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3 day road trip from SFO to LAX

3 day road trip from SFO to LAX

Old Aug 30, 13, 3:57 am
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Question 3 day road trip from SFO to LAX


we are planning a road trip from SFO to LAX in September. While there is little unique about this drive, I would like to run some of the details through those with more experience. We live in Europe and this is our first time driving in USA.

Our flights set the following limitations. We rent our car from SFO on Monday at 9 AM and have to return it to LAX by 4 PM on Wednesday. We will drive Highway 1 and see the usual must-see sights. Any suggestions for stops for this 2 night trip? I’m thinking that the first overnight stop would be in Monterey and the second one in Santa Barbara.

My first question is for Wednesday. If we wake up in Santa Barbara, will there be time to stop for lunch at Venice Beach and then continue to our most southern point: Laguna Beach for a quick(?) stroll? We need to return the car by 4 PM in LAX. How is traffic going in these directions?

Secondly, is it too far to drive from Monterey to SB in one day when including time for sightseeing and lunch?

Finally, any suggestions for SFO-Monterey? Would it be possible to drive over the Golden Gate and see Napa Valley before continuing down to Monterey? Too much stress/sitting in the car?

Thank you!
Josip is offline  
Old Aug 31, 13, 12:26 am
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I think lunch in Venice Beach is workable, but then carrying on south of LAX would be a mistake. Laguna beach to LAX can worst case take a couple of hours with traffic, even using carpool lanes (which you can do, assuming there are at least two people in the car). So I wouldn't leave Laguna Beach for LAX later than about 1:30pm to be sure to return the car by 4. Not going to work.

I'd say you head from Santa Barbara down the PCH to Venice Beach, have a leisurely lunch and a walk, and then proceed to LAX.

Monterey to Santa Barbara can be done in a day, although if you stop for a Hearst Castle tour, it will be a very long day and the ending part might well be in the dark, which is not very useful for sightseeing.

SFO to Monterey takes 2 - 3 hours. You could detour over the GG bridge and back but trying to add in Napa is too much. Might be better to skip all of that and instead use the extra time to take the 17 mile drive in Carmel.
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Old Aug 31, 13, 9:47 pm
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You've got 2 1/2 days. That's a reasonable amount of time to take a leisurely, sight-seeing drive from SF to LA.

For Day One I agree with RichardInSF that heading for Napa is a mistake. It will quickly turn into a whole-day effort and then you'll be rushing to get to Monterey late at night. I recommend you limit it to half a day so you can enjoy the remaining drive to Monterey.

Fortunately there are great options for a half-day visit to the Golden Gate. One I really like is to drive across the bridge and visit the Marin Headlands, the mountains stretching to the west from the straight. On Highway 101, take the first exit past the bridge, cross under the highway, and follow the narrow cliffside road winding up the mountain. Stop at the pull-outs to see WWII vintage battlements and awe-inspiring views of downtown SF from across the bay. At the top of the mountain, park and walk up the short trail to see volunteer bird-counters. September and October are peak months for birds of prey migrating through this area. You will see scads of Red-tail Hawks plus less common hawks, falcons, and even eagles.

For Day Two, there are tons of parks along Highway 1 between Monterey and San Luis Obispo. Each one has things worth seeing. It's easy to make a full day out of driving this stretch because there will be so many things you'll want to see.
darthbimmer is online now  
Old Sep 2, 13, 11:52 am
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-I'd hit wineries in Monterey, Paso Robles of Santa Ynez Valley areas, and save time. Not as well known as those in Napa, but, IMHO, in more scenic surroundings, and closer to your route.
-You've looked at a map and decided you'll stay on Highway 1, even south of San Luis Obispo (going through Lompoc, where Highway 1 is not on the coast) and, again, south of Oxnard/Ventura? I think most people would get onto 101 at SLO, and stay on it into L.A., though getting back on Highway 1 near Oxnard and going through Malibu can be nice and more scenic than 101 to the 405. http://goo.gl/maps/J3COm It won't be mistaken for Highway 1 around Big Sur, but it has some charm.

If you take Highway 1 through Malibu, once you get into the L.A. urban area at Santa Monica, Highway 1 is largely a busy urban roadway. You could just get onto I-10 and then I-405 to LAX.

Why Laguna Beach? Why not just spend time strolling on, for example, the Santa Monica Pier http://www.photographyblogger.net/22...el-california/ and then, perhaps, Venice Beach? You could get an early start out of Santa Barbara, though if you are on Highway 101 or 1 near L.A. in the morning on a weekday, you could hit heavy traffic.

Can you see the Golden Gate Bridge during any time you're spending in SF? I certainly wouldn't suggest fighting morning or afternoon traffic across the bridge just to drive on it. You can get good views from the south side of the bridge, though if you are in fact starting from SFO (the airport) the first day, that would make for a long day. I'd have to think of you missing SF itself, and would suggest considering staying there one night, even if it left you just two days for the drive to LAX, but if you do miss the GGB, at least you'll see this bridge near Big Sur http://tinyurl.com/ptggeaa

Last edited by SoCal; Sep 2, 13 at 12:07 pm
SoCal is offline  
Old Sep 2, 13, 1:02 pm
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Napa is too far.....dont do it.

There are wine areas along the way you are traveling.

1. Monterey area
2. Paso robles/SLO area
3. Santa Ynez Valley/Solvang area

Monday norning drive to Monterey, do the aquarium, have lunch. drive down the coast.

Stop somewhere along the coast near Cambria.

Next day drive from Cambria to Solvang/Santa Barbara area.

last day Solvang to LAX

Your time is short so you cant do it all.

ideal travel itinerary:

day 1 SF-Monterey, night in Monterey
day 2 explore Big Sur ..night in Cambria
day 3 explore SLO/Paso robles, Morro, night in Santa Maria
day 4 explore Solvang, Santa Ynez Valley, Sant Barbara, stay in santa barbara
day 5 return to LAX.

If you want to explore the coast do it in Venice or sant Monica.
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Old Sep 6, 13, 7:51 pm
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Originally Posted by djp98374 View Post
Napa is too far.....dont do it.

There are wine areas along the way you are traveling.


3. Santa Ynez Valley/Solvang area

Which, as many of us remember, was prominently featured in the movie Sideways.
TWA884 is offline  

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