Arrival in San Francisco
Fly to San Francisco Airport and transfer independently to your chosen hotel to check in and have a restful night before the start of your coastal adventure. You could pick up your hire car at the airport but we don’t think you need the car until you’re ready to move on from San Francisco.
A great way to get your bearings in any city is a flexible hop-on / hop-off bus tour, and we can book you some tickets to do just that. Combine that with the number one attraction of San Francisco – the prison island of Alcatraz. It’s essential to pre-book your ticket for this tour, as every day is a sell-out. This evening perhaps explore Chinatown, where you can feast on Cantonese pork filled buns, Peking duck and Barrack Obama’s favourite Dim Sum.
The Golden Gate Bridge is perhaps the most iconic sight and what better way to take in the views than to take a bike ride over it. You can cycle over to Sausilito, a charming town full of quirky shops and boutiques, plus a picturesque waterfront and hundreds of quirky houseboats. But if cycling isn’t your thing, then there are plenty of other options – try out a Foodie Walking tour or choose a Segway tour of the neighbourhoods. We think the trams though are the best way to really experience San Francisco, with three lines running through the city. Buy a day pass for $21, work out your route and then sit back and enjoy the views.
San Francisco to the Monterey Peninsula – 118 miles
Pick up your hire car, then head south to the stunning Monterey Peninsula. But don’t take the direct highway, enjoy the scenic route heading clockwise along the beautiful 17-Mile Drive through Pebble Beach. This is what the northern part of the Pacific Coast route is all about – high cliffs swooping down to rocky coves and magnificent vistas. You’ll want to stop for some great photo opportunities such as the giant trees at Crocker Grove and the Restless Sea at Point Joe. At Spanish Bay, take time to stroll the boardwalk above the beach. Entrance to 17-Mile Drive costs $10.25 per vehicle (cash only), but it’s worth every cent. For the next few nights, stay in Monterey or Carmel – both beautiful locations filled with quaint boutiques, bars and restaurants
It might be tempting to spend the day just kicking back and admiring the spectacular views, but wine lovers are not going to want to miss a Monterey wine tour, golfers cannot turn their back on the 16 world-class golf courses in this area, and we can also recommend simply mooching around the pretty town of Carmel, where Clint Eastwood was once mayor. Here you can enjoy great views as you walk the Scenic Bluff Path which runs from surfers Carmel Beach to the nature reserve of Carmel River State Beach.
Monterey to Santa Barbara – 235 miles
The highlight of today will be driving the Big Sur – the rugged coastal stretch from Carmel to San Simeon. This part of Route 1 is world-famous for its plunging cliffs, stunning sea vistas and beautiful state parks, plus the iconic Bixby Bridge towering 270 feet across a canyon. Park the car and walk through Juila Pfeiffer Burns State Park to the spectacular McWay Falls, cascading 80 feet over granite cliffs into the ocean. You might want to stop for a late lunch in Pismo Beach, before the final drive into Santa Barbara, where you will stay for the next few nights
In Santa Barbara, described as the American Riviera, you will find Mediterranean-style white buildings with red-tile roofs, reflecting the city’s Spanish colonial heritage. The Ynez Mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to this charming resort, with winding lanes flanked by little boutiques and bars offering local wines. Cycle along the waterfront at Stearns Wharf, critique the fish & chips fresh from the daily catch, try out paddle-boarding or a kayak trip. East Beach is perfect for families with gentle surf and soft sand, and if you’re here on a Sunday you can browse the local art show.
Santa Barbara to Los Angeles - 95 miles
Don’t be intimidated by the vast sprawl of LA – we’ll choose the best hotel for you and your LA experience. Plan your time wisely in this city, so that you can see as much as possible – we can help you book some fantastic tours and experiences. The classic tours are those of Warner Bros studios and Movie Stars homes, but we would also recommend a food tour such as “Sips of Old Hollywood” taking you along the “Walk of Fame” to soak up the atmosphere in iconic bars, speakeasies and mobster hangouts.
A full day to enjoy the City of Angels, so why not take a guided hike or a horse-ride through the Hollywood Hills. We can also recommend taking a tour of LA by bike or Segway, or for movie buffs we can arrange a behind the scenes tour of Universal Studios Hollywood. This evening why not book a dinner cruise on board a sleek yacht to sail along the Southern California coastline, or if you would like something edgier how about an ethnic neighbourhoods foodie tour.
Los Angeles to San Diego - 120 miles
Today head further south to San Diego – known as America’s Finest City and well-loved for having a superb climate with year-round sunshine. There is so much to experience and enjoy in the San Diego area that you may want to book additional nights here to finish your holiday with a bang.
Perhaps start with a Segway tour to get your bearings in this stunning coastal city. You can also take a land & sea tour by SEAL or jump into a dinky little GoCar to zip around the streets. We recommend you take a cruise of some sort during your stay, which could be a whale & dolphin watching boat ride or a champagne brunch cruise around the bay. Highly recommended is a visit to the MSS Midway, once the largest aircraft carrier in the world, this ship is now a fascinating museum with 60 exhibits and 29 aircraft. A Trolley Tour ticket is a good value way to get around the city, as you can hop-on and off at 11 different stops, which will take you into the evening so you can sample the cafes, bars and restaurants of the Old Town.
You’ll have just a few more hours to soak up the sun and perfect your paddle-boarding technique, before taking the drive to either San Diego or Los Angeles airport for your flight home.