California Road Trip – San Francisco to Los Angeles

Lost in the Journey

California Road Trip – San Francisco to Los Angeles

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California Coast Tour: San Franciso to Los Angeles – our 3 day California Coast Road Trip where neither Chris or I had to drive!

This trip included all the must see stops on the California Coast. Our guide was Adam, he is knowledgeable, friendly and is like your new travel BFF!

We booked our tour through Viator, it was simple and amazing.

On Tuesday morning, Adam pulled into our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Downtown San Franciso, right on time.  He loaded our luggage and after we collected another group from a different hotel we were off and running aimed at the Pacific Coastal Highway. Adam gave us a brief overview of the day and then we were on our way to Monterey.

There are planned stops every few hours to give you a chance to regroup, stretch and view the sites.  Our first stop was Pigion Point Lighthouse, part of the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

I was thrilled to see the plants! All of these we have to grow in pots back in New England.

Our next stop was at Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport. It is a family run farm with a lovely little shop where you drop your money in a till on the honor system.  We bought a pint of Mara Des Bois organic strawberries.  Chris and I had finished them before we pulled out of the parking lot. Yum!

We saw some beautiful California beaches and lovely homes on our drive down to Santa Cruz, where we stopped for lunch and a stroll.  We had a light lunch and a stroll around town window shopping.

Our next stop was Monterey, we were staying at the Spindrift Inn in Cannery Row (Steinbeck anyone?).

But first we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I did not expected to be impressed, but I was wrong.  The Monterey Bay is filled with Kelp Forrests which is home to some amazing sea creaters. Our timing was good and we watched the diver feed the sharks and other large fish. The special exhibit was Viva Baja, which featured creatures from the coastal habitats of Baja. Just take a look at this flamboyant cuttlefish – it is beautiful.

Our room at the Spindrift Inn was lovely, upscale beachy decor. There was a sweet bay window seat overlooking Cannery Row.

The only downside of the room was the lingering smokey smell.  The inroom fireplace had be used recently.

The hotel is 4 stories and has a large roof deck which overlooks Monterey Bay. We had our happy hour and breakfast the following day on the deck.  The views were spectacular, I want to have  my coffee there every morning!

Adam collected us early in the morning for day 2 of our coastal trip.  We were excited because the Big Sur scenic drive had just reopened a week before, it was closed for almost a year due to a landslide.

But first it was the world-famous 17-Mile Drive.  Magnificent views, homes, and my husband’s favorite – Pebble Beach Golf Club.  We had about an hour to wander around the grounds and through the club house. Did you know Pebble Beach is a public course? Anyone can play there – even me – Ha!

But there is more to see on this drive, The Lone Cypress – a California landmark, the Del Monte Forrest, Spyglass Hill Golf Course, The Poppy Hills Golf Course and more.

Carmel-by-the-Sea was our next stop. We had a drive by some of the sweet cottages then parked. We had about an hour to grab a quick lunch (lots of great little coffee shops) and window shop. Since Chris and I love walking, it is fun to explore these little towns. This $3,500 leather jacket caught my eye,  but I couldn’t get Chris to bite 🙂

Big Sur – all I can say is WOW! The 3+ hour drive up and down twisting roads with breathtaking views. We stopped several times for photographs, even ran into people from Boston. These photographs do not do the scenery justice!

We stopped in San Simeon to view the Elephant Seal Colonies – the male seals were in residence – they are huge and loud.  Fun to watch.

Hearst Castle – what can I say…..250,000 acres, 41 fireplaces, and 60 bathrooms!

1 Refilling-the-Pool_4157

Photo credit: from

Adam dropped us off and went to check us into our hotels and drop our luggage (one of the great perks of tour travel). We boarded the bus at the visitor center then began the treck up the mountain to the Enchanted Hill for the Grand Rooms Tour. The tour was interesting, and included parts of the gardens, pools and the large entertainment areas.  The real fun was wandering the gardens and taking in the breathtaking views.

After a white-knuckle ride back down the long driveway, we were off to our hotel in Cambria, The Rigdon House, a lovely boutique hotel off the main drag. We were just a little late for happy hour, which is ubiquitous in Coastal California. We enjoyed some nice Chardonney and light finger food along with delightful company: a young couple from Dublin, Ireland, a couple from Simi Valley and a couple from Los Angeles.  We eventually made our way to Robin’s for dinner. It was accross the street from Rigdon House and recommended by Adam.  The atmosphere was California Coastal Casual and we had a great meal – I highly recommend the Pecan Tart if it is available, Yum!

Our suite at Rigdon House was gorgeous, well appointed and very clean. We really only were in Cambria for dinner and sleep, but from my short peak of the area – it looked like a nice sleepy, well traveled town between San Franciso and LA.

Day 3 began with an 8:00 am pickup and a morning drive to Solvang. A Danish tourist town loaded with wine tasting and pastry shops.  We stopped for an hour and had enough time for a pasty, coffee and a walk about town.

Santa Ynez Valley was next on our list, loaded with vineyards, grapes and cows as far as you can see (at least until the mountains inhibit the view).

We finished our time with Adam in Santa Barbara.  He brought us to the Amtrak Station as planned and organized each groups tickets to Los Angeles.  We were spending two days in Santa Barbara (do you see a new blog possiblity here?), he arranged our tickets, and dropped us at our hotel, which he had recommended and was spot on!

Our touring trip was perfect, Chris didn’t have to drive so he got to see all the amazing vistas, relax and enjoy the ultimate summer road trip!

If you want to take this wonderful Pacific Coast road trip, you can book it here. Make sure to tell Adam, Sandi sent you!

Happy Travels,


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50 Responses

  1. You’ve made my miss my home of California so much! I love all the beautiful pictures you’ve taken. Absolutely stunning!

  2. Amanda says:

    Ah, this brought back such nice memories! When I first moved to California I lived in Monterey (and yes, part of that decision was Steinbeck-based, ha), and so many of the places you mention were my initiation to this place. I’ve never heard of the tour you took and it sounds like such a great way to see the sights! Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Amber says:

    We are head to LA soon, hoping to get to see some of these same things!

  4. Claudia says:

    Wow! Thank you for sharing all of this. I visited California like 3 months ago and I regret I couldn’t take as many beautifull picture you did. Well, now I have an excuse to come back.
    I loved the article!

  5. Traci Heaps says:

    Sounds like a great get-away! My daughter moved to the Bay Area in January and I haven’t been down to visit (from WA State). I guess it’s time! I have always wanted to visit Monteray.

  6. What an amazing trip! I didn’t know you could book trips such as this, what a fun way to see such a beautiful area. Love your photos they’re beautiful and so is that leather jacket! Ohh ahhh! Thank you! 💚

  7. Anna says:

    I love west cost. And this trip looks like was lot of fun. Thanks for sharing

  8. Holly Bird says:

    looks like you had a wonderful trip! Thank you for sharing such beautiful pictures!!

  9. Dina Ferguson says:

    You were in my neck of the woods! I used to live in that area and have been to all the places you mentioned. It’s a beautiful part of California. Great photos!

  10. Ramae says:

    I’ve never been to California, so I feel like I was living through your photos! A California coast trip is now on my bucket list. Thank you!

  11. Rachel Newlon says:

    My husband and I drove down the coast at one point and really enjoyed the sites!

  12. Katie says:

    Gorgeous photos! California is on my bucket list. Lucky me, it’s where my college roommate lives so I will have a place to stay! Ha

  13. Tricia Snow says:

    Wow, what an amazing trip! And a personal guide to boot! Your photos are fantastic as well. You really got a lot accomplished in three days!

  14. This looks like a great trip. Thank you for sharing

  15. Leigh Ann says:

    This looks like a great trip! I’ve been to some of those places and seeing your pictures really takes me back there. Thanks for sharing!

  16. What a fun trip! I didn’t know you could book one like that!

  17. Brittany says:

    What a gorgeous trip. You packed a lot in for three days!

  18. Meagan says:

    Looks beautiful! Sounds like a fun trip! I read all of these travel blogs and start to think maybe I should travel more 😛

  19. Janine says:

    We’re headed to this area in May and I can’t wait! I love the coastal scenery.

  20. What gorgeous views! I’ve never been to the west coast, but wow!

  21. Cindy says:

    Looks like an amazing trip, made better by not having to drive! I love tours.

  22. What a great trip! I’m from LA but I’ve never done a road trip to San Francisco. Looks like SO much fun!

  23. Stacey says:

    I’m currently planning my first trip to California, but we are arriving in LA and then heading south to San Diego. But I do dream of going up the coast someday. I’d never considered booking a tour for the trip. That would be so cool. It looks like you had a wonderful trip!

  24. Laura says:

    This is by far one of my most favorite trips! Looks like you enjoyed it very much too! Great post! Great pictures!

  25. Shirley says:

    As I am looking out my window at 2 feet of snow and 10 degree temperatures…..these pictures looks heavenly and warm. I would love to take this trip right now and feel the warmth and see the beauty. Thanks for sharing!

  26. This is such a beautiful and serene drive! Love all of these good reminders! I will have to plan some in to the Spring!

  27. Pauline says:

    Wow!!! This looks amazing!!! I have never been to California.

  28. Dennis says:

    Sadly, I’ve never been to the West Coast. It’s definitely on my list of to do. Great guide

  29. jen says:

    looks like you hit all the highlights on the trip! And you got to see Hearst pool with water! great trip and great post!

  30. Carmen says:

    What a great way to see the sights! I’m sure you stopped places you wouldn’t have if you had driven it on your own.

  31. Kat says:

    So many things to see between San Francisco and L.A. I grew up in San Francisco and did the drive often, but was always in a hurry. Thanks for reminding me of all the cool stuff!

  32. We’ve driven the California coast hitting some of the same spots – but we did the driving. This sounds like a great adventure to have someone else do the driving! The pictures were awesome. I love the Northern CA and Oregon coast – it’s just beautiful. Great trip/great post!

  33. T.M. Brown says:

    What an adventure! I love the pics you shared and you have me wanting to drive the west coast now. Hearst Castle sounds fascinating and those coastal pictures make me miss the water!!!!

  34. Nicki says:

    Thanks for sharing. We too had a great time on our California trip. We made a very similar trek from San Francisco to LA.

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