I am going to SF in early August. Is there a good train from SF to LA?
Yes, if you check the Amtrak website, they will give you two options.
The one you want is the Coast Starlight, which is a train only option that goes near the Pacific Coastline in segments with great views. Runs once a day.
The other option is the San Joaquin, which is a train that goes through pretty much boring farmlands to Bakersfield, where you transfer to a Coach Bus to Union Station (Downtown LA). This, in most people's opinion, not a "tourist route".
The Coast Starlight or Pacific Surfliner via Amtrak are your options, but you have to get over to Emeryville to start down the inland coastal corridor.
The train doesn't take you through the most scenic parts of the California coast. You won't see any ocean views until you get past Pismo Beach, which is about half way between the two cities.
Note due to the geography (water), there are no Amrtrak trains that go into the city of San Francisco, but they do provide bus service from the city of SF to the East Bay area and connect to the trains. A short bus trip, and usually at the same price as leaving for a nearby Amtrak Station. Check out Amtrak.com and enter the city code that it is nearest your Hotel...
The train is long and more spendy than the faster and cheaper is Mega bus. If you buy a ticket far enough in advance you can pay as little as $1. (May 1 right now). Trips is 7.5 hours.
Amtrak minimum $58 and at least 9 hours.Edited: 12:24 am, March 19, 2013
Great advise from Kibblesmom in thread 2 as well as a great deal as Suzie mentions via the bs. Unless you have a lot of time to spend in Ca, and don't want to drive the Coastal route which is a shame, you could fly and be in LA in 55 minutes with a flight from SFO or OAK to LAX or BUR for a pretty good price. check www.kayak.com or www.southwest.com for faresEdited: 12:26 am, March 19, 2013
What am I not getting? The OP asked about a train from SF to LA not LA to SF.
I am now confused, all the posts in this thread are talking about North to South (aka Bay Area to the LA Area). The OP asked about Trains, which the first few posts talked about, but there are the other options like the MegaBus that goes down the I-5 freeway and is normally called here at TA as very boring, catching a flight from the Bay Area to the LA area, though I would add LGB and SNA for other airports that service the Greater Los Angeles area. (I don't recommend LA/Ontario airport usually as it is in the Inland Empire (aka San Bernardino County).
I don't think anyone so far has confused what the OP wants to do. Darkbeer was just clarifying that the trains don't start or end in SF. You have to cross the bay to begin the trip. I think that's what he was pointing out.
It's all good. :-)
As Belo mentions, Southwest has flights SFO to LAX fro $87 full price including all fees (May 1 for comparison purposes) and only 1.5 hours. Think of what you could do with the extra time.
Ugh DB says you change trains in Bakersfield to transfer to a bus to go to Union Station in LA., That seems specifically like the wrong direction to me.Edited: 12:42 am, March 19, 2013