Taking the trip from San Francisco to LA is iconic, filled with gorgeous views, towering mountains and fun times. The Pacific Coast Highway is a great 450 mile stretch and guides you down the California coast.
Here are our favorite stops along the way for either an hour or a day:
First Stop: Santa Cruz
As the wonderful views of the city of San Fran slips behind you and the ocean views stretch before you get ready for some fun in the beach town of Santa Cruz. The classic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a half-mile long beachfront amusement park is filled with 34 rides and numerous arcades. The town’s vibe is funky and don’t forget to stop by the original Santa Cruz skateboard shop for a piece of history.
Carmel and Big Sur
If you’re looking for a great snack or amazing home-style breakfast, Carmel has amazing cafés and is the perfect stop before heading into the nature enclave of Big Sur. This coastal gem is full of some of the best hikes, waterfalls and hidden beaches. If you can find the one with purple sand, you’re in for a real treat.
Cayucos to Santa Barbara
Cayucos and a charming little town to stop for a night full of quirky boutiques, homemade food and wood-fired pizza. If you’re looking to dip your toe into surfing, Santa Barbara is a great place to stop. The bustling city, cute shops, picture perfect beaches and world-class seafood is a great place to spend some time.
The Final Stretch to LA
Start the day off right with a walk along Butterfly Beach. To ease back into the bustling city life, take the long route and drive through Malibu and Santa Monica. The Santa Monica Pier is a great stop with the pier’s ferris wheel and the end of the iconic Route 66.
Class C RV’s are the most common type of RV. Class C RV’s are characterized by the large bed directly over the drivers cabin. Class C’s are available in many sizes. I have seen them as small as 22’ and as larger are 35’. These motorhomes tend to sleep more people than a similar sized Class A as you get that extra bed over the driver. Most Class C RV’s allow you to walk from the driver’s area into the cabin of the RV, but I have seen exceptions to this, so it is always good to ask before you rent the RV if this is important to you. This RV will tend to be a little easier to drive compared to a Class A motorhome because the wheelbase is much more similar to regular passenger vehicles. In the end this is the most popular type of RV simply because of the extra sleeping space that it provides. Class C RV’s can be rented from almost any major city across the US including, Phoenix (PHX), Los Angeles (LAX), Chicago (ORD) San Francisco (SFO), Denver (DEN),Boston (BOS) Miami (MIA), Orlando (MCO), Ft Lauderdale (FLL) Las Vegas (LAS), RENO (RNO), New York City (NYC), Dallas (DFW), Salt Lake City (SLC), and Seattle (SEA).
Class A RV’s are characterized by the large flat front, similar to a bus. While Class A RV’s tend to be the longest of the RV’s available they also tend to sleep fewer people as there is no bed over the driver’s area of the RV. Class A RV’s also tend to be the most luxurious RV’s available, having more high end features. These RV’s are usually over 28’ long and some can be as long as 45’. Driving a Class A RV will take a little practice as they drive a little differently than most vehicles. You will need to take corners wider than with most vehicles as a Class A handles more like a bus. Any Class A RV that you find available for rent on this site will only require a standard driver’s license. Class A’s can be rented from Phoenix (PHX), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Denver (DEN), Miami (MIA), Orlando (MCO), Las Vegas (LAS), RENO (RNO), New York City (NYC), Dallas (DFW), Salt Lake City (SLC), and Seattle (SEA).
The motorhome you choose is really a matter of preference, and how many people you need to accommodate in your rental.
We’re incredibly lucky to have one of the top locations in the world for wine tasting right in our own backyard. When people think of the best vineyards, they think of California. And why not? California boasts cozy caverns, scenic vineyards and more then 50 types of grapes. What better way to tour the top California wine regions then in an RV. Your home away from home is ready and waiting.
When most people think of So-Cal they think of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Malibu. For the wine lover, winemaking has been taking place in these wine regions since the late 1700s. Grab some lunch and road trip up to the high elevation wineries in Malibu. Elevations range from sea level to 3,111 feet at Sandstone Peak. The newly granted Malibu Coast AVA is mainly in the Santa Monica Mountains and is about 46 miles long and 8 miles wide and includes 198 acres of vines for 52 grape growers. The high elevation in this “region’s climate, soils and unique aspects affect the taste of the wine produced.” Check out this post, by Wine Folly for an easy to understand write up of why that’s important. Why does this matter? It matters because the combination produces the delicious wine we know and love in Malibu.
While driving along the coast, don’t forget to stop by Mission San Diego de Alcala, as they are home to the oldest grapes in California. About an hour northeast of San Diego, off the beaten path, you can stumble upon Temecula. Best known for their Italian and Rhône varietals and the annual Balloon and Wine Festival. The Cucamonga Valley should also be on your hit list. Famous for preserving the past with historic vineyards and ranches and their old-vine Zinfandel and Portstyle wines.
HIGHWAY 1 – THE CENTRAL COAST.
If you’re doing a California road trip, how can you not drive highway 1? The coastal ocean views, the winding road, the wine along the way. Starting in LA, a quick two hour drive north make sure to stop downtown Santa Barbara for lunch and visit beautiful State Street and sample some of the regional wines at one of the street’s many tasting rooms. From there head inland. The Paso Robles wine region is unique as the day/night temperature swings create bold red wines that are a must. Paso Robles is about half way between LA and San Fran.
Continue heading north towards Monterey and stop by A Taste of Monterey, the regions ofﬁcial wine visitors center. You can learn all about Monterey Bay’s unique landscape and how it effects the vineyards, sample the regions wine, and maybe spot the whales migrating.
SAN FRANCISCO. Next stop, San Fran. Home of amazing restaurants, fresh local foods and the urban wine movement. During the day, wine and dine on Fisherman’s Wharf, then head to Jackson Square and sample wines at the various wine bars downtown. Check out this half day tour.
Any road trip that’s centered around wine tasting isn’t complete without stopping in Napa Valley. Just an hour northeast of San Francisco, start the day wandering downtown Napa and enjoy some local wines at the Oxbow Public Market. Head up Highway 29 to ﬁll your sights with what Napa Valley has to offer, stopping at renowned wineries for tastings. Keep an eye out for the landmark sign “Wine is bottled poetry” as quoted by Robert Louis Stevenson after a visit to Napa Valley in the 1880s. Known for its life-change Cabernet, Napa Valley boasts tiered hillsides, wine caverns and illustrious estates, making for stellar scenery every wine lover will swoon over.
SONOMA COUNTRY. Sonoma Valley, also know as Valley of the Moon, offers a bit more laid back atmosphere in comparison to Napa Valley. However, there are still more than 400 wineries with some of the best being: Chateau St. Jean, Simi, Sebastiani, Rodney Strong, Marcassin, Paul Hobbs, La Crema, and Kistler. The Somona Valley is known for its cool-climate Pinot Noirs. Be sure to taste a variety. While in the valley, Sonoma Plaza lies in the heart and offers a historic view of the country.
Visit the Golden Gate Bridge with its 748 foot towers and sweeping cables. The bridge was finished in 1937 and is now one of the most photographed bridges in the world. Over 10 million people a year visit the bridge. Hike the trails of the Golden Gate National Park which are located at both ends of the bridge. Or visit the Bridge Café for a healthy snack featuring local cuisine. A must is a visit to the Round House which has a photo booth that, with the help of a green screen, will put you a top the south tower or climbing the main cables hundreds of feet above the ground. You can also take a personally guided tour and learn the history of the Golden Gate Bridge. The best time to visit the Golden Gate Bridge is May/June or September/October as you should be sure to avoid the fog that is common during the summer and winter months.
Alcatraz Island also known as “The Rock” can be seen 1 ½ miles off shore of San Francisco. This island was once a lighthouse, a military fort, a military prison and a federal prison housing some of the world’s most notorious convicts such as Al “Scarface” Capone and the “Birdman” Robert Stroud. Now Alcatraz Island is home to many rare flowers and plants, marine life and thousands of sea birds. Make sure you allow at least 2 ½ hours from mainland back to mainland to make sure you have enough time to take the Cellhouse Audio Tour and explore the island and see the historical exhibits.
When I picture San Francisco I picture people running up to catch Cable Cars and jumping on. San Francisco’s cable car system is the last manually run cable car system in the world. Running since 1873 you can now take a ride on one of these cars from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf. Visit the Cable Car Museum at 1201 Main Street, San Francisco California 94108 for a free ride through history as you learn about the inventor, the technology and the bell ringing contests.
The San Francisco Zoo is home to over 250 species of animals. The Children’s Zoo features a Meekcat and Prairie Dog Exhibit, and Insect Zoo, a Family Farm and so much more to delight the child in all of us. Go on an Australian Walkabout and see the red and grey kangaroos and the wallaroos, you may even be able to see a little joey in its mothers pouch. Gorillas, Lions, Grizzly Bears, Penguins, there is so many animals to see make sure you leave enough time and wear your good walking shoes.
Fisherman’s Wharf is home to some of the best cuisine in the world. Sit and enjoy a meal in one of the fine dining restaurants or stop at one of the crab shack for fresh Dungeness crab or enjoy a bowl of seafood chowder in a sourdough bowl. Now that you are full sit back and watch the street performers, clowns, jugglers, mimes, musicians and fire eaters, but watch out for the Bushman as he scares unsuspecting people. Stop and visit the sea lions off of Pier 39, depending on the time of year there can be hundreds of these basking in the sun.
Where? Ghirardelli Square and on Beach Street between Larkin and Polk Streets
What? This is the 17th annual Chocolate Festival. This family friendly event features local chefs and their chocolate creations. It also includes live music, children activites and the “Earthquake” ice cream eating contest.