A California road trip is one of our all-time favorites, and when we think of California, we always imagine ourselves cruising Highway One, watching the sunset in the rearview mirror, and singing along to The Beach Boys. These trips offer a unique experience to explore California like a local and witness some of the most amazing landscapes you’ve ever seen. From the Bay Area, you’ll venture to Napa Valley to sip wine before exploring the wilderness of Yosemite.
After that, you’ll travel south on the iconic Highway One to Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, where you can spend a final few days exploring the City of Angels. Whether you’re searching for the best views, must-see pit-stops, or a place that will leave you wanting more, we’ll give you the inside track. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you could ride a Harley Chopper down the coast.
Here are the top places you need to visit on the ultimate California road trip:
Top Places You Need To Visit On The Ultimate California Road Trip
Explore The Natural Wonder Of Napa Valley
The Auberge du Soleil is located in the heart of Napa Valley, just an hour and a half away from San Francisco. In this peaceful setting, you’ll immediately feel at ease. Once you have settled in and are refreshed, take the Kunde tour and taste some of the region’s best wines and cheeses as you watch the sunset.
Discover how wine is made from grape to bottle on a private tour with a local guide, then sit back and enjoy a Northern California lifestyle. Rest your head at the Auberge and take advantage of an early start in the morning.
In the morning, before sunrise you can set out for a hot air balloon ride over Napa Valley to experience the sunrise like never before. You’re sure never to forget this amazing view of the rising sun reflecting over the lush pine-laden valleys below.
See San Francisco In Style
Enjoy one of the US cities we love for a day or two by dropping your bags at the beautiful Zetta Hotel as your first stop. Relax and enjoy the sights of San Francisco, from the iconic Golden Gate Bridge to the lesser-known shops and restaurants.
Take an electric bike tour of the city for a unique experience. Following Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll then head over the Golden Gate Bridge to get to Fort Point. Lose yourself in Chinatown, North America’s oldest Chinatown, when you visit San Francisco. Discover Dim Sum, moon cakes, and other Eastern specialties with our guides here.
Stop by Carmel Valley
Enjoy the views of the Monterey Peninsula and Carmel-by-the-Sea from the Monterey Peninsula and Carmel-by-the-Sea hotel while enjoying breakfast before returning to Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s well worth your while to eat lunch in Carmel, with its long beaches, fine galleries, and the oldest Spanish colonial mission on the west coast, Mission San Carlos de Borromeo. You will have a chance to experience the relaxed pace of life of California at the extremely luxurious Carmel Valley Ranch; a place where you can enjoy hiking and mountain top yoga.
Discover Yosemite Splendour
After that, travel four hours to your overnight destination, the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. The Ahwahnee lodge is in an ideal location for exploring the National Park and offers stunning views. Once known as the Ahwahnee, it still maintains a rustic charm while being elegant. Yosemite has a rich history, spectacular scenery, and mountainous terrain for miles and miles.
Yosemite is a natural wonder in all its shining glory, situated in the High Sierras. While hiking along with a ranger by day and stargazing by night, take in the breathtaking terrain carved out by glaciers and the ethereal, therapeutic silence.
Experience Nature In The Big Sur
On your right, you will see the Pacific Ocean crashing on the rocks, while on your left, you will see sprawling landscapes. The Post Ranch Inn is one of Black Tomato’s favorites, which you’ll reach after a four-hour drive along the dramatic coast. During your stay, you’ll have the opportunity to see migrating whales from a zodiac with a marine biologist or explore the stunning surroundings at your leisure.
Soak Up The Sun In Los Angeles And Santa Barbara
Take the Pacific Coast Highway southbound, one of the world’s most well-known roads. If you want to experience it in all its glory, make sure your car roof is down as it crosses some of North America’s most stunning cliffs, rivers, and bridges. In Montecito foothills, the picturesque hotel of San Ysidro Ranch sits five hours away by car. Before completing the last leg of your road trip, you’ll explore surrounding vineyards and charming villages.
In less than two hours, you can reach Shutters on the Beach, directly on the beach. This is a great place to combine the casual beach life of Los Angeles with the glamour of the city for your last four nights. Experience Hollywood and Beverly Hills in style and comfort during a half-day tour. Visit the Hollywood sign, Rodeo Drive, and the avenue of stars before enjoying the iconic beaches for the remainder of the day. Get a sense of California’s lifestyle by spending your last two days shopping, surfing, and enjoying the sun.
Complete Your Trip By Touring & Shopping At Disney
Get in touch with your inner kid with All Hollywood studio tours. These Disney tours will delight movie buffs of every age. The Universal Studios VIP Experience is perfect for a backlot tour and getting you to the front of the line (queue) for the popular rides. If you desire a more in-depth understanding of the studio’s famous history, book your tickets.
In addition, Disneyland is a family-friendly destination (and kid-friendly, of course), and other popular destinations include Rodeo Drive and Melrose Avenue, as well as the Hollywood sign and Walk of Fame. There is so much to do in LA that we could go on and on, but we’re certain we’ll suggest an itinerary that is perfect for you.
Including Griffith Park in your plans might be one thing we have to insist upon. The view from the Griffith Observatory with the city in the foreground and the ocean beyond (ideally at sunset so there’s less haze) is one to remember. Take in one of the city’s fabulous rooftop bars on your last night in LA and the USA before a delicious final dinner at one of our recommended restaurants.
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