Day 1: London - San Francisco
As the gateway to northern California, San Francisco is your starting destination for this Central Coast fly drive holiday. There’s no need to use a car in San Francisco, so make your way into the city where a myriad of popular sights and attractions are waiting to be discovered. Stay 3 nights at the Handlery Union Square Hotel (or similar).
Day 2-3: San Francisco
With the imposing Golden Gate Bridge in view, check out Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf also home to a colony of resident sea lions. For those who wish to shop until they drop, a visit to Union Square is a must; or for sports fans, the AT&T baseball Park, home to the San Francisco 49ers is well worth a visit. You will be spoilt with activities on offer, from riding the iconic cable cars, cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge, exploring the beautiful sights of Golden Gate Park, home to the California Academy of Sciences – and much more!
Day 4: San Francisco - Santa Cruz (approx. 75 miles)
Today, collect your Alamo car rental to begin your Californian coastal drive down south heading for the funky surf town of Santa Cruz, home to Mavericks, a world-famous surf spot. Why not visit one of the wineries located in the scenic Santa Cruz Mountains followed by shopping and a bite to eat in the town of Los Gatos located nearby? Stay 1 night at Holiday Inn Express & Suites Santa Cruz (or similar).
Day 5: Santa Cruz – Monterey/Carmel (approx. 11 miles)
Back on the road again today as you drive towards the charming coastal towns of Monterey and Carmel which are just five miles apart. Monterey; home to a historic waterfront, Cannery Row, home to lovely seafood restaurants as well as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a great option if you feel like keeping your feet on dry land. Alternatively, head out on the Pacific in search of grey whales that migrate through these waters off of the coast of Monterey. Stay 2 nights at the Monterey Beach Resort (or similar).
Day 6: Monterey/Carmel
The best way to get from Monterey to Carmel is along the 17-Mile Drive that runs from Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach, with standout coastal scenery to view along the way. Carmel, where Clint Eastwood was once mayor is Monterey’s quaint, upmarket neighbour, perfect for a spot of designer shopping and people watching with its collection of charming shops, cafés and art galleries to visit. Then there’s the soft sands of Carmel Beach to enjoy and the unspoiled coastal bluffs of Point Lobos State Reserve to explore.
Day 7: Monterey/Carmel – San Luis Obispo (approx. 145 miles)
Today, head to the vibrant college town of San Luis Obispo where you can visit the historic mission and browse through one-of-a-kind shops and public art along the meandering river. Stay 2 nights at the Holiday Inn Express San Luis Obispo (or similar).
Day 8: San Luis Obispo
Take time to discover the local area, with San Simeon located just a few miles north where the opulent and world-famous Hearst Castle stands tall. The castle was once the palatial estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and is now a state historical monument offering stunning art collections, lush gardens, magnificent pools and sweeping ocean vistas.
Day 9: Luis Obispo – Santa Barbara (approx. 95 miles)
Continue south along the coast, taking in the majestic scenery from Highway 1 as you drive to Santa Barbara. Known as the ‘American Riviera’, Santa Barbara is famous for its miles of glorious beaches and lively promenade as well as its traditional Spanish architecture and local wineries. Stay 2 nights at the Best Western Plus Pepper Tree Inn (or similar).
Day 10: Santa Barbara
Spend time relaxing by the beach or exploring the local area. Shopping opportunities abound in downtown Santa Barbara with its variety of designer brands and one-off boutiques ticking every box. Or, for the wine connoisseurs, be sure to take a trip to Santa Ynez Valley, a leading wine region close to Santa Barbara which was the location for the film ‘Sideways’. Here, a variety of stunning wineries will be sure to please.
Day 11: Santa Barbara – Los Angeles (approx. 95 miles)
Finish your Central Coast adventure in the City of Angels. Why not celebrate your inner celebrity and visit Universal Studios Hollywood, home to real working movie sets and attraction rides that will appeal to film fans of all ages. Stay 2 nights at The Garland (or similar).
Day 12: Los Angeles
Head out to quirky Venice Beach for the last of your beach time and check out Muscle Beach. Just a short stroll along the promenade from Venice is attractive Santa Monica with its iconic pier and solar powered Ferris wheel, for funfair entertainment. Or why not hire a bike and explore the area that leads on up into beautiful Malibu, with its amazing beaches and million dollar beachfront homes. And don’t forget the Hollywood sights of the Walk of Fame or celeb spotting down Rodeo Drive. There’s never a dull day in LA!
Day 13: Los Angeles – London
Your Central Coast drive ends today, so perhaps extend your stay or return home, dropping off your car rental at Los Angeles Airport before boarding the overnight flight back to London.