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Drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles

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19 posts
4 reviews
Drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles

We are driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles taking the coast route in order to take in Big Sur.

Collecting a hire car 11am in San Francisco and need to return it to LAX at 11am TWO DAYS later. Therefore we have two overnight stops. We are thinking of driving San Francisco to Carmel?Monterey on the first day then take our time the whole following day to make our way down the coast.

Not sure where to make our second overnight stop. I am thinking of Lompoc as it seems like a decent driving distance to make it back to LA in time to drop off at 11am.

Is this reasonable?? Or should we make our San Francisco departure time a bit later given the fact that we need to negotiate LA traffic as first time visitors....ie would it be better to do say a 1pm pick up from San Fran so that we have until 1pm to get back to LA from Lompoc area?

Can anyone advise me on our choice of overnight stops...are there more advantageous places to break the journey?? Am I allowing enough time Lompoc to LA if I need to be there by 11, or is the later option better. We will be travelling mid to late September.


5 replies to this topic
Manhattan Beach...
Level Contributor
1,919 posts
67 reviews
1. Re: Drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles

I might try to overnight in Santa Barbara rather than Lompoc. Lompoc is a sleepy little town, set aways from the main freeway. It is a nice place with flower farms, a beach, rocket launching pads, and a prison, but not the place most people would think of first if they were looking for a vacation stop. Lompoc is about 3 hours from LAX. Santa Barbara is an hour closer to LAX. Santa Barbara is more of a tourist town. I have made the same drive that you are thinking about on multiple occasions and I would worry about traffic when you get into the San Fernando Valley, especially where the 405 and 101 come together.

I hate to say it, but your idea of the 1 PM car pick up has merit, although it is cutting short your time in Monterey. My first thought is that lunchtime traffic into LAX will be lighter than hitting the Valley at 10 AM.

Avila Beach...
Level Contributor
936 posts
8 reviews
2. Re: Drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles

Lompoc has a few nice places and merits, but for the most part it is not a tourist destination and has undesirable sides. It is quite out of the way - 30 minutes from Buelton or farther if you follow Rte. 1 all the way from north to south. I would definitely not recommend it as a stopping point to break up your journey. You will most likely be hitting traffic trying to arrive at LAX by 11 am, so you will want to be closer.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Borrego Springs, San Francisco, Solana Beach
Level Contributor
32,954 posts
26 reviews
3. Re: Drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles

I haven't been there in decades but my grandfather was stationed at Vandenberg a gazillion years ago and they referred to it as "Lom-puke" I'm not sure it's improved.

Los Angeles...
Level Contributor
973 posts
84 reviews
4. Re: Drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles

Lompoc isn't terrible, but I'd stay in Buellton instead if you want to stay in that area as it's right off the freeway. You'll need to get an early start.

Level Contributor
19 posts
4 reviews
5. Re: Drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles

Thanks so much!! We are revising our stay and going that little further on to Santa Barbara. Its just the 2 of us so we can make day 2 a long one if we want to see more in the Monterey area before heading further south. Has to be said....as an Aussie from Sydney, our freeways (carparks!!) do my head in during morning peak. There is no way in hell I am going to attempt an LA peak hour!!! :p

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