The route between San Francisco and Los Angeles is essential when visiting California and several places of interest are worth a stop.
San Francisco, Los Angeles… names that make you dream. If you’re visiting California, why not plan a circuit between the two big cities and take the opportunity to discover less famous, but just as interesting, places? Here’s a little guide so you don’t miss anything on your trip.
San Francisco, a city apart
The itinerary obviously starts with SF, an amazing city. Count around 3-4 days to explore the sights. Remember to book your accommodation in advance, as hotels are often full. Also remember to move away a little from the center, it will be cheaper. Once well settled, you can discover the mythical Golden Gate Bridge. Those who have already seen it recommend biking (or driving) to the other side and eating in Sausalito for the best view of the bridge.
Another place of interest that deserves a visit, the Alcatraz prison. Once back in the city, take the winding Lombard Street. Complete your introduction to San Francisco by riding the cable car.
Now it’s time to take the car. The rental is very simple on the site, a passport, your French driver’s license (not the international one which is useless in the US), a credit card (no debit) or a American Express (which also offers car rental insurance for certain cards) and being over 21 years old (sometimes even 25) are the only formalities that will be required and there are many agencies available. Head South!
Meet the mythical redwoods
Your first encounter with nature will surprise you. Leave your car and enter Big Basin Redwoods territory. It is the oldest Californian nature reserve located in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Then you can go through the 128 km of trails to immerse yourself in incredible nature. The locals love this place because they can have a unique experience: kissing an ariolimax, or banana-slug, a very imposing endemic species!
If you have some time for your road trip, take a short detour to the coastal city of Santa Cruz. You can board a boat to see whales.
Also read: What to do on the way from San Francisco to Las Vegas?
Carmel, a must-see city
Time to get back on the road and continue south. Drive along the Monterey Bay to reach the city of the same name, where you must inevitably visit the magnificent aquarium. A short detour to visit the San Carlos Borromeo mission will allow you to travel back in time. Carry on and reach Carmel-by-the-Sea along the coast. It is the ideal place to take a break and relax on one of the magnificent beaches. You can also discover an amazing 200+ year old cypress tree not far away.
You can still find nature at Pfeiffer Big Park. You will be able to observe the river that joins the ocean, a high-ranking vegetation and fauna. Point Lobo is also an ideal place for nature lovers. This is the ideal place to see the sunrise.
If you like golf, several places are made for you: the superb green of Pebble Beach and the no less sumptuous Carmel Valley Ranch.
Before leaving Carmel, you can still see the amazing houses built by Hugh Comstock that will transport you to a fairy tale. Don’t miss the cabins nicknamed Gretel, Tuck Box, Hase still rent Obers (historic district).
Another amazing house, the Tor House is located on a very windy rocky promontory. It is a place totally out of time, a bit magical, a bit mysterious that can be visited by reservation.
Finally, before I leave Carmel, I will add that the small town had a very famous mayor in the person of Clint Eastwood.
New fascinating encounter with nature
From Carmel, you can easily get to Big Sur Redwoods. To better explore the place, spend a few days there and camp there. This will be your chance to drive down the famous 10-mile Newton B. Drury Scenic Road that crosses Prairie Creek, where you may encounter herds of elk.
You can also do many walks and discover the Mysterious Trees, an attraction that will allow you to learn about wood carving, but also gain height with the Sky Trail cable car. Large beaches are also available.
This is a little known place and yet it deserves your attention. This site is absolutely heavenly. You will find a dream setting highlighted by a superb waterfall that plunges from a rocky cliff of an incredible color towards the ocean, for more than 24 meters.
The place is about sixty kilometers from Carmel. Particularly photogenic at sunset, it is an interesting stopover and you will be alone, because the place is little known by tourists.
Santa Barbara, does that ring a bell?
After this unparalleled break, take Highway 1 to continue your journey to the city of angels.
A stage in a famous coastal city is essential: Santa Bárbara. It is not only the place that was highlighted by an ancient and mythical series, it is also a site that offers visitors a very soft and pleasant atmosphere. Here, the climate is exceptional, and the streets invite you to relax in an optimal way.
Plan at least half a day to discover the city. But nothing prevents you from staying there longer. Start in the city center and stroll around to make sure you don’t miss any of the magnificent facades like the colorful library.
Continue through the military fortress of El Presidio. You can see two buildings, typical of the colonial architecture of the eighteenth century. Take advantage of your stay in Santa Bárbara to visit the courthouse (I advise you to climb to the top of the tower to have a unique view of the city and of course the ocean) and the small chapel of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.
Art lovers can lose themselves in La Arcada. You’ll wander past art galleries, romantic fountains, and statues. The historical museum, the Franciscan mission, the zoo, the botanical garden and the marine center are other places to visit. You will have the opportunity to discover the history of the city, the whales or even a flora of great beauty.
We’re going to Los Angeles!
You have reached your destination. To get a good idea of the city, it is advisable to stay there for at least 4 days. There is too much to do!
Start at the famous Walk of Fame and take star photos on behalf of the most famous stars. Venice beach is also an unmissable destination. This is the beach that you cannot miss.
The Getty Center is also an interesting site with its ultra-modern design. It also houses the J. Paul Getty Museum. Rodeo Drive will seduce shopping lovers. Spend a few hours in the famous neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. I also invite you to stay or spend a day in the pool of the Sixty Hotel in Beverly Hills !
Return to the magnificent vantage point of Griffith Park, where the view of the city and its surroundings is remarkable. The place is also accessible at night to observe the sky and its myriads of stars. The telescopes are free and accessible until 10 p.m.
Also spend a few hours at Disney Park (Anaheim), the only amusement park designed by Walt Disney himself.
Cinema in the spotlight
Well, it’s no surprise, Los Angeles is the movie capital of the world. Start with the mythical white letters that dominate the city. Then head back to Universal Studios Hollywood. Come to the San Fernando Valley and discover the world of cinema and series.
An amusement park is also offered where you can immerse yourself in your favorite movies. Don’t miss a guided behind-the-scenes tour of the studio. Do you want even more? No problem, just a few miles away, Warner Bros Studios or Paramount Pictures Studios are just around the corner.