Menu

California Road Trip Itinerary: San Diego, LA, San Francisco & the Pacific Coast Highway

A road trip through California and up the Pacific Coast Highway is quite possibly one of the greatest road trips you will ever take in your life.

We started our trip in San Diego, hired a car, passed through Los Angeles (where I met a couple of super celebrities and got up close to Madonna’s shrubbery), then drove up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco which might just be the coolest city in the world!

Before heading inland to Yosemite National Park and ending the trip in Las Vegas (which I’ve written about here) and flew home from there.

It was amazing!

We had 16 full days to explore, not long considering how much ground we covered, but I’m pretty good at packing a lot into a short space of time. There’s so much stuff to do and so much to see and we went back and forth, researching, working out timings – it was confusing!

So, here’s where I come in. I love to plan road trips (since 2016 I’ve been doing this for a living), and help other people plan – so just think of me as your personal road trip planner!

Knowing what I know now, here’s my California road trip itinerary, with a bit of advice on what I might have done differently – hope you pick up some ideas of things to do and places to visit on your adventure.

You can amend accordingly, depending on your priorities and the number of days you have!

And don’t forget to create your American roadtrip playlist!


California Road Trip Itinerary: San Diego, LA, San Francisco & the Pacific Coast Highway


Our California road trip itinerary was as follows:

  • Day 1 – 2: San Diego
  • Day 3: San Diego to Los Angeles
  • Day 4: Los Angleles
  • Day 5: Los Angeles to Cambria (via Pacific Coast Highway)
  • Day 6: Cambria to San Francisco (via Pacific Coast Hightway)
  • Day 7 – 10: San Francisco

This excludes the full day of travel from the UK to San Diego.

We also added on:

  • Day 11: San Francisco to Yosemite National Park
  • Day 12: Yosemite National Park
  • Day 13: Yosemite National Park to Las Vegas
  • Day 14 – 16: Las Vegas
  • Day 17: Home

Whilst I loved every second of our trip, I felt like we didn’t have enough time in either Yosemite or on the Pacific Coast Highway. So I’d add an extra day on to both, and probably take those days off Vegas and San Francisco. 

I could also have spent another night in Los Angeles too. Although, you could spend a week in each place, easily…

If you have more time, you could add a trip to Joshua Tree National Park which lies between San Diego and Las Vegas. This could work really well if you were doing a loop, flying in and out of the same place. 

Ideally, to do the full loop, you’d need at least 3 weeks or more for this California itinerary.

Yukon Car Hire

Car Hire for Your California Road Trip

We hired our car via US Car Hire. As there were 5 us, we had a 7-seater Ford Yukon, which fitted both us and our luggage comfortably (don’t forget to leave space for that).

We picked the car up as we left San Diego. Dropped it off when we reached San Francisco. Picked up another when we left San Fran and dropped it off when we arrived in Las Vegas.

I hope this helps you plan an incredible California road trip itinerary and please let me know if you have any extra suggestions in the comments below.

Plane landing in San Diego Helen in Wonderlust

We’d arrived in San Diego late the night before, having flown from Manchester via Philadelphia with US Airways. Our apartment was really close to the airport, in Little Italy, so after grabbing a little bit of pizza, I went straight to bed, heavily jet-lagged.

Up at the crack of dawn, we headed out to explore…

California Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: San Diego

Head to the USS Midway, an ex warship that is now a museum.

It’s a great way to spend a few hours and having never been on a real warship before, it was really interesting, with all kinds of military memorabilia, aircraft and lots of things to play with.

Continuing further down the Embarcadero, you will see the Unconditional Surrender (a giant sculpture of the sailor who kissed the nurse in Times Square at the end of World War 2) and A National Salute to Bob Hope and the Military, a group of wonderful bronze statues depicting Bob Hope entertaining the troops during the war. A lovely tribute.

Unconditional Surrender San Diego

After lunch, get the ferry (right next to USS Midway) over to Coronado and head to Coronado Beach. It’s a good half hour walk, so if that’s not your thing in the midday sun (I managed to get burnt – oops), you can get the bus.

The beach is huge – white sand, flecked with gold stretches as far as the eye can see. None of us had brought bathing suits, so we just chilled on the beach, watching dolphins swimming out in the water.

In the early evening, head back to the Unconditional Surrender in time for sunset, before having a delicious dinner at the Fish Market.

California Road Trip Itinerary

After dinner, head to the Kansas City Barbeque – the bar where Maverick and Goose sing Great Balls of Fire in Top Gun. The whole place is covered in Top Gun memorabilia and the Juke Box is filled with classic tunes, including the Top Gun soundtrack of course.

End the evening with a trip to the lively Gaslamp Quarter. There are tons of bars to choose from! Perhaps whilst you’re there, pick up some more food from Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, it’s open til 11pm!

Old Town San Diego

Day 2: San Diego

First stop in the morning, Old Town San Diego, the birthplace of California.

A wonderful, if touristic, Mexican influenced and utterly charming part of town. Here you can learn all about the history of California and San Diego in particular, buy tons of souvenirs, take an Old Town Trolley Tour, listen to live music and try some fantastic Mexican food.

San Diego Old Town Trolley Tours

We stopped by the Baja Cantina for lunch, but there are plenty of plenty of places to choose from.

Spend the afternoon at Balboa Park, it looks amazing and is something we didn’t get to do and I really regret!

We stayed around Little Italy for dinner that evening and ate at a great little restaurant called Trattoria Fantastica which had a great menu and was pretty reasonable too! We topped off the nightย with cocktails at theย rooftop bar at The W San Diego Hotel.

My Top Tips for San Diego:

  • Wear your bathing suit, you may want to swim at Coronnado Beach.
  • San Diego isn’t the biggest city I’ve been to, but wear comfortable shoes, you’ll do a lot of walking!
  • There is also the MTS Trolley, a modern tram that makes it easy to get around, so staying near a tram stop would make things easier!

La Jolla - California Road Trip Itinerary

Day 3: San Diego – Los Angeles

Pick up the hire car and make your way to La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya), around 25 minutes from San Diego. La Jolla is a nice place to spend a couple of hours or perhaps even a night if you have more time.

Park up in town and walk down to Scripp’s Park and La Jolla Cove to spot the seals and sea lions out in the water (some people were snorkelling) and then walk to Casa Beach you can get right up close to them.

 

Back in the car, we drove another two and a half hours to Venice Beach, our base in Los Angeles for the next few days.

 

We arrived in LA mid-afternoon. Knowing we only had a couple of days, we dropped our stuff off, changed and headed toward Venice Boardwalk.

California Road Trip Itinerary - Venice BeachCalifornia Road Trip Itinerary - Venice BeachCalifornia Road Trip Itinerary

I’d heard mixed reports about it, but there was something about Venice that I loved immediately.

It’s got a sleazy side, for sure. But it’s also edgy, cool and has a lot of character. A people watchers dream.

Starting at the very famous Muscle Beach, you can walk the hour or so to Santa Monica Pier as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean.

California Road Trip Itinerary - Venice Beach

After a quick look around the Pier (and perhaps take on a ride or two at Pacific Park – opening times vary), head inland for dinner and drinks!

California Road Trip Itinerary - Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica has lots of nice bars and eateries to choose from. We went to Barney’s Beanery for food.

It has a great atmosphere and a large menu! We then headed to The Misfit for a drink, before calling it a night (we were still very jet-lagged).

California Road Trip Itinerary - Hollywood

Day 4: Los Angeles

Get up early and make your way to Hollywood Boulevard and head to the Chinese Theatre. Here you can book a tour of the stars homes.

The tours take you through Downtown Hollywood, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Bel Air and up into the Hollywood Hills.

Before or after your tour, take a bit of time to find your favourite stars on the Walk of Fame and put your hands in handprints of legends such as Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. Keep your eyes peeled for celebrities… we saw two!

California Road Trip Itinerary

After the tour, still on the search for celebrities, we picked up a ‘Map of the Stars Homes’ and went on our own trip around LA to find some more celebrities.

First stop was the Holmby Hills, to see the Playboy Mansion.

California Road Trip Itinerary - Hollywood

Later in the afternoon, we perhaps did, what I would class as our most unusual activity of the trip. We visited the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

This is the final resting place of stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Dean Martin and Farrah Fawcett. 

Marilyn’s was decorated with fresh flowers from fans and there was a space next to it, which I believe was reserved for Hugh Hefner (he was still alive when we went).

The cemetery is a quiet, reflective, peaceful and beautiful place, set amongst the craziness of Hollywood.

In the evening, head out to the bars in Venice Beach. We had an early start the next day, so we just went to The Other Room, a great bar for couples or friends.

My Top Tips for Los Angeles:

  • We found the Venice Beach/Santa Monica area a great place to stay and I would recommend it!
  • I could easily have stayed an extra day (or two) in LA, to perhaps window shop on Rodeo Drive, take a trip to The Ivy or even just spend a day at the beach or go horseback riding in the mountains, followed by a night out in Hollywood, if that’s your thing. 

Day 5: LA – Cambria (the Pacific Coast Highway)

You’ll be sad to leave LA, however a trip to Venice High School on the way out will perk you up – well it did for me anyway.

Why? I hear you ask!

Because Venice High School is… Rydell High from Grease! And wouldn’t you know it, I was wearing my Grease t-shirt for the occasion.

California Road Trip Itinerary - Rydell High School Venice Beach

Drive to Malibu. We decided not to stop here, but if you have time… it looks gorgeous and I can see why so many celebrities call it home.

Our first stop was Santa Barbara, which took just under 2 hours.

Santa Barbara is a lovely town with great street art and tasty fish and chips on the pier.

California Road Trip Itinerary - Santa Barbara Street ArtCalifornia Road Trip Itinerary - Santa Barbara Pier

From Santa Barbara, head to Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo to spend some time in the afternoon.

We stayed the night in the small town of Cambria at a lovely little place called The Creekside Inn.

It was just a short walk into town, where we had dinner at Linn’s Fruit Bin Restaurant. I can recommend the local Ollalaberry Pie!

We finished off with a quick drink at Mozzi’s Saloon over the road.

My Top Tips for the Pacific Coast Highway:

  • Petrol (gas) is EXPENSIVE on PCH and gas stations are few and far between, so fill up before you head out of LA.
  • You can do the drive from LA to San Francisco in a day, however I strongly advise that you take it slow along the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the most scenic drives in the world – 3 days would be a nice amount of time.
  • With all the stops, it takes a lot longer than you’d think, so set off as early as you can.
  • I would have liked to have visited Solvang, a Danish village near to Santa Barbara.
  • And if you’re not on a tight budget, The Madonna Inn looks like an incredible place to stay!

California Road Trip Itinerary - Cambria Ollalaberry Pie

Day 6: Cambria – San Francisco (via the Pacific Coast Highway)

Have hearty breakfast at the Cambria Cafe (or Linn’s again), pick up road trip supplies at Bob & Jan’s Bottle Shop and hit the road.

You will be sad to leave, as Cambria might just be the friendliest place in the world.

Seriously, you know when you want to cuddle everyone you meet because they’re SOOO nice (like in a Hallmark Christmas film). Yeah, it’s like that.

California Road Trip Itinerary - Pacific Coast Highway PCH

First stop, Hearst Castle in San Simeon, a beautiful castle set up on a hill which has now become a historial park

Keep your eyes peeled as you drive along… I thought I had Africa on the brain when I saw a herd of zebra running around in the distance.

But no my eyes weren’t deceiving me, an actual herd of zebra live on the grounds.

You need 2 – 3 hours to explore, so get up and out as early as you can.

San Simeon is also the beginning of Big Sur, a ninety mile stretch of scenic beauty!

California Road Trip Itinerary - Pacific Coast Highway Seals

Back in the car, continue along Big Sur stopping at some of the viewpoints on the way, spotting California Condors circling overhead, or seals casually basking in the sun on the beaches below.

California Road Trip Itinerary - California Condor

Stop for an hour or so at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and take in a view of McWay Cove and waterfall (parking costs $10).

It’s also a great place to hike if you have more time. My advice – don’t skip this. It’s one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been.

California Road Trip Itinerary - Julia Pfeiffer Burns State ParkCalifornia Road Trip Itinerary - Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Continuing north, you pass over the famous Bixby Creek Bridge.

Next head to pretty Carmel-by-the-Sea, park up and take a look around. There are lots of pretty shops and eateries, plus it’s super dog-friendly if you have a pooch in tow!

Just don’t wear your high heels, they’re not allowed in Carmel!

California Road Trip Itinerary - The Lone Cypress

Back in the car take the 17-Mile Drive and see things such as The Lone Cypress and the world-famous Pebble Beach Golf Course ($10 entry – which can be off-set if you eat at a Pebble Beach restaurant).

Warning: Serious envy alert. People actually live here!

California Road Trip Itinerary - 17-mile drive horse riding

Next head to Monterey to look around. If we’d had more time, I would have liked to have taken a hike or cycle along the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail, which stretches from Pacific Grove (near the 17-mile drive), all the way to Castroville, but c’est la vie!

California Road Trip Itinerary - Santa Cruz

From Monterey continue down the coast to colourful Santa Cruz where you can park up and take a walk on the beach, have a ride on the fair, and grab an ice cream.

Next stop, San Francisco.

As we drove in, it seemed the world and his wife were heading there too, but it was Friday night and everyone was coming into the city to party!

My Top Tips for the Pacific Coast Highway:

  • Sat Nav is your friend on this trip. We may still have been driving round the maze that is the 17-mile drive to this day if it hadn’t been for our Sat Nav.
  • You can’t do the 17-mile drive on a motorbike.
  • You could easily spread this day over two days as there’s so much to see! If I could do it again, I would have stayed in either Carmel or Monterey and taken a trip whale watching in the morning and spent more time in Santa Cruz!
  • Try not to arrive in San Francisco at rush hour on a Friday – it ain’t fun!

One thing I will stress is this – be responsible when drinking. There are loads of great bars to try, but remember you have to do a lot of driving the next day and I want you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road to be safe (lecture over)!

Musician at Pier 39 San Francisco

Day 7: San Francisco

Head to Pier 39 and rent some bikes from Blazing Saddles to go on a self-guided cycle tour across the Golden Gate Bridge.

They give you a map which has a few trails, of varying lengths to choose from. … but you can go at your leisure which is great as there’s plenty to stop and see.

Another good thing about this route is that it’s mostly on a cycle path so it’s really safe.

From Pier 39, head towards the Palace of Fine Arts to look around, before making your way onto the bridge – watch out for a few hills here.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

 

Ride across the bridge marvelling at the view and the drop below, or as we did, ride through the fog and freeze your ass off!

What was really strange, was that it was really sunny and warm either side of the bridge!

Next, you’ll arrive in the pretty town of Sausalito, a great spot for lunch, or brunch – depending on how early you are.

Cycling in Sausalito

You can either get the ferry back to San Francisco from Sausalito, or continue on to see one of the oldest trees in Old Mill Park and then on to Tiburon and get the ferry from there (your ferry ticket is included in the cycle hire).

 

In the evening, grab dinner atย The Stinking Rose: A Garlic Restaurant, followed by an eveing in North Beach! Try not to breathe on anyone… but you should be safe from Vampires.

San Francisco Skyline

My Top Tips for San Francisco:

  • Take a warm jumper for your cycle as it can get cold across the bridge, especially if the fof descends.
  • If you can pick a day when there’s no fog across the bridge, I would try to do that, but it does make for some cool pictures.
  • There are a few hills though – so make sure you know how to use the gears on your bike to your advantage. I was rubbish at this.
  • Carry on to Tiburon, we started our cycle later in the day and had to get the ferry back from Sausalito butย I wish we’d had much longer.
  • Blazing Saddles were great, but they put a deposit hold on your credit or debit card. It took a couple of phone calls and over a week to get this back to us, which was a lttle annoying.

The Painted Ladies San Francisco

Day 8: San Francisco

We decided to get a two-day pass for an open-top bus which I’d highly recommend.

Touristy, yes, but also a great way to get around the city and there are stops all over town.

Where you get on and off will probably depend on where you’re staying, but I’ll tell you what we did, and you can always adjust to suit your base.

In the morning head first to Alamo Square, which was near to our apartment, to see the Painted Ladies on Steiner Street.

We’d picked up a route map for the Grayline Sightseeing Tours (the blue buses) the previous day, so we knew there was a pickup point nearby on hip Divisadero Steet so we headed that way.

San Francisco City Hall

Our driver was Dave, amazingly entertaining and charming!

 

Ride the bus all around until you reach City Hall, you’ll find the magnificent Asian Art Museum.

Get off here and have a look around.

Next stop, Chinatown, a great place to walk, take in the sights and smells and colours. I was blown away by all of the street art!

You can either hop back on the bus where you got off, or it’s just a short walk up to North Beach, San Francisco’s Italian neighbourhood which has a great cafe culture.

All that walking is hard work, so treat yourself to some gelato!!!

Street Art San Francisco Vesuvio

Head to Vesuvio, on the corner of Jack Kerouac Alley and Columbus Street, and have a drink in this historic bar, which judging by the pictures on the wall, has seen some action in its time!

Situated next to the City Lights Bookstore, it was once the local hangout of the Jack Kerouac and the Beatnik crowd as well as Dylan Thomas, Francis Ford Coppola and Bob Dylan. 

Vesuvio doesn’t serve food, but you can take your own in!

Vesuvio San Francisco

Carry on up towards Washington Square Park and Saints Peter and Paul Church where Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were photographed after their wedding.

Hop back on the bus and continue on to Cow Street. From there, walk to Lombard Street to see one of the windiest roads in the world and watch cars snake down the ‘windy road’.

Next head to Telegraph Hill and walk up to Coit Tower to get the best views of the city!

After all those steps, it’s time to head back to rest before the evening ahead.

 

Lombard Street 'The Windy Road' San Francisco

For dinner, I recommend that you head back to Chinatown/North Beach area to sample some of San Francisco’s famous Chinese cuisine.

We went to the AMAZING Brandy Ho’s Chinese Restaurant which is just down the street from Vesuvio, and recommended by one of their friendly staff, who actually called them to check they were still open for us and booked us a table.

Brandy Ho’s Chinese food is different from any I’ve had before as it is food from the Hunan Province of China. The food was fresh and delicious, probably the best Chinese food I’ve ever had.

Then head over to the Castro, San Francisco’s gay neighbourhood for drinks! We went to Harvey’s and Blackbird.

The Castro San Francisco

My Top Tips for San Francisco:

  • If you don’t want to go back to Chinatown and then to the Castro, you’re in luck – Brandy Ho’s has opened another restaurant there too!
  • Pick up a map for the open-top bus tours on your first day and weigh up the options and the price. It will make things easier if you know where to get on!
  • Busses come around about every half an hour.
  • I’ve also heard good reports about Mission Chinese and the House of Nanking if you want to try somewhere else.

Golden Gate Park San Francisco

Day 9: San Francisco

We hopped on the bus again in the morning on Divisedero Street and took almost the entire cicuit, passing the Golden Gate Bridge heading to Golden Gate Park to spend the morning.

The park has many different attractions including the Japanese Tea Garden, Strawberry Hill, the California Academy of Sciences, and even a herd of buffalo. Yes, really!

You can also hire bikes, surreys and segways in the park – if you want a laugh… please do this.

After you’ve had your fill of the park, walk to the nearby Haight-Ashbury to grab a late lunch, visit Hippie Hill, pick up some cool, unique souvenirs in the shops and take in more of the amazing San Francisco architecture.

San Francisco Haight Ashbury

For the evening, head out to the Mission District early whilst there’s still plenty of daylight so you can see the Mission Delores, have a relax in Delores Park, and take in some of the amazing street art, especially the Women’s Building Mural.

When the sun goes down, head to Valencia Street for dinner.

There are tons of cool bars and restaurants, as well as Four Barrel Coffee, which rumour has it, serves the best coffee in San Francisco!

Street Art San Francisco

We ate at Thai House 530 which I’d highly recommend, but if Thai food isn’t your thing, head to one of the other hundreds of restaurants in the area – with practically every cuisine you can imagine on offer.

We then visted a couple of nice bars called Elbo Room and Skylark. The Mission District was my favourite area of San Francisco as far as nightlife goes.

Alcatraz San Francisco

Day 10: San Francisco

Today, go and seeย Alcatraz aka ‘The Rock’. Head down to Pier 33, if youย have time, catch a Cable Car (I loved doing this and we rode them a couple of times during the trip – but if you’re worried about time, grab a cab so you don’t miss it) from Union Square all the way down to Pier 39, and then it’s just a few minutes walk to Pier 33, where the ferry leaves from.

You’ll probably spend at least a couple of hours on Alcatraz.

They have a great audio tour that guides you through the various rooms and cell blocks of the prison, with commentary from ex-prisoners and guards.

Alcatraz is a crazy, haunting place, with a remarkable history, having homed some of the world’s most notorious criminals including Al Capone and the Robert Stroud – the ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’ (who actually didn’t keep any birds in this particular prison).

Sea Lions at Pier 39 San Francisco

Back on the mainland, stroll towards Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch. Walk past Pier 39 for now, and take your pick from famous In-N-Out Burger (they have a ‘secret’ menu with animal fries – yum) or Boudin (the famous bakery).

Once fed, stroll back along toward Pier 39, and take a look around. It’s really pretty and there are lots of things to do, great for families and you can spot sea lions being lazy near the end of the pier.

Riding the San Francisco Cable Car

Catch the cable car back to Union Square, take a walk around, soak in the atmosphere and see the gorgeous Hearts in San Francisco art installation. The sculptures are auctioned off for charity each year and then replaced by new ones.

Union Square has some of the best boutique and department store shopping in San Francisco (maybe even the world), so if that’s your thing – you can knock yourself out! I’m not really into shopping, but I did head into Macy’s with a very specific mission.

Union Square San Francisco

 

To have a piece of cheesecake in The Cheesecake Factory as recommended by bus driver Dave, who even though there were a few blue bus drivers, randomly picked us up every time. He felt like an old friend by the end of it.

We don’t have these in the UK, so I was very excited. There are so many to choose from, but whichever you go for, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Bus driver Dave recommends the Vanilla Cream Pie. They also have an outdoor seating area overlooking Union Square.

Riding the Cable Car in San Francisco

 

With a long drive the following day, we made it a quiet one and visited Bourban and Branch, a secret, speakeasy bar in the Tenderloin District.

You ring the buzzer next to the unnamed door. The glamorous hostess answers and asks you the password.

You answer: BOOKS

She, lets you in and leads you through the dimly lit bar to a bookcase. The bookcase opens and you walk through a secret passageway and into the secret bar… you’ll feel as though you’ve travelled back in time. ENJOY!

My Top Tips for San Francisco:

  • Tickets for Alcatraz sell out in advance, so buy them a week or two in advance if you can and I’d recommend going early(ish) in the morning.
  • Cable cars can get busy in the middle of the day, so many went past us because they were full, so it’s best to get on at the beginning or the end of a journey route, or early in the morning when they’re less busy.
  • The conductors allow you to hang off the outside of the cable cars – this was a lot of fun!
  • 4 days was a good amount of time for a taster of San Francisco, but I definitely want to go back for more.
  • As we weren’t staying in the city centre, we found it really hard to grab cabs on the street on the weekdays. If you need to get cabs, as your apartment provider for a list of reliable ones. If in a hotel, they should be able to call for one.

Read More About the USA…

USA
Hawaii

Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which will earn me a small commission at no extra cost to you. Affiliate sales help with the running costs of this site, so thank you for your support!

About Author

I'm a travel blogger and tour operator with a passion for Africa travel. I love the great outdoors, going on epic trips around the world and helping others travel!

113 Comments

  • Vicky
    March 24, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Awesome. Can’t wait to get on this in 2 1/2 weeks! I wasn’t going to get a sat nav – is that a big mistake? Also, that Madonna Inn looks cool, cheers for that.

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 24, 2014 at 2:52 pm

      You’ll have so much fun! Are you doing the exact same places? Like I said on FB, Matt is a Vegas aficionado so gve me a shout if you want any info!

      Unless you LOVE maps (which I actually do – but with 5 of us in the car, it could have got messy), I’d get a sat nav. You can usually wangle one for free from the hire car company… plus, they’re good for stalking celebrity houses! We just found it useful, especially driving into the cities, and navigating the 17-mile drive! The rest of the way is really well signposted. Just head up or down Highway 1 and you’re done!

      I first saw the Madonna Inn on Girls of the Playboy Mansion. The rooms are themed and really wacky! Really wish we could have stayed there but we went for the budget Creekside Inn which wa cute. A proper motel like in the movies! There are so many lovely places to stop on the drive, we didn’t even stop at half of them because of time, which is why I wish we’ spent 3 days driving it rather than two… but either way, it’s still amazing!

      Hope you have a wonderful time! xxx

      Reply
      • Roxie
        July 13, 2016 at 5:22 am

        Love love your tips……I’ve never been in San Diego, km going in a month….if you don’t mind can we be friends on FB? Thanks for all your tips!!!!

        Reply
    • suzie campbell
      October 7, 2015 at 12:32 am

      thank you very helpful!

      Reply
      • Helen
        October 12, 2015 at 10:56 pm

        No worries, thanks Suzie, glad you liked it!

        Reply
    • Johnny
      January 16, 2016 at 11:06 pm

      I did the same thing fifty years ago. I took pictures too.

      Reply
  • Gran Canaria Local
    March 24, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    We spent some time working in San Francisco. Unfortunately, we really didn’t have the time to travel around much. Which makes a return inevitable. And this itinerary will come in handy. The palm trees remind us of where we live now, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted…Canary Motorcycle ToursMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 24, 2014 at 8:04 pm

      Glad you found it useful! Hope you get back soon!

      Never been to Gran Canaria, but I’m sure I’d like it! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Kay
    March 24, 2014 at 7:47 pm

    Now that I have a car, I’m so excited to start embarking on road trips here in the US. I’ll definitely be taking your advice when I hit that area of the country (which hopefully will be sometime this year!)

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 24, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      Whoop whoop! Road trip! And you’re in one of the best countries in the world for road trips! Hope you find it useful when you go! I’ll be posting the second installment too. This was such a fun trip! You’ll love it!

      And great nws on your new writing gig at Twenty-Something Travel! ๐Ÿ™‚ Looking forward to more posts! And… if we meet… please show me how to do a headstand… looks very cool, although I might not try it on a cliff edge just yet!:)

      Reply
  • Mike Hayes
    March 24, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    Olallielalliebelly pie… mmmm

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 24, 2014 at 9:46 pm

      Oh yeah… when you work out how to say it!

      What was the best thing about your American road trip Michael? Sitting next to me in the car? ๐Ÿ™‚

      Our drive into San Francisco could have been rubbish… but you and your American accent kept me entertained. ‘get out of the way you jyuoik off’! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
      • Mike Hayes
        March 24, 2014 at 9:52 pm

        My favorite time was everyone else’s least favorite time.. when I was allowed to drive the car!!

        Reply
        • Helen
          March 24, 2014 at 11:05 pm

          Yeah… that was a scary half hour… ๐Ÿ™‚ Aw you were good. You can drive me around the bend any day! x

          Reply
  • Naomi
    March 24, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    I have seen way too many American road trip blogs recently and now I can’t get the idea out of my head! The photos, the places, the food all looks so incredible and with great company you can’t go wrong! I can’t get over the colours in San Diego the sunset photo, it’s looks unreal!
    Naomi recently posted…La BoqueriaMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 24, 2014 at 11:07 pm

      Go! Go! Go!!!!!!!!

      It was a great trip! I just wish it could have been longer! The sunsets were incredible! I think we had a good one every single night! I may have to move there!

      Hope you are doing well lovely!!!

      Reply
  • Beatrice
    March 25, 2014 at 2:36 am

    I did the same trip or almost, but in reverse, in October 2012! Such a great experience ๐Ÿ™‚
    Beatrice recently posted…Photos of the week #36My Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 25, 2014 at 10:53 am

      Couldn’t agree more! So much fun. Road trips are the best. Especially with that view!

      Hope you are well my dear! When you coming to England to visit me? x

      Reply
    • Evelyn
      April 28, 2015 at 10:39 am

      How did it work in reverse? Myself and fiancรƒยฉ are thinking about it for our honeymoon at the end of October – thoughts are to start in SF and then drive south along the Big Sur (over about 3 days) towards LA (arriving in time for Halloween!! Spend a few days in LA and then head on to San Diego for a couple of days… before flying back to SF and then home to Dublin, Ireland! – can anyone advise how many days would be ideal to spend in LA and San Diego??

      Reply
      • Helen
        April 29, 2015 at 6:21 pm

        Hi Evelyn, I only did it that way, but it would make no difference. I’d say that 2 – 3 nights in San Diego is enough, i would have liked another night in LA, so I’d say 3?

        Have fun!

        Reply
  • Kristin Addis
    March 25, 2014 at 9:59 am

    I’ve wanted to do this trip for so long! I’m from LA and went to uni in Santa Barbara but I’ve never even been to Big Sur! When I (eventually, a loong time from now) move back home it’ll be to Santa Monica for sure.
    Kristin Addis recently posted…Tiger Leaping Gorge: A Beautiful Trek in ChinaMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 25, 2014 at 10:56 am

      Ha ha, it’s funny how we don’t do the stuff that’s kind of on our doorstep but then travel all over the world! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m the same! This year I need to explore more of England.

      Lucky you being from California. ๐Ÿ™‚ A very beautiful part of the world to call home. I heard mixed reports about LA, but I really loved it. Could have stayed for much longer!

      Hope to see you soon! x

      Reply
  • Anna @ The Blonde Banana
    March 25, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    So jealous รขโ‚ฌโ€œ I’ve always wanted to do a California road trip. I have family in La Jolla and it’s so beautiful there ร‚ย รขโ‚ฌโ€œ I love seeing the sea lions. But I’ve never done much in actual San Diego so I think I need to go back!
    Anna @ The Blonde Banana recently posted…Tips for Taking the Train in MoroccoMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 25, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      Hey Anna! It wasn’t on my bucket list really (I’ve no idea why) until a friend said her and her hubby were going, so the rest of us went along too! I always choose to go somewhere a bit more rough and ready – but I LOVED it. If you have family in La Jolla, that’s the perfect excuse to go back. I didn’t know there was so much to do until I went! But there was loads, and I loved the Top Gun side of things! I love that film! Let me know if you go!!!

      ps. Love your blog name!

      Reply
  • Pam
    March 26, 2014 at 11:58 am

    Oh my God I loved this post!
    Such a great inspiration and good tips on where to go!!
    I came back from SW US in January, altough my itinerary was much shorter, we did Las Vegas, L.A. and the Grand Canyon! I loved it!
    I just finished posting about it on my blog ๐Ÿ™‚
    Looking forward to read about part 2!!!
    Pam recently posted…GOLDEN HOUR IN VENICEMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 26, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      Ha ha, thanks, glad you liked it!!! There’s things I know know, I wish I’d known before, but c’est la vie! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Cool, ill have a look on your blog about your trip!!! xx

      Reply
  • Sachin Agrawal
    March 29, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Such a nice road trip Helen. I was in those places before but I only had so little time ๐Ÿ™‚

    A nice read.

    My blog: http://www.aheartontheroad.com/
    Sachin Agrawal recently posted…Coorg: Treks, Waterfalls, Rivers and panoramas!My Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 29, 2014 at 11:04 am

      Thank you Sachin! I know, always not enough time. I would love to spend a month in every place I go to get to know it better!

      Reply
  • NZ Muse
    April 1, 2014 at 12:12 am

    That sunset sky behind the statue – unbelievable.

    I looove California. We went from SF to SD and it was one of my favourite parts of our entire US road trip. Stumbling across the elephant seals especially!
    NZ Muse recently posted…Four of the best travel apps for your RTW tripMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      April 1, 2014 at 9:28 am

      Thanks! It was one of my favourite trips and the sunsets were amazing! ๐Ÿ™‚ Aw, and the seals! I love how funny they move on land and then are so elegant in the water!

      Reply
  • jen
    April 10, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Love your post. I just left San Diego to travel full-time with my husband and I have to admit your post left me a little homesick. That said, maybe I just need to add a trip back to my plans.

    Happy travels!

    Reply
    • Helen
      April 10, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      Aw, thanks Jen! Sorry for making you home sick! San Diego is lovely, what a great place to grow up! But, it will still be there when you get back, so enjoy your travels! But I’m the same, I do miss home if I’m away too long! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Debbie
    June 3, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Great trip, great pics! I did this trip two months ago from Santa Barbara to sfo and from LA to San Diego! The best roadtrip of my life!!
    I just discovered and I love your blog!! Greetings from Greece xx
    http://debsbug.blogspot.gr/

    Reply
    • Helen
      June 3, 2014 at 7:33 pm

      Thank you Debbie! Glad you’ve enjoyed reading! I need to go check out your blog too!

      I loved this road trip too! So pretty and scenic and great to share with friends!!

      Reply
  • Samar
    March 4, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    This looks so wonderful! I’m definitely going to incorporate this itinerary into my own when I embark on my California road trip!

    My one obstacle seems to be the car, however. What rental car company did you use?

    Reply
    • sharon
      March 11, 2015 at 12:47 pm

      Yes love this – I’m also interested in which car company you used?

      Reply
      • Helen
        March 15, 2015 at 10:36 am

        Hi Sharon,

        We used US Car Hire!

        Thanks,

        Helen

        Reply
    • Helen
      March 15, 2015 at 10:46 am

      Thanks Samar! When do you go on your trip? I’m jealous, I’d love to do it again!

      We used US Car Hire.

      Have a great trip!

      Reply
  • Claire Stewart
    March 16, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Great trip report and really helpful. I’m hoping to drive from San Francisco to LA over three days / two nights next year and have got my head completely pickled reading up on what to see in which little town. I’m thinking of stopping overnight at Carmel, then again at Morro Bay or Santa Maria to give us time to visit Monterey, do the 17 mile drive and visit Hearst Castle with sufficient time to be able to appreciate them fully. I had planned to stay up near Burbank but might take a look at Venice Beach now and will certainly be looking into a tour of the stars homes.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 16, 2015 at 9:01 pm

      Thanks Claire! Three days is a good time to drive PCH! Don’t worry too much about seeing every little thing! Have a list but try and go with the flow! My advice is to get up early so you have time to take it easy and stop where you want! Nothing worse than rushing to get there before dark!

      I didn’t go to Burbank, but loved Venice Beach, although it’s not for everyone. It’s a little rough round the edges, a little quirky, but I didn’t feel unsafe. I thought it was brill!

      Have a wonderful time!

      Reply
  • Jacquie Joy
    March 28, 2015 at 10:45 am

    Hi Helen, really glad I came across your blogs. My hubby and I are planning a road trip in Sept from LA, up Highway 1, then out to Yosemite and then San Francisco. We will have about 2 1/2 weeks, will that allow sufficient time for an road trip that’s not rushed? Also apart from our arrival into LA and departure from SFO, we were not planning to book accommodation in advance, just along the way. Is that a good idea or not?

    Thanks in advance,
    Jac & Rod

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 28, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      Hi Jac and Rod,

      We did this trip over 17 days, and we included Vegas and San Diego too, so 2 and a half weeks should be a good amount of time. There’ll always be more things to do and see that you can fit in, but I think this is a good amount of time!

      We booked accommodation in advance, as there was 5 of us and we wanted apartments and didn’t want to have to try and find places on the road. But if you want to keep it really flexible, sites like Booking.com and Expedia make it really easy to book on the road so you should be fine! Maybe just book your Yosemite accommodation (I think it gets really busy).

      Have a GREAT trip – I am jealous. Would love to go back!

      Helen

      Reply
  • Julie
    May 6, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Hi Helen,

    I’ve searched the internet high and low for blog posts about the PCH and yours has been the best by far! It’s so informative and easy to read. We are planning to do a similar route the end of the month and we haven’t had much time to plan. We are starting in Vegas driving up to Yosemite then across to SF and down the PCH to LA. We only have 15 days so we’ve had to cut out San Diego ๐Ÿ™
    Just wondering if you can answer a few questions, would you recommend driving from SF and stopping over in Carmel for a night, then driving from Carmel to Cambria in one day? It’s hard to know where to stop to give sufficient time to see everything along the coast! We just know we have two nights to stop and we’re trying to come up with the best location points to take in the break. I think you’ve sold Cambria to me definitely!

    Thanks for your time, joolsjots.com

    Reply
    • Helen
      May 17, 2015 at 12:03 pm

      Thanks Jools! It makes my day when people find my blog posts helpful! That’s why I do it! And it’s fun to capture the memories!

      We only stayed in Cambria on PCH, so you can do the drive between Cambria and Carmel easily in a day! I would have stopped 2 places on PCH if I did it again! I think I’d probably stay in those two places. There’s not much going on in Cambria, but we loved it. If you’re driving, it’s nice just to get a good sleep!

      Have a wonderful time! Sorry for the late reply! I’ve been travelling around Morocco and neglecting the blog!

      ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Jayde
    June 8, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Hi. Loved reading your blog, found it entertaining and very informative! My boyfriend and I are spending 1 week in LA (with my family), and then thinking of driving from San Diego – San Francisco ( bypassing LA as we would have already been there) over another 7 days in July this year. Do you think that allows us enough time, and approx how much did you spend on a rental car and petrol? Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Jayde & Marc
    Perth, Western Australia

    Reply
    • Helen
      June 11, 2015 at 11:14 pm

      Hi Jayde,

      Yes I think that will give you enough time! I never feel like I have enough time anywhere though. I could spend a month in most places and never feel done! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Let me have a look at what we spent on the car! I wrote it in the comments on one of the posts – but I can’t remember which one! Will come back to you!!

      Reply
  • claire
    June 30, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Great article and so informative! I’m looking at doing a similar trip next year but was just wondering about budget? x

    Reply
    • Helen
      July 2, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      Hey Claire, I didn’t keep a tab of my budget I’m afraid. I can probs work it out, but it will take a while to go through old emails. ๐Ÿ™‚

      There were 5 of us also, so we saved loads on accommodation and petrol. How many of you are going?

      x

      Reply
  • Sarlote
    August 19, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    California is a gorgeous place! And I believe that hiring a car while traveling is a very good choice.

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 25, 2015 at 6:56 pm

      I agree! ๐Ÿ™‚ Self-drive road trips are for winners!

      Reply
  • Sara
    August 30, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Hi Helen!

    My husband and I are planning this road trip from SF to SD for next month. Your blog has been very helpful in trying to time everything and build in as much as we can in the 10 days that we have! We are trying to figure out what we want to do when we’re in LA. We have 2.5 days there and are trying to fit in the best things. We read your blog on the tours in Hollywood. I found a site and there is a tour for $250 that sounds similar. We are trying to stay on a budget and that’s a little steep for each person. Do you have a good tour you did that you recommend?

    Thanks!
    Sara

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 30, 2015 at 8:10 pm

      Hi Sara,

      What is included in the $250, that sounds like a lot??? Is it for the full 2.5 days? Will you have your own car??

      The tour I did was just of the stars homes and was approx $50, with Starline Tours, you just book it at the Chinese Theatre!

      LA is pretty easy to get around if you have a car, so you can do it all independently! If you’re on a really strict budget, you could just buy a map of the stars homes and follow it! We did that once our tour ended as I wanted to go and see the Playboy Mansion and we also visited Marilyn Monroe’s grave.

      If you have just a couple of days, I would spend one around Santa Monica and Venice, one in Hollywood/Beverley Hills/Bel Air/downtown area and then maybe try and spend some time up near Malibu or Santa Barbara.

      Here’s the post I just did on my budget! https://www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk/2015/08/california-las-vegas-road-trip-budget/

      Hope that helps!!

      Helen

      Reply
  • Jessica
    October 2, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Thanks for the absolutely fantastic blog – I have now planned the reverse trip (Las Vegas to San Diego) for next summer for our family of 5 and your blog has been the major help for the planning! The trip is still far away but planning is half the pleasure!! The Vegas part might be a bit different with 3 kids, but much of the rest is great for all ages. This will be our first roadtrip with the family, we have done New York in the US before but our long trips has mostly been in Asia – islands, boats, snorkeling and remote beaches. We’ll see how the kids like the driving though and all the things to see – they loved the great wall and summer palace in Beijing, however at Angkor Wat and the other surrounding temples in Cambodia they were mostly concerned about the non-existent wifi.. I keep my fingers crossed that they will appreciate California and the other parts of this trip!!

    Reply
    • Helen
      October 2, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks Jessica, lovely of you to say! ๐Ÿ™‚

      I love the planning part too! I am a real planner! Yeah, I’m sure Vegas will be a bit different, but there’s so much there for kids!!

      How much of a cool parent are you taking your 3 kids on all these super duper road trips around the world???

      I’m sure they’ll love this trip, plus the wifi is pretty good!

      Reply
  • Roger
    October 7, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Helen
    My wife and I are travelling from LA to SF and will be following your places of interest carefully.
    We will take three or four days staying at various motels etc. on route.
    Santa B, Pismo, Cambria, Big Sur, Hearrst Castle ,Julia Pfeiffer State Pk.Carmel, Monterey Peninsula., 17 mile drive, S. Crux and SF.
    How many days SF. ? We are travelling Feb. 2016 are all roads closed in Yosemite or I are there any valley routes open ? We will then travel to LV returning via Palm Springs
    Total time in California / Nevada twenty days.
    We will pack coats, cords and pullovers !
    How long in LVegas .
    Sorry about so many questions but you are the expert !
    Roger.

    Reply
    • Helen
      October 12, 2015 at 10:58 pm

      Hi Roger,

      Great, glad the post helped.

      I had 4 days in San Francisco, I think this was a good amount!

      The routes in and out of Yosemite are usually be fine, but I would check on local websites nearer the time. It depends of various factors like forest fires.

      Las Vegas, I’d say at least 4 days!

      Helen

      Reply
  • John
    October 23, 2015 at 3:07 am

    I have just completed a very similar trip from Vegas to Sandiego up to San Francisco in a drop top mustang! Think Monterey is a must for the whale watching, amazing wildlife and aquarium- if the budget can stretch stay at the Monterey Bay Hotel- they bring breakfast to your room where you can watch the birds seals and otters from the balcony- they even provide binoculars ! Just south of Carmel if you drive the highway from south to north is Nepenthe with an amazing restaurant . I could go on but it’s the best road trip I have ever done and I have driven all over the world.
    Top tip- don’t drive in LA- park up and take the Rasta bus tour LA in a day- it’s worth it

    Reply
    • John
      October 26, 2015 at 12:28 am

      Hi Helen
      I would agree- Vegas needs 4 days as does LA- there is so much to see in both places- Grand Canyon , Alcatraz ,both cities sight seeing – not to mention shopping and the shows!
      John

      Reply
  • Jenny @ Till the Money Runs Out
    November 19, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    I love the drive from Southern to Northern California. Tom and I have family in San Diego and in Oakland and so we do this drive at least once a year when we are back in the US visiting family!
    Jenny @ Till the Money Runs Out recently posted…Soaring Over San Diego – Flight Lessons in My HometownMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      November 19, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      Me too, so beautiful! So great that you get to do it so often. I bet ou know all the cool spots! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Deeyah
    November 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    Hey Helen,
    This looks amazing.I am travelling from India to San Francisco in February next year.Planning a road trip from SFO to LA.
    Though i dont have any experienced driver in the group,any references you have where we can hire a Regular SUV with a driver to have this road trip along the pacific coast?
    We will be staying in SFO for two days and the next night in San Simeon and then LA another 36 hrs before i take my flight to Las Vegas.

    Looking forward to your reply!!!
    Deeyah

    Reply
    • Helen
      November 28, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      Hi Deeyah,

      You will have a fantastic trip, this is a great road trip! We hired ours from US Car Hire. Are you looking for someone to drive you? Does anyone in your group have a licence? If so, you should be ok to drive. Hiring a driver will be really expensive I think. You could ask the car hire company!

      If you don’t have a driver in your group, I’d say that either taking the bus or taking a group tour might be the most economical option, but it depends on your budget!

      Helen

      Reply
  • Nuria
    November 28, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Your blog is being really usefull to plan my roadtrip, wich is exactly the same as you!

    Reply
    • Helen
      November 28, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      Great! Glad it’s been of use! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Sharon
    December 14, 2015 at 7:12 am

    2.5weeks till my roadtrip Helen!! Just came back to your blog (still the best I’ve found on this trip so far) to see if I’d missed anything and get me excited all over again :D. Are all the pictures you use in the blog your own by the way? And do you shoot raw and edit yourself? If so, which programme do you use They are really beautiful, you have a great eye. I just bought a great new camera to document all my trips too.

    Reply
    • Helen
      December 14, 2015 at 8:56 pm

      Hey Sharon – oooohhh how exciting!!! Wish I was going away in a couple of weeks! ๐Ÿ™‚ You will have an amazing time!!

      Aw thanks for saying lovely things about my photos! I am very self critical!

      Almost all pictures on the blog are taken by me, unless there’s a little credit underneath – but I hate using stock photos so rarely do it. All the photos in this post on my old Sony bridge camera so they’re not in raw or anything like that. I don’t usually edit my photos (for time reasons more than anything), but occasionally if I do, I email them to myself and then edit them on the Snapseed app on my phone and email them back, but that is a really long winded way to do it! ๐Ÿ™‚ Loads of bloggers use Lightroom and/or Photoshop! I’ve never used those though. The photos that are edited in this post are: the San Diego skyline, the sunset one and the one of the coastline (above the seals) – all edited on Snapseed.

      My newer posts – so the latest Africa ones, the colourful Welsh towns post and the Morocco posts were taken on my newer camera which is an Olympus OMD-10. I do shoot that in raw, but those photos aren’t edited.

      Have fun with your new camera!!!!!!! Please tell me how your trip goes, where you went, what you did! ๐Ÿ™‚ Enjoy enjoy enjoy!!!

      xx

      Reply
      • Sharon
        December 16, 2015 at 5:20 am

        Hi Helen,

        Funnily enough the camera I just bought is the Olympus omd-em10!! It’s such a great little camera, I was going to go full dslr but after much much research it seemed the perfect choice. So excited to document my trips a little bit better :). Your photos have definitely inspired me some more! I’ll check out the Welsh and Morocco blogs to see what it can do!

        Accommodation was all sorted, until just last week I got an email from the landlord of the north beach flat saying the city of SF is cracking down on vacation rentals so they can’t do short term rents anymore so I had to hunt for yet somewhere else today and ended up getting a little hotel, also in north beach as Id researched that location quite extensively and had my heart set on staying there. That’s the risk with flats I guess but the new place will do ok ?? ?

        Reply
    • Helen
      December 14, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      ps. Did you get all your accommodation sorted?

      Reply
  • Ryan
    December 31, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    After reading this it’s opened up california me and my partner are heading there in June for 14 days starting in San Francisco ending in san diego reading your stops has given me great tips to take along with me.

    Reply
    • Helen
      January 1, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      Aw, thanks Ryan! lad it’s helped!! Hope you have a wonderful time, I’m sure you will! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Zoe Monk
    January 18, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Hey – this is so helpful, thank you! Can I just ask how many nights you stayed in each place? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Helen
      January 18, 2016 at 7:35 pm

      Hey Zoe,

      We stayed the following number of nights in each place:

      3 x San Diego
      3 x LA
      1 X Cambria
      4 x San Francisco
      2 x Yosemite
      4 x Las Vegas

      Hope that helps,

      Helen

      Reply
  • Victoria
    January 23, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Just found this great blog as off to California in March to visit son at UCSB and looking for travel tips.
    Hubby & I have a week travelling from San Fran to Santa Barbara first. But any tips on the Napa Valley?
    Then other 2 sons & girlfriends meeting for second week: LA, San Diego, Las Vegas!
    Ouch???! Any less expensive, but still nice accommodation ideas?
    Victoria

    Reply
  • claire wilson
    February 7, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    Hi.. thanks for this post of your itenary. I am planning this trip next year family of 5 with Mum and dad in tow. Will definitely follow this!!.. Would you advise to prebook motels or to stay apartments. I’ll be on a budget but still want a little comfort. What r the costs of motels. Thanks Claire

    Reply
    • Helen
      February 13, 2016 at 8:31 pm

      Hi Claire,

      Our motel cost ร‚ยฃ34 per person per night. But I only stayed in the one. Apartments worked out well for us as there were 5 so I would recommend that in the cities. In the smaller towns it might not be possible. I’d suggest pre-booking! Especially if there’s 7 of you!

      Helen

      Reply
  • Michelle King
    March 27, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Great post! I’ll definitely use some of your recommendations ! Thumbs up! I’m planning my parents’ trip in a few months, but I have to ask, why only 2 nights in Yosemite???

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 27, 2016 at 3:40 pm

      Thanks Michelle! Why 2 nights – lack of time and there were 5 of us, so compromise was essential. I’d like to go back for longer next time. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • April Yap
    April 5, 2016 at 11:43 am

    Beaches are so lovely! I want to experience it again and again. Just California! haha.. Planning to visit that beautiful place soon.

    Reply
    • Helen
      April 7, 2016 at 8:44 pm

      Yes for sure! I would love to go back!!

      Reply
  • Mo
    June 19, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Hey hellen. Any clubbing near by all the areas you mention?

    Reply
    • Helen
      June 19, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      Hi Mo,

      There are lots of clubs in LA and San Francisco especially.

      Reply
  • Ruth
    August 11, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Helen, Your posts on your road trip were really helpful and informative! A lot of other blogs habe just written about places to see and I have appreciated your personal insights as to how you would do things differently etc and tips. We are planning a similar trip for our honeymoon next year! I have been looking into car hire and found that many companies charge a fee for picking up and dropping off the car at different locations/states. Were you charged for this?

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 14, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      Hi Ruth!!

      Thank you!!! Glad you liked the post! I loved writing it!!

      We weren’t charged for that. We picked up in San Diego and dropped off in Nevada. We used US Car Hire and found them to be really good. Car was great and they threw in a free Sat Nav (we upgraded so we haggled for a Sat Nav).

      Have a wonderful wedding and honeymoon.

      Reply
  • Annie
    October 3, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Hi Helen,

    Thanks alot for posting this information up. We did a road trip last year that started in Vegas and went right across to NYC but this year we are planning coast to coast – LA, PCH, San Fran, Yosemite, Death Valley, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon (south and north rim), Utah – Zion, Bryce, Arches and Canyonlands then down to the rio grande in Colorado, and up through Aspen and Estes Park. Then a flight from Denver to Chicago, Detroit, Niagra Falls and finally NYC. Having alot of fun planning it but also a little worried about timings ! How long would you say the drive from LA to San Luis Obispo took ? Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
    • Helen
      October 3, 2016 at 10:07 pm

      Hi Annie,

      The drive from Santa Monica to San Luis Obispo will take around 5 hours, however with stops along the PCH, it will take most of the day. It would take 2 days minimum to drive the PCH, 3 if you can.

      Helen

      Reply
  • JOAN
    October 31, 2016 at 12:12 am

    Hi Helen
    I am just back from a similar trip. Love your blog and I have start one of my own too, I am just a novice though.

    2 days minimum to drive PCH is spot on, that is what we done and we did struggle with time, I would recommend 3 days too, you would enjoy it more. We stopped in Morro Bay overnight.

    I loved the whole experience. You write about it so good.
    Joan

    Reply
    • Helen
      November 16, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Thank you Joan! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Martin
    December 5, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    Hi Helen,

    Trying to plan a first time driving holiday to the West Coast. Cam across your brill trip and will probably plan it all around yours!

    May I just ask – how many miles did you cover each day over your 17 day trip please?

    Reply
  • Rebecca
    January 12, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    Hi Helen,

    Fab blog and has massively helped with planning. However, if you where to do the trip again would you say that driving from San Fran South to San Diego would be better for views? We where going to fly to San Diego from London and travel North but researching the route, a few people do say travelling down the coast is better.
    Any advice??

    Reply
    • Helen
      January 12, 2017 at 8:38 pm

      Hi Rebecca,

      I don’t think it matters so much. The only thing with going the other way is that the sea is on your side rather than the far side. It won’t ruin your trip if you go the way I did! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Donna
    January 18, 2017 at 11:25 am

    Hi Helen,

    Great blog! We’re a family of four going on a similar road trip this summer. it has definitely helped with our planning.

    Reply
    • Helen
      January 18, 2017 at 8:12 pm

      Glad it helped Donna! Have a great trip! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
    • Rebecca
      April 5, 2017 at 1:03 pm

      Hi Helen,

      Thanks for this we were really looking forward to the trip, end of May /June time. However, we are now aware there has been landslides which have caused the area around the Big Sur to be closed and the work on the bridge lead time for re-opening may take up to a year.

      I am trying to make sense of all the different traffic websites in regards to the areas road closures as i’m now concerned about the trip. We were meant to be heading north through the Big Sur, Monterrey and then San Fran (accommodation booked) but think we may now have to re-think our route.
      Would you advise changing the trip and just drive up to San Fran, as the roads look closed from Ragged Point or is there another route through these areas. Its all so confusing when you don’t know the roads and also gutting we wont be able to do the full trip ๐Ÿ™

      Any info at all would be hugely helpful! We don’t know anyone who has done it before so a bit lost on what to do!

      Rebecca x

      Reply
      • Helen
        April 5, 2017 at 11:16 pm

        Hi Rebecca,

        I’m really sorry but I’m not sure. However, your best bet would be to contact the places you are staying as they will surely know and be able to give you the best, up to date advice on how to get to them and still have a great trip!

        Hope that helps!

        Helen

        Reply
  • Lara Jack
    February 25, 2017 at 7:50 am

    This is awesome! I love California, and I canรขโ‚ฌโ„ขt wait to check out some of these cool spots when I go back in April! Thanks so much for all the info!

    Reply
  • Stuart gore
    March 17, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Hello Helen, any chance of some advice please? I have took the planning off our honeymoon on my shoulders. May 22nd where flying Into Las Vegas for 2days renting a car and leaving Vegas at 0600 on the last day to drive to San Francisco it’s a 9 hour drive happily make it take 11 hours with afew stops along the way. We have 2 days in San Francisco before leaving early again to drive down to San Diego, i know there is a lot of ways to go and I understand the coast route is 10 hour drive which doesn’t bother me, want to stop at afew of the best places for a coffee. We have 4 days in San Diego before flying to Mexico. Been doing a lot of research and people seem to think it’s madness to do these drives in aday. With 2 weeks in Mexico and a week in Vegas and California we didn’t have anymore time. I really enjoyed reading your trip and would love some friendly advise. I’m ex forces and my planning tends to be point a to point b. Cheers Stuart

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 17, 2017 at 8:58 am

      Hi Stuart,

      I agree that driving Vegas to San Francisco is a bit too much in one day if it’s a 9 hour drive. You won’t really get much chance to get out of the car. With stops it will be more like 13+ hours, rather than 11 (I’ve done somany of these types of road trips and they are always much longer). Even driving the PCH in a day is a lot, there is a quicker in road I think but you’d miss all the best bits. If I were you, I’d take time off San Diego (sorry San Diego) and/or Mexico if you can so you can enjoy a more leisurely trip.

      Hope that helps!

      Helen

      Reply
  • Monica Puccetti
    March 20, 2017 at 11:52 pm

    As a born and raised Californian, I’d say you hit places that most visitors seems to skip over, but are wonderful. Seriously, great choice of Montery, Santa Cruz, Big Sur, and Santa Barbara (you probably passed through my sleepy hometown, Ventura, right before Santa Barbara). I’m glad to see people realizing California is more than just LA (a city most non-LA Californians kind of hate) and thank you for show casing my home state! The one tip I have for anyone traveling through California, especially Southern California, is eat at all the tiny Mexican joints you can find! Californian Mexican food is wonderful and there is no better beach meal than margaritas and fish tacos.

    Reply
    • Helen
      March 24, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks Monica! Glad I did the good stuff! ๐Ÿ™‚

      And I agree, the California does great Mexican food! I didn’t try fish tacos, but I did have some margaritas!

      Reply
  • Happy Sethi
    June 2, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Hi Helen,

    Could I have your email address. I need your help to plan my itinerary for California.
    I and my wife and two children ages 16 and 14 years old want to visit California in summer 2017.
    I will give you all the details what we like to achieve during our trip.
    Look forward to your reply.

    Reply
    • Helen
      June 2, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      Hi Happy,

      Thanks for your comment. You can contact me using my contact page above. In terms of help with planning, what type of help are you looking for? I’m not currently offering a trip planning service (as I’m just about to leave for Africa so super busy) but if you have an itinerary you want me to look over or a couple of questions, feel free to send them over.

      Thanks,

      Helen

      Reply
  • Allison
    June 13, 2017 at 9:56 pm

    I love your post. I will definitely need to do this soon. I love San Diego, so any excuse to road trip there is game for me. Gas Lamp is my favorite. Did you make it to the secret Alice in Wonderland bar?

    Reply
    • Helen
      June 14, 2017 at 7:07 pm

      Aw thanks!!

      I didn’t make it there but it sounds intriguing! Is it Vin de Syrah? It’s been a few years since I was last in San Diego! ๐Ÿ™‚ Loved my time in California!

      Reply
  • Douglas Lake
    September 8, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Thank you for these reminders! I use the bluetooth connection in my car, so I can remain hands-free. However, this is a great option if your car doesnรขโ‚ฌโ„ขt have this capability. With so many accidents happening because of distractions, we need to do everything we can, including educating others about this important safety tip!

    Reply
  • Tom K
    September 8, 2017 at 8:00 pm

    What a great trip and blog post — sounds like you had a great time. Thank you for sharing. Next time you are in the Santa Cruz area I hope you will consider staying at our vacation rental home Beach Haven at Seabright — less than 2 blocks from the beach. We often run specials so please visit our website http://www.BeachHavenatSeabright.com for current rates/offers. You can sign up for our newsletter and blog there too. Looking forward to reading more of your blog! -Tom

    Reply
  • Saul
    November 28, 2017 at 11:16 pm

    Wow great list and awesome photos. I definitely need to check out McWay cove.

    Reply
  • SoCalActivities
    April 9, 2018 at 2:24 pm

    This makes me want to schedule a road trip! Thanks for the new bucket list item ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply
  • Ruki Kurukulasuriya
    August 29, 2018 at 4:25 am

    We are travelling almost exacty this route except we dont go all the way to Yosemite. You have some amazing tips here. A wealth of info! Thank you so much!

    Reply
  • Tracey Jones
    April 2, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Great Blog! I am searching for some nice about Vegas, neva been there in my life just heard about their colorful life. Very well-written thanks for sharing this amazing stuff at least for me.

    Reply
  • Lynn McCarragher
    April 7, 2019 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Helen! You’re the first blog I land on as I start my search for my planned travel with my son this July 2019, as a high school graduation celebration! He is 17 and a California road trip is top on his list. We had debated between doing his first to Europe (as he’s very much looking forward to that too), but think that at 17, he would probably enjoy more of the California action than Europe’s history. We will save that for another trip.
    Thank you so much for the useful information. Love the itinerary and your comments ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s so exciting!! I will follow you plan!
    Thank you,
    Lynn from Ottawa, Canada.

    Reply
  • Road-trip en Californie
    May 17, 2019 at 11:38 am

    It looks so beautiful… I dream for those kind of adventures. I love California !

    Reply
  • alicia
    February 5, 2020 at 5:31 pm

    I think one of the best features of California is being able to drive along the coastline on Pacific Coast Hwy (PCH if you’re a local) and stop for a snack at hidden gems along the way. I haven’t done that in a long time and now I feel the need to take a drive again.
    alicia recently posted…The Awesome California Science CenterMy Profile

    Reply

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge