Driving across the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to San Francisco ranks among one of the best beautiful road drives. So let’s check the complete LA to San Francisco road trip itinerary 8 – 10 Days for a perfect California road trip itinerary.
- Book your affordable rental car for the whole California road trip.
- Perfect Road Trip To Yosemite From Los Angeles With Scenic Stopovers
LA to San Francisco Road Trip Itinerary 8 – 10 Days | California Road Trip Itinerary
Distance from LA to San Francisco –
- 5 hr 49 min – (381.9 mi) via I-5 N (Internal highway, not a scenic one)
Though you can cover LA to San Francisco in 6 hours through speedy internal highways, for tourists, I would recommend taking a slower route across the scenic road with the great central coastal region of California, scenic Vista points, and charming small towns in California.
- 8 to 10 hours non-stop – (430 Miles) via Highway 101.
LA to San Francisco road trip through Highway 101, has numerous stops, vista points, and things to do. Therefore I would recommend splitting the journey from 6 hours to 7 to 8 days and staying in a few coastal towns in California.
TIP: Google map takes you through an internal I-5 route which is not scenic but faster.
So take a scenic route 101N if going towards San Francisco or 101S if towards LA/San Diego for all the best things to enjoy on the Pacific Coast Highway 1 road trip.
LA to San Francisco Road Trip Itinerary 8 – 10 Days
Day wise itinerary break up with suggestions on hotels, things to do, and other helpful information
Day 1 – 2 – Los Angeles (LA) – 2 days stay
Your tour of LA to San Francisco road trip starts from LA.
The most glamorous city of southern California boasts world-class tourist spots, idyllic weather, a funky dining scene, and many cultural-artistic attractions. There are many day trips from Los Angeles with numerous things to do in LA.
Things to do in Los Angeles – LA
- Universal Studios – Make sure to buy your admission tickets here.
- Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Rodeo Drive
- Beverly Hills Celebrity tours
- Warner Brother Studios.
Click here to Buy a Los Angeles city pass inclusive of 40+ attractions.
Dining Options –
- Cabo Wabo at the Hollywood Walk of Fame has an amazing Mexican food option.
- California Pizza Kitchen nearby is also a great dining option.
- For Indian cuisine, I would recommend Bombay Beach near Downtown and Flavor of India in West Hollywood.
Day 3 – Venice Beach and Santa Monica and drive to Santa Barbara –
- Explore nearby beaches of Santa Monica & Venice
Night stay in Santa Barbara (through Pacific Coast Highway and in between Vista points)
Drive across Pacific Coast Highway 1 from LA to San Francisco for a stunning coastal drive with Santa Ynez mountains cliffs on one side and a deep blue ocean on another side.
Distance of Santa Barbara from Los Angeles – 95 Miles (1 Hour and 45 minutes).
Santa Barbara is a beautiful coastal town in Central California. It is also known as Californian Riveria.
LA to Santa Barbara Road drive Video on Highway 101
Day 4 – Santa Barbara and Solvang city tours with nearby beaches.
Things to do in Santa Barbara
- Chromatic Gate
- East Beach
- Old Mission Santa Barbara
- Whale Watching Tours – Check out this tour to explore the wildlife of Santa Barbara.
- Santa Barbara Zoos/Ostrich Farms
- State Street
- El Presidio de Santa Barbara
- Arroyo Burro Beach County Park
- Stearns Wharf
- Take wonderful road day trips from Santa Barbara.
Dining Options – Santa Barbara has more than 420 restaurants which proves it to be one of the best foodie cities. The Downtown, waterfront, and Uptown areas are having the best eating options with outdoor seating areas too.
Also, take the Solvang day trip from Santa Barbara.
Solvang is a beautiful Danish town in California and is also known as the Danish capital of America.
Things to do in Solvang
- Old Santa Ines Mission
- Walk around the historic town and spot the Little Mermaid fountain, 5 windmills, the giant red clog & Round Tower
- Shop across 150 boutique shops
- Santa Ynez Valley tour
- Hans Christian Andersen Museum
- Wildling Museum
- Ostrichland USA
- Enjoy shows or concerts at Solvang Festival Theater
- Food tour to taste Danish delicacies and visit bakeries and Winery
Day 5 – Santa Barbara to Monterey road trip via Pismo, Morro Bay, San Simeon & Big Sur – night halt at Monterey
Check out from your hotel at Santa Barbara early morning – proceed to Monterey across Pacific Coast Highway – stopping at various stops.
STOP 1 – Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach is a seaside town that attracts all ocean lovers and is a perfect stop on Pacific Coast Highway 1. This is a classic beach town in the San Luis Obispo region with a surfing beach.
STOP 2 – Morro Bay
Morro Bay: Gibraltar of the Pacific is known for surfing, beautiful coasts, sandy beaches, and a perfect coastal holiday spot for nature lovers.
STOP 3 – San Simeon
San Simeon is the most beautiful spot on this highway. Exotic coastal cliffs and vast ocean views are worth turning off Highway 1 with elephant seals lying across beaches in their natural habitat. Do not miss this spot on this Highway 101 road trip in California.
Video tour of Pacific Coast Highway – Santa Barbara to Monterey | LA to San Francisco Road Trip Itinerary 8 – 10 Days
STOP 4 – Bixby Bridge
Bixby Creek Bridge, also known as Bixby Canyon Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California, is a perfect and must stopover during this road trip. It is one of the most photographed bridges in California.
STOP 5 – Big Sur
TIP – Start early as there are too many vistas and scenic spots between Santa Barbara and Monterey through the Central Coastal California region. This is the most scenic part of the whole drive.
San Luis Obispo is the most scenic part of California. From Santa Barbara to Monterey, we are covering this region.
Day 5 – 6 : 2 nights stay at Monterey with day trips to Carmel By The Sea city and Big Sur.
Distance of Monterey from Santa Barbara – 235 Miles
Late evening check-in after a hectic day of stopping over various scenic spots on Pacific Coast Highway.
Monterey Bay is known as the Serengeti of Marine life. With vibrant Pier and amazing marine life, Monterey attracts ocean lovers. Not only Monterey but its nearby cities like Carmel-by-the-Sea attract people a lot.
Dining Options –
- Carmel has many good dining options at Ocean Avenue.
- If you want to try out Indian cuisine then Namaste India is very good at Monterey.
Read more about the 10 Best Things to do in Monterey, CA this weekend.
Day 6 : Monterey city tour and Carmel by the Sea city tour
Why Carmel Valley – It is a Victorian seaside town known for its rustic charm with historic Spanish mission and beautiful village vibes. A perfect romantic seaside town with sandy beaches, streets decked with trees.
VIDEO TOUR OF MONTEREY CITY & CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA – California road trip itinerary
Distance from Monterey to Carmel-by-the-Sea – 10 min (4.3 mi) via Pacific St and CA-1 S
After Monterey’s stay, proceed to San Francisco via Santacruz.
Day 7 : Santa Cruz – then drive to San Francisco (night stay in San Francisco)
Distance from Monterey – 51 min (43.6 mi) via CA-1 and CA-1 N
A small stopover at Santa Cruz – beaches and cliffs tour
Things to do in Santa Cruz
- Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
- Main Beach & Cowell Beach
- Santa Cruz Wharf
- West Cliff Drive & the Surfing Museum
- Natural Bridges
Day 8 – 10 : San Francisco city tour and nearby day trip to Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley wineries.
2 to 3 days night halt at San Francisco. Click here to book a hotel in San Francisco.
A 49 square mile city known for its Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars is a cosmopolitan city in Northern California. This fog city is blessed with cultural diversity, beautiful nature, and beautiful amenities.
Dining options –
- Check out some cafes, and restaurants at Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier, Little Italy, and Union Square.
- The Cheesecake factory above Macy’s at Union Square is great for food with an outside dining option on the terrace for lovely views.
- For Indian cuisine, North India in the Downtown neighborhood is a great option.
SAN FRANCISCO CITY TOUR – BIG BUS | California road trip itinerary
You can opt to rent a car from LA airport and then return it to San Francisco airport.
TIP – For big cities, LA and San Francisco, do internal commuting by Uber, tram, and Big Bus. Parking can be a hassle and very expensive if found in both of these cities.
- So better to rent a car when you check out from LA and return your vehicle when you check in to San Francisco.
- Internal coastal towns have ample parking and hotels to provide parking.
LA to San Francisco road trip itinerary – General Tips | LA to San Francisco PCH
- California doesn’t have many toll highways, but if you find some, take the CARPOOL lane if you are more than 2/3 persons in the car.
- There are expressway lanes for which you need a transponder and so better to avoid it if you have rented a car and not taken a toll – transponder.
- While going from Los Angeles to San Francisco on Pacific Coast Highway 1, the ocean view would come towards the left side – means towards the driving seat side.
- Mark all Vista points before only on your Google map as returning on Pacific Coast Highway would be difficult due to mountain cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other side.
- Pacific Coast Highway is mainly mountainous, so you can feel dizzy sometimes and take light food during this drive.
- There are not many fuel/gas stations on the Pacific Coast scenic highway, so fill your tank to complete when you start from your hotel.
- Book your car for reputed Car rental services.
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