Hey guys! If you follow me on instagram (@marthasachser e @the50statesgirl) you might know that I’m finally came back from my amazing trip to the San Francisco area. Yes, San Francisco again! I’ve been to California ten times but this one was extra special, sicne I took Ryu with me! So I decided to share with you my itinerary for a 10-15 days trip to California, from North to South, east to west! I will be traveling and guiding you to some of the most beautiful spots in the state! So grab your bags and let’s hit the road together!
Itinerary departing from San Francisco, exploring Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, Pismo Beach, Los Angeles and ending in San Diego. The Big Sur (highway 1) road was closed and scheduled to reopen on September 30th, 2017. So this itinerary is for 10 days in case the roads are still closed and 15 days once they reopen it!
Day 1- San Francisco
Where to stay: Hotels in San Francisco can be veeery expensive. So whenever I’m there I stay at one of the Hostelling International hostels, in private or shared rooms. The experience is always great, hostelling international is usually very clean and organized.
San Francisco is a big city but with some planning you can see most of it in 2 days. I recommend you renting a car, although parking in SF can be hard to find at times or too expensive. You can also try to find a garage for the first day of our trip and do everything by foot/bus or book a tour with a hop on, hop off bus. BIG BUS offers some tours that cover most landmarks of the city. But there are buses and other public transportation to all major spots as well, it might just take you longer. I recommend checking all the options and see which one fits your budget and time the most.
So we are starting today at the Golden Gate Park, if you are in the mood for it there is a gorgeous Japanese Garden, a flower conservatory, an academy of sciences with a planetarium, an aquarium and much more! You can see all the other park’s attractions HERE! Our next stops are Chinatown and Union Square followed by a ride on the iconics Cable Cars. Make sure to ride the one that will drop you off near the famous Fisherman’s Wharf at Pier 39, a busy area with lots to do and see, including the adorable sea lions and endless dining options! If you have the time and are interested you catch a paid tour to Alcatraz.
Day 2 – San Francisco, Sausalito and Tiburon
We are starting the day by visiting and driving on Lombard Street (features on the previous collage on the top left corner) the famous zigzag street! To get there type the address 1099 Lombard Street on your gps! From there we are going to pay a visit to Alamo Square (if you are a Full House like me, you have to snap a picture there!) followed by Twin Peaks (where you can see the city from the top, make sure it is not too cloudy/foggy), Palace of Fine Arts, Baker’s Beach and the finally, the Golden Gate Bridge. There are viewpoints for the bridge on each end of it, but my favorite spot is the one located at the first exit after you cross from San Francisco and the last one on the right side when you cross from Salsalito to SF.
This should take half of your day, from there I recommend driving to Sausalito, to spend the rest of the day in this piece of paradise! You can easily find parking in downtown Sausalito, near the ferry station, where all the shops are. Most likely you will pay for parking in those areas, but feel free to search for free parking if you have the time. For this part of the day I recommend walking around Sausalito, exploring the shops and restaurants and the gorgeous view of San Francisco. For a late lunch, go to Bar Bocce, a great spot by the water that will transport you to a beach scene. Locals love it and it is perfect for drinks and happy hour.
From there, let’s do a quick stop in Tiburon, another small town in the bay area. There isn’t that much to do, but the view of the Golden Gate and again, SF, is worth the visit. They have a cute Main Street with restaurants and shops, stop by for some dinner by the water before heading to our next destination. You can also play on the famous hippie tree swing, another spot to see the Golden Gate bridge and more of Tiburon. It’s a great photo op! Put this addres in your GPS: 120 Gilmartin Drive, Tiburon, CA. If you have more time, pay a visit to Angel Island, it’s only a quick 10 minute ride from Tiburon. And if you feel like staying the night in Tiburon, make sure to check the Waters Edge Hotel!
Now let’s head to downtown Mill Valley, a cute small town surrounded by nature and things to do tomorrow. Where to stay? Mill Valley Inn, a boutique hotel, super cozy and the perfect place to make this experience more memorable. They serve delicious deluxe breakfast for guests in the morning but feel free to explore the many options Mill Valley has to offer. The hotel is located at 165 Throckmorton Avenue | Mill Valley, CA.
Day 3: Point Reyes, Stinson Beach and Muir Woods
Today we are exloring the beautiful coast line of California. There are many things to do and see but I’m going to suggest three: Stinson Beach, Point Reyes and the Muir Woods National Monument. Breathtaking views and beautiful trails await for you. To be safe, bring some snacks and water for the day. Also, make sure you fill up the tank. I recommend starting the day by heading to Point Reyes National Seashore (learn more HERE), it’s a popular destination for whale watching so in high season it can get too busy and hard to find parking. You might also see some sea lions and its light house. From there, head to Stinson Beach (learn more HERE), a beautiful beach with a local vibe. From there, stop by Muir Woods National Monument (learn more HERE). After a day of beautiful views is time to head back to Mill Valley for a nice dinner and perhaps catching a movie in town? Below: Mill Valley, Point Reyes, Stinson Beach and Mill Valley.
Images credit: Point Reyes (Wikipedia). Stinson Beach ( Mark Doliner)
Day 4: Napa Valley and Lake Tahoe
Today is going to be an exciting day, we are heading to Lake Tahoe, also known as my perfect idea of paradise. But we are taking a detour and stopping by Napa Valley, where wine lovers go to and where the views are always nice! My recommendation is to visit the beautiful Castello di Amorosa, a castle where you can take a self guided tour, taste delicious wine and enjoy the view. The castle is located at 4045 Helena Highway, Calistoga, CA.
Now let’s head to Tahoe, the trip should take 4 hours, so I recommend plenty of rest the night before. Tahoe is a perfect destination all year long: it’s an exciting ski spot, with many winter activities but also a fun spot throughout the year with plenty to do and see in the warmer months. There are many lodging options, from cabins to 5 stars hotels. Tahoe also offers some casinos if you are interested. Explore the area, there are many restaurants and local shops. If you like water adventures I recommend booking in advance to better enjoy your time there.
Where to stay: we stayed at the America’s Best Value Inn, great location and price but there are countless options in the area.
Day 5: Lake Tahoe
Today I recommend driving around the lake and stopping for pictures countless times. I’ve shared more of my experience in Tahoe on this post HERE! It’s in portuguese, but you can see the beautiful pictures! When you finish, either head back to Tahoe for more activities or head to our next destination.
Day 6: Yosemite National Park
Today is national park day! It’s gonna be quite a drive (about 5 hours) so make sure you get enough sleep. Leave as early as possible and get ready for some breathtaking views and awesome hikes in one of America’s most beautiful parks!
Where to stay: if you aren’t able to book a tent/hotel inside the park, you can book a private room at Yosemite Bug Rustic Mountain Resort, (a hostelling international hostel). They offer mixed and shared rooms and baths but also private cabins, which I recommend. There is a restaurant on location (with many vegan options, thank God!), perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They also have a bathtub, fire place and some activities for guests.
The Yosemite entrance fee is $30 per car and the ticket is valid for 7 days.
Day 7: Yosemite National Park
One day is not enough, so I recommend visiting Yosemite today again, there are many hikes and places to visit! Don’t leave without seeing the gigantic sequoias! See more of our trip to Yosemite HERE!
Day 8: Monterey
We are leaving early to hit the road again! The trip from Yosemite Bug to Monterey is about 3 hours long. In my opinion, Monterey is one of the most beautiful cities in the SF area and I always stop by when I have a chance. Once you get there, park around the famous Cannery Row, where everything happens!
There are many restaurants in the area, shops and art to explore. From there, head to Lover’s Point, where you can get a beautiful view of the coast and climb some rocks. If you are ready for lunch, go to the Beach House, for a meal with a view or a delicious açaí bowl. If you have more time, add the Monterey Aquarium and the Fisherman’s Wharf to your trip and some water adventures (snorkeling is only one of them!).
Where to stay: In Monterey we stayed at the beautiful Portola Hotel & Spa, an amazing hotel located in the heart of Monterey with comfy room and the best pillows I’ve ever slept on! The experience was great and I shared more HERE! Another great thing about staying at Portola were the amenities and the dining options available on location! Besides the breakfast buffet at The Club room, the Portola hotel also offers two other dining experiences: the Jacks Monterey or Peter B’s Brewpub, Monterey’s original craft brewery.
Day 9: Carmel and Big Sur
From Monterey you can drive to Pebble Beach and Carmel through the scenic 17 mile drive ($10 fee per car) or if you feel like saving U$10, just drive straight to Carmel-by-the-sea. Once you’re there park the car by the beach, walk around, explore downtown and get some lunch! I’m not an expert when it comes to dining in Carmel but we’ve been to Village Corner Mediterranean Bistro and the experience was good. It’s located at Dolores St & 6th Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA. But as usual, check Yelp for more options.
From Carmel it is time to keep driving south to our next destination: the Big Sur. When I was there last time, the road was close due to construction and it is scheduled to reopen at the end of September. So we were only able to drive up to the River Inn, a charming hotel and restaurant in the area. The river in the back of the hotel allows for great relaxing time: there are chairs for you to sit and enjoy the calm and peace of the place. There is also a cute gas station right next to it.
So if the road is still closed, you can stay at the River Inn if there are rooms available or head back to Monterey. If the road is opened, you can keep driving towards Los Angeles, and spend the night in San Luis Obispo or Pismo Beach, two lovely spots on the way to LA.
Day 10-15: Los Angeles and San Diego
From now on, if you have the time, I recommend spending at least 5 days in Los Angeles and I do have an itinerary for it but, it’s still only in Portuguese! But you can get an idea of the places to go on each day and the pictures of what you will be seeing until I have the time to translate it to English! Click HERE to check it out!
So that’s it! I hope this post was useful to you and you can enjoy California as much as I did! If you like it, make sure to share with someone who is heading there soon and follow me on instagram for more adventures in the US! If you have any questions, I’m always there! My instagram accounts are @marthasachser and @the50statesgirl! See you soon!