Duration(in days): 14
See more ideas for: USA
Discover California on this Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Starting in San Francisco, you’ll wander through Chinatown and cruise across to Alcatraz before heading down the Pacific Coast Highway. Watch whales in Monterey and explore the beaches of Big Sur. Drive along Route 1 enjoying the rugged coastline to Santa Barbara. Visit the beautiful Mission Church and eat fresh seafood by the jetty before driving to Los Angeles. Finish your holiday soaking up the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and people watching on Venice Beach.
This itinerary can be tailored to suit your requirements; please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream trip.
Depart the UK from your chosen airport. On arrival in San Francisco, you will make your own way to your hotel and check in for three nights.
You’ll have two days to explore “the city by the bay”. Make sure you take the cable car down to visit the sea-lions at Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf, before jumping on a boat over to Alcatraz Island where you can learn about the prison’s history. Spend your afternoons uncovering the rest of the city - why not browse City Lights Bookstore for a glimpse into Beat Poetry history before strolling into Chinatown for some dumplings? Or you could explore the Mission District with its colourful murals and famous burritos, before renting a bike and cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge for iconic views back over the city.
Today you’ll collect your rental car and drive east towards the Sierra Nevada mountains, where Yosemite National Park lies. On arrival in El Portal, a small village just outside the park, you’ll check into your hotel for 2 nights.
Spend the day exploring the Yosemite Valley, a gorge in the endless granite that shows off the famous Yosemite Falls as you drive towards El Capitan. At the end of the valley you can take a steep but beautiful hike up to Vernal Falls, or if you’re feeling fit you can keep going until you reach Nevada Falls, each stunning waterfall cascading down the cliffs before you. For the best views, drive to Glacier Point where you can take a wonderful photo with Half Dome in the background – the drive along here will take you past small, lush paddocks where chipmunks scurry amongst the wildflowers.
Head back to the Pacific coast today – if you leave by 9am you should be in Monterey by lunchtime. Grab a quick bite by the harbour before heading out on a whale watching cruise, where you’ll hopefully spot the splashing tails of blue whales and humpbacks.
Start today with a walk along the wharf, stopping at the little shops and restaurants that line the colourful front. Make sure you visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium where you can spot sea otters, sharks and thousands of other beautiful marine creatures – we’ve included admission as we wouldn’t want you to miss it! This afternoon, why not drive along ‘17 mile drive’; the pretty coastal route that will take you round the rocks to the neighbouring town of Carmel, where boutique shops and gourmet restaurants await. Enjoy the sunset from the sandy beach before tucking into a delicious seafood dinner in one of the local restaurants.
You are now lucky enough to be embarking on the most picturesque drive of your whole trip. This is another day that warrants an early start, as there are endless places to stop and enjoy. You will soon reach the famous Big Sur where you’ll drive over enormous bridges, with cliff faces plunging into the Pacific Ocean, hidden coves and bays, and plenty of lay-by’s to pull into. A great place to stop is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, where you can see the 80-foot waterfall, enjoy panoramic ocean views, and walk some of the trails. This drive really is spectacular, so take your time and enjoy the ride.
Santa Barbara is a laid-back beach city where celebrities escape the busy city of Los Angeles to relax in the sunshine. It’s full of Spanish architecture with boutique shops and open-air restaurants dotted along State Street in the middle of town. Spend the day shopping or on the beach, enjoying the views from the long pier before eating a delicious bowl of seafood in the balmy evening air.
If you want to be more active, why not take a day tour to the Channel Islands National Park? Located just offshore, the scattered islands have miles of hiking trails, clear blue waters to kayak through and lots of wildlife to discover, from the endemic island fox to rockpools full of anemones and crabs.
Today you’ll head down to Los Angeles. It’s a wonderfully scenic drive through Malibu down the Pacific Coast Highway – 2 hours later you’ll have arrived in Los Angeles, where you’ll check into your hotel for 3 nights.
You’ll be based in Santa Monica so make sure you explore this oceanfront city first; from the iconic pier where you can ride the Ferris wheel for clear views down the coast to Malibu. Explore the streets full of trendy coffee shops and modern galleries before heading to the beach to relax on the sands. Why not hire a bike and cycle down the Venice boardwalk past quirky shops and street performers, arriving at Muscle Beach where you can watch the body builders training.
If you have time, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood isn’t far away – make sure you check out the Walk of Fame and Universal Studios. In the late afternoon, we’ve included a hike of the Hollywood Hills, so you’ll have a lovely opportunity to watch the sun set over the city from the hilltop Griffith Observatory.
Today, you’ll drive your hire car back to the airport in time to drop off and catch your flight home.
The coastal cities of central California sit on the edge of the Pacific Ocean giving them a changeable climate, where you can experience summer and winter in the same day. Coastal breezes keep the cities cool and huge fog drifts can sweep over the San Francisco during the summer meaning winter is usually more reliable with clear days and moderate temperatures. Cooler than most areas of California – you are more likely to be too cold than too hot, so bring a jacket!
If you'd like to get a feel for this trip, read our blog post ‘The best route for a California road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway’ - written by one of our consultants who has been there.
This itinerary is purely a suggestion and can be tailor-made to your requirements, so please contact us with your dates and requests, and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.