Travel the rugged California coast from LA to San Francisco

Kick off your California coastal adventure from the sprawling megalopolis of Los Angeles. Stop in Santa Barbara - also known as the American Riviera - and take in the incredible Spanish influences. Spend the night in beautiful Pismo Beach and travel the spectacular Cabrillo Highway to Monterey. Finish in San Francisco. This is a great way to witness the stunning Cali coastline in all its glory.

Los Angeles, United States
San Francisco, United States
United States
Explorer, Short Breaks
Physical rating
Min 15
Group size
Min 1, Max 13

Why we love this trip

  • With its widespread beaches and relaxed atmosphere, Santa Barbara is a great place to escape the bright lights and buzz of major cities

  • Due to the nature of this trip, it allows you to see a lot of the Californian coast in such a short period of time

  • Mexican influence runs throughout Monterey, with the city offering a glimpse into the history of California before it became a part of the USA

  • San Francisco has a completely unique landscape that’s extremely rewarding to explore by foot. With cable cars navigating its steep hills and the Golden Gate Bridge forever in its backdrop, it’s worth getting to know

Is this trip right for you?

  • As this is a short trip with a packed itinerary, there's not a lot of free time to explore on your own or relax. We recommend planning to spend an extra day or two in Los Angeles and San Francisco either side of the trip to make the most of these cities. We'll be happy to help you book additional accommodation (subject to availability).

  • You'll be travelling in a van with other travellers, so conditions may feel a little cramped. This is all part of the adventure and a great opportunity to make new friends.

  • Traffic in and out of Los Angeles and San Francisco can be very busy, especially during the holiday period. There may be delays, so be prepared to take part in car games to keep you entertained.

  • The drive along the California coast offers spectacular views and is a main focus of the adventure. Given the trip is so short, expect to spend a lot of time in the van, rather than spending most of your time in each destination.


Welcome to Los Angeles, USA. Meet your group and leader at 7:30 am in the hotel lobby for an important briefing about the trip. Please eat breakfast and pack your bags before the meeting, so that you're ready to leave soon after. Drive north to your first stop of Santa Barbara (approximately 2-3 hours). The traffic around Los Angeles can be very bad so please be prepared for delays. You'll have some free time to explore Santa Barbara before continuing up the coast to Pismo Beach where we stay the night. Spend the rest of the afternoon walking along the beach, swimming in the ocean, or take a trip to the nearby town of San Luis Obispo - the happiest town in the USA. Optional activities here include a visit to the Spanish mission of San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, Bubblegum Alley, or sample a local brew or wine.
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Santa Barbara - Mission - USD8
  • Santa Barbara - Beaches - Free
  • San Luis Obispo - Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa - USD3
  • San Luis Obispo - Bubblegum Alley - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Notes: We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at the welcome meeting this morning, so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader. If you'd like to see the sights of Los Angeles, we recommend you arrive a few days early. We'd be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).
This morning jump on Highway 101 and head north towards Monterey. After a picnic lunch at Lover's Point, turn south and drive down Highway 1 as far as possible, stopping at Pfeiffer State Beach for some classic coastline views. The Highway here has been impacted by recent heavy rains and travel will be restricted by maintenance works. Head back to Monterey afterwards. On arrival into town, check in to your hotel and perhaps head out on an optional activity. Perhaps sign up for some whale spotting or visit Steinbeck's Cannery Row. The rest of the evening is free to do as you please.
  • Hotel (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Monterey - Bike rental - USD20
  • Monterey - Kayak rental - USD30
  • San Luis Obispo - Hearst Castle - USD25
  • Monterey - Cannery Row - Free
  • Monterey - Monterey Bay Aquarium - USD50
Meals Included
  • Lunch
Special Information

Due to recent heavy rains, Highway 1 along the California coast has been closed between Ragged Point and Notleys Landing. Mudslides have caused a bridge to collapse and sections of the road have become unstable. It is expected that this closure will remain in effect for the whole year. While this closure is in place, instead of driving along the coast the tour will take Highway 101 inland, past Monterey, and then drive down the coast as far as possible so that you can see some of the Big Sur coast from the north. The rest of the day will then be spent in Monterey.


At Intrepid we have a strong commitment to animal welfare. We only visit facilities involving wild animals in captivity if the rationale for the sanctuary operation is in the best interests of the animals involved. We have listed as an optional activity a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in support of the conservation and education programs run by the Aquarium an
Head to San Francisco this morning, arriving into the city around lunchtime (approximately two hours). This afternoon take part in the Temples, Tea and Beatniks Urban Adventure day tour. Make your own fortune cookie in Chinatown, explore the city's oldest temple and discover the Beatniks of North Beach. Your California Coast Express trip comes to an end after the tour, and you're free to depart at anytime. As there's a great deal to do in San Francisco, we recommend you stay a few extra days to make the most of the city.
Included Activities
  • San Francisco - Temples, Tea, & Beatniks Urban Adventure
Optional Activities
  • San Francisco - Adventure Cat Bay Cruise - USD45
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
This trip doesn't allow time for a visit to Alcatraz, so you'll need to make your own arrangements to visit the island prison. Tickets must be booked in advance, as they're limited and sell out quickly. You can make your own Alcatraz reservations online at or call +1 415 981 7625 between the hours of 8 am and 7 pm, Pacific Standard Time (USA). We recommend booking your tickets for the day after the trip finishes. If you need help booking extra accommodation, our reservations team will be happy to assist (subject to availability). Also consider doing our one-day sightseeing tours of San Francisco through


1 lunch


Private vehicle


Hotel (2 nights)

Included activities

  • San Francisco - Temples, Tea, & Beatniks Urban Adventure

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. A single supplement is available on this trip
2. This trip starts at 7:30am on day 1 and finishes at approximately 5pm on day 3.

Essential trip information

Want an in-depth insight into this trip? Essential Trip Information provides a detailed itinerary, visa info, how to get to your hotel, what's included - pretty much everything you need to know about this adventure and more.


Our California Coast Express trips score an average of 4.69 out of 5 based on 16 reviews in the last year.

California Coast Express, August 2017

Luisa Anderson

California Coast Express, July 2017

Angela Cruden