Ah… California. I just love Cali. It has so much to offer and I am so happy there all the time. It even brings me to make bad play on words which is always a plus!
Earlier this year I went back with a friend and decided to try some different things and stop at various places. We started in San Francisco and finished in San Diego before heading to Bogotà, Colombia. Here’s what I want to share with you.
- San Francisco!
San Fran is an absolutely amazing city. Not only is it beautiful, but it is so diverse in culture, activities, restaurants, scenery, and people that it is probably one of my favourite cities in the world. Not to mention that you get such a strong work out when you walk those hills! You can get everything in one day in San Fran! 🙂
If you can start in San Francisco, I recommend you do. It gets you pumped for California and ready for a chilled out time in SoCal. We will get to southern California later. So, start in SF, visit the Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39, the other piers, eat a big pretzel, take a trolley ride, watch the sea lions on the docks, climb to the peaks and watch the sunset, and try different foods. SF was not as expensive as I thought it would be. though I reckon this is relative as well, but it was not that much more expensive than Montreal, or even Southampton. You can fun street food, stop for a cheeky slice of pizza, get good happy hours deals as various bars, and so on!
2. Rent a car and head down the California coast.
I would recommend renting a car with Alamo and driving down the long way. There are two freeways you can take, one taking less time because it goes straight through, and the other being a couple hours longer because it boards the coast all the way. The price will depend on how many days you rent the car for, but I found Alamo to be good and we got a cheap eco car and the petrol consumption was ace! You want to try to save on the rental and petrol eh?
3. Make stops along the way; they are worth it.
We made stop at Santa Cruz, Pebble Beach, Big sir, Santa Barbara, Malibu, and Santa Monica, Long Beach, and our final stop was San Diego. There are so many stops to make you can do it for days! But we only had a few so we kept it short… You can stop in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Laguna, Long BeachVenice Beach; not necessarily in that order. 😉 Again here you can just do some research and pick your favourite places that appeal to you the most and make your own route! Most of the stops are not all that far away from each other, (I know this is relative) so if you are not keen on driving for many hours at a time, making several stops can help make the drive more bearable. Even if you love driving, which my friend and I do, the stops are still not something we would have given up!
Here are some photos of the stops:
4. The coastal drive is a classic!
Yes, you can drive more inland to get from San Francisco to SoCal but why? Everyone should drive the Cali coast at least once in their lives no? I think so. It is a bit longer but the view is fantastic! The mountains, the cliffs, the ocean; it’s like in the movies! DO IT!
Just be careful to drive carefully and not get carried away eh? It is a not an easy drive, there are mile of winding road, and you can always see what it coming up. Not to mention that you are riding a cliff and there are not always banisters, though that wouldn’t really do much in saving you from driving right off… Sorry! But it’S true. So enjoy it, take in all in, put on some good tunes, weather you are alone or with friends, roll down the windows, and ride the coast mate! But be prudent, that’s all.
Also, if you do have a mate with you, try to take turns so you both get a chance to drive and see the views. That’s what my friend and I did. Moreover, there had been a flood so we had to go back on the coast where we came from to continue on again so we both ended up getting the chance to view and drive the same things which was nice.
5. San Diego!
What a beautiful and rich city; I love it. I know i say that about a lot of cities but it’S because there are so many awesome ones out there and San Diego makes the cut for me. I LOVED it. Be sure to stay here if you can. While some of the stops can be visited more quickly, San Diego should be a place where you stay a little longer, in my opinion. Visit Ocean Beach, Sea Port Village, the harbours, the San Diego Zoo if you like that, Little Italy, and any number of great restaurants and bars.
6. Other places I highly recommend but that I visited on my first trip to California
So this bit is about other places I really enjoyed in SoCal from the first time I went a couple years back. I have family in Orange County so that had been my home base and i explored from there.
The first thing I did was go to Disneyland. Come on, talk about a classic. It was a dream come true. It was what i had always wanted to do and for my 21st birthday, that was my gift to myself. It is also the original Disney so it is worth visiting.
The second thing I did was visit Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Once again these places i always dreamed of going to. I was in love with old actresses in high school and still sort of am, so walking the hall of fame nearly had me in tears! Disney actually had though haha! I saw Marilyn Montreal, Audrey Hepburn, and so many of my favourite 20th and 21st century celebs. Beverly Hills was because of my guilty pleasure of a romance with the show Beverly Hills 90210 (the original one), so it was out of the question to miss out on that.
The third thing I did was spend some extra quality time in Laguna. i walked around the beach town, went shopping and visited the three beaches there: Montage, San Clemente and Main. Laguna also had this adorable sweet shop and I bought a big bag of sweets and ate them by the beach. What a treat!
The other thing I did was attend the Sawdust festival in Laguna. So many independent artists came and set up kiosks of their art. It was splendid to see all those different works and all the incredible craftsmenship! It goes on every year so try to catch it if you get the chance.
I also went to Newport because of my second guilty pleasure of a love for the show the O.C. It was worth every minute honestly haha!
Last but not least, I spent some time in Los Angeles. Why not? I mean it’s L.A! While slightly anti-climactic, it was still something I was very excited to tick of my bucket list.
Orange County overall is stunning, clean, organised, possesses unique architecture, great restaurants, bars, clubs, but it very expensive. California is expensive as it is, but some places stand out for sure. Quick tip: Orange County is very widely laid out so either rent a car or so some research on your preferred way to get around. I found San Diego and San Francisco way more easy to navigate on foot than the O.C.
Here are some more photos 🙂