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California, San Francisco, Monterey, Carmel By the Sea, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas

14 days itinerary in California


I will travel to California (+Vegas) during my next holiday and I will have only 14 days.

I planned the following itinerary:

San Francisco -- 3 days

Monterrey/Carmel -- 1 day

San Luis Obispo -- 1 day

Santa Barbara -- 2 days

Los Angeles -- 2 days

San Diego -- 2 days

Las Vegas -- 3 days

total 14 days

What's your opinion?  Should I visit less cities and stay longer in one these places? 

What do you suggest?

Thanks in advance!

22 Answers

top answer by
Paul from New York City

I would skip Vegas entirely. Its a long detour and a rather unpleasant place in my opinion. Very crowded and with a strong feeling of materialism. Everyone is there to spend money and the city is designed like a giant cash register to make this easy. Visually the strip can be quite striking. So If you really feel the need, spend one day visiting the strip.  That's more than enough. 

San Francisco, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo and Monterey are so beautiful, you will not want to feel rushed.  Los Angeles has lots to see but it takes time to go from place to place so 2 days will feel rushed. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Francisco (city)
  2. Santa Barbara (city)
  3. San Luis Obispo (city)
  4. Monterey (city)
  5. Los Angeles (city)
13 thankscomments (3)

answered by
Dave from New York City

It depends on the type of trip that you want. Personally if I was doing the trip (and I have) I wouldn't forget to include Big Sur or Yosemite - as they are two of the most beautiful places in the State and the country.

I would also make a concerted effort to take highway 1 between San Francisco and San Luis Obispo. That route takes you past Pacifica, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Monterey/Carmel By the Sea (you already mentioned that destination), Big Sur, Hearst Castle - and you might even see a Condor or two.

Last thing - and most importantly - Las Vegas is fun for no more than three days, so in case you find yourself saying you might just get to Vegas a couple of days early - it will chew you up and spit you out if you try. :)

Happy Tripping!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Big Sur (city)
  2. Yosemite (attraction)
  3. San Francisco (city)
  4. San Luis Obispo (city)
  5. Pacifica (city)
  6. Half Moon Bay (city)
  7. Santa Cruz (city)
  8. Monterey (city)
  9. Carmel By the Sea (city)
  10. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  11. Las Vegas (city)
9 thanks

answered by
Kelsey from Los Angeles

I think it all depends on your taste. If you are one for nightlife and entertainment, then Vegas and LA should definitely get a lot of attention. If you prefer to have a little breather from all the craziness of life, then spend some more time in Santa Barbara and Central California. For a nice mix of culture, nature and nightlife, San Diego and San Francisco are definitely great picks.

So, I'd say take a minute to explore your options in all the cities, and then base your length of stay in each location on being able to squeeze everything in without feeling too rushed. 

Definitely hit up the beaches in San Diego: in La Jolla enjoy the expansive stretch of sand and shops at La Jolla Shores

then venture a bit north to Encinitaswhere Swami's Beach is a famous favorite.

Fresh Mexican food is plentiful, but if you find yourself in La Jolla, you absolutely cannot skip Rubicon Deli in Mission Beachfor some seriously life-changing sandwiches.

For nightlife, you can't go wrong anywhere in the Gaslamp Quarter.

In Santa Barbara, if you are interested in outdoor water activities, try Santa Barbara Sailing Center,Santa Barbara Sailing Center for food, TAP ThaiTAP Thaiand Los AgavesLos Agavesand McConnell's Fine Ice CreamsMcConnell's Fine Ice Creamsare some of my top picks.

I hear amazing things about Enjoy CupcakesEnjoy Cupcakesso you probably should not pass those up. 

Also, although I have not personally experienced them, I know from others that the wineries in Santa Barbara and Santa Ynezare worth exploring. 

In Central California, try visiting Hearst Castle in San Simeon, as well as the wineries that region is famous for. 

In San Francisco, I enjoy a nice walk around Golden Gate Park and a visit to the De Young Museum

If you are anything like me and addicted to Asian food, San Tung Chinese Restauranthas the most delicious, mouthwatering, spicy wings and fried green beans. The wait can be a little ungodly (45 minutes is considered pretty fair), but trust me, it is so worth it.

Another one that is NOT for the line-phobic is Tartine Bakery & Cafe-amazing pastries, an SF food landmark in my opinion. 

Have a fantastic time! If my answer came a little too late, then pass this on to your friends :-)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Diego (city)
  2. La Jolla (city)
  3. La Jolla Shores (attraction)
  4. Encinitas (city)
  5. Swami's Beach (attraction)
  6. Rubicon Deli (restaurant)
  7. Mission Beach (attraction)
  8. Santa Barbara (city)
  9. Santa Barbara Sailing Center (attraction)
  10. TAP Thai (attraction)
  11. Los Agaves (restaurant)
  12. McConnell's Fine Ice Creams (restaurant)
  13. Enjoy Cupcakes (restaurant)
  14. Santa Ynez (city)
  15. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  16. San Simeon (city)
  17. San Francisco (city)
  18. Golden Gate Park (attraction)
  19. De Young Museum (attraction)
  20. San Tung Chinese Restaurant (restaurant)
  21. Tartine Bakery & Cafe (restaurant)
  22. Gaslamp Quarter (neighborhood)
7 thanks

answered by

If you have never been to Las Vegas, you should go! I agree with the others here, it's a long boring drive through the desert from Los Angeles. But once you arrive you're in a city with some of the best restaurants, shows and nightlife in the country. All within a four mile strip of glittering lights. In three days, take a ride on the high roller, enjoy the Fountains of Bellagio, zip line on Fremont Street Experience, try your luck at the tables, soak in the sun poolside, get a massage at the Imperial Spa (off strip) and awe at the acrobatics of a Cirque Du Soleil show.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Las Vegas (city)
  2. Los Angeles (city)
  3. Fountains of Bellagio (state)
  4. Cirque Du Soleil (neighborhood)
  5. Imperial Spa (attraction)
  6. Fremont Street Experience (attraction)
7 thanks

answered by

I recommend stopping to see the elephant seals about 4 miles north of San Simeon.  Hearst Castle is pretty cool as well. There is a good cafe/wine tasting at San Simeon State Beach. I would only stop in San Luis Obispo if you are going to be there on Thursday night for the street market.  If you love to take landscape pics then stop at the Oceano Dunes at 22nd Street in Oceano in the late afternoon. You may be able to arrange a photo session with noted dunes photographer by calling the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center. Eat fabulous Mexican food in Guadalupe at El Tapatio or at Romo's MarketAvila Beachis a nice beach and on Friday afternoon they have a small street market with a live band. Pismo Beachis a good surf beach. It looks like a good itinerary. Enjoy your trip!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Simeon (city)
  2. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  3. San Simeon State Beach (attraction)
  4. Oceano (city)
  5. Guadalupe (attraction)
  6. El Tapatio (restaurant)
  7. Romo's Market (attraction)
  8. Avila Beach (city)
  9. Pismo Beach (city)
  10. Oceano Dunes (attraction)
  11. Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center (attraction)
7 thanks

answered by
Pat from Cambria

Just a couple suggestions. The drive from Monterey down the coast will be a day. Stay overnight in Morro Bay before driving on to Santa Barbara. Split the rest of your time between Los Angeles and San Diego. Visit Santa MonicaHollywood and other sights. Lots to do in the greater LA area. Then to SD. The drive back to Vegas is a long drive and I personally don't understand what people see in Vegas. While San Francisco is one of the greatest cities in the world. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Monterey (city)
  2. Morro Bay (attraction)
  3. Santa Barbara (city)
  4. Los Angeles (city)
  5. San Diego (city)
  6. Santa Monica (city)
  7. Hollywood (city)
  8. San Francisco (city)
6 thanks

answered by
Max from Bay Area

Hey Vini MV,

Sounds like a pretty good itinerary to me!

Those are the main places I'd cover and the amount of time in each seems about right.

What time of year will you be here? Do you have specific dates yet?

Are you more interested in seeing cities, nature/outdoors stuff, or a combination of both?

If you want to see more of the beautiful California coastline, driving south on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH or Highway 1) will give you some breathtaking views, but will add travel time. I'd spend part of the drive on the PCH and part on Highway 101, for a combination of both.

During part of your 3 days in San Francisco, maybe get out of the actual city of SF and check out some of the other spots in the bay - Mount Tamalpais State Park or Point Reyes Station to the north, or Berkeley/Oakland to the East. If you like hiking, I can recommend a few trails in either area (and in Santa Barbara).

Also, I'd check out Morro Bay near San Luis Obispo when you're down there.

Happy travels,


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Pacific Coast Highway (attraction)
  2. San Francisco (city)
  3. Mount Tamalpais State Park (attraction)
  4. Point Reyes Station (city)
  5. Berkeley (city)
  6. Oakland (city)
  7. Santa Barbara (city)
  8. Morro Bay (city)
  9. San Luis Obispo (city)
4 thanks

answered by

If you like wine, you should spend a day doing a limo tour or selfdrive Napa Valley. They're famous for their wines. You should also spend a day at Yosemite National Park, the second most popular national park in USA. If you like hiking, Bishop Peak will give you amazing views of the town and nearby mountains. While in San Francisco, visit Twin Peaks, walk Golden Gate Bridge, and walk down Lombard Street. If you have time, drive up to Mount Tamalpais.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Napa Valley (metro area)
  2. Yosemite National Park (park)
  3. Bishop Peak (attraction)
  4. Twin Peaks (attraction)
  5. Golden Gate Bridge (attraction)
  6. Lombard Street (attraction)
5 thanks

answered by

Hi! I would spend the 1 day for Carmel By the Sea/Monterey in Carmel only. Monterey is actually not that great in my opinion. Carmel is beautiful and relaxing. You could have breakfast in Monterey, then take 17-Mile Drive to Carmel and spend rest of the day there. 

You also may not need 3 full days in Las Vegas. Most people do weekends there (Fri night, Sat, Sun) and it suffices since you can choose to forgo sleep for partying. Hope this helps.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Carmel By the Sea (city)
  2. Monterey (city)
  3. 17-Mile Drive (attraction)
  4. Las Vegas (city)
4 thanks

answered by
Scott from Phoenix, Arizona

Good itinerary already.  I would focus most of the trip in San Francisco and San Diego.  The beach communities in between can be enjoyed as small detours while passing through (Santa Cruz, Monterey, Santa Barbara).  Los Angeles is tough to love in my opinion -- huge sprawling area with sights spread out considerably.  Personally, I love Las Vegas but agree with others that 2 nights is plenty.  Northern California is beautiful but would totally change your travel plans and commitments (Redwood National Park is a significant drive north of San Francisco).  You might think of doing Napa wine country if you are into wine and just skipping some of the coastal towns until you get to LA/San Diego.

Have a great trip!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Francisco (city)
  2. San Diego (city)
  3. Santa Cruz (city)
  4. Monterey (city)
  5. Santa Barbara (city)
  6. Los Angeles (city)
  7. Las Vegas (city)
  8. Redwood National Park (park)
  9. Napa (city)
4 thanks

answered by
Gail from Madison

Combine Monterey/Carmel By the Sea, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo into 3-4 days, but fewer towns/hotels.  Too much moving around.  If you're going to spend 3 days in Las Vegas, go to Valley of Fire State Park (or fire valley?), Lake Mead or Hoover Dam.  Unless you love glitz & gambling 3 days in LV is too much.  

There's a nice boat tour/dinner leaving from Monterey. I prefer San Diego to Los Angeles.  Friendlier, less citified.  Some people love the opposite of LA.  Have fun!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Monterey (city)
  2. Carmel By the Sea (city)
  3. Santa Barbara (city)
  4. San Luis Obispo (city)
  5. Las Vegas (city)
  6. Valley of Fire State Park (amusement park)
  7. Lake Mead (attraction)
  8. Hoover Dam (attraction)
  9. San Diego (city)
  10. Los Angeles (city)
4 thanks

answered by
Claire from Oakland

Hey Vini,

That sounds like an awesome trip and definitely a broad view of California!! In terms of cutting down on cities, I would say it depends on whether you're flying or driving to some or all of these places. Though there are some lovely stretches of road on the coast, it will eat out a decent amount of time to drive to each. If you are driving, I'd recommend using a tool like to lay out all your destinations and calculate the travel time in hours. It will give you a better idea of how much real time you'll have in each city.

PS Definitely keep 3 days reserved for San Francisco :) 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Francisco (city)
4 thanks

answered by
Angela from Lompoc

If Vegas is a must do thing consider flying because the road trip is pretty boring and quite long. Vegas can be fun but is exhausting and three days might be an overload unless your planning a spa day. The central coast San Luis Obispo, Cambria, Avila Beach, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Ojai, are all nice examples of small town California. Things are slower and nature is right outside, so if you want to explore, hike, skydive, rock climb, ride horses, wine taste, beach it etc., spend more time there.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Luis Obispo (city)
  2. Cambria (city)
  3. Avila Beach (city)
  4. Pismo Beach (city)
  5. Santa Barbara (city)
  6. Ventura (city)
  7. Ojai (city)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Trish from London

I would skip San Luis Obispo and stay the extra night in Big Sur. Have oysters and a glass of wine at Rocky Point Restaurant and take in the stunning view. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Big Sur (city)
  2. Rocky Point Restaurant (restaurant)
3 thanks

answered by
Kyle from San Diego

That's a pretty good looking itinerary to me. 2 days in Santa Barbara might be a bit much, but at that point it'll probably be nice to relax a bit in one place. You might be a bit rushed in general, but you'll definitely see some of the best California has to offer.

Have a great trip!

3 thanks

answered by
Chris from San Francisco

What time of year are you going? I see Kings Canyon National Park/Sequoia National Park only mentioned here once and that place is spectacular: like Yosemite without the maddening crowds.  

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Kings Canyon National Park (park)
  2. Sequoia National Park (park)
2 thanks

answered by
Emi from San Francisco

This itinerary looks great! We live in California and love all the places you listed. I have guides to many if you visit my blog travel section at! I would probably spend less time in Vegas, the rest looks great! You'll love San Francisco! :)

2 thanks

answered by
Russell from San Francisco

I'd take one less day in San Francisco and instead add a day hiking in Big Sur.  Driving along the cliffs is a nice drive, but hiking among the redwoods is quintessential California.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Big Sur (city)
2 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Elana from Sunnyvale, California

If you want like wine, stop by Four Gates Winery in the Santa Cruz mountains as you're driving through.  They have unique and artisanal wines

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Four Gates Winery (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Andreas from Sandviken, Sweden

I would not make a full day stop in San Luis Obispo. It is a nice city, but unless you are stopping for a specific reason, I'd spend that day somewhere else. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Luis Obispo (city)

answered by
Sona from Newport Beach

Newport Beach or Laguna Beach?  

LA fancy restaurants/bars - Skybar ... The Bazaar... Warwick ....

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Newport Beach (city)
  2. Laguna Beach (city)
  3. Skybar (attraction)
  4. The Bazaar (restaurant)
  5. Warwick (attraction)

answered by
Wade from San Francisco

Hi there- I wouldn't really bother with San Luis Obispo and spend that day in Los Angeles. SLO's not that great. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Luis Obispo (city)
  2. Los Angeles (city)

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