Have you ever watched the OC and just thought “Why can’t my life be that cool?” Well, unless you were a 13 year old girl in the early 2000’s, probably not. But who hasn’t had a dream of driving up the Pacific Coast? Here’s my advice for the best road trip ever, singing “Californiaaaaa, here we comeeeee” the whole ride.
Day 1: LOS ANGELES | BEACHES
Fly into LAX & rent a red hot convertible (or Jeep Wrangler…whichever is your style). Drive around the LA area and spend your afternoon into evening strolling down the Santa Monica pier and the Venice Beach Boardwalk. Don’t be scared to grab some incredible grub from a food truck!
Day 2: LOS ANGELES | HOLLYWOOD
Soak in being a tourist: do a little shopping on Rodeo Drive, take a hike up to the Hollywood sign, drive down Sunset Boulevard past the Walk of Fame, and maybe even get a peak into the world of Universal Studios. Spend your evening at LACMA getting lost in the lights!
Day 3: SANTA BARBARA
Enjoy the 1.5 hour drive from LA to Santa Barbara with a stop for lunch in Malibu or Ventura. By the time you get to Santa Barbara you’ll be ready for a Happy Hour sunset on the beach. Don’t skip out on exploring the downtown restaurants and bars either!
Day 4: SAN LUIS OBISPO
It’s back on the road to enjoy more scenic views from the Pacific Coast Highway. Drive another 1.5 hours to the wonderful (under rated) town of San Luis Obispo. Find one of the many intimate cottages to rent in the mountains and spend the afternoon wine testing on a family-run vineyard.
Day 5: THE ROAD TO BIG SUR
This will be your longest day in the car, but it will also be the most rewarding. On your 3 hour drive to Big Sur, make sure to make plenty of pit stops on the way-the views will be incredible! Go for a walk in Cambria, tour the Hearst Castle and view Elephant Seals in San Simeon, soak in the views at Ragged Point, and make it to Big Sur by sundown.
Your night in Big Sur will be your most adventurous of the trip (unless you spend every weekend naked in a hot springs with strangers?) That’s right, you will be spending the night in the Esalen Hot Springs, hanging over a cliff and watching the moon fade into the Pacific Ocean. Make sure to make your reservation in advance, as this exotic experience has a large fanbase.
Day 6: THE ROAD TO SAN FRANCISCO
Last day in the car to jam out to the RHCP singing Californication (and finally understand what it means). Enjoy some brunch in the town over from Big Sur, Carmel-by-the-Sea. This quaint cottage town has breathtaking beach views and lots of great eateries. Slowly meander up the coast, stopping for whatever may peak your interest-The Monterey Aquarium? Gilroy: the garlic capital of the world? A quick bike tour of the infamous Google Campus? The options are endless!
Once in San Francisco, you will no longer need your car, as you will quickly find out! Finding a place to stay is easy, but finding a great (and affordable) place can be a little more difficult. If you are on a budget, opt for an AirBnB to get a more authentic feel of the city.
Day 7: SAN FRANCISCO
You made it! The list of events, things to do, and places in SF are endless, but here are a few of my personal favorites: Take a boat ride to Alcatraz, get lunch in Chinatown, explore the record shops of Haight-Ashbury, kick back in Golden Gate Park, and take amazing photos of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. And of course if there is extra time, stop by the real Full House before flying out of SFO.