roadtrip from san francisco to Los Angeles

My road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles

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Last time in California was during my exchange year as a high school student in 2004. My parents visited me from Germany and we made a big road trip from Las Vegas via San Francisco to Los Angeles. With the age of sixteen, it was a great adventure. After finishing my flight school in Germany I always wanted to go back to do that road trip again. Now thirteen years later I finally managed to drive down from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Highway 1. Read about my exciting drive along on of the most beautiful routes in the US and learn from my recommendations.

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Pacific coastline of Malibu

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Planning of my road trip

Before booking my flight connections I wanted to make sure that I do not have to drive back and forth. So I booked a flight into San Francisco (read about my flight here) and a connection out of Los Angeles. I am using Sixt rental cars a lot in Germany so I got one in California as.

I can really recommend booking with them. Especially their premium convertibles are fantastic for a road trip. In case you spend some days in San Francisco you can pick it up at Fishermans wharf and start your road trip from there. I drove a BMW 6 series convertible of Sixt and the trunk fitted easily to big suitcases even with the top down.If you drive highway one I recommend to drive it southbound this way you have the ocean always to your right. UUnfortunatelyI received some bad news bevor starting my drive down to Los Angeles.

If you take highway one I recommend to drive it southbound this way you have the ocean always to your right. UnfortunatelyI received some bad news bevor starting my drive down to Los Angeles.

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BMW 6 Series rental car of Sixt

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Route

The idea was to drive along highway one all the way to Los Angeles. This is one of the most scenic roads in the United States. Unfortunately, I had to find out that a road closure around to Big Sur forced me to drive a big detour away from the coastline. Due to heavy rain at the beginning of the year, a bridge was flooded and destroyed. I heard about this before but I figured it will be fixed when arriving in May. I was really disappointed when I found out that the bridge is still blocked. The road between Monterey and Cambria is the most beautiful part.

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Road trip route from San Francisco to Los Angeles

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Fantastic views from Point Dume in Malibu

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Stops

Along the way, I did several stops for a break and to overnight. Best is to drive without pressure and to stop whenever you see a beautiful spot. In my opinion, I forced myself a little bit to get to LA fast. At the end, I only did two overnights along the route.

Day 1

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz was my first stop after San Francisco. I had a healthy lunch at Cafe Gratitude. To find vegan and vegetarian restaurants and cafés near me I use the app called "Happy Cow". After a delicious meal, my happy mood was ruined by a parking ticket of 38 USD because I the meter was expired by five minutes. After a short walk on Santa Cruz pier, which gives you have a nice view of the shoreline I hit the road again.

Monterey

The city of Monterey is situated in a beautiful bay area. My plan was to overnight there, but since I booked my rooms spontaneously the rates were really high that night. That is why I already continued my drive in the evening. Make sure you stop at the Lover's point park. The best and cheapest food during my whole trip I had in Julia's Vegetarian Restaurant close to Monterey.

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Lovers point park in Monterey

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Carmel-by-the-Sea

This time I did not stop in Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is a small beach city. But I remember from my road trip thirteen years ago that is worth visiting. It is known for its fairytale cottages and village-like center. Do the seventeen-mile drive from Monterey Peninsula to Pebble Beach. It is a stunning stretch of roadway along the Pacific coastline.

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Delicious food at Julia's Vegetarian Restaurant

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Cambria

From Monterey, I had to take the US101 to drive further south due to the blockage of Highway 1. Online I found a really nice boutique hotel in Cambria called El Colibri. It was the hotel with the best quality price ratio during my entire vacation. My cozy room featured a hot tub and a fireplace.

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Hotel El Colibri in Cambria

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Seals at the beach close to Cambria

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Day 2

Next day it was a little bit chilly and cloudy. So I did an excursion to Hearst Castle. This private property situated on top of a hill. The property is spectacular and is a must see once the Neptune Pool is fully repaired again. Not far from Hearse Castle you can watch seals from a parking spot.

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Main building of the Hearst Castle

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Hearst Castle indoor pool / Outfit by Michalsky

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Santa Barbara

My second overnight I spend in Santa Barabara the "American Riviera". It is an easy going city and the atmosphere is quite relaxed. Hotel prices are over the top. I booked a room last minute via the app "hotel tonight" so I saved a little. The beach is with hundreds of palm trees is really beautiful. After a quick breakfast, I started off for my last part of my drive to Los Angeles.

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Beach of Santa Barbara

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Day 3

Malibu

Only 30 Minutes from Santa Monica (LA) lies the famous city of Malibu. You definitely need to know where to go otherwise you drive through and realize later that you have missed Malibu. The prices for food and drinks are insane. I had a healthy green smoothie and I paid 14€ for it. The best view you get from Point Dumes State Park.

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Point Dume State Beach

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Driving along the famous beach houses I found a spot where I could access the beach and have a stroll. While searching for Charly Sheen's house, I noticed that most houses look abandoned. But as I found out later people usually come here only for the weekend.

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Searching for Charlie Harper's house in Malibu ;)

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Taking a stroll along the famous houses in Malibu

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Resume

It was definitely the right decision to drive down to Los Angeles instead of flying. Of course, I was disappointed that I had to drive a big detour and I hope they will fix the road soon since hotels and other touristic attractions struggle. In My opinion, I rushed a little bit to get to Los Angeles. I suggest you spend three nights on the road and get a convertible to enjoy the beautiful landscape, even more, when driving.

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Where would you like to do a road trip?

Your Pilot Patrick

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my highlights and secret spots

My highlights and secret spots of San Francisco

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Hello my Aviator,

last Tuesday I returned from my vacation in California. I flew into San Francisco, where I spend five nights before I started my road trip down to Los Angeles. In this blog post, I want to share my highlights of San Francisco and give you some recommendations for a trip to this fantastic city.

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During my travels as a pilot as well as on my private travels I explore a city without any fixed plan. This way I discover beautiful spots without even searching for them. I do not use any kind of tourist guide. Instead, I follow the recommendations of local people or of concierges in the hotel. I am trying to live like a local in an unknown city. This might sound strange but that way I can explore the city from a totally different perspective and this relieves the pressure that I have to see everything. This is sightseeing 2.0.

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Balcony of my suite in the Hilton Union Square

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Where to stay and park?

For a short city trip, the location of my accommodation should be as central as possible. This way you do not loose time and you have the chance to refresh during the day My hotel was the Hilton Union Square. I really liked the location of it because in was in the middle of the city with a lot of shops and restaurants around. I was lucky to be upgraded to a suite on the 36th floor which gave me an awesome view over the city. The suite even featured a balcony. Every morning I enjoyed breakfast at the Poached restaurant which offered healthy meal options like smoothies, quinoa oatmeal, and fresh cut fruits. Do not miss to have a cocktail at the Cityscape Bar on the top level of the hotel granting you a panoramic view of San Francisco.

The parking situation in San Francisco is horrible. The minimum price I found for an overnight parking spot was 35$. In most hotels, it is even around 50$ a night. Best is to arrive without a car and use the taxi service of UBER instead.

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My suite in the Hilton Union Square

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What to do and what to see?

There is so much to discover in San Francisco. Since the city is built on numerous hills it is exciting to see the city from different angles and viewpoints.  You may find that I left out on some big touristic attractions. One example is Alcatraz because I do not support attractions with extremely high unreasonable admission prices.

Coit Tower

This 64-meter sightseeing tower gives you 360 degrees view of the city. Make sure you go when the weather is good. The way up to the base of the Coit tower takes you through a small park so leave you car behind you.

 

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Historic Cabel Cars

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Painted Ladies

Close to Alamo Square, you will find beautiful painted Victorian and Edwardian style houses. Well known from movies. Make sure to go up on top of the square and you will be rewarded with a great background behind the Painted Ladies.

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in front of the Painted Ladies with my BMW 6 series of Sixt

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Ferry Building Market Place

The historic ferry building is a famous landmark and worth seeing. Additionally, you can visit a farmers market Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Dolores Park

This is a beautiful park in the Castro district. A nice spot to relax from the hectic city and you can enjoy a beautiful view of San Francisco as well.

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Dolores Park in Castro district

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Golden Gate Bridge

The iconic suspension bridge is situated at the entrance of San Francisco Bay. It is really nice to drive with a convertible top down over the bridge. If you are more sportive I suggest renting a bike at Fisherman's Wharf. Either way to the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge is about a 1-hour drive. The most spectacular experience is to go on a flight on a propeller aircraft. I was really lucky that Trent, a former U.S. Air Force Captain invited me to go on a flight over San Francisco Bay area.

https://www.facebook.com/pilotpatrick/videos/vb.373722572693345/1414910038574588/?type=2&theater

Watch the long version of the flight on my Facebook page @PilotPatrick

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Piper Acher at San Carlos Airport

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Scenic flight in a Piper Acher with Trent

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Twin Peaks

At the top of the twin peaks, you can enjoy one of the most amazing views over the city. Great all and really romantic during sunset.

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View from the Twin Peaks at night

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Lombard Street worth waiting in line to drive down

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Where to eat?

I was really happy that I could choose from numerous healthy restaurants. I use the app called "Happy cow" to find restaurants and supermarkets around me. You know that I am quite picky when it comes to food. Here are some places I can recommend:

Gracias Madre: vegan and organic Mexican food restaurant in a not so nice neighborhood. Decent prices.

Greens Restaurant: vegetarian restaurant located in an old pier building close to the Marina district. Steve Jobs used to go there. Big windows give a nice view of the marina and Golden Gate Bridge. A little bit pricey.

Seed and Salt: Vegan café and bistro located in the Marina district. Healthy snacks and smoothies in a trendy neighborhood.

 

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Greens Restaurant

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Secret spots

During my stay in San Francisco, I discovered two amazing hidden spots. I want to share with you the location so you have the great experience. Please do not tell anyone else so it remains a secret location.

Hidden mini park: In the middle of the San Fransico at the east end of Vallejo St. you will find a place called Ina Coolbrith Park. You may encounter only a few people while enjoying an amazing skyline in a small oasis.

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Ina Coolbrith Park

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Golden Gate Swing: I made this name just up. At a small beach located on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge, you will find a swing installed on a branch of a tree. While swinging out to the Pacific Ocean you can enjoy a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. To get there you need to park your car at the North Tower Golden Gate Parking from there you follow the signs to Kirby Cove. It takes about 30 mins to reach the beach by foot.

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Kirby Cove

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San Francisco is a remarkable a place and definitely worth visiting in California. I hope you find my tips helpful for your next trip to this unique city. You should plan to stay a minimum of four full days to explore the city. I would not choose hot summer months because then city seeing can be quite exhausting. I encountered amazing weather during the beginning of May.

What do you like about San Francisco?

Happy landings and sight seeing!

Your Pilot Patrick

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