Los Angeles to San Francisco along Coastal Highway One
From visiting iconic Los Angeles to relaxing in beautiful laid-back Santa Barbara, from wine tasting in Santa Ynez to exploring its grand old Spanish Mission, from cruising along Big Sur and Monterey Bay to experiencing sophisticated San Francisco. Discovering two polar-opposite cities joined by a classic coastal road-trip: It hardly gets any better than that.
This trip can be equally undertaken in the reverse direction from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
From Los Angeles, add a couple of days (or more) to visit beautiful San Diego. While in San Francisco, add a couple of days (or more) for a relaxed discovery of the wine country or an adventure to the Gold Country and Yosemite National Park.
14 to 18 days
San Francisco or Los Angeles
Best time to travel
Combination urban, nature and road-trip
Easy and relax
FIT/SAT. Couples, families and small groups
- Wonder at nature in Big Sur and wildlife in Point Lobos
- Stroll historic Cannery Row in Monterey
- Watch the daredevil surfers ride the waves in Santa Cruz
- Discover Chinatown, Fishermen’s Wharf and the Castro in San Francisco
- Sample the food and culture of North Beach and the Mission District
- Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge
- Get spooked on the prison Island of Alcatraz
- Walk among the stars in Hollywood’s Walk of Fame
- View the stars and the city from the Griffith Observatory
- Immerse in art and culture at the Getty Center
- Flex you muscles in Venice Beach
- Get in the action at Universal Studios
- Relax in beautiful Santa Barbara
- Taste sumptuous wines in the Santa Ynez Valley
- Walk through history at the Mission La Purisima
- Follow Highway One to San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay
Suggested itinerary at a glance
Day 1-4 • Los Angeles
A trip to the mega-polis of Los Angeles combines some of the must-do/must-see iconic attractions with out-of-the-beaten-path visits, and for relaxed exploration of local-flavor favorites. Stroll among the stars at Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and you find the discreet pathway to lead you just underneath the famous sign.
Immerse yourself in the vibrant art and culture LA scene, from the stunning Getty Center overlooking the city, to the sprawling complex of LACMA, to the new hip galleries in the old Chinatown.
Balance the demands of the mind with those of the physical by spending time at the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice. Enjoy the glitzy boutiques of Rodeo Drive and the slightly quirkier ones of Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
And of course, a visit of Southern California will not be complete without the excitement of Universal Studios or Disneyland.
Day 5-7 • Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez region
Follow the Coastal Road and the beaches of Malibu to reach the beautiful town of Santa Barbara. With its wide sandy beaches, beautiful Spanish Mission and vibrant street life, no wonders it is referred as the California Riviera.
It is also the getaway to the Santa Ynez wine country where you spend the next day or two visiting beautiful wineries and tasting some of the best wines California has to offer. A study in contrasts awaits you. Visit first the small town of Solvang where you are transported into a charming Danish village and then the old Spanish Mission La Purisima.
This sprawling site is home to gardens and dozens of beautiful buildings, including a stunning church built of adobe. It is undoubtedly one of the best places in California to understand the history its early development and relationship with the local native-American Indian tribes.
Day 8-10 • Along the Pacific Coastal Highway One
Time for your road-trip along the famed Highway One. Over the next few days, you drive along the Pacific Coast through a region of small coastal towns, each with its own charming character. Stop to taste and experience the local flavors of San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, San Simeon, Cambria and tiny Lucia.
Enter Big Sur country where the rugged coastline region is both beautiful and enticing. At the tip of this region, travel to Point Lobos for a hike on a trail leading to an overlook above the ocean. This is one of the places in California to observe marine wildlife. Great sharks, whales, elephant seals and sea lions all share this habitat.
Travel along the wide Bay of Monterey to the charming small town of Carmel-by-the-Sea. After a stop at its local market, negotiate the twists-and-turns of the famed “17-miles road” connecting it to the town of Monterey. Start with a relaxed stroll on Cannery Row to the world-class Monterey Aquarium before heading out to the Fishing Pier for a meal of the freshest catch of the region. This is also where you may want to board a vessel to get close-and-personal with the whales playing in the Bay of Monterey.
Santa Cruz is next on your itinerary. This is the self-proclaimed birthplace of the California surf culture. It is easy to see why when you visit the tiny, shrine-like Surf Museum overlooking the daredevil maneuvers of the wave riders at Cowell’s Beach and Streamer Lane. From there, it is only a short drive along the coast to the sea lions colony of Año Nuevo, the lighthouse at Pigeon Point and the charming village of Pescadero before arriving in San Francisco. Or if you prefer, take the road inland to Salinas, San Juan Bautista and on to San Jose through the heart of Silicon Valley to rejoin the Bay of San Francisco.
Day 11-14 • San Francisco
Spend the next few days in one of the most beautiful, interesting and diverse places in the world. In spite of its hilly terrain, many of San Francisco neighborhoods are surprisingly very easy to explore on foot.
Discover the hidden history of Fishermen’s Wharf, walk along the secret alleys of Chinatown and immerse yourself in the Bohemian culture of North Beach. Stroll along the Marina facing the Bay of San Francisco to Fort Point underneath the awe-inspiring Golden Gate Bridge.
If you are in an adventurous mood, walk across the Bridge to the Marin Headland side of the Golden Gate and return later with a ferry from the charming town of Sausalito. Another less demanding stroll takes you on an exploration of Golden Gate Park where beautiful green open spaces are the background to the renowned Academy of Sciences, the De Young Museum and the Conservatory of Flowers.
Enjoy a traditional tea at the Japanese Tea Garden., then continue to Park Presidio and visits of iconic landmarks such as the “painted ladies” of Alamo Square, Coit Tower and the Palace of Fine Art.
There is so much to see and to do in San Francisco, but a visit of the City-by-the-Bay is not complete without a visit of the prison Island of Alcatraz and a dining experience in the vibrant Mission District.
If you have another few days
San Diego • Spend a couple of days visiting beautiful San Diego. Balboa Park, the Gaslamp district, the beaches of Coronado Island and the colorful market of Old Town are only a few of the attractions of this fascinating city.
Wine Country • Just north of San Francisco lies the famed California the wine country. Spend a day or two visiting the wineries and tasting the wines of Napa and Sonoma, Alexander Valley, the Russian River and Anderson Valley.
East Bay • A short ferry ride away from San Francisco, the cities of Berkeley, Oakland and Alameda form the center of the East Bay. They are all attractive places in their own right with their vibrant scene of culture, food, music and performance arts.
Angel Island • Justifiably named the “Jewel-of-the-Bay”, Angel Island is a unique place of or beauty and history. Reached by ferry, sailboat or kayak, you can spend a day walking the upper trail for views of the entire Bay or just relax with a cold drink by the marina at Ayala Cove.
Muir Woods and Point Reyes • Walk among the giant redwood sequoia trees in Muir Woods Forest or search for the remnants of Sir Francis Drake’s wreckage in Point Reyes Peninsula. They are only two of numerous nature excursions in the region just north of San Francisco.