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Pacific Coast Road Trip

RintuRintu 260 replies8 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
Planning for a short Family vacation: Mid October
Will start from SF and would like to go all the way to San Diego.
Travel: by car
Duration: 4 days (Monday through Thursday)
Total number of Adults: 3
Purpose: Sightseeing
Tentative Plan: Reach SF on Sunday evening
Monday: SF
Tuesday: Leave Early Morning (cover the most beautiful sights)
Wednesday: Cover as many places as worth seeing
Wednesday night: Reach SanDiego
Thursday: SanDiego. Leave SanDiego for NYC.

Please suggest the best possible family vacation. Thanks
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Replies to: Pacific Coast Road Trip

  • thumper1thumper1 74366 replies3255 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 19
    It’s a pretty long drive from San Francisco to San Diego. I’ll let the CA folks chime in...but I personally don’t think you have enough time to make the long drive AND see the sights. The drive is 7 1/2 hours...but I think that google estimate is without traffic which is just not happening in that area.
    edited August 19
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  • conmamaconmama 4192 replies310 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 19
    I don’t think this is a good plan at all. You’ll pretty much be sightseeing from your car. I would stay in the SF area, which could include a night in Carmel, Monterey or Santa Cruz. Lots and lots of things to see and experience there.

    Or...do San Diego and spend a day or night in the Santa Monica/LA area.

    edited August 19
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  • anomanderanomander 1670 replies4 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Good advice above. Alternatively, consider spending Monday night in Carmel which will give you a chance to see Monterey and Carmel, and start you off about 1-1.5 hours further South.

    Then stop for the night again in LA, maybe Santa Monica or somewhere on the West side depending on what time you get in. Rush hour traffic is insane in LA and just cutting through at the wrong time can take 2+ hours in peak time vs 1 hour otherwise. Or if you get through LA in good time then stop in either Orange County or Northern San Diego (La Jolla, etc).

    Then you can finish up an easy final drive to San Diego and have a day or two there before heading home. However there’s easily 4 days worth of stuff to do in either SF or LA alone so I’d recommend visiting just one city for such a short trip.
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  • abasketabasket 19204 replies855 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I agree that in addition to the miles you'll spend driving (and HOURS in the car - California freeways are crazy busy ALL.THE.TIME) San Francisco and San Diego are two totally different animals and both worthy of more than a day - and I say that as someone who does not need to immerse myself in a city for a long time to enjoy it.

    Choose one city and the surrounding area as suggested above and you'll have a fabulous time and not feel guilty when you hit a spot you love (like a beautiful beach) and want to spend a little more time there.
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  • lkg4answerslkg4answers 1596 replies191 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    What ages are the members of your family and has anyone been to California before or is this the first time? I'll echo what is posted above. It is as if someone posted saying that they want to do Boston to DC in four days and see all of the sights along the way.

    If you are taking Hwy 1, plan for crowds and traffic in Big Sur.
    https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/big-sur-bixby-bridge-tourists-parking-drive-14082792.php

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  • TatinGTatinG 6380 replies113 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Given your time frame and your plans, you really have time to see just one thing and to sightsee from the car. For car sightseeing, by far the best views are on Highway 1. The one thing to see would be Hearst Castle. Spend your time on Big Sur. See Hearst's Castle and then bomb through LA on the freeways and get to San Diego. Cambria would be a good place to spend the night. There are a lot of places along Moonstone Beach.
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  • thedreamydaisythedreamydaisy 150 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I live in the SF Bay Area and agree that you are very limited on time given how large CA is. The drive from SF to San Diego is about 10 hours and that's if you go the most direct route down I-5 which is basically a boring desert drive with nothing to see. The most scenic drive is along the Pacific Coast Highway but that is a 2-3 day drive because it's a single lane winding road along the ocean (but incredible scenery).
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  • lkg4answerslkg4answers 1596 replies191 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    and then bomb through LA on the freeways and get to San Diego.
    I'm not sure if it is possible to "bomb through LA" anymore. You will be spending the better part of one day in traffic trying to get from San Fernando Valley through Los Angeles and Orange County to San Diego.

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  • TatinGTatinG 6380 replies113 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 19
    True. I meant no stopping. One hardly bombs through at 10mph in traffic. Although I have done it at 2am.
    edited August 19
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  • washugradwashugrad 1121 replies13 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Another option to see a lot of the top sights of the middle part of the state with less overall driving:
    Sunday night in SF.
    Monday all day in SF and overnight in SF.
    Tuesday morning drive to Muir woods (30 min) and tour, then drive to
    Sonoma or Napa area and tour a bit, maybe have lunch and visit a winery or two. Then drive to Yosemite valley (4 hours) or not quite all the way there to a hotel outside of the valley.
    Wednesday morning tour Yosemite valley until mid afternoon, then drive to Carmel (4 hours). Wednesday night in Carmel.
    Thursday morning in Carmel/ Monterey until you need to head to SFO (about 90 min but allow longer for unexpected traffic problems).
    Or... if you really want to drive the coast road a long way, fly home out of Burbank rather than San Diego. Spend time in Carmel (there's a nice place just south of there called Point Lobos which has gorgeous short hiking trails along the coast), see Hearst Castle, and linger in Santa Barbara. I haven't looked at the overall time that would take though... we've never driven highway 1 the whole way.
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  • Cardinal FangCardinal Fang 18273 replies157 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Echoing other posters: the fastest drive from SF to San Diego takes about 10 hours, but that is boring desert, neither a sightseeing trip nor enjoyable driving for those who like driving. Driving on the scenic Highway 1 along the coast takes over 12 hours.

    I've ridden my bike down the California Coast. When I take a multi-day trip along the coast, I spend many hours a day on the bike, and not much time off the bike sightseeing. That's OK for me, because for me, the bicycling IS the sightseeing. For someone who feels that way about driving, that the driving IS the sightseeing, a three-day trip down Coast Highway 1 would be a fun vacation. For someone who doesn't think driving is sightseeing, it would be a lot of hours wasted that could have been spent enjoying California's natural beauty outside of a car.

    Another poster suggested spending half a day in Yosemite. That would be appropriate for someone who wanted to check the box "Seen Yosemite," but IMO it would not do justice to one of the most spectacular places on Earth.

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  • gosmomgosmom 1911 replies56 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I live in Bay Area and will echo many posters above. On paper, it looks doable. Reality is -- not really. Yes, it is 10 hours to SD--on the non-scenic route...and can guarantee traffic thru LA will be stop and go, unless at 2am. Mid October, weather in SF is generally the best time of year--thus, lots of tourists. In SF, Fisherman's Wharf/Chinatown/GG Bridge/GG Park/Cable Cars/Alcatraz/North Beach etc will be a challenge to do in one day, even just trying to do a quick drive by, look see. I'd really encourage spending your 4 days in northern CA and save SD for another trip. In 4 days, you can hit the Wine Country, Muir Woods, Carmel/Monterey and SF --and that will still be a jam packed trip.
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 12750 replies236 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 19
    I did a fair stretch of the PCH last summer, solo, right around this time of year. I wish I'd had more time, but I came from Oregon, stayed in Arcadia, drove down to SF and stayed a few days.

    The PCH part - drove south from about San Jose, mostly on the coast. Breathtaking. Stopped for the night in San Luis Obispo. Drove to LA the next night (where I was staying for a bit). I saw some really amazing views on the PCH that I still think about. Stopped to take photos many times (pullouts every few yards it seems like), stopped to see seals (near San Simeon I think) and quick stuff like that along the way.

    Second day, I took a swim in some hot springs (Avila) and headed south, spent an hour or so in Santa Barbara (lunch, walking break on the pier), got to LA in time for dinner. Would have loved to spend a night in Big Sur or properly explore Monterey, there were some incredible looking restaurants, inns and state campgrounds.

    Monterey to Pismo was the best stretch, I thought. The part where once you're on the PCH you're committed because there's no turn off for quite a few miles. Last summer it had just reopened after being closed for major mudslides, not sure everyone knew it was open because traffic was light.

    I'd do it again!
    edited August 19
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 12750 replies236 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I forgot to add - make time to walk in the redwoods! I did most of my walks north of SF (starting Oregon border) but there are some south of there. One of the most awe inspiring things I've ever done. And not far from the coast.
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  • onthewestfenceonthewestfence 236 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @Rintu The key to driving in CA is avoiding rush hour traffic. Otherwise, include the 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach and taking the 101 versus the 5 for scenic views.
    https://www.pebblebeach.com/17-mile-drive/
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  • thumper1thumper1 74366 replies3255 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    The key to driving in CA is avoiding rush hour traffic

    This just made me LOL. When exactly is it NOT rush hour?

    We drove from LA to San Diego one time leaving at 11 at night to “avoid rush hour”. Let’s just say...the highway was 5 lanes or so in each direction, and I am convinced CA folks never sleep and spend a lot of time driving. It was a lengthy drive...and didn’t really thin out until about an hour before we got to San Diego.

    Here is my suggestion...it will add cost but might work. If you must fly into San Francisco...then go ahead and do so (frankly, I think the San Jose airport is far easier). Rent a car. Spend a couple of days exploring the Bay Area...there is plenty to keep you busy.

    Then hop a shuttle from San Jose to San Diego, and spend two days exploring that neck of the woods.

    We have been to both places. Our trips to San Diego tend to be longer...in the 10 day range. We haven’t even scratched the surface on things to see and do.

    Same with the Bay Area. The longest we’ve spent there is 6 days at a time...and again...we didn’t come close to seeing even a fraction of what we wanted to see...and do.

    I would pick one place...spend four days at that one place.

    Is there some reason why you want to do this drive? Is there a reason to include both San Diego and San Francisco in the same trip?
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  • JazzyTXMomJazzyTXMom 355 replies6 threadsRegistered User Member
    ^^ There is no more "rush hour" in Los Angeles. Traffic is all day, seven days a week.

    While it is not an ideal amount of time to tour, I think an enjoyable time can still be had. I would head down Hwy 1 and choose a few places to stop like Monterey Bay Aquarium, Carmel Mission, or Hearst Castle. Then overnight in Cambria or San Luis Obispo and head down to San Diego stopping at a few select sites in between-- Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, La Jolla. As has been already stated most of the sightseeing will be from the car but will still be spectacular.

    I also agree that Yosemite does not fit into this trip unless that were your only stop and even then it would be quite rushed.
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  • showmom858showmom858 2911 replies16 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited August 19
    I'll put in a plug for San Diego since that's where I live. If you just came here you would find plenty to do for 4 days. October is a wonderful month for a visit. The tourists are gone and the weather is in the mid 70's. The beaches are not crowded nor are the zoo and other attractions.
    edited August 19
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  • abasketabasket 19204 replies855 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    OP needs to come back and give us some more insight. :) @Rintu
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  • scorekeeper1scorekeeper1 102 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Although I agree with most posters about that being an over-ambitious trip, my teenage daughter and I did a round trip road trip from San Diego, where we live, to San Francisco. First day we drove to San Luis Obispo and staying at the Madonna Inn. I think we probably stopped for lunch in Santa Barbara. The next day, we went zip lining in Santa Margarita. This is also wine country, but she was underage. Then we drove to Hearst Castle. We stopped and saw the elephant seals, and then did a tour at the castle. We drove to Carmel that night and spent the night and walked around the town and looked at the art galleries. We drove to San Francisco the next morning and did an Alcatraz tour, we went to Haight Asbury and stayed in Union Square. Shopped and drove around SF. Spent another night in SF and then drove back the next day. Stopped and spent the night in Pismo Beach, and drove back to San Diego the following day. I think we were gone, 5 or 6 days for the round trip, so it is doable, but we didn't do anything in San Diego, because that is our home base. Therefore, I echo everyone else saying to just pick one or the other location and maybe do day-trips from each location.
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