There's so much to see and do from Los Angeles to San Francisco that you may never want to miss. Admire the natural splendor of Yosemite National Park, the urban charm of San Francisco on this tour of the Golden Gates, the sea cliffs of Big Sur, and the beautiful beaches of Santa Barbara. There are over 12 must-visit stops from Los Angeles to San Francisco and everywhere in between. You can see the ocean, but you also get a look at some fascinating inland areas and drive through a variety of iconic landscapes. Here, we collected route options, best ways, hotel info, and travel tips to help better prepare for your California road trip itinerary!
6-Day California Road Trip Itinerary
Routes: Los Angeles - Yosemite National Park - San Francisco - Big Sur - Santa Barbara - Los Angeles
Durations: 6 Days
Day 1: Yosemite National Park
Day 2: San Francisco (Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown San Francisco)
Day 3: San Francisco (Lombard Street, Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, California Academy of Sciences )
Day 4: Big Sur (Point Sur Lighthouse, Point Sur State Historic Park)
Day 5: Santa Barbara (Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Solvang Village Square, Santa Barbara Waterfront)
Day 6: Santa Barbara Waterfront - Los Angeles
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National park is managed by the National Park Service and covers an area of 748,436 acres, which is internationally recognized for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, meadows, glaciers, and biological diversity. It is America’s third-oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The highest waterfall in the United States. June and July are the best time to see falls because the flow of the waterfall is the greatest.
Yosemite National Park is renowned for its granite cliffs and waterfalls. Half Dome and El Capitan are two of the formations made famous by photographer Ansel Adams. The valley is open year-round for camping, hiking, and climbing. In Summer, you can stay cool by swimming, rafting, fishing, tubing, and more in and around Yosemite.
Where to Stay in Yosemite National Park?
Evergreen Lodge Yosemite: mountain hotel in Groveland with outdoor pool and restaurant.
Simply & perfect. Great cabin, nice pool, awesome surroundings! The Evergreen Lodge is the equivalent of "glamping" for lodges. All the rustic woodsy fun of staying in a Yosemite lodge with all the amenities/activities found at a resort.
Address: 33160 Evergreen Rd, 30 miles east of Groveland, Groveland, CA, 95321, United States of America
Historic Fisherman's Wharf is the classic San Francisco experience where you will find a range of hotels, specialty restaurants, famous attractions, unique shops, breathtaking scenery and entertainment for the whole family.
You can come here to go on cruise or hire a bike to view the Golden Gate bridge. And there are street performers entertain on the wharf & the sights which are very amazing.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the one-mile-wide (1.6 km) strait connecting San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It's the symbol and landmark of San Francisco. The Frommer's travel guide describes the Golden Gate Bridge as "possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world".
Spectacular, iconic & fantastic! You can hire a bike & ride over the bridge to fully experience it, seeing pelicans flying low level, and seeing the sea was superb! If you don’t want to waste time on riding, you can take BUS 28 to Golden Gate Bridge. The fare is $3 and it usually takes one hour to tour around. You can walk on the bridge and enjoy the beautiful view of San Francisco Bay. Like many famous structures, there is a small area for tourists to learn about the history of the bridge. You will find it quite educational. No admission for all except parking.
Chinatown San Francisco
As the oldest in North America, San Francisco's Chinatown is an exotic experience. A unique neighborhood decorated with colorful shops, historic streetlights, hanging lanterns, and pagoda roofs awaits behind the stone-carved dragon gates. The flying plaque wall everywhere, Qionglou Yuyu, Chinese plaque, makes people completely unfamiliar in their hometown.
Feast on dim sum at the tea houses, or meet the locals who gather at historic Portsmouth Square to play chess or practice Tai Chi. Fish markets, produce stands, tourist shops, jewelry stores, fortune tellers, temples and restaurants come together to create a world unto itself in this historic neighborhood.
Known as the "crookedest" street in the world, the steep hills and sharp curves of this one-way road pass by grand Victorian mansions and attract millions of tourists each year.
You can either catch the hop-on hop-off bus or the cable car to this amazing sight. Cars are driving down it quite regularly so you can take some good photos. The street was designed this way to reduce the 27% decline, which cars can’t drive down to a much more leisurely 16%. It's worth to experience.
Palace of Fine Arts Theatre
It is currently enjoyed by visitors for its beauty, as well as by locals for private and corporate events and weddings. The entrance to the Palace of Fine Arts is often lively; you can often see children running about and playing in the open space. The lake and surrounding trees are also home to wildlife, such as ducks, birds and raccoons.
Designed to look like a Roman ruin, this golden building is certainly a beauty to behold.
California Academy of Sciences
The world’s only aquarium-planetarium-rainforest-living museum. Come nose-to-beak with penguins and parrots, watch sharks and sting rays cruise beneath your feet, and feel the spray of the California coast. Fly to Mars (and beyond the Milky Way!) from the safety of your planetarium seat, take a virtual safari in African Hall, or climb into the canopy of a living rainforest.
Huge biosphere, nice aquarium, excellent exhibits. Suitable for all ages. You can easily spend a few hours roaming through the building enjoying the content. The hop on / hop off bus drops you off right in front of the building during the week (but you’ll have to walk a bit if you use it on the weekend because the buses aren’t allowed in the park on the weekends).
Where to stay in San Francisco?
Hotel Drisco, San Francisco: upscale hotel within easy reach of Palace of Fine Arts.
Outstanding & wonderful with a great location. Top spots nearby: Palace of Fine Arts, University of San Francisco, Lombard Street, University of California San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge & more.
Address: 2901 Pacific Avenue, San Francisco, CA, 94115, United States of America
Staying in San Francisco is so pleasant that you wanna stop here. But next places are also fantastic, you will drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to view charming & natural landscapes. Let's start enjoying the climax of the 6-day California journey.
Point Sur Lighthouse
Point Sur Lighthouse is a California State Historic Landmark and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s only open for guided tours on a first-come first-served basis. Make sure to bring a jacket as it can be much colder in the lighthouse than it is in town.
The tours are not offered every day so check the website. You need to wait by the gate for a tour guide to let you in, so arrive a bit early as there is a limit on the guests and no reservations.
Point Sur State Historic Park
Point Sur State Historic Park is now a state park. Located 19 miles (30.6k) south of Carmel along the PCH (CA-1), this park preserves the historic Point Sur Lightstation which sits dramatically a top a gigantic 361 foot (110m) high volcanic rock overlooking the sea.
Point Sur State Historic Park, besides the famous lighthouse. It's the best place for visiting, camping, walking, cycling and so on.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
A breathtaking 80-foot waterfall dropping from the cliffs to the ocean is the focal point of this park. Enjoy your walk about the cliffs after your drive around the park. This is a very scenic park.
The view is spectacular. There is plenty of parking. Pay ten dollars to use it. And Hike up the cliff area was a little bit of a workout, but well worth the effort.
Solvang Danish Village
The Danish Village is a sunny town that the Danes say is even more Danish than Denmark. It is sunny most of the year. It has a Nordic-style church, windmills, shops and even the Little Mermaid statue from Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale.
A gem in California’s central coast with wine tasting rooms and Danish bakeries that creates a delightful tourist experience and feels like a world away. If you are looking for an experience full of fairy tales and small town, Solvang is the perfect destination.
Santa Barbara Waterfront
The Santa Barbara Waterfront captures that postcard-perfect view of the area’s famous coastline. Pristine beaches, palm tree-lined shores, and the Santa Ynez Mountains as a backdrop ensure plenty of photo-worthy moments. Take a bike ride or a leisurely stroll down the Cabrillo Bike Path, which runs parallel to three beaches. It’s easy to make your way from one beach to the next while soaking up the sunshine and ocean-scented air.
What To See Along The Santa Barbara Waterfront
1.Stearns Wharf is the most well known Santa Barbara Waterfront attraction.
2.Leadbetter Beach is one of the more popular and beautiful beaches in Southern California.
3.Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is a well-curated collection of artifacts and exhibits looking into the area’s rich maritime history.
4.Shoreline Park is a skinny bit of land right on the ocean. Walk along coastal walkways and enjoy views of the city and water, or take some time to relax and sunbathe on your next visit.
5.Arroyo Burro Beach is also known as Hendry’s Beach, and it’s another breathtaking beach park in Santa Barbara County.
Where to stay in Santa Barbara?
Spanish Garden Inn: 4-star hotel with outdoor pool, near Presidio Santa Barbara.
Quaint, super charming Spanish style hotel with very friendly staff. Rooms were clean, good sized with plenty of amenities. Complementary on site parking, heated pool, fireplaces in the rooms, balconies/patios, cute outside courtyard.
Address: 915 Garden Street, Santa Barbara, CA, 93101, United States of America
Renting a Car for the Road Trip
If you need to rent a car to start your road trip, you can book at Dollar Rent A Car, Europcar, Avis, Thrifty, Hertz, Sixt Rent A Car, CarRentals.com. Don't forget to earn up to 6% cashback from Extrabux!
Driving up the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the greatest ways to see a variety of scenery. Enjoy your trip!
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