The area, just south of Devil's Slide on Highway 101 is steep and from SkyMap7 is just under 140 feet high.
Rescue crews say when they arrived the driver had pulled himself out of the silver rental van and crawled onto the rocks. He held on for a remarkable 90 minutes, and at times became fully submerged by the water's relentless power.
A first responder had to rappel down to him and then hook him up to a rope line and pull him back up to the top of the cliff. The man was responsive and able to walk to the stretcher on his own.
The man was hypothermic from being in the water but otherwise said he was responsive and walking. The victim said he was not feeling any back or neck pain but was taken to San Francisco General to be checked out.
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He was admitted and is expected to stay at the hospital the rest of the night.
Crews on scene say the man spoke Cantonese and is likely from Asia and had no idea how treacherous that stretch of Highway 101 can be. There were no other passengers in the vehicle with him.
Investigators have ruled out drugs and alcohol and do not believe the crash was intentional.
Just over one year ago, Richard Moss, a 22-year-old man from San Mateo, is believed to have died not far from Friday's crash. His body was never found. In his case, there was no witness who saw what happened.
WATCH VIDEO: Sky7 over rescue of man who plunged off Montara cliff