Drive      Fly      Stay      Login    Signup


Brooke from Florida asked

Any "must see" places to go to while staying in California?

Our budget for the trip is $10,000.

My 2 sisters and I will be staying in California for 2 weeks. We are driving from Colorado, starting at the southern end and driving through to the northern parts, so we will hopefully be able to see a lot of California!

What places do you recommend we go to? What activities should we do? We love being outdoors :) Thank you!

California (CA)

6 Answers
top answer by
Debbie from San Francisco

Sounds like fun, Brooke!  I just did a similar drive myself a couple of weeks ago and being a California girl, have road tripped to various parts of the state over the years, so I'll highlight a few of my favorite things!

In San Diego, Sunset Cliffs is beautiful to check out any time of day, but as you guessed it -- extra beautiful at sunset.  While in town, you have to have a California burrito (that's fries inside of your burrito instead of beans and rice), which I had a good one of at Lolita's Taco Shop, and you have to have fish tacos, which you should visit The Fish Market for!

A tip for the drive up: I would try to drive along the coast as much as I can, even if it's longer, at least during the day time when you can see things.  Take the 5 and the 1 and I agree with Zach -- spend as much time on the Pacific Coast Highway as you can.

When you get up to the San Luis Obispo area, check out the famous Madonna Inn Resort & Spa, even if you aren't staying there.  It's crazy cool to look at!  You should also head over to Morro Bay and go to the beach where Morro Rock is.  It's gorgeous out there.  Also stop by Montana De Oro State Park if you love sea life.  If you go during a time when the tides are right, there are tide pools there.  Sea anemones, sea urchins, and sea otters galore!

Definitely stop by Big Sur.  It's so insanely beautiful there!  The water is incredibly blue.  Just drive along the 1 and pull over anywhere on the side of the road that looks awesome.  If you're looking for food up there, I just discovered Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant the other week and their 9 grain baked pancake is to die for!  You can also stop there for a quick snack of coffee and baked goods to go.

Carmel By the Sea also has a very beautiful beach, and Monterey right next to it is really famous for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  For a nice dinner spot in the area, go to Passionfish.  It's upscale with super fresh, delicious seafood, and they sell their wine at cost.  I went there with three friends and we got the works -- apps, entrees, dessert, and a bottle of wine and it came out to just less than $50 a person.  Worth it for such a nice meal!

When you get to Santa Cruz, you can stop by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, The Mystery Spot which is a gravity defying attraction, and the gorgeous Seabright State Beach.  For food, I just discovered  Betty Burgers, which has awesome burgers, sweet potato fries, and shakes!  Saturn Cafe is also very popular.  It's a hip vegan and vegetarian diner.

From that point on, you could keep driving on the coast up to Pacifica and Half Moon Bay, or you can drive a little more inland back into civilization and hit up towns like Palo Alto, and drive up to San Francisco.  Let me know if you want any specific recommendations there.  I have too many!

Further north, you can go hike at Muir Woods and go to Stinson Beach.  Then if you want to see wine country, you can head east to Napa and  Yountville.  Two of my favorite wineries are Domaine Carneros for bubbly, and Artesa Vineyards & Winery just for how beautiful the winery and view are.  For a nice restaurant experience that wouldn't break the bank, check out these two by world famous chef Thomas Keller: Bouchon for baked goods, and ad hoc for weekend brunch or dinner.  It's a prix fix meal that's around $50 per person.  Thomas Keller also owns another really amazing restaurant in Yountville called The French Laundry, but that's about $250 a person, so the other two are definitely more budget-friendly options!  Even if you don't go to restaurants in Yountville, at least walk downtown on Washington Street.  Super cute town!

Other cute towns up there are St Helena (California) and Calistoga.  Tons of wineries and gourmet food up there, and Calistoga is especially famous for its spas if you want to have a spa day with mud bath and mineral soak.

Hope you ladies have fun and let me know if you want any other specific recommendations! :)

Comments (0)


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sunset Cliffs (attraction)
  2. Lolita's Taco Shop (restaurant)
  3. The Fish Market (restaurant)
  4. Pacific Coast Highway (attraction)
  5. San Luis Obispo (city)
  6. Madonna Inn Resort & Spa (hotel)
  7. Morro Bay (city)
  8. Morro Rock (attraction)
  9. Montana De Oro State Park (attraction)
  10. Big Sur (city)
  11. Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant (restaurant)
  12. Carmel By the Sea (city)
  13. Monterey (city)
  14. Monterey Bay Aquarium (attraction)
  15. Passionfish (restaurant)
  16. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (attraction)
  17. The Mystery Spot (attraction)
  18. Seabright State Beach (attraction)
  19. Betty Burgers (restaurant)
  20. Saturn Cafe (attraction)
  21. Pacifica (city)
  22. Half Moon Bay (city)
  23. Palo Alto (city)
  24. San Francisco (city)
  25. Muir Woods (attraction)
  26. Stinson Beach (city)
  27. Napa (city)
  28. Yountville (city)
  29. Domaine Carneros (attraction)
  30. Artesa Vineyards & Winery (attraction)
  31. Bouchon (restaurant)
  32. ad hoc (restaurant)
  33. The French Laundry (restaurant)
  34. St Helena (California) (attraction)
  35. Calistoga (city)
likes (6) thanks
answered by
Terry from Sarasota

I would suggest that if you have the time, route yourself through northern California and stop at  Lake Tahoe first.  That area of California is extremely beautiful, you can either stay on the Nevada side, or the California side, depending on whether you want to gamble or not.

Then on to  San Francisco via  Sacramento, this route will bring you through the agricultural area of central California, and then on to the eastern side of the bay which will give you great views of San Francisco.

Stay in San Francisco for a while, giving you the time to visit  Muir Woods, and wine country in general. In fact, there are a number of great hikes on the northern side of the Golden Gate bridge, and San Francisco is a great walking city all by itself.

You could then plan on driving south to  Los Angeles via the coastal route, which would give you time to explore  San Simeon (California)Monterey and  Santa Barbara.  Again, the number of hikes along the coastal route is vast, and the geography along that route is fantastic.

Los Angeles itself is not terribly exciting for an outdoors person, but do try and visit  Venice Beach, the beach is pretty, the people there are unusual to say the least, and you can walk on one of the nicest bike paths around.

Sorry that this is such a "general outline", but I think if you do a bit of Google exploring, you will find that you can indulge your outdoor desires, with a serving or two of interesting places.

Comments (0)


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lake Tahoe (city)
  2. San Francisco (city)
  3. Sacramento (city)
  4. Muir Woods (attraction)
  5. Los Angeles (city)
  6. San Simeon (California) (city)
  7. Monterey (city)
  8. Santa Barbara (city)
  9. Los Angeles (city)
  10. Venice Beach (city)
likes (4) thanks
answered first by
Zach from Los Angeles

Spend as much time on the Pacific Coast Highway as you can, and if you are not already planning a stop in Big Sur you are crazy—especially as a lover of the outdoors. 

Comments (0)


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Pacific Coast Highway (attraction)
  2. Big Sur (city)
likes (4) thanks
answered by
CJ from Los Angeles

Looks like there's some great suggestions so far! If you do swing through LA, definitely consider setting a couple days aside to do some leisurely hikes or jogs, which are often under-estimated in the city.

Hiking up  Runyon Canyon Park is a favorite activities among us locals, and also gets you a great view of the city. Another great hike to consider is the  Temescal Canyon Park hike by the Pacific Palisades. Great view of the coast!

Hope you have fun!

Comments (0)


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Runyon Canyon Park (attraction)
  2. Temescal Canyon Park (attraction)
likes (2) thanks
answered by
Kelli from San Luis Obispo

Pismo Beach beach Marisol At the Cliffs Resort has a nice happy hour and a lovely ocean view. In downtown Pismo near the pier you can rent surfboards/boogie boards/wetsuits if you wanna try those water sports out.  Splash Cafe is know for its clam chowder it's always packed and has a real local feel, there is another in San Luis Obispo that is just as good and less crowds but not by the ocean. It also has delicious bread and pastries.

Avila Beach is a really cute, really small beach town, at the end of the main road is Port San Luis and there you can rent kayaks and paddle boards to explore around the cliffs out to a tiny beach, a 5 minute walk will take you to a cute lighthouse and a really pretty view. If you happen to stay in San Luis Obispo there are lots of hikes with pretty views also, of my favorites are  Bishop Peak.

If you like wine tasting head to Paso Robles tons of wineries you can check out your options at If you enjoy horse back riding there are tours offered in Cambria and Paso Robles with gorgeous views and the tour guide Michael is fantastic more details at

I 100% agree with the others Hwy 1 is a must drive, some of the most beautiful views. There are tons of HUGE elephant seals off the side of the highway in  San Simeon (California) is a good place to pull over and stretch your legs and checkout the big guys. You'll see the dirt parking lots and people parked hard to miss but it's about 4.5 miles past  Hearst Castle.  Eat at  Nepenthe good food, good beer, even better view, a bit pricey but even if you just stop in for the sights it's worth it they have a cute gift shop too. Make a stop near Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and walk the McWay Fallss trail it's an easy 5 minute walk that takes you to overlook a private beach with a waterfall, worth the stop you can park right along the road. That's just a bit of the central coast but California has soooo much to see!!!

Comments (0)


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Pismo Beach (city)
  2. Marisol At the Cliffs Resort (restaurant)
  3. Splash Cafe (restaurant)
  4. Avila Beach (city)
  5. Bishop Peak (attraction)
  6. Paso Robles (city)
  7. San Simeon (California) (city)
  8. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  9. Nepenthe (restaurant)
  10. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (attraction)
  11. McWay Falls (attraction)
likes (2) thanks
answered by
TJ from Marina Del Rey

California is home to the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states:  Mount Whitney Summit in Lone Pine.  

I hiked to the summit at the end of August and it was cold enough that I had to wear many layers on top as well as long johns.  The 22 mile round trip is worth is but you must plan ahead.

Comments (0)


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Mount Whitney Summit (attraction)
  2. Lone Pine (city)
likes (1) thanks

Questions   ·   Destinations   ·   Drive   ·   Fly   ·   Airports   ·   Stay   ·   Search

Login   ·   About   ·   FAQ   ·   Feedback   ·   Privacy   ·   Terms