The 10-day trip to the US West Coast was a unique experience that I would repeat it with great pleasure.
There are plenty of places undiscovered by me yet, but I tried to enjoy as much as possible the time spent there and to cover my travel route that I carefully planned. So, here it is my wonderful 10 days journey:
Period of time:
13 October, Tuesday – 22 October, Thursday
3 states: Arizona, Nevada, and California
Plane tickets: around $500/ roundtrip American Airlines, Norfolk,VA- Las Vegas
Route by plane:
Norfolk, VA – Charlotte, NC – Las Vegas, NV
Las Vegas, NV- Philadelphia, PA – Norfolk, VA
Route by car:
Las Vegas (McCarran Airport) – Hoover Dam – Grand Canyon, AZ – Las Vegas, NV- Death Valley, CA – Yosemite National Park, CA – Hayward, CA – San Francisco, CA – Santa Cruz, CA – Monterey, CA – Big Sur, CA – Santa Barbara, CA – Malibu, CA – Los Angeles, CA – Santa Monica, CA – San Diego, CA, Coronado Island, CA – Las Vegas, NV
In my opinion, is an absolute must to rent a car in order to make the most of your trip. That is, of course, if you came by plane.
You can rent a car at a reasonable price for the whole journey. We rented from Hertz (Las Vegas, McCarran Airport) a Toyota Corolla.
Price: $380/ 9 days
DAY 1 (13 October)
Las Vegas : The Strip, Bellagio, The Venetian Hotel, Paris Las Vegas, Miracle Mile Shops
DAY 2 (14 October)
Road trip to Hoover Dam & Grand Canyon
Las Vegas – Hoover Dam: 45 min by car, 34 miles / 55 km
Hoover Dam – Grand Canyon (South Rim): 4 h by car, 243 miles/ 392 km
Grand Canyon – Las Vegas: 4h 30 min by car, 270 miles/ 435 km
Grand Canyon entrance fee: $30/h – 7 days
DAY 3 (15 October)
Las Vegas: Luxor Hotel, Fremont Street, Caesars Palace, Circus Hotel
DAY 4 (16 October)
Road trip Las Vegas- Hayward, through Death Valley and Yosemite National Park
Las Vegas- Death Valley: 2h 14 min by car, 142 miles/ 229 km
Death Valley – Hayward: 8h 10 min by car, 432 miles/ 695 km
Route: US-95 N/ CA-190 W/ CA-136 W/ US-395/ CA-120 W/ I-580
DAY 5 (17 October)
Hayward- San Francisco 45 min by car, 35 miles/ 56 km
San Francisco: downtown, Transamerica Pyramid, Lombard Street, Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Heights
San Francisco – Santa Cruz on Pacific Coast Highway/ California 1
1h 40 min by car, 77 miles/ 125 km
Santa Cruz – Monterey on Pacific Coast Highway/ California 1
50 min, 43 miles/ 70 km
DAY 6 (18 October)
Monterey – Bixby Bridge: 30 min by car, 18 miles/ 30 km
Bixby Bridge – Big Sur (McWay Falls): 24 min by car, 24 miles/ 39 km
McWay Falls – Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery: 1h 15 min by car, 48 miles/ 77 km
Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery – Santa Barbara: 2h 30 min by car, 140 miles/ 225 km
Santa Barbara – Malibu: 1h 10 min by car, 67 miles/ 108 km
Malibu – Los Angeles: 1h by car, 42 miles/ 68 km
DAY 7 (19 October)
Los Angeles: Griffith Park Observatory, Hollywood Sign, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, Universal Studios, Walk of Fame
DAY 8 (20 October)
Los Angeles: Seal Beach, Sunset Beach, Santa Monica Pier, Downtown LA
DAY 9 (21 October)
Los Angeles: Rodeo Drive, Laguna Beach
Road trip Los Angeles – San Diego: 2h 30 min by car, 124 miles/ 200 km
San Diego: downtown, Coronado Island
DAY 10 (22 October)
San Diego – Las Vegas: 5h 10 min by car, 330 miles/ 531 km
Las Vegas: Mirage, The Strip
1. Car rental problems
We had a little problem with the car we rented. We found a small crack in the glass (probably from a pebble) and had to go back to the airport and change it.
We had another problem with the next car after we got to LA. The car needed to have its oil changed, so we had to go to the nearest airport and change the car again. They gave us a Hyundai Elantra.
If you experience such things, you may ask for compensation. They gave us a $50 off coupon, for the next time when/if we will rent from Hertz company.
2. Car rental price
To get a slightly better price for the rental car, I recommend you to book in advance on the website Priceline.com, where you have the option to bet for the price.
The difference will not be very noticeable, but you will save some dollars.
On the Pacific Coast Highway, fuel prices are quite high. Therefore, you might want to fill inside the cities.
4. Road trips between the cities
Do not follow the shortest or fastest route, imposed by GPS. For example, we made our own personalized itinerary between San Francisco and Los Angeles. If there is a long distance anyway, I recommend you to go for the scenic drive.
Between Las Vegas and San Francisco, we chose Death Valley and Yosemite National Park.
Between SF and LA, we chose Pacific Coast Highway and I can say it was the most enjoyable experience of the whole trip.
California 1 is one of the most spectacular coastlines drives in the US.
5. Accommodation in SF
In San Francisco hotels are pretty expensive and, therefore, I advise you to check on the airbnb.com website. We found a good price for a room in Hayward, a neighbor city of SF.
6. North to South on Pacific Coast Highway
Why? Because it will be much easier to stop along the way for pictures and, as a bonus, you will have the ocean view on your side while driving.
7. Bring layers
West Coast weather is quite changeable and varied. In Las Vegas and Southern California was hot and sunny, but in SF we had to add some extra layers.
8. Hit the road early in the morning
Especially on the Pacific Coast. It could be quite a mood setter to start your morning on such an iconic road, and of course, there is no better light than the morning light for taking the best pictures.
9. Cell phone service
Don’t count on it because it will be completely off in some places, so make sure you memorize the route or get a map to help you.
10. Pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge
I didn’t get the nicest aspects of the bridge in my photos. Later on, I found out about Baker Beach. Go for it!
Make sure you take some food with you on the road because you may not find many places to stop and buy something to eat.
12. Big Sur
This stunning place has so much to offer, that you should allow yourself to spend here at least 2-3 days in order to fully enjoy it. Therefore, I made up my mind to come back and camp above the McWay Falls someday.
13. McWay Falls
Be careful not to miss it! I thought we did because we couldn’t spot any sign, indicating the place where the falls were situated.
Once we passed the Pfeiffer State Park sign, we started looking very carefully, until we reached a place with many cars parked on the roadside. There it was…
I am aware of the fact that every stop on Pacific Coast Highway leads you to catch dozens-hundreds of frames with the ocean and the hills, but time passes so quickly that you won’t even notice how fast will get dark and you will miss other important places.
Each stop will cost you at least 10 minutes, do not forget to take this into consideration!
The trip in numbers:
Flight: 12 h roundtrip
By car: 2069 miles/ 3330 km