a VirtualTourist member from Milan
I'm about to visit California in early march. Thinking to drive from S. Francisco to L.A. along the coast on the pacific highway.
Is it a good time of the year to do it? Can I do in 2 days with a overnight somewhere halfway? If so, where would you recommend to stop?
Highway 1 is a great road trip. I would however suggest taking 101 out of San Francisco and connecting to 17 to Santa Cruz, then taking 1 from there. Carmel/Monterey is about 4 hours depending on traffic. I'd stop and explore there or continue to San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara.
It's wise to check on Hwy 1 road conditions as there's lots of construction and it can be closed at times.
Check http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/sr1 for current conditions before you start your trip.
March could have rain and if so, land slides along Hwy 1 come unexpectedly.
March in Southern California is not too cold and not too warm, and it will be colder in San Francisco. I did a series of tours called Grand California, amongst many others, so have a bit of knowledge of the route. Here is a running itinerary. Hope it helps you. Also if the following sparks more questions, feel free to come back and discuss it.
Remember, do not rent a car, until you are ready to leave the city. Parking is a real pain, and an expensive pain at that.
Many things to do in SF of course. As for accommodations, I like the St Francis on Union Square, but it is a fairly pricey property. I do however recommend staying on or a round the Square, as it is very central and close to attractions and public transport. Don't let the locals hear you calling the city Frisco. Them is fighting words in The City, which is what the locals call it. Here are four good boutique hotels there. I know them as well and they all are good.
We have some good SF people here so will only say that you should take time out for the Napa/Sonoma wine country, and the best way to prepare for that is to review the pages of my friend "travelgourmet" Here is his HP:
[original VT link]
.......................and follow the links on his travelmap.
You need to spend two nights in Monterey/Carmel and one more night, where depends on if you intend to do a Hearst Castle tour. If so, I recommend staying in Cambria/San Simeon, to take the 8:00am tour. If not, then you can stay in Solvang or San Luis Obispo, or any on the places in the area, including Morro Bay. Or even stay at the famous Madonna Inn. Really interesting story how it came about. The public mens room there is something to behold. The rooms each have their own style, Cave room, Pirate room, Renaisance room etc....
Here are a couple of things to do on the way between Monterey and San Francisco.
Winchester Mystery House. Another very interesting backstory, involving the daughter of the famous manufacturer of the Winchester rifle. She basically went nuts and had a construction crew work day and night adding to the house, - for 38 years. Stairs leading to nowhere doors into empty space, why? She was haunted by the spirits of all the people killed by the Winchester rifle.....and she meant to confuse them. Check it out here...
Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz...? Really weird phenomena to do with the time/space continuum. Nothing like it anywhere else, - and yes, it is not a hoax. It is real. Take a look....see the video:
There is so much to see and do on the San Francisco to L.A. route. I have fronted tours on this route and know it pretty well. Also a nice stop before Monterey is in the Santa Cruz beach/boardwalk community, one of the original 60s counterculture communities, and it shows. You can still see the aging hippies, running the candle shops and such, - it is a good thing.....d:o)
If you leave San Francisco early, you can take your time to get to Monterey. I recommend two nights there due to the abundance of things to see and do. Go through Cannery Row in Monterey, include absolutely the Aquarium. Perhaps a stop at Clint Eastwood's restaurant, The Hogs Breath Inn, in Carmel. (He actually sold it some years ago, but it still trades on his name...). It is on San Carlos and 5th. Dinner I would suggest at The Old Fisherman's grotto, originated by the legendary Sabu (the original Mowgli in The Jungle Book, and now run by his son). Perhaps a lunch in Carmel, or even at the Pebble Beach Golf Course, where you can pick up a gourmet lunch at the Market at Pebble Beach, next to the Lodge at Pebble Beach. Not sure if they have upgrated the brochure for the "17 Mile Drive", heading south, but if you look at the website it you can determine if you want to include it.
Here is my personal page on Carmel/Pebble Beach/Monterey, with all the additional websites you need.
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I would try to stay in Carmel, as it is a B&B type community, and atmospheric as well. Here is Doris Days's place, the Cypress Inn, and many others....
Then drive south through Big Sur, - it is a long and windy road with breathtaking views.(read up on it). Perhaps a stop at the old bohemian mecca, the Nepenthe, a favorite of Elizabeth Taylor, and have lunch. Then on down to Hearst Castle. Drive past the road leading to the castle, and stay overnight in one of the hotels down the road. The very first hotel on the left side of the road, (name escapes me), quite often would have Hearst family members do a informal talk with slides from the glory days of the family. Always a big highlight with my tour members. The tours at the castle start at 8:00 am, (they have a virtual tour on their website now). You cannot drive up there but take their bus up the hill.
Then continue south where you pass Morro Bay and Morro Rock, - and join highway 101, and then consider making a left at Highway 246 for about 5 miles to the Scandinavian village of Solvang. It is worth a quick stop.
Go back to 101, and continue through Santa Barbara. If you want to see some of this town, drive up State Street, and take your time.
As I said, if you decide not to take in the Hearst Castle tour, then you can pick a place to stay, as I said above.
Continue down through City of Ventura. Consider taking Harbor Blvd offramp for about a mile and you will see the Ventura Harbor sign. Turn right and go all the way around to the farthest parking lot and walk in to the harbor for a late lunch. Worth a stop.
When you leave, turn right on Harbor Blvd and run it all the way to Channel Islands Blvd, and go right to the Oxnard Blvd. Pacific Coast Highway intersection. Turn right on Highway 1, and take that road along the beach all the way through Malibu. Here is a site that lets you in on who lives in Malibu these days:
Take note of Zuma Beach, the surfer's mecca, immortalized in the film Point Break with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swazsy. Pacific Coast Hightway (Highway 1) will run into interstate 10 at Santa Monica Pier. This is kinda the short version but feel free to E-Mail me if you want further instructions.
Dont' worry about driving in L.A., - yes a lot of people are threatened by it having heard about our endless traffic. L.A. is the only major city in the U.S., that is built around the automobile and is therefore very much spread out, - an absolute opposite of San Francisco, which is very compact, and there you definately don't need a car. So don't pick up a car until ready to leave SF.
Good idea to stay in Hollywood, although parking is a little tight, as there are many things to see and do there that can be enjoyed on foot. There are plenty of hotels on or around Hollywood Blvd, but do not cosider any less than 3 or even 4 star hotel there. Here is my favorite old hotel, the legendary Hollywood Roosevelt, the home of the original Oscars. Great club there called the Cinegrill. Also a great place for celebrity sightings, especially at the pool.
Or do what I think is a great idea. Stay at the Magic Castle Hotel, which will get you into the iconic Magic Castle, a legendary private club, that just has to be seen, if at all possible. Check it out.
Take a look at my Los Angeles/Hollywood/Beverly Hills page, chock full of information on the areas with plenty of websites to absorb as well:
[original VT link]
A fixed cab fare to Downtown/Airport or vice versa is43.00. Should be similar to Hollywood. Ask the driver(s) first for a price. Or you can take a shuttle. Here are a couple of shuttle websites:
There is more of course, but this ought to get you started......
Hope this is of some service. Don't hesitate to ask specifics.......d:o)
.....Have a blast planning......d:o)
March is a pretty good time - not too hot, not too cold and should have fairly clear skies. Be careful though as fog on Hwy 1 can make driving those curves a little scary.
Cambria is a pretty good half way point to spend the night. It's kind of a weird little town near Hearst Castle but is a good distance between SF and LA.
You can definitely do it in 2 days but there's a lot to see and driving can be slow because of all the curves so be sure to try to really study what all there is to see along the way and decide ahead time what you're going to skip. This is a trip you could easily take 3 or more days to do so plan well. Factor some time into your schedule for just stopping by the side of the road at vista points because the scenery is the main attraction and staring out at the lovely views can eat a lot of time out of your day;-)
Be sure to add some time at the end of the trip for arriving into LA. If you're spending the night in Cambria, you'll end up getting into LA in time for the horrendous rush hour traffic. If Map Quest says getting from Point A to Point B will take 1:30, add another hour to that. Seriously. It can be bad unless you can manage to arrive on a Sunday or something, which would be best, if possible for you. I recommend staying on Hwy 1 for as long as possible - which will take you through Malibu and drop you off in Santa Monica (well, actually, you can take Hwy 1 a lot further than that but if you get off of it in Santa Monica you can avoid a lot of the freeway mess). Once in Santa Monica, don't get on the 10 (and definitely don't get on the 101 further north) as the traffic on both those (and the 405) will be awful. Stay on surface streets to get to wherever you've booked your LA hotel.
Odinnthor, you could retire nicely from the income you could earn for your advice here in VT. :-) Amazing info and nicely written and easy to understand.
I hope Roberto gains from your wisdom. Well done my friend. A thumbs up for sure!!!
Thank you sweet lady.....always nice to be recognized.......d:o)
nothing to add except here
>>> I would however suggest taking 101 out of San Francisco and connecting to 17 to Santa Cruz very good advise
If I drove again same roads I would leave CA1 also after Pismo (SantaMaria) take 101 toward Alamo, Santa Barbara, when I drove there I didn't, beside boaring way and many speed limits, must be carefull to speed traps, I've seen quite a few there.
I did this trip in May last year, but did it in four stages so I could stop off along the way to take in the gorgeous scenery.
I rented a car from Alamo at O'Farrel street SF and joined the pacific coast highway just North of Pacifica, no problem driving this route. Stopped off at Santa Cruz and spent a couple of hours on the boardwalk. My first nights stop was at Monterey (2 nights) so I could see the Monterey Bay Aquarium (superb). Second stop was at Cambria, about half way point between SF and LA. I stayed here at the Cambria Pines Lodge hotel. Third nights stop was Santa Barbara. I then carried on through Malibu and on to Santa Monica pier, where I got on the highway 10. This was heaving with traffic and moving very slowly at times, but I did manage to get to the Alamo car drop off point with 3/4 hour to spare, didn't think I was going to make it. Other stops along the way included Carmel (great beach and dog friendly), Morrow Bay, McAway falls in Julia Pheifer Burns state park (have your camera ready), also the elephant seals on the beach near Cambria. The weather in May was wall to wall sunshine for the three weeks I was there. As previously mentioned, there are a fair amount of roadworks on the PCH, but you should have no problems with the driving. Stop off places every few hundred yards with fantastic views.
Have a great trip Robert, you will love it.
If you only have one chance to visit I would suggest stopping in Monterey for one night, and then either Cambria by the coast or Paso Robles (a little inland) the 2nd nite or if you wanted to head a little further South, spend the night in Santa Barbara. This way you can also enjoy taking your time as you head South and enjoy the various areas, views, wine tasting. Karl
Guys, thank you all for great advices! Absolutely useful all of them, they will make my planning much easier!
You are quite welcome Roberto. Any questions, - come back and holla.....d:o)