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Driving from LA to SF

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Toronto, Canada
posts: 31
Driving from LA to SF

I'm attending the National Associations of Realtor Convention is SF and we have decided to fly into LA and do the drive up highway 1 (I believe that is what it is called). We will have 5 nights to drive up the coast. Where should we stay, and what should we ensure we see? I'd love to stay in Carmel for a couple of nights.

Any suggestions appreciated!!

San Francisco...
Destination Expert
for San Francisco
posts: 21,776
reviews: 114
1. Re: Driving from LA to SF

Top questions on California forum for the la to SF drive.

Hotels in Carmel. What budget

Corona del Mar, CA
Destination Expert
for San Diego, Orange County, California
posts: 34,027
reviews: 341
2. Re: Driving from LA to SF

With 5 nights I'd do one or two nights in Santa Barbara, see some wine country maybe, one night in Cambria and two nights Carmel.

Pacific Grove...
Destination Expert
for Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Monterey Peninsula
posts: 5,257
reviews: 25
3. Re: Driving from LA to SF

Stops that are often recommended (with good reason): Santa Barbara, Cambria and Carmel/Monterey. A lot depends on what you enjoy seeing/doing. I will let those further down the coast tell you about that area, but for Carmel: if you can manage two nights, you'll find plenty to do: 1) Point Lobos State Reserve--gorgeous trails with ocean views--a photographer's dream! 2) Wine tasting in Carmel Valley--mostly tasting rooms around here, but you can tour the winery at Chateau Julien. 3) The Monterey Bay Aquarium is outstanding. 4) About 25 minutes north of Monterey is Elkhorn Slough, an amazing estuary filled with wildlife. You can rent kayaks or take a boat trip (elkhornslough.com and elkhornslough.org). Of course, it's worth it to time your drive so that you can spend some time in Big Sur on the way to Carmel. There are some nice hikes and beaches to see (bigsurcalfornia.org). These suggestions just scratch the surface. Happy planning! By the way, you don't say when you're coming, and lodging availability varies with the time of year and special events in the area, so unless you'll be here in winter, book way ahead!

Carmel, Indiana
posts: 471
reviews: 8
4. Re: Driving from LA to SF

I think a lot depends on your budget for hotels, and also do you want to stay by the ocean and then travel into the LA area? I will be doing the LA to SF trip next year, but I will be with my DH and 2 boys ages 20 and 17. We will be staying in Santa Monica, close to the pier as I think they will enjoy that..all the activity. We will be driving into West Hollywood. We might get bikes and ride to Venice Beach, if it's not too far.

We will be there 3 days, then start our trip north. We will spend the night in Cambria (and stay at the Best WEstern Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach). We will visit Heart Castle, Elephant Rockery on our way up the Highway 1. When we get to Big Sur, I heard a great place for lunch is at Nepenthe..a must do. There is the college town San Luis Ospido that is north of Cambria, but we won't go there.

We will go to Carmel to see, and I've been to Monterey (just 5 minutes away). The Monterey Aquarium is very famous. Howver, we will stay in Santa Cruz instead of those two places. I think the kids would like the Boardwalk, and we will go to Henry Park for the Redwoods. We'll sort of do the sites for those 3 towns in 2 days or so.

San Francisco..also has Muir Wood for the Redwoods but I cliffs and you are on the edge of them coming down from Muir Woods...I think Henry Park is good enough.

There are so many things to do, it's overwhelming and I find I redo my itenaray regularly. Good luck and have fun!

Carmel, Indiana
posts: 471
reviews: 8
5. Re: Driving from LA to SF

Will someone please tell me what is special about Santa Barbara that we should stop there on our way from Santa Monica to Cambria? Is it someplace that we should spend the night? What is there to do with 2 boys (ages 20 and 17)? I was planning on doing 3 nights in Santa Monica and stay by the Pier and do some West Hollywood touisty things...but is it worth is to just do 2 nights and spend a night in Santa Barbara?

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,385
reviews: 3
6. Re: Driving from LA to SF

"....There is the college town San Luis Ospido that is north of Cambria, but we won't go there."...

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Actually, San Luis Obispo is SOUTH of Cambria and where one picks up Highway 1 up to Cambria, Big Sur and beyond.

As for Santa Barbara.... It's a beautiful city by the sea with lots of Mediterranean architecture, palm trees and upscale shopping along State Street. I'm no expert on Santa Barbara. I live an hour and change away from it, but rarely go there. I prefer points north of where I live.... Cambria, Big Sur, Pacific Grove. I know Santa Barbara has a historical California mission, a popular courthouse with beautiful gardens that visitors love to check out, but not sure what would interest teens there... unless there's a musician or group they like playing at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

As an aside.... There really isn't much for teens to do in Cambria, either. Both towns are really geared more toward couples. Pismo Beach is geared more toward families. Your teens might enjoy hiring off road buggies/rails and riding out in the Oceano Dunes or skydiving Pismo Beach or renting a wet suit and boards and surfing by the pier.

Grover Beach, Ca
Destination Expert
for Pismo Beach, Cambria, Big Sur
posts: 14,385
reviews: 3
7. Re: Driving from LA to SF

@ ColdCanuck

I agree with scottca's itinerary for the amount of time you have. It can be tweaked based on your interests, though. IF you like wine, you might want to opt for one night in Santa Barbara and 2 in Cambria to take advantage of the nearby Paso Robles wine country, which is rivaling Napa Valley as of late.

Carmel, Indiana
posts: 471
reviews: 8
8. Re: Driving from LA to SF

Kibblesmom, thanks for responding.

We were going to stay 3 nights SM, then drive to Cambria just for one night. Get there about noon and then do the Hearst Castle tour in the afternoon. Leave in the morning to start the Highway 1 tour.

However, this is where I get confused as to what to do. Let's say we leave SM Monday morning at 7:00 a.m. What is the best use of our time between then and the next day. Do we bother with Santa Barbara, or stop at San Luis Obispo on our way to Cambria, since it's south ;) Is Cambria the best place to spend the night? Should we do Hearst Castle Monday afternoon, or leave it until Tueday morning before out trip up highway 1 to Santa Cruz. If we do that, then Monday is left over for other touring. Anyway, this part seems to be the biggest bottle neck in my planning. I want to make sure we dont' want time with nothing to do because I planned it our incorrectly...nor wear us all out, either.

Any help is most appreciated.

Edited: 1:04 pm, July 26, 2013
Toronto, Canada
posts: 31
9. Re: Driving from LA to SF

$300 would be fine if necessary. I know it is an expensive area

Toronto, Canada
posts: 31
10. Re: Driving from LA to SF

thanks everyone this is really helpful. We are really looking forward to seeing for our first time the coast.