As summer quickly approaches, it’s time to start planning that next vacation, and hurry up because hotels are certainly filling up in well-known destinations across the US. I have spent much time in California, from North to South, but every time I return there is still so much more to discover. My next trip will be in just a few weeks! Here’s a one-week road trip that I can propose from San Francisco down to Los Angeles where you’ll visit quaint seaside towns and have the opportunity to stop in wine growing regions worth the detour. Please make sure you check on opening times, closures, and COVID-related restrictions to every single one of these locations before you go. Things are constantly changing and being prepared in advance is key to enjoying your vacation.
Day 1: Arrive San Francisco
Fly from Miami to San Francisco in the morning. There are direct flights with American Airlines that will get you there just before lunch time! Pick up your rental car and head over to San Francisco. Stay in the Fishermen’s Wharf area or maybe across the Golden Gate Bridge in the charming bayside town of Sausalito, famous for its houseboats and artist community. While in the area make sure to try some delicious clam chowder in a sourdough bowl or some of the local crab or abalone!
Day 2: San Francisco North to Sonoma
Today you’ll want to head north towards Sonoma, a lovely historic town with one of California’s original missions, over 500 wineries and award-winning farm-to-table restaurants. Don’t forget to stop at the original Williams-Sonoma store, as this is where it all began! Here you can visit many of the tasting rooms for local wineries, all gathered around Sonoma’s downtown and the Sonoma Plaza, or select a few wineries nearby to do some winery hopping and visit the actual cellars. The drive from San Francisco is about an hour, depending on traffic. This evening back in San Francisco, check out some popular Italian restaurants in North Beach or head over to Chinatown for some dim sum and fortune cookies (this is where they were born!).
Day 3&4: San Francisco to Monterey & Carmel-by- the Sea
Your drive south this morning should be along California’s famous Highway 1 along the rugged cost, past Santa Cruz and across the scenic Monterey Bay towards the charming towns of Monterey and Carmel- by- the Sea. The drive will take you about 2.5 hours without stops and you’ll want to look out for Harbor Seals as they live in this area year-round. Once in Monterey, make sure you make time to visit the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, near Cannery Row, another must-see attraction. Drive along the beautiful neighborhood of Pacific Grove and the picturesque 17-Mile Drive (there is a fee). From here it is easy to get over to Carmel-by-the-Sea, with its fairytale cottage-style architecture and its dog-friendly atmosphere. There are great hotel options in both of these towns, and you may just want to stay for 2 nights!
Day 5: Monterey to Solvang & Santa Barbara
We’re back on Highway 1 today towards Central California, and past some incredible wine growing regions, including Paso Robles and Santa Barbara. Watch out for road closures along Highway 1. En route, you must make a stop at the opulent Hearst Castle built in 1919 with its incredible European architecture, priceless works of art, and fascinating history. Stop off in the quaint Danish village of Solvang, surrounded by wineries and seeped in Danish culture and traditions. This makes for a great stopover, made famous by the movie Sideways in 2004. Santa Barbara, with is dramatic backdrop of the Santa Ynez mountains, should also be on your list. Here you will find upscale boutiques, colonial architecture, and another one of the original Spanish missions. Lots of great hotel options here, too!
Day 6&7: Solvang/Santa Barbara to Los Angeles
On your 2-hour drive down to Los Angeles, you can stop en route in Malibu and Santa Monica, two must-visit locations. Drive past Marina del Rey and Venice Beach. Whether you spend one or two nights in Los Angeles, you’ll have lots of attractions and parts of town to check out, including Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and downtown LA. If you end up spending two nights in the area, head down to Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach or San Clemente for some charming coastal towns filled with great restaurants, bars, shops, and beautiful beaches for a nice stroll. The water is quite cold, but surfing may be a good activity to try, too! There are also good hotel options in Long Beach, and you won’t be too far from LAX for your flight home!
Day 8: Return Home
Time to say goodbye to the California Coast and head back home. There are plenty of nonstop and connecting flights throughout the day to get back to Miami or Fort Lauderdale, including some red-eye options in case you need to get back to work ASAP.
For up-to-date information on California, check out https://www.visitcalifornia.com/ . Safe travels!