Driving across the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to LA ranks among the best beautiful road drives. So let’s check the San Francisco to LA road trip itinerary 8 – 10 Days for a perfect California trip itinerary.
San Francisco To LA Road Trip Itinerary – San Francisco to LA Drive
- 5 hr 49 min – (381.9 mi) via I-5 S (Internal highway, not a scenic one)
You can cover LA to San Francisco in 6 hours through speedy internal highways, but it would not be a scenic route. For tourists, take a slower route across the scenic road with the tremendous central coastal region of California, scenic Vista points, and charming small towns in California.
- 8 to 10 hours – (430 Miles) via Highway 101.
San Francisco to LA road trip (San Francisco to LA Drive) through Highway 101 has numerous stopovers, vista points, and things to do. Therefore I recommend splitting the Pacific coastal road trip from 6 hours to 7 – 8 days with staying at coastal towns or cute romantic 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 101S if going towards LA/San Diego or 101N if towards San Francisco for all the best things to enjoy on the Pacific Coast Highway 1 road trip.
San Francisco to LA road trip itinerary 7, 8 – 10 Days
Let’s read the day-wise itinerary break up with suggestions on hotels, things to do, and other helpful information for a San Francisco to LA road trip.
Day 1 & 2: San Francisco (2 Nights Stay)
Your tour starts in San Francisco.
After staying 2 to 3 days nights in San Francisco, take a scenic coastal tour on Pacific Coast Highway.
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 Video City tour – Big Bus
Day 3 – 4 – Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel-By-The-Sea, Big Sur
- Distance from San Francisco – 1 hr 54 min (118.7 mi) via US-101 S
- Night Stay – Monterey or Carmel By The Sea
- Start early and drive to Monterey while stopping at Santa Cruz for a couple of hours.
- 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
After Lunch at Santa Cruz, proceed to Monterey. 2 Nights Stay in Monterey.
It would be best if you did late afternoon check-in after a stopover at Santa Cruz’s various scenic spots on Pacific Coast Highway.
Day 4: Next day, go for the Monterey city tour in the first half of the day and the Carmel by the Sea tour after lunch.
Monterey Bay is known as the Serengeti of Marine life. With a 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.
Distance from Monterey to Carmel-by-the-Sea – 10 min (4.3 mi) via Pacific St and CA-1 S
Carmel Valley is a Victorian seaside town known for its rustic charm, historic Spanish missions, and beautiful village vibes. A perfect romantic seaside town with sandy beaches and streets decked with trees.
Take a Video tour of Monterey & Carmel By The Sea.
On Day 5th, go for an Early morning check out and proceed to Santa Barbara from Monterey via many stopovers.
Book 2 to 3 Night Stays at Santa Barbara.
Day 5: Big Sur, San Simeon, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay and Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara (Night Stay at Santa Barbara)
TIP – Start your trip early in the morning, as there are too many vistas and scenic spots between Santa Barbara and Monterey through the Central Coastal California region. This region is the most scenic part of the whole drive.
San Luis Obispo is the most scenic part of California. From Monterey to Santa Barbara, we are covering this region.
STOP 1 – Big Sur
Big Sur – A rugged mountainous region between San Simeon and Carmel by the Sea on the Central Californian coast where Santa Lucia mountains meet the deep blue Pacific Ocean. It is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world and the most extended and scenic stretch of an underdeveloped coastline in the United States of America. This region would captivate you with the enchanting beauties of the tallest trees, Redwoods forest, and waterfalls along the rugged coastline and, therefore, must stopover from San Francisco to LA drive.
STOP 2 – 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 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. Take advantage of this spot on this Highway 101 road trip in California.
STOP 4 – 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 5 – Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach is a seaside town that attracts all ocean lovers and is a perfect stop on Pacific Coast Highway 1. This beach is a classic beach town in the San Luis Obispo region with a surfing beach.
After stopping over these scenic spots from San Francisco to LA road trip itinerary, you will reach Santa Barbara late evening and book your stay there.
Watch the Day 5 video of scenic stopovers.
Santa Barbara has many beautiful things to do and many cute romantic towns nearby, which you will cover on Day 6 and Day 7.
Day 6-7: Santa Barbara and Solvang
Santa Barbara is a beautiful coastal town in Central California. It is also known as Californian Riveria.
The following day means Day 6 – Take a Santa Barbara city tour
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, proving it to be one of the best foodie cities. The Downtown, waterfront, and Uptown areas have the best eating options and outdoor seating areas.
Now on the next day – day 7th, go for the Solvang tour.
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, five 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 7-9: Los Angeles via Malibu, Venice & Santa Monica beaches (Night stay in LA)
- Start your day early and drive towards LA while stopping over at scenic spots in between.
- Stop at the stunning beaches of Malibu, Venice, and Santa Monica, which are world-famous.
- Some people don’t book their hotel in LA and book their stays at ocean-side hotels on Venice beach or upscale beach town Malibu as these beaches are on the outskirts of LA city.
LA – The most glamorous city of southern California boasts world-class tourist spots, idyllic weather, a funky dining scene, and many cultural-artistic attractions.
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 has a great Mexican food option on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- 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.
Your tour from San Francisco to LA road trip ends in LA with stunning stopovers and visits to romantic towns.
FAQ – Road Trip from San Francisco to LA – San Francisco To La drive
- California doesn’t have many toll highways, but if you find some, then 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 San Francisco to LA on Pacific Coast Highway 1, the ocean view would come towards the right 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 few 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.
I hope you loved reading about San Francisco Road to LA road Trip Itinerary 8 – 10 Days. Tag me with your trip with #travelwithme24x7 and #Californiaroadtrip, and let me know your experiences.
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