...Trip idea

Classic California by Road

Cruise the coastal journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles down Highway 1 on a classic Californian road trip with jaw-dropping ocean scenery, miles of beaches, natural beauty and exclusive experiences.

Highlights

  • Experience the independence of the open road, with carefully curated activities and stylish hotel stays
  • Sail under San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge in a private former America’s Cup yacht
  • Explore Yosemite with a local conservationist
  • Take a private seaplane ride over Monterey Bay and the Big Sur shoreline
  • Get up close to whales and other wildlife on an eco-rafting adventure near Carmel
  • Kayak the wildlife-filled coastline of Santa Barbara
  • Fly over Los Angeles’ iconic sights by helicopter

Cruise the coastal journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles down Highway 1 on a classic Californian road trip with jaw-dropping ocean scenery, miles of beaches, natural beauty and exclusive experiences.

Read on for more details on our ten night suggested itinerary including our recommendations on where to stay.

What:

A ten-night trip exploring the Californian coast and Yosemite National Park by car, staying overnight in top-class hotels

Where:

We can tailor this trip to your group - this itinerary best suits a couple, but we can add in family friendly activities if you’re travelling with children

When to go:

Summer from July to September is undeniably popular, so book ahead for sunshine, or else spring is quieter, although cooler

The Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset, San Francisco , CA
Evening skyline of San Francisco, painted ladies
San Francisco Cable Car
Panoramic view of Fisherman Wharf San Francisco
Downtown San Francisco and the Transamerica Pyramid at Christmas
Famous Lombard Street in San Francisco, California
Pier 39 with sea lions,  San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf, Califo

START IN SAN FRANCISCO

Your adventure begins in San Francisco, unquestionably one of the USA’s most rewarding cities. Ride the iconic cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf, a great place to get your bearings and sample the famous clam chowder. A visit to infamous Alcatraz is another must as are visits to the largest Chinatown outside of Asia.

Cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge to picturesque Sausalito and prepare yourself for your next day’s activity: a truly unique opportunity to sail with a seasoned sailor on an International America’s Cup yacht. Arrive at the pier and meet your captain before setting sail – you’ll have the chance to take turns at the helm, working the controls or you can choose to just sit back and enjoy the thrill of the ride over the deep blue!

Fairmont San Francisco

You’ll have three nights at this smart city hotel with panoramic views over San Francisco. Synonymous with luxe style, Fairmont San Francisco will be a comfortable base to relax when you’re not exploring the city. For a treat, let us book you a Balcony Suite which overlooks the metropolis of San Francisco and creates quite the skyline at night. Another interesting side to the hotel is the rooftop honeybee and herb garden where hives sit alongside scented flowers – producing the honey for your breakfast.

Hiking in the Yosemite National Park USA
Hiker at the Glacier Point with View to Yosemite Falls and Valle
Tall Forest of Sequoias, Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite Falls seen through the trees on the valley floor in Yos
Wild bear next to a tree in Yosemite, National Parc, California
AdobeStock_209477719-e1546520587919
Yosemite-Olmstead-Point-Kim-Carroll-Photography

Yosemite Highs

Now it’s time to hit the road, first heading inland to Yosemite, one of the USA’s first national parks famed for its crashing cascades, granite peaks and green meadows. Both the short Lower Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point loops comprise easy hikes for all ages, culminating in strikingly beautiful views of the Upper and Lower Falls and Yosemite Valley respectively.

We’d recommend getting the most out of your trip with a private guide, we can organise a local conservationist to explain the region’s geography, wildlife, and ecology while you gaze at majestic cliffs, giant sequoia trees and tumbling waterfalls. Equally those with an interest in photography might prefer a photographic guide to help capture the park’s natural wonders. Enjoy a picnic lunch in a pristine natural setting, then explore the valley in an intimate way, getting up close to Yosemite Falls, hiking along the Merced River and perusing Old Yosemite Village.

Rush Creek Lodge

Rush Creek Lodge will be your home for the next two nights, creating the perfect respite from your adventures in Yosemite. The sophisticated, sumptuous hotel has a strong wellness slant, with an indoor/outdoor spa plus warm waterfall coves, aromatherapy steam room and Himalayan salt sauna. There’s also an outdoor pool and plenty of spots to sit and take in your gorgeous natural setting.

Ribera Beach – Carmel, CA
Route 1 Big Sur California
Common dolphins like these are one of 36 species of marine mammals found in Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
Sea otter near Morro rock in California
A young Humpback whale breaches out of the water along the centr
China’s Cove in Point Lobos State Nature Reserve in Carmel-By-

COASTAL DRIVES

Drive America’s famous Pacific Coast Highway, down the scenic ’17 Mile Drive’ toll-road – past rugged beaches, cypress trees and millionaire homes – to famous Pebble Beach, and onto quaint, colourful Carmel-by-the-Sea.  Arriving at Moss Landing, you’ll have the thrill of a private half day eco-raft ocean safari exploring the magnificent coastline of Monterey Bay possibly spotting whales and dolphins; you will also have the chance to discover Elkhorn Slough, one of California’s spectacular wetlands full of otters, seals and sea lions.

The following day, meet your experienced pilot who will guide you onto your private seaplane! Soar through the clouds as your pilot points out some of the most beautiful and iconic sites below you. Fly over sandy Stinson Beach and follow the shoreline, passing over ancient and imposing redwood forests. Loop around and fly over the legendary Golden Gate Bridge before passing above Crissy Field, enjoying views of downtown San Francisco’s shimmering skyline.

Bernardus Lodge and Spa

Located in Carmel Valley and surrounded by lush vineyards, Bernardus Lodge offers classic ranch-style accommodation with a high quality of furnishings from large indulgent suites, a spa with sun-drenched swimming pool and a focus on high quality farm-to-table cuisine. Enjoy delectable dishes paired with wine from their cellar which has an exceptional collection. To enhance your experience choose to dine in the atmospheric cellar itself.

McWay Falls, California
Santa Barbara from the pier
Pfeiffer Beach, part of Big Sur, California, USA.
Santa Barbara California Sunset
Santa Barbara romantic concept on sea, beach, yacht club panoram

BIG SUR & SURF

Head south to arrive at this road trip’s most dramatic section: the twisting coastal road of steep cliff-faces and unforgettable vistas that is Big Sur. After gasping at the views of McWay Falls from inside Julia Burns Pfeiffer State Park, re-join Highway 1 at San Simeon and continue down the coast to Santa Barbara. Spend a couple of unforgettable hours horseback riding along the pristine Santa Barbara coastline with a private guide. Trot along the beautiful beaches as waves crash around you and the sun sets on the horizon.

The following day sees you kayaking the Santa Barbara waterfront and the Channel Islands, paddling a glorious three miles along the coast surrounded by beautiful kelp forests, rugged cliffs and sea caves while your guide provides insight on the marine ecology and natural history of the islands.

Belmond Elcanto

In Santa Barbara you’ll stay three nights at the elegant Belmond Elcanto. Cradled in the lush hillside, this superb hotel has unrivalled views over the Pacific Ocean, the perfect spot to sit back and enjoy fantastic Californian wines and sublime cuisine, often sourced straight from the sea. Rooms are sumptuous with timeless detailing, including marble bathrooms with heated floors and deep tubs to sink into.

Amazing sunset view with palm tree and downtown Los Angeles. Cal
Santa Barbara romantic concept on sea, beach, yacht club panoram
Santa Monica pier at sunset
Picturesque urban view in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California

City of Angels

On your last day, you’ll rise early to drive to Los Angeles where you will take a helicopter tour over iconic landmarks including Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Bel Air and the famous Hollywood Sign. You’ll then head west to the world-famous beaches and pier of Santa Monica, and Pacific Palisades with breathtaking views of the California Coastline. Enjoy a champagne toast as you take in the unforgettable views before your pilot brings you back to land to start your return journey home.

Summary

If you’re looking for an activity filled holiday that takes in some of California’s most epic sights, then this itinerary is for you. There’s no denying that this is a popular route, but with our in-the-know contacts you can experience off-the-tourist-trail activities that gets you right to the heart of California’s’ natural wonders.

Sarah Ward Hedges

Personal Travel Designer

01488 689700 Read Sarah’s profile
"Speak to me about designing your perfect Californian road trip. We can personalise it to your precise wishes whether you love nature, coastline, foodie stops or luxe hotels, making it truly the road trip of a lifetime."

Have questions? Our knowledgeable team of experts are on-hand to take your call or if you prefer by Zoom. Talk to us about your holiday dreams or challenge us with your travel conundrums.

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