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Travel News San Diego to San Francisco Road Trip

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San Diego to San Francisco Road Trip

Nothing is more iconic than traveling California in a cool car through the deserts and the coast. Check out our route and start planning your trip today!

Search for your car rental below 👇👇

San Diego to San Francisco Route:

  1. San Diego
  2. Palm Springs
  3. San Clemente
  4. Los Angeles
  5. Santa Maria
  6. Big Sur
  7. San Francisco

Starting in San Diego

California is one of the most alluring and diverse states in the USA. There’s a reason it’s called The Golden State, as it boasts beaches, mountains, deserts, forests, and an incredible coastline. One of the best ways to see California is to take a road trip from one end to the other. You’ll cruise on the famous Pacific Coast Highway on a road trip from San Diego to San Francisco.

Flying to California is affordable and easy, with flights to San Diego as low as $48. Additionally, you might need to rent a car while you’re in San Diego. Luckily, there are car rental deals for as little as $32/day.

Before you leave, you’ll need to pack! Packing can feel overwhelming, especially if you have a lot of gear you want to bring with you and are unsure of what the weather will be like. This essential packing list gives tips on what to bring to the beach, the city, camping, and more.  

Palm Springs

Palm SpringsFlights to Palm Springs
starting at $127
Car rental in
from $45 a day
Hotels in
Palm Springs

Palm Springs is the perfect location where you can truly experience the Californian desert. It’s also the gateway to Joshua Tree National Park. If you’re into outdoorsy kind of adventures, you can also explore San Jacinto Peak and the Indian Canyons for trails and horseback riding.

Definitely check out Korakia Pensione Hotel in Palm Springs. It’s a chic hotel with quirky décor. Each room is completely different from the next and portrays gorgeous handmade furniture with beautiful carvings, Mediterranean gardens, and fun art. There are two pools and a library on site.

Once you start getting hungry, make sure you eat at Spencer’s Restaurant for some delicious American grub. You can sit indoors or outdoors, enjoy entertainment from the piano bar, and munch on food like sea bass, steaks, and soups.

Palm Spring California
Palm Springs, California

San Clemente

San ClementeFlights to Santa Ana
John Wayne Airport
starting at $77
Car rental from
$34* a day
Hotels in
San Clemente

For a little bit of Spanish culture and architecture, San Clemente is an awesome place to spend a few days on your road trip. There are some fun surf spots nearby, like Dana Point, Laguna Beach, and Huntington Beach. San Clemente itself also has some good surf breaks, scenic views, and is a decent spot for fishing and camping.

Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach, CA

The Sea Horse Resort is a great place to get a few nights rest. Some rooms offer a beautiful oceanfront view and other rooms have private balconies. It’s in an excellent location and there are a lot of fun activities nearby.

Nick’s San Clemente has a fun atmosphere and is a good spot for dinner and drinks. You can try dishes like the veggie burger, butter cake, asparagus fries, and baby back ribs. Make sure you book a reservation in advance as it can get very busy!

Los Angeles

Los AngelesFlights to Los Angeles
starting at $77
Car rental from
$38* a day
Hotels in
Los Angeles

This is the City of Angels, where the glitz and glam of Hollywood celebrities and residents of Beverly Hills come to shine. It’s more or less an entirely different culture from the rest of the state, where the rich and famous stars of the television and movie industry live, work, and play.

While the city itself boasts a ton of museums, shows, and behind the scenes tours, you can also pop over to nearby Venice Beach with the famous Venice Boardwalk. Other notable beach towns are Santa Monica and Santa Barbara.

Petit Ermitage Hotel in Los Angeles has a beautiful rooftop pool, artsy décor, and hospitable staff. The rooms are accommodating and comfortable, with a friendly vibe. It’s in a good location in Los Angeles near many restaurants.

Bestia Restaurant is a famous restaurant in Los Angeles with a modern ambiance, hip vibe, and delicious food. It’s located in the Art District and serves up mouthwatering entrees like lobster, bone marrow, mussels, and pasta. Because this place is so popular, you should make a reservation well in advance.

Evening in Los Angeles, CA
Evening in Los Angeles, CA

Santa Maria

Santa MariaFlights to Santa Maria
starting at $88
Car rental at
Santa Maria Airport
Hotels in
Santa Maria

If you like drinking wine, then you definitely have to spend a few days in Santa Maria. Not only will it break up your drive from LA to Big Sur, but it is home dozens of wineries and the Santa Maria style BBQ, a local delicacy.

The Historic Santa Maria Inn is a beautiful boutique hotel that offers a delicious brunch buffet, fantastic views, and a homey atmosphere.

You definitely have to eat at Yanagi Sushi and Grill, which serves sushi, beef, shrimp, vegetables, and many other tasty dishes. There are over 200 dishes and dozens of variety of wine and sake, making for a fun night at this restaurant.

Big Sur

Big SurFlights to Monterey
starting at $76
Car rental near
Big Sur
Hotels near Big Sur

This is one of the most breathtaking and scenic parts of the drive. Make sure you spend a couple of days in Big Sur just admiring the view from the cliffs. There are beaches nearby and tons of tiny and unique restaurants to explore.

The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is nearby with gorgeous views and a chance to relish in the natural beauty of California. From Big Sur, it’s 3 hours to San Francisco.

Big Sur California
Big Sur, CA

The Post Ranch Inn has 40 solar-paneled cottages with views of the Pacific Ocean. Brunch and organic minibar snacks are included in your room price. This will definitely be one of the most memorable places you’ll stay on your trip, solely because of the view!

Nepenthe Restaurant in Big Sur is a hippy eclectic restaurant serving delectable dishes which you can munch on while watching a spectacular sunset. There’s also a shop at the restaurant that sells local jewelry and handmade gifts.

The Trip of a Lifetime

Driving from San Diego to San Francisco will be one of the most incredible road trips you will ever take! There are tons of locations to explore in California, and this is the perfect way to do just that. Time to hit the road and take the trip of a lifetime. 

If you’re looking for another awesome road trip in California that travels north to south, this Mt. Shasta to San Diego road trip is the perfect getaway.