My friend Jess and I decided to meet in LA and drive to San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway. The PCH runs from Mexico to Canada, so we did a much shortened version of this trip.
Los Angeles in a Day
I only had one night in LA which isn’t nearly enough time for this interesting city. However, we did fit in some of the stereotypical photo stops. We rented our car through Thrifty Car Rental which was closely located to the airport and a shuttle took me there. We chose this rental company because it was affordable and allowed us to pick up in Los Angeles and drop off in San Francisco. It ended up being misleading though as the prices went up once we dropped off the car. Something that struck me about Los Angeles was how difficult it would have been to get around if we didn’t have a rental car. The points of interest are spaced out fairly far and I didn’t see many buses.
We had only been in LA for ten minutes so obviously we had to make a quick stop at In-N-Out before making our way to Venice Beach. There were numerous “Pharmacies” along the beach and a variety of interesting characters.
Next we visited the Beverly Hills sign and drove Rodeo Drive. We stopped at Millions of Milkshakes along Santa Monica Blvd. I’m not much of a milkshake kind of girl but this place was super cool! The milkshakes are named after celebrities and they have videos playing of celebrities who have enjoyed the milkshakes.Naturally, we had to go to Hollywood Boulevard. Our hostel, USA Hostels Hollywood, was located very close and we were easily able to find overnight parking close by. Once we dropped off our car and luggage we walked to Hollywood Boulevard. We checked out some of the stars, some boxer was making an appearance, but we don’t care for boxing. We stopped for dinner and drinks at the Hard Rock Café. While the food is good at Hard Rock Cafés, I feel like it’s missing out on an authentic meal of that city.
USA Hostels Hollywood, had rules around drinking in the bedrooms; however, they had lots of seating out front for doing so. Jess and I caught up while drinking way too much. We thought that we might try going to a club but ended up in some dive bar with super cheap drinks along Hollywood Boulevard. At some point we made it back to the hostel and went to bed.
Begrudgingly, we woke up in the morning early. We couldn’t miss the Hollywood Sign. Trying to find a good photo spot was a little tricky, as some roads were closed due to forest fires. We eventually found one though. I look like I’m in physical pain in all of the pictures because I was. The best unknown spot for viewing the sign is Beachwood Drive off Franklin ave Main Street in Hollywood. Driving up Beachwood Drive into the Hollywood Hills you will arrive at either an excellent place to stop for a picture or if you are feeling adventurous a place to start a hike up to behind the sign. A bonus is the drive past celebrity homes.
So much pain.
Los Angeles Points of Interest:
- Venice Beach
- Beverly Hills
- Hollywood Sign
- Hollywood Boulevard
USA Hostels Hollywood: The room was clean, the building was reasonably secure. Every single time you want to enter the area with the rooms you must show your key to the staff behind the desk who then unlock. Annoying, if you only left for 30 seconds but necessary. The rooms had lockers which you needed to bring your own lock for but they were spacious.
Things to Watch Out For:
- Overall, I found driving in LA much less scary than I was expecting. However, I did nearly get us killed when I didn’t let a man into my lane. He then followed us up the block screaming obscenities at us. It was super uncomfortable. Road rage is real! And we were terrified.
The Road Trip Saga
After we visited the Hollywood Sign, we stopped for water and road snacks and then set out on the Pacific Coast Highway or Route 1. Once we got out of LA the highway was beautiful. We left later than we wanted to but finding the perfect Hollywood Sign photo was harder than we expected it to be/we were hungover.
The highway is very straightforward and easy to drive. One thing that tripped me up a little was that I’m from a KM/Hour country and don’t have any concept of miles. But this was not a massive deal other than when trying to speed but not actually knowing how fast this would be. It was occasionally traumatic as at times we thought that we were closer to things than we actually were.
We stopped for lunch at Moby Dick Restaurant in Santa Barbara along the pier. The food was great but eating on the patio with a view of the water was phenomenal. I’m a sucker for a meal with a view. We didn’t spend much time in Santa Barbara but from what I saw it was beautiful. Jess took her turn driving on the opposite side of the road for the first time.
Another stop that we made was in Pismo Beach. You probably haven’t heard of it but you must stop there! It is a beautiful and quiet town.
Pismo Beach. The water was so serene and the boardwalk was beautiful.
Along the water we saw sea lions and a beautiful sunset. The road winds along some mountains which look scary but ended up being okay to drive. We stopped multiple times to take photos. We found a bridge that we thought was Bixby Bridge but we were heartbreakingly wrong. We did experience a hugely disappointing moment on this trip. We had been super exciting to visit Big Sur and see Bixby Bridge. However, due to our other unplanned stops and leaving too late the sun had already set and we missed it. It was so tragic that Shakespeare could have written about it
One of our many photo stops. The view is so beautiful along the Pacific Coast Highway.
I collect cities. I like to make stops in as many cities as possible even if it’s only just for a meal. Therefore, we stopped in San Jose for dinner. We ate Mexican which was not ideal. Overall, the road trip was mostly successful and took about nine hours to get to from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
Thank you Snapchat!
Pacific Coast Highway Points of Interest:
- Bixby Bridge
- Pismo Beach
- Santa Barbara
- Sea lions roaming the coast
Things to Watch Out For:
- We wanted to stop at Hearst castle but had no time.
- We made the mistake of not allotting time for more stops. Missed Bixby Bridge.
- Speed signs were confusing for km/hour girls. We were consistently disappointed because we thought we were closer to somewhere but actually we were super far away.
I absolutely love San Francisco; I have been three times and am open to so many more. On this particular trip, we got to San Francisco super late and mostly just found overnight parking for our car and went to our hostel for sleep.
In the morning, we had pre-booked our Alcatraz visit. It’s good to do this in advance because you cannot go to San Fran and miss it! In our heads, the pier was much closer so we opted to walk. We were wrong. We ended up missing our boarding time which was super stressful. Luckily, Alcatraz tours allow people to wait in an additional line in case there is room on the next boat. We were able to get on the next ferry. The ferry ride is short but scenic. You can see great views of approaching Alcatraz Island but also of the coastline of San Francisco. At one point, the island was occupied by Native Americans and you can see the spray painted relics of this piece of its past. Alcatraz offers an audio tour which I do recommend. It’s full of interesting information. I’ve been to the island twice; once in July and this time which was in January. In July the island was beautiful and full of flowers. On this trip the island was a little chilly so dress warm. When we were there former inmate, William Baker, was signing copies of his book. While you do go to Alcatraz at a scheduled time, you can leave on whichever Ferry you please afterwards so you can have as much time or as little time as you want.
With Alcatraz out of the way we went to a restaurant that I have gone to all three times I’ve been here: Chart House. What I love about it is that it’s right on Pier 39, so surrounded by shopping and if you get a seat along the window you not only get a beautiful view of the coast and the Golden Gate Bridge, but you can also see the sea lions that congregate on the pier. Highly recommend this for a sunset dinner. Pier 39 is home to the Hard Rock Café and Bubba Gump. I love Bubba Gump restaurants and we made sure to eat here too during our trip. Sometimes you do have to do the stereotypical tourist things. I’m a pretty big fan of The San Francisco Sock Market. They have a wonderful selection of socks which makes me very happy.
Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point, beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Not our favourite, no one looks good from an up angle.
We walked along Fisherman’s Wharf before heading back to pick up our car and visit the Golden Gate Bridge. We took turns driving across the bridge. We also aggressively hunted for the best photo spot. We went to at least four different places. Our favorite ended up being the edge of Golden Gate Park. As far past the edge of the Golden Gate Welcome Centre as you can get.
Our favourite view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Just past the Golden Gate Welcome Centre. Never be afraid to ask a stranger to take a photo, I find they are usually more than willing. Especially if you offer to do the same for them.
Another fun thing we did was take turns driving down Lombard Street. The hill that this is located on is so steep that they had to wind it. If you don’t have a car, have no fear! You can get to either the top or the bottom by the cable cars and there is space for walking. I can’t imagine living in one of the houses along here as this is quite a busy tourist attraction. In July, this area is filled with flowers and looks stunning.
Once we returned the car we hopped on a cable car. Afterwards, we both had packed for warmer weather so a shopping trip to Powell Street was required. Back at our hostel, another USA Hostel, we pre-drank and got ready to prepare for a pub-crawl offered by the hostel. Pub-crawls or any activities that your hostel offers are a great way of meeting hostel friends.
I’m afraid I can’t tell you what four of the bars on this trip were because Jess and I decided to drink one shot and one drink in each of them. What I do know, is that when we were on our way home we stopped by Jackalope and had an amazing time. The bartender let us pick all of our own songs on the computer and we danced and sung by ourselves. Jess and I vow to go back here every time we visit San Fran.
In the morning, we flew out to Vegas.
San Fransisco Points of Interest:
- Alcatraz Island
- Chart House and Pier 39
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Jackalope bar
- Lombard Street- either by car or by foot.
USA Hostels San Francisco: Again, the room was clean and had the same security system. We loved the opportunity to go on pub-crawls or other activities to meet people.
Things to Watch Out For:
- Alcatraz Island can be chilly.
- Driving in San Fransisco can be difficult if you aren’t familiar with one-way streets.
- There are so many hills. This makes walking times longer than you might think. Also, bring good walking shoes.
Overall Things I learned on this trip:
- If renting a car ensure that you can drop it off in another city.
- If travelling from country, contact your phone company for a data plan! This can save you so much. Something I like to do is put my iPhone in airplane mode and then manually turn Wi-Fi back on. This will let me connect to Wi-Fi without running up my data. My friend Jess, who comes from Australia, typically gets an American phone number for her stay.
- Having enough time! This trip felt a little rushed.