The US West Coast is popularly known as a place with a rich road trip culture, what with its vast network of highways and seemingly-endless choice of destinations anyone can feast their senses on. This is why California road trips are amazing. It’s no wonder that West Coast freeways hold some of the most interesting stops that side of the US.
With so much to see and experience, it’s no wonder that planning what you think could be your best California road trip can be quite a flexible undertaking. The fact that you can choose from a wide range of selections of stops along the vastness of the West Coast means that you have the option to make the most out of the ones that fit your preferences.
Filtering out from among the numerous choices for stops along the West Coast may seem like a struggle at first, borne out of the desire to make the most out of everyone’s time without creating haphazard decisions. But you must remember that in this case, your preferences have to be the foremost consideration, so as not to waste valuable time on your road trip.
In that case, allow us to help you in your mission to plan a thrilling West Coast road trip through our recommendation of the top stops, each of which having its own awe-inspiring character. Surely, this list doesn’t fit everything there is to beautifully experience the West Coast with your hungry set of wheels, but it contains those that can make your road trip truly worth the while.
1. San Diego
California’s southernmost major city is a true gem for road trippers, what with its vast swathes of picturesque beachfront as well as facilities that make for a complete beach lifestyle. Featuring a strong Latino character owing to its location right beside the Mexican border, San Diego has a host of sights for the happy camper, from the Old Town to the Cabrillo National Monument.
2. Long Beach
Beaches are stapled sights along the Pacific Ocean-fronting West Coast, making Long Beach a characteristic place to savor its tropical qualities. As you go further north from San Diego, Long Beach is accessible via a slight route change, and doing so would be worth your while as you pass by sights like La Jolla, Mission Beach, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, and Laguna Beach.
3. Los Angeles
Why would anyone dare miss out on Los Angeles – undoubtedly the most dynamic urban hotspot the West Coast has on offer? From the tinsel town that is Hollywood to family-friendly Santa Monica Pier, Los Angeles can never disappoint the hungry wanderlust. There’s just so much you can do with the likes of the Kodak Theater and Universal Studios within the neighborhood.
Perhaps you’ve automatically considered your West Coast road trip as one that would include beaches of various kinds. Malibu wears that sort of image loud and proud – its miles-long beachfront has long been an image of the West Coast lifestyle, and road trippers would certainly not make the dare to miss it, especially with opportunities to rent any of the splendid beach houses.
5. Santa Barbara
Offering amenities that are a far cry from what the likes of Los Angeles and San Francisco offers, Santa Barbara has a laidback vibe that emphasizes its penchant for nature and culture. The Santa Barbara Zoo and Botanical Garden are both worthwhile spots for enjoying California’s natural gifts, while the Santa Barbara Historical Museum provides enriching cultural education.
6. San Luis Obispo
Again, the beach lifestyle prevails prominent on San Luis Obispo – another lovely stop for when you’re looking to provide yourself a respite from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and San Francisco. Pismo Beach has everything you’d ask for from San Luis Obispo’s beach culture, with fishing, surfing, and delectable seafood all waiting to soothe your weary traveling soul.
Time with nature along the West Coast can perhaps be best spent in Monterey. As the home of the spectacular Lobos State Natural Reserve, Monterey comes off as a truly awe-inspiring stop along the West Coast. Marine activities like sailing and whale-watching are popular in Monterey, while both the Cannery Row and the Old Fisherman’s Wharf both provide a touristy kind of solace.
8. Santa Cruz
The Beach Boardwalk is undoubtedly a signature destination within Santa Cruz, given its vast collection of 60s-era Americana features. If you wish to procure some good finds from the olden times, you may try your luck along Pacific Avenue. Activities such as dancing and hiking both reflect the energetic fellows that make Santa Cruz an exciting place to return to.
9. San Jose
As the home of the all-powerful Silicon Valley, San Jose leaves little to anyone’s imagination insofar as tech facilities are concerned. But more than that, San Jose offers much more for the cultural connoisseur, with museums, galleries, and the Winchester Mystery House all offering various degrees of thrill. Nightlife at Downtown San Jose is also alive and vibrant.
10. San Francisco
Lastly, but certainly not the most insignificant, is San Francisco – the city where, like Los Angeles, several dreams are built. Home of the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco has tons of facilities to offer the weary road tripper. A relaxing moment at the Fisherman’s Wharf provides a signature San Francisco experience, while a day trip to Alcatraz Island provides a further thrill.
Whichever place you want to go, do keep in mind that a West Coast road trip must be enjoyed based on its merits alone – the fact that the freeways along the way can comprehensively take you to each of the spots indicated means that accessibility is not a problem at all. Understand too, that your varying preferences have a bearing on deciding on the stops on this list.
Best of all, skirt yourself away from the idea of having to visit all the stops within a limited timeframe, so that you wouldn’t let your frustration get in the way. It’s best that you enjoy every minute of your stay in your chosen destinations without the feeling of being rushed so that every possible instance of spontaneity can be handled more gracefully