Driving from San Francisco to LA
Replies: 8 - Last Post: Dec 12, 2007 4:06 AM Last Post By: vegantraveller
Dec 2, 2007 7:47 AM
Driving from San Francisco to LAHi,
in nov 2008 myself and my boyfriend are going to fly into San Fran from Ireland and plan to stay there for 2.5days. From there we are going to hire a car and drive down to LA. We have approx 5/6 days to get down there and want to travel on PCH1 along the coast. I need a bit of help with distances and stopovers.
Plan to drive from San Fran to Montery which should take 2/3 hours - is this correct? Overnight in Montery.
Next day view Montery and Carmel. Should we overnight here if there is enough to see or drive on somewhere else?
Next day I was thinking of driving from Carmel to San Simeon to see Hearst castle.
Next day we could drive to San Luis Obespo and Solvang
Next day drive to Santa Barbara and overnight here
Next morning drive to Santa Monica which should take 2 hours? Overnight
Next day drive into LA.
How does this itinerary look? Have I packed too much in or should I leave some place out?
I would really appreciate any advise from locals or if anyone has done a similar trip to give me any words of wisdom?
Thanks a mill
Dec 2, 2007 8:29 AM
1You have allowed yourself a very leisurely trip. I am assuming that you planned your stops because there are things you particularly want to see in those locations.
There is plenty to see in Monterey/Carmel. The world class Monterey Bay Aquarium is one. Carmel is known for its shopping. The Point Lobos State Reserve just south of Carmel has several miles of shore trails with a lot of sea life to see and tide pools. Monterey itself has an historic section. Some people like to pay a few dollars to drive the "17 Mile Drive" which takes you along the coast and through a section of expensive houses. Carmel Valley has some wineries and is a pretty drive. You could easily spend two nights here.
To get from San Francisco to Monterey/Carmel down the coast.... in San Francisco, get on 19th Avenue and follow it south. Then you have two choices. Take the Pacifica exit to get on Highway 1 at the coast, or stay on 19th, which becomes Hwy 280 and take the exit to Half Moon Bay, which is Hwy 92, to Hwy 1. When you get to Santa Cruz, you may want to stop and go into downtown, which has a pretty-tree-lined street with boutiques and coffee shops and, at the shore, the Beach Boardwalk, which just celebrated its 100th birthday. Ride on the historic wooden roller coaster, eat some cotton candy, and wade in the surf.
To visit Hearst Castle I suggest you stay in Cambria for the night, after having driven through spectacular Big Sur and stopping for the views. Nepenthe is a restaurant high on a hill with gorgeous views of the ocean. Even if it isn't lunch time stop and walk up for a cuppa, or something. In Cambria stay at one of the motels on Moonstone Beach. Then, the next morning, take the Hearst Castle Tour. Be sure you have reservations ahead of time. I believe you can do this online.
I would suggest skipping San Luis Obispo and Solvang. Solvang is just a touristy place pretending to be Denmark. It doesn't work.
I seriously urge you to add time to San Francisco by cutting out some of the Southern California time. You will regret giving it only 2.5 days. If you can manage at least 4, you will be happier in the long run. This would give you time to take a day trip to the wine country and to explore the sights of San Francisco, perhaps combining a wine tour with a visit to the redwoods at Muir Woods, which is on the way.
Since Santa Monica is only 14 miles from central LA you don't need to count those as 2 days.
If you go to the California Forum of Trip Advisor, you will find many threads on this trip.
Dec 2, 2007 8:41 AM
Thanks for your reply, it was really informative. We plan to spend approx 4 nights in LA. We want to doa tour of the stars homes, Grausman Theatre, catch a Basketball game, Universal Studios, Theme Park and shopping. From LA we are going to fly to Vegas where we will spend 2/3 nights. We will do a bus trip to the Grand Canyon also from Vegas. We will fly back to San Fran for our return journey home. We have only 15nights for all of this therefore it is really important to make the most of our time so thanks for your advise and any further info would be appreciated.
Dec 2, 2007 9:12 AM
3You might spend another day in San Francisco. Personally I prefer to stay more than one night in each place, since otherwise you're checking in at 6 and out at 11, with little time to enjoy where you're staying. And you have to stash everything in your car, so you're constantly packing and unpacking. Be sure to get a rental car with a trunk, not just a hatchback.
With five days, you could spend two nights in Monterey, using it as a base for that region, and then two nights in Cambria or Santa Barbara. Keep in mind November can be rainy, although it hardly rained at all this November, so who knows.
maps.yahoo.com and maps.google.com have all the driving distance info you need, including attractions.
BTW Pacific Coast Highway is a term that's almost never used north of Malibu (despite Lonely Planet's California guide). If you ask someone in San Francisco where PCH is, you'll get a blank stare. The signs will say highway 1.
Dec 2, 2007 2:05 PM
4I'd be tempted to spend only three days on that part of the trip, and use the extra couple of days you gain to drive north of San Francisco to Redwood National Park, then return through the Wine country. The coast from Eureka to Crescent City is as spectacular as Big Sur, with infinitely better redwoods. It would be a lot of driving, but coming to Norhern California and missing the Redwoods in order to spend an extra day shopping in Carmel or (shudder) Solvang ,or viewing the Homes of the Stars, seems like a bad choice, IMHO.
Dec 2, 2007 5:51 PM
5Redwood National Park is 6-7 hours north of San Francisco. That doesn't seem feasible in this itinerary. For a redwood detour, any of the parks in the Santa Cruz Mountains (Big Basin, Portola, even the grove at Butano State Park) seem like a better idea.
I do agree about shopping in downtown Carmel. But the south end of Carmel beach or a half day at Pt. Lobos are very worthwhile.
Dec 3, 2007 7:48 AM
6Based on the misspellings of many of the place names, and the question about distances, I am guessing you have not had the chance to look at a good map yet. Mapquest.com and others can give you distances. A highway map would help as well (there should be some available online). Trip looks very leisurely. If you have the chance, rent a DVD of "Citizen Kane" to give you a flavor of San Simeon (though when we went there, tour guides went to lengths to let us know the film was in fact fiction), and "Sideways" about the Solvang/Santa Barbara wine area. Consider a day trip out to Channel Islands National Park (Anacapa Island is closest to the mainland). Island Packers is one concessionaire that runs day and overnight trips out there. May be others.
Dec 3, 2007 12:33 PM
7Overall, your itinerary is almost perfect.
I'd stay TWO NIGHTS in Monterey. Drive hwy 1 from San Francisco to Santa Cruz (about 1.5 hours). Go downtown for a while (exit Pacific Avenue) and to east cliff drive/steamer's lane. Then into Monterey (about an hour's drive from Santa Cruz) for the night. The next day, explore Monterey, Pacific Grove or Carmel, Asilomar Beach tide pools, and the aquarium. Then the next day, drive ALL THE WAY to Santa Barbara (only takes 3 or 4 hours) with a stop, or several stops, in Big Sur. Have lunch at Nepenthe, overlooking the Pacific. Take a short walk to Andrew Molera State Beach or Pfeifer Falls along the way.
I'd skip Hearst Castle. VERY touristy and uninteresting unless you like to stare at a big, obnoxious house and bad art/sculpture (which apparently a lot of people do for some reason). But across the street from its entrance is an overlook where you can see elephant seals! Stop for a look, and then get on with the drive.
Maybe even stay the night in Big Sur at Deetjan's, old Swedish loggers' cabins?
Then a couple days in Santa Barbara, maybe checking out the wineries, and from there it's just a few hours drive to La-La-L.A.
Dec 12, 2007 4:06 AM
8I did almost the exact trip as you last summer. I rented a car in LA, drove to San Francisco and Back, and stopped in pretty much the same places as you are planning. Monterrey is nice, a bit touristy though. The San Luis Obispo area is a great college-town place with good restaurants and places to stay. My favorite part of California had to be San Francisco. So much cool stuff and hidden treasures to be found by anyone. Just walking around the city is great fun. The restaurants are great there too. Eat at one of while you are there.
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