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San Francisco, Los Angeles

Where to stay driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles?

We are driving the coast road from San Francisco to Los Angeles and would like to stay 2 nights along the way, where do you recommend we plan or stops?

9 Answers

top answer by
Jake from Los Angeles

If you are taking the coast road between SF and LA, then that is probably scenic Highway 1 through Big SurTo break up the driving, you could spend each night in a different place, for example, 1st night along Highway 1 / Big Sur State Park, in a nice though pricey hotel. Then drive to Santa Barbara for the 2nd night.

If you prefer two nights in one place, take Highway 1 and stop in Morro Bay where there is a small waterfront, scenic bay, Morro Rock and plenty of mid-priced hotels. Or stay at the kitschy Madonna Inn Resort & Spa in nearby San Luis Obispo instead. From there drive to LA.The second option is taking the faster Highway 101 (slightly inland and less scenic) from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, and spend 2 nights. Hotel choices from mid-price to 5-star luxury. The Waterfront and Santa Barbara Downtown are nice.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Big Sur (city)
  2. Highway 1 / Big Sur State Park (attraction)
  3. Santa Barbara (city)
  4. Morro Bay (attraction)
  5. Morro Rock (attraction)
  6. Madonna Inn Resort & Spa (hotel)
  7. San Luis Obispo (city)
  8. Waterfront (attraction)
  9. Santa Barbara Downtown (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by

I presume you want to take the scenic coastal route rather than the 6 hour trip up I-5.  In that case, leave LA early, stop for breakfast and sightseeing in Santa Barbara, drive on to Solvang for lunch and some window shopping, check out Pismo Beach and finish the day in San Luis Obispo where you can see the historic mission, do some wine tasting, and spend the night at the landmark Madonna Inn Resort & Spa.  Without the stops, that part of the drive should take you about 3 1/2 hours.

The next day, stop for breakfast in Morro Bay then continue north on the Pacific Coast Highway (a.k.a. the PCH but officially Highway 1) to Big Sur where you will want to spend some time enjoying the magnificent scenery of the coastline and the redwood forest.  Have lunch and do some boutique shopping in Carmel then turn off the main highway to sightsee along the 17 Mile Dr to Pacific Grove.  End the day in Monterey where you will do some sightseeing, have dinner, and spend the night.  Without stops, that part of the drive should take you about 4 hours.

On the third day, have breakfast in Monterey (I like Loulou's Griddle in the Middle, the Old Monterey Cafe, and First Awakenings) before arriving early to spend a few hours at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. If you are up to it, after lunch rent a sea kayak and paddle out to where sea lions sun themselves in the kelp beds.  Otherwise, continue on north along Highway 1 through Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay to San Francisco.  This last day will take about 2 1/2 hours to drive without stops.

I hope you enjoy your trip and have gorgeous weather.  Just remember, if it is a hot summer day in California's Central Valley (where you would drive if you took the inland route), it's apt to be foggy and cool to cold along the coast.  Wear layers to stay comfortable.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Santa Barbara (city)
  2. Solvang (city)
  3. Pismo Beach (city)
  4. San Luis Obispo (city)
  5. Madonna Inn Resort & Spa (hotel)
  6. Morro Bay (attraction)
  7. Big Sur (city)
  8. Carmel (attraction)
  9. 17 Mile Dr (attraction)
  10. Monterey (city)
  11. Monterey Bay Aquarium (attraction)
  12. Santa Cruz (city)
  13. Half Moon Bay (city)
  14. San Francisco (city)
1 thanks

answered first by
Kristal from San Francisco

Hi Darren,

There are a few options, I might suggest staying in a different place for those two nights. You can do the following:

From SF you can stop at either CarmelMonterey or Big Sur on the first night and stay in Santa Barbara the next night. This will bread up driving time and Santa Barbara is a short drive to LA the following day. 

On the way from your first stay (Carmel, Monterey or Big Sur) to your second stay (Santa Barbara) you can also stop at Morro Bay or Hearst Castle.

Enjoy! It's a beautiful drive!



Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Carmel (attraction)
  2. Monterey (city)
  3. Big Sur (city)
  4. Santa Barbara (city)
  5. Morro Bay (attraction)
  6. Hearst Castle (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by

20 miles north of Santa Barbara is El Capitan Canyon "glamping" nestled in a ravine with yurts, tents and cabins for nightly rental (from $145) on a 350 acre site.  Very unique and a great experience with a surfing beach nearby.  From there, take HW 1 through Morro Bay and Cayucos to the Monterey Bay area.  There is so much to do and see along the way (Hearst Castle, Big SurCarmel Valley Village, Pebble Beach that you can't do it all.  If you want to overnight in a real, non-touristy N. Cal beach town, try Capitola at Gayle's Bakery & Rosticceria for dinner and breakfast.  Big Sur has been named "the greatest meeting of land and sea", but so is most of the rest of the drive.  Lucky you!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Santa Barbara (city)
  2. El Capitan Canyon (attraction)
  3. Morro Bay (attraction)
  4. Cayucos (city)
  5. Monterey Bay (attraction)
  6. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  7. Big Sur (city)
  8. Carmel Valley Village (attraction)
  9. Pebble Beach (attraction)
  10. Capitola Beach (attraction)
  11. Gayle's Bakery & Rosticceria (restaurant)
1 thanks

answered by
Terry from Sarasota

I think Carole Brow gave some great suggestions, however, I would add to those, for example;

1)  Carmel is a picturesque town, very close to the Monterrey Peninsula. Clint Eastwood was mayor here some years ago.

2) Hearst Castle is now a State Park, and even though the tour is now split into various portions of the property, it gives you a sense of how spectacular this estate was when it was first built by William Randolph Hearst.  Consider staying just down the road in Cambria, stop early and go get some great pictures along the coastline, because it is very pretty here (do you use Google Maps?  Map Cambria and look at the pictures section to see what I am saying).

3) Morro Bay as Carole pointed out, this is a place you are going to want to get your camera ready for.

4)  Pismo Beach  another scenic area.

5)  If you like Split Pea soup, you will want to stop at Pea Soup Andersen's and enjoy a lunch there.  I haven't been there for a while, but it used to be incredibly good soup.

6)  As 101 comes back to the coast, you would have the option of staying either in Gaviota or Santa Barbara, of which, Santa Barbara is the larger city and would have more hotel/motel options.

7)  Los Angeles  isn't a huge drive from Santa Barbara, however, do avoid "rush hour" traffic or you will get a lot of "standing still time" that will slow you down.

I lived in Los Angeles for 11.5 years, but I won't go into any suggestions for that area, as this is not the question you asked.

Have fun, because this route you are taking is beautiful and one you will quite likely never forget.

As a complete aside, have you considered departing San Francisco in a non-conventional manner?  Look at a Google Map, take Route 1 through Daly City to Half Moon Bay.  Half Moon Bay is very pretty, but from there, take route 92 to route 35 and you will be in the forest until you get back to the coastline at San Gregorio.  Most people are not even aware of this area on the Frisco Peninsula and it is very pretty all along route 35.

From San Gregorio, you would remain on route 1 all the way to Carmel.

Be aware that construction and/or maintenance might be taking place at various locations on route 1, sometimes both lanes get closed, most often it is only one lane closures. But this kind of thing will definitely slow you down, so just consider it as additional "photo opportunity time"!!

Have fun !

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Carmel (attraction)
  2. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  3. Cambria (city)
  4. Morro Bay (attraction)
  5. Pismo Beach (city)
  6. Pea Soup Andersen's (restaurant)
  7. Gaviota (attraction)
  8. Santa Barbara (city)
  9. Los Angeles (city)
  10. Daly City (city)
  11. Half Moon Bay (city)
  12. San Gregorio (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Jared from Walnut

Driving down from SF to LA can be either very boring (taking the 5 freeway). Or extremely scenic and beautiful (PCH). Since you are taking your time, definitely take PCH down. Cayucos is a really nice small beach town near San Luis Obispo. You get the beach and the scenery without the big city vibe. My family used to go there for vacations to get away from LA, to a place that wouldn't be as impacted as other vacation areas. I would recommend staying there. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cayucos (city)
  2. San Luis Obispo (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Vinesh from San Francisco

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Santa Barbara (city)
  2. Carmel (attraction)

answered by
Chase from Huntington Beach, California

Visit Solvang

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Solvang (city)

answered by

Some stops could be Carmel Morro Bay or Santa Barbara

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Carmel (attraction)
  2. Morro Bay (attraction)
  3. Santa Barbara (city)

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