this upbeat attitude is infectious.

To see/do:

  • Walk through San Diego’s charming Little Italy.
  • Experience San Francisco’s Chinatown (incredible!)
  • Drive to Solvang, near beautiful Santa Barbara, and see a Danish-inspired village.
  • Join a MeetUp group and get to know some locals.
Photo courtesy of SFMCA.

Noodles for days! Photo courtesy of SFMCA.

The Food Culture

California Cuisine

California’s cuisine is in a class of its own: check out world-famous chefs like Alice Waters and Thomas Keller to gain a better understanding of exactly what defines this delicious, casual-yet-refined cuisine. And make sure to sip a glass of California wine or craft beer with your meal!

Local Produce

What makes California’s food so delicious? As an agricultural state, California offers the best and freshest locally-grown fruits and vegetables, meats, and cheeses: it comes as no surprise that it also has some of the best farmer’s markets in the U.S.!


CISL SF students taking full advantage of the tasty food truck trend!

A Wide Selection of Cuisines

California’s diverse population also means that you can get great fusion foods and authentic ethnic meals. Korean barbecue? Yep. Real Italian pizza? Absolutely. Vietnamese pho? Everywhere. Japanese sushi? Check! Plus, when Mexico is your neighbor, great tacos are practically on every corner.

To see/do:

  • Check out the food trucks in your city for fun, inventive “fast” food.
  • Stroll through the farmer’s markets in your city.
  • Check out Convoy Street in San Diego for some of the best Korean, Japanese, and Chinese food.
  • Take a trip to a local cheese shop and learn all about California’s award-winning cheeses, like those from Cowgirl Creamery.

Little Italy San Diego’s “Festa!” combines Italian charm with California living for a fun day of music and food.

The Festivals

Music Galore

The state’s great weather, wide open spaces, and incredible urban settings make it the best place for music, food, and film festivals. Coachella, Burning Man, and Lightning in a Bottle are a music-lover’s dream, and venues like House of Blues offer concerts throughout the week.

Tasty Bites

California epicureans have access to festivals celebrating everything from wine and beer to oysterfests, crab feeds, and even garlic! (Garlic ice cream is a thing. And it’s actually pretty delicious.)


The craziest  and coolest convention, ComicCon, takes place in San Diego every summer. For one week, the city is transformed into a comic book and action hero fanatic’s dreamland.

For the movie buff, San Diego, San Francisco, and even Napa also host film festivals throughout the year, and the glamour of Hollywood is at your fingertips in LA!

To see/do:

  • Check out this list of California music festivals.
  • Eat and drink! Summer and fall are typically the seasons for food festivals, but remember that you can visit local wineries or breweries at any time.
  • Explore some of the state’s beautiful old theaters, which are themselves a work of art.
  • Visit Bodega Bay, where Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was filmed.
"Mission San Diego de Alcalá - church" by Bernard Gagnon - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

California Missions hold an important piece of state history and are beautiful places to explore for a day. 

The History

The California Gold Rush of 1849 is one of the most exciting events in U.S. history, and the mad dash for gold has left its mark on the state: mining towns up and down the foothills of California’s mountains still hold that old Western vibe of the 1800s.

To see/do:

  • Visit a local mining town like Julian or Nevada City.
  • Go gold mining!
  • Visit a California Mission to learn a little more about California’s history and the Spanish Franciscan monks.

Beautiful Lake Tahoe is just one of the many gorgeous landscapes to explore in California.

The Outdoors

Outdoor activities

Californians love the outdoors! From water sports like surfing to casual activities like skating, it seems like every Californian is on the move. In fact, residents are often voted some of the most active and fit people in the U.S.

California also beckons you to take advantage of its incredible mountains, which offer hiking, mountain biking, and climbing. Or, channel your inner Zen and escape to the nearby California deserts to experience some of the most peaceful scenery (and gorgeous starry skies).

Panamint Springs Stars

Gorgeous Panamint Springs. At night, the desert is stunning!

To see/do:

Skateboard Junior Program Teenager


With so many professional sports teams, it seems there is always an event to attend! Check out what football, basketball, baseball, hockey, or soccer team plays near your city (and remember to check the CISL Front Desk for any tips on how to get discounts on tickets).

To see/do:

  • In addition to checking out your local professional teams, also be sure to check out the collegiate sports teams, like San Diego’s SDSU. College sports are incredibly exciting!
  • Get involved yourself! San Diego and San Francisco are also known as some of the best cities in the U.S. for yoga, and pilates and barre method studios are also abundant. Classes for boxing, MMA, and spinning are also common, and there are numerous biking, hiking, and local sports teams to join. Click here for our exercise guide!
Photo courtesy of Balboa Park.

The Spanish style buildings of Balboa Park showcase some of the best architecture in Southern California. Photo courtesy of Balboa Park.

The Architecture

Spanish mission-style ranch houses, Victorian homes, beach cottages, mountain cabins . . . like the state itself, California’s architecture is a beautiful mix of many styles and cultures! You don’t have to be an architecture nut to appreciate the beauty of California’s buildings and homes: their beauty is everywhere!

To see/do:

  • Visit the California universities campuses (some of the most beautiful in the world) and enjoy grand collegiate architecture.
  • Check out the Painted Ladies in SF.
  • Explore San Diego’s Balboa Park to see fine examples of Mission-style buildings.
  • Stroll through beach towns like Mission Beach and OB to see adorable beach shacks: a surfer’s dream!

Photo titled “Mission San Diego de Alcalá church” is by Bernard Gagnon and licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.