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Road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles and perhaps Las Vegas

edited February 2011 in - - California
Hello. I am planning a road trip down the West coast of America, through California and possibly into Nevada to see Las Vegas and perhaps the Grand Canyon. The idea is to fly into San Francisco, spend a few days there and take two weeks either going slowly down the coast and flying out of Los Angeles, or going a bit further and driving to Las Vegas and maybe doing a day trip to the Grand Canyon. It would be useful to hear advice from others who have made this trip. What are the highlights? Is it worth spending a night or two in Napa Valley. Is the Yosemite national park worth drifting in to - is it quite detour. How about Death Valley on the way to Las Vegas? I gather that the Big Sur is the really unmissable section of the drive, what is there to see around here? Is Hurst Castle worth the trip? Do you have accommodation suggestions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Monterey, Napa Valley or Santa Barbara? It would be great to get some suggestions on this road trip ... THANK YOU.
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  • edited 6:38AM
    I am planning to do the same thing..I will be checking back to see what responses you get! It will be my first time to California and I want to see it all...
  • edited 6:38AM here you will find what you are looking for. Here are the best routes and places you should not miss out and you just need to top select from them on the basis of your interests. Also if you intend to hire a car then you may have a look at as they offer really cheap cars with great mileage and good discounts. You may spend money more on other things by saving it here.
  • edited March 2011
    My friends and I will be visiting Las Vegas in January and were wondering if there were any good restaurants . I am planning for a trip to Las Vegas. Need help in planning for good hotels and trips to be taken in Las Vegas.
  • edited 6:38AM
    Hi everyone. We did this trip in May 2011. Our first stop was San Francisco, staying in the Clift Hotel, and spent three days there. Alcatraz was definitely worth a trip and I also suggest you hire some bikes and bicycle over the Golden Gate Bridge to have lunch in Sausalito, a really pretty beach suburb. You can either bike back to San Francisco or take the ferry back to Fisherman's Wharf.

    We hired a car from the airport and after San Francisco we drove down to Carmel and Monteray, staying at Bernardos Lodge, a wine farm. From here you can drive down the Big Sur, which is spectacular and probably the finest stretch of coastline in the United States, and have lunch at the Post Ranch Hotel which has an amazing setting and excellent food. The 17-mile drive around Pebble Beach etc is also worthwhile.

    We stayed an a motel called the Madonna Inn on the way down, which is great but probably for one night only. Look up their website. We took in Hearst Castle (book this in advance) which is packed with treasures plundered from some of the great houses and monasteries of Europe. Well worth it again.

    Next stop on our road trip was Santa Barbara (4 Seasons). Santa Barbara is a resort town around an hours drive from Los Angeles, it is not particularly special but good to walk or bike around to soak up the culture.

    In LA, we stayed in Santa Monica in the Shutters Hotel, which was probably the nicest hotel we stayed in. Good restaurant too and good base for seeing Venice Beach/ Muscle Beach. Malibu is also nearby, and here you can see the Getty Villa which has lots of Roman and Greek treasures. The weather wasnt too good (early May) so we didnt surf or enjoy the beach. Look at the Word Travels San Francisco guide for some good restaurant suggestions. Note that Los Angeles is vast, so dont expect to see much of the city if you are only there for a few days.

    From LA we drove 5 hours to Las Vegas. It is mostly one long road trip, along a stright road through the desert, and the long drive makes ones arrival in Las Vegas all the more amazing. The city appear out of the desert with nothing for miles around. Las Vegas is a must-see but 2 nights is enough unless you are a serious gambler. Try to take in a flight over the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. It is again fairly spectacular.

    We flew back to London from Las Vegas, but there are other options for the road trip if you have time. We would have loved to have driven back to San Francisco on the inland route through Death Valley and the national parks and yellowwood forests. From San Francisco you can also drive up to Napa Valley, which is only a couple of hours away, and spend a night or two there. We saved that for next time...
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  • edited January 2013
    Wow, I love this thread. On a trip a couple of years ago we flew into LA from London and spend a few days there, then drove to Vegas and spent a few days there (stopped at hoover dam) and then flew from there to San Fran and spent a few days there. Went and watched a baseball match in San Fran - was quality!

    You will have an amazing time - whichever way you do it.
  • edited 6:38AM
    can someone suggest places to stop in between SFO and LA? can this drive be donw in a day and half with seeing all the major attractions and the best place to spend the night? Do you suggest we make it a day drive with stops in between and reach LA the same night?
  • edited 6:38AM
    A day and a half will be too rushed to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles - you will not have time to stop anywhere for any length of time - I suggest you extend your trip by a couple of days. You must take in the Big Sur if you havent before and the area around Carmel and Monteray.
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  • edited November 2011
    I agree... you need at least three days if you want to see the California coast properly. I'd suggest a tour of Hearst Castle and a wine-tasting tour of Santa Barbara.
  • edited 6:38AM
    we have a trip planned in oct 2012...first time in usa for us the plan is fly into san fransisco for one night, then 3 night to travel to vegas to meet up with friends for poss 7/8 nights, with trips to hoover and G/Canyon in the middle of that....we will then have a further 9/10 nights to get ourselves back to san fran for the flight home again(hoping to have a couple more nights in SF to explore before trip home).....we are driving the whole way.......(so many beautiful places to see, so little time to do it in)......what suggestions does anyone have to fill in the final leg of our journey
  • edited 6:38AM
    My advice is that 7/8 nights is too much to spend in Vegas, unless you are a gambler with deep pockets. Are you driving to the Grand Canyon? We did a day trip via plane. You are so lucky to have such a long trip planned, I would go from San Francisco to Vegas along the coastal route, missing LA if you are short of time, and return inland through the national parks etc. We didn't do the inland route, but I heat it is wonderful. Have fun!
  • edited 6:38AM
    Lucille, yeah vegas is now 4 nights, then drive to GC(hubby loves to drive) with poss 2 nights stay.(1 up there, 1 maybe in williams) then head back to vegas just for one night...we are looking at driving back up the coast with a few nights in LA to do the sights, because we wont have time to stop there on the trip down....then poss a few more in san fran before heading home...oh and coastal there and back i think
  • edited 6:38AM
    Interesting reading, I'm wanting to plan/book a trip that involves flying into San Francisco and spending a few days, I then want to drive to Yosemiti and explore there for a few more days before moving onto Vegas. Can anyone give me some advise on how to start researching/booking this trip
  • edited 6:38AM
    As we are living in California and have done all of the above suggestions in small increments let me point out some details:

    Vegas: if you walk along teh strip one night, go to Hoover dam a day and catch a show in the evening and do some outlet shopping and gambling on the next day - you have covered all there is to Vegas, baby
    SF: so much to see, so much to do.....3 days are hardly enough if you want to explore the city by foot, boat and bike.....I would budget in at least 5-6 days.....
    STOPS from SF to LA: Carmel, a quaint little town of the rich; Monterey for it's amazing Aquarium, kayak in the bay and seals will surround you, Hearts Castle (as previously suggested) for the gawdy-ness; Pismo Beach and the sand dunes; Santa Barbara for an overnight with walks along State Street
    LA: difficult to pinpoint "the city" as it is so far spread out....the Getty, The beaches, city tour and Santa Monica, Farmer's Market and catch a game if you can.....

    Then you can head back to SF on the 5 freeway - a straight shot, completely boring once you pass the "grapevine" in the surrounding mountains, except for the vegetable plantations along the way
  • edited 6:38AM
    I would suggest spending at least a week in San Francisco. You can easily spend a full day wandering through Chinatown, or walking through Muir Woods; and a tour of wine country is an absolute must!
  • edited 6:38AM
    Hi, I am also doing CA road trip in Oct 2012 with a group of Friends from Europe.
    We flyin to LA(2 nights)--> LV (1night+1night at GC+1night)--> Death Valley (passing thru) --> Yosemite (2 nights)--> SFO(3 nights)--> drive along the coast for 3 day/night and back to LA to take our flight back.
    I would appreciated some suggestions for below
    2 nights - Yosemite -?
    3 nights - SFO ?
    2 nights - West coast ? Montenary? not too expensive.
    Thanks a lot for your time.
  • edited 6:38AM
    Hi, I´m planning a similar trip for the end of March 2013. I have a bachelors party in Vegas (yah, I know) but I wanna take some days also to see LA and SFO, at least. I have 4 full days between my arrival in LAX and Vegas. Is it enough to see at least both LA and SFO? My idea was to spend the 2 days in LA, then drive to SFO early on the 3rd day and probably stopping somewhere that I should not miss, spend the 4th day in SFO and on the 5th fly to Vegas.

    My fly back is also from LA. What do you think?
  • edited January 2013
    It takes 6-7 hours to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles. In my knowledge there is not such milestone inbetween where you can stop and visit something. Better is to visit the attractions of San Francisco and Los Angeles both.

    Venice Broadwalk
    Griffith Observatory
    Hollywood Sign
    Santa Monica State Beach
    Museum of Contemporary Art

    Browse all places to visit in Los Angeles

    Above are the places you can visit when you are in Los Angeles and below are for San Francisco

    Golden Gate Park
    Golden Gate Bridge
    Alcatraz Island
    Cable Cars

    Browse all places to visit in San Francisco
  • edited 6:38AM
    I suggest you spend those 4 days in LA, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica and San Diego then to LV. Drive from LAX to SFO is nice and its worth even a week trip plus 3 days min in SFO, so you don't have to rush up everything before your bachelors party and be tired for it ;)
  • edited 6:38AM
    Thanks for the tips people!
  • edited 6:38AM
    Hi Matthieu

    I found your update incredibly useful (even though its now 2013! I'm sure most still applies? Also can you suggest some restaurants in Sausilito, Carmel, Santa Barbara...
  • edited June 2014
    Hi im planning a trip to LA, San Fransico and Vagas with my hubby and two teenage boys. Is this all driveable or will we need internal flights? If we can drive it all where is the best place to start and can I drop my car back to a different city to where we pick it up?
  • Hi Vanessa,

    That's very drivable. Las Vegas is about six hours' drive from LA, and San Francisco is I think about eight hours, although I would suggest breaking this up into a few days to enjoy the attractions and places along the Pacific Coast Highway. I would say starting in Las Vegas, driving to LA, then up to San Francisco is the most convenient way to go.

    Most car rental companies will allow you to return your car to a different city, however they may charge a fee.
  • HI all !
    I am planning to spend in California 10 days in upcoming October. 
    I have the following plan:

    I am arriving to SFO late evening  and spending night in nearby hotel.
    Next morning start driving from SFO to LA. 3 days and 2 night. 
    1st night stay at Pacific Grove and second night at SLO.

    Arrive to LA and spend there 2 full days and 3 nights.

    Drive back from LA to SF - 1 night.

    SF - 3 nights.

    Flying to NYC to continue my trip.

    Thoughts ? Suggestions ?

    Thanks !

  • Lesik: That sounds like a great trip! The Pacific Coast highway is beautiful and you'll get to see a lot of California with this itinerary. Of course cities like LA and San Francisco are huge and one could easily spend weeks exploring them, but I'm sure you'll have a great time.
  • Hi All,

    Was hoping for a bit of advice..

    Me and 5 friends are planning to celebrate our 30th Birthday's by taking a road trip along the pacific coast. Ideally we would like to visit LA, San Francisco and Vegas but would be open to any other suggestions?

    Also looking for any suggestions on what route to take and the order to visit the different locations.

    Thanks in advance!!

  • Hi Smarty, late reply but just in case it's useful for someone else this has been mostly answered about. The most popular road is down the coast on Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and even on to Las Vegas or San Diego (or in reverse). There is lots to see, and loads of nice hotels to choose from and the Big Sur is breathtaking. There are other routes inland - you can take in California’s premier mountain range, the Sierra Nevada, enjoy Lake Tahoe, the waterfalls and granite monoliths in Yosemite, Mammoth, see the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Visit Death Valley (Badwater Road). Of course Route 66 is also famous, most start in the dramatic California desert, near the Nevada border, and end in Santa Monica. If you're from Europe, make sure you keep an eye out of the cops, or drive slowly. The speed limit is 55mph on most roads and 65mph on highways, and the police don't allow much of a margin for error...
  • Hi Lucille and others,

    In case anybody else is planning a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles and/or Las Vegas, I recommend using StopByStop website ( while on the road. It helps find restaurants and other places of interest when you are driving. You can choose how far from the exit you are willing to go and the site will show you your road line with all the exits and requested points of interest to stop - very convenient and you don't have to veer off your route.
    Here's an example:

    Safe travels!
    Pura vida,
  • edited December 2016
    I can give you suggestion for Monterey as I have been there. I have used the site named What's Up MONTEREY for finding the accommodation and other related things that can help me there.
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