Travel News San Francisco to Los Angeles Road Trip

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San Francisco to Los Angeles Road Trip

The iconic US-101 road trip you need to be taking! Rent a car and start down the coast of California.

Find a rental car deal at SFO airport. Deals starting at $38* a day.

If you’re California dreamin’, you’ve come to the right place! California is known for its long Pacific coastline, diverse climate, and range of geographical features.

In one moment, you could be skiing slopes in Lake Tahoe, and several hours later, you can find yourself in Death Valley. By driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles, you’ll be able to experience all of the diverse range of scenery that California has to offer.

Getting to San Francisco

San FranciscoFlights to SFO
starting at $67
Car rental from
$38* a day
Hotels in
San Francisco

San Francisco is one of a kind city that offers many things to do! You will begin your road trip here and have the opportunity to explore the city at your leisure. Make sure you allow enough time to visit the Golden Gate Bridge and ride a cable car if you get the chance. If you get hungry, the Cliff House offers scenic views of the bay and is a great spot to grab lunch or dinner.

Start your road trip in San Francisco, CA
Start your road trip in San Francisco, CA

Half Moon Bay

Just 30 miles south of San Francisco lies a small coastal city with several beaches. This is the perfect stop to experience after visiting a busy city like San Francisco. Half Moon Bay State Beach allows camping and fishing, and the picturesque Poplar Beach is perfect for a picnic. 

Also rated by Coastal Living Magazine as one of the best coastal breweries, Half Moon Brewery is only a short drive away when you’re ready to eat and have a cold beer. La Nebbia Winery is also great for a glass of wine in a beautiful outdoor setting. Sam’s Chowder House is also a highly rated spot for seafood. 

At the end of the day, you can rest your head at the Half Moon Bay Lodge, one of the more affordable options in town.

San Jose

San JoseFlights to San Jose
starting at $57
Car rentals from
$39* a day
Hotels in San Jose

You’ve arrived at one of the biggest technology hubs in the Silicon Valley. Here, have fun exploring the Winchester Mystery House, shopping at Santana Row, or getting caught up on the latest technology at The Tech Museum of Innovation

I won’t go overboard on the seafood restaurants, but the Boiling Crab is great for cajun style seafood and oysters. If you like Carribean food and jerk chicken, definitely check out Back A Yard Carribean Grill.

Stay at Hotel De Anza, a more affordable hotel with lots of history and frequent jazz nights.

Santa Cruz

Santa CruzFlights from San Jose
starting at $57
Car rentals from
$39* a day
Hotels in
Santa Cruz

From vintage rides at the boardwalk to the Surfing Museum, Santa Cruz is full of surf culture and entertainment.

The Crow’s Nest is ranked the number one restaurant in Santa Cruz, not only offers great food and views but also hosts live music and comedy shows. Monday thru Friday, they offer $9.95 dinner “deals with a view.” 

For breakfast or brunch, the Harbor Cafe is another highly rated spot.

The Holiday Inn Express is really close to nightlife and affordable.

Santa Cruz, CA
Santa Cruz, CA

Cambria

CambriaFlights to Monterey
starting at $76
Car rentals from
$43* a day
Hotels in
Cambria

On your way to Cambria, make sure you travel through Big Sur, a stretch of jagged seaside cliffs and unforgettable ocean views. The Bixby Creek Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in the state of California.

There are also several wildlife parks where you can stop and hike if you love the outdoors and nature. 

If you like castles and history, you absolutely have to stop at the Hearst Castle, a 20th-century estate built by William Randolph Hearst.

When you arrive in Cambria, decide whether you’d like to spend time at the beach, hike or bike, or shop at the many boutiques and antique stores. If you’re looking to wind down with a glass of wine, head over to Harmony Cellars. For dinner, visit the Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill.

If you’re ending your day here, the Fogcatcher Inn is right on the beach, walking distance to town, and has a heated pool and hot tub!

Santa Barbara 

Santa BarbaraFlights to
Santa Barbara
starting at $127
Car rental from
$57* a day
Hotels in Santa Barbara

Personally, Santa Barbara is one of my favorite places in the state of California. Known for its wine district (a.k.a The Funk Zone), Spanish mission architecture, and of course its sandy beaches, I would definitely plan to spend a full day here. 

Make sure to visit historic landmarks, such as the Mission Santa Barbara. Then, head over to Stearns Wharf where you can find shops, restaurants, and even an aquarium. State Street also has a ton of restaurants, wineries, and shops as well. 

The Santa Barbara Wharf
The Santa Barbara Wharf

Brophy Bros.Clam Bar & Restaurant is the best option for dinner. It sits right on the harbor so you can watch all of the boats while you eat.

I would personally splurge here and stay at the Bacara Resort & Spa, but if it’s not in your budget, there’s a Holiday Inn Express that’s right also right next to State Street.

Los Angeles  

Los AngelesFlights to LA
starting at $76
Car rental from
$38* a day
Hotels in Los Angeles

You’ve made it to the City of Angels! Here, you can enjoy the beaches, the museums, the film studios, the food, the nightlife, the mansions – Los Angeles literally has it all. 

One of my favorite things to do in LA is to see a movie at the Quentin Tarantino owned movie theatre, the New Beverly Cinema.

You've made it from San Francisco to Los Angeles
You’ve made it from San Francisco to Los Angeles!

LA is full of many different cuisines, but Republique and Bestia are my top picks for dining. 

The Roosevelt Hotel is a great choice for accommodation if you like history. Otherwise, try The Standard, a boutique hotel in the midst of downtown LA.

Quit California Dreamin’ and Make it a Reality!

Not only does this trip offer diverse nature and city life, but it will also create the memories of a lifetime. Book that flight and rent that car on Skyscanner, and soon enough you’ll be feeling the warm California sunshine on your face.

Looking for more road trip inspiration? Check out our road trip guides on California, the Pacific Coast Highway and the ultimate San Diego to San Francisco road trip.