Cruise down California's coast from San Fran to LA on Highway 1

This is what road trips were made for. Take the ultimate drive down the California coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles. With the old school sound of the Beach Boys in your head, it's "California Dreamin" down to the bayside city of Monterey, a wildlife-filled marine sanctuary where there's "Fun, Fun, Fun" with kayaks and boat trips on the bay. From "Surfin' U.S.A." in Big Sur, to "Good Vibrations" around the hairpin curves of Highway 1, "God Only Knows" how this jagged landscape of crashing waves and sheer cliffs got so stunning. This short break passes through some of California's most charming towns - San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara - and memorable scenery. "Wouldn't It Be Nice" to drive it every day.

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

Why you'll love this trip

  • Tightly hugging the spectacular California coast, Highway 1 is simply one of the most amazing drives in the world. This trip allows you to focus all your attention on the incredible views and let someone else do all the driving!

  • Pack in the best of the California coast in a really short period of time. See otters, sea lions and the rocky coves on the Monterey Bay area, the dramatic cliffs of Big Sur, and the sandy beaches around Pismo Beach and Santa Barbara.

  • This wouldn't be an all-American road trip without camping in the States' beautiful outdoors surrounded by the sounds of the Pacific and an ocean of stars above.

Is this trip right for you?

  • This is a participatory trip. That’s a fancy way of saying you’re not just along for the ride – you’re part of a team! You know the phrase ‘the more you put in, the more you get out’. Well that’s extra true on this trip. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and help out with camp activities like food prep and washing up. It’s all about giving your new travel mates a hand – everyone knows there’s nothing worse than trying to put up a tent on your own!

  • That teamwork also extends to our optional food kitty of approximately US$10 per day, run to cover the cost of meals. This kitty saves you worrying about stuff like where to get food or what exactly sales tax is, and actually helps keep your costs down. Instead of paying individually as you go, it means we can bulk purchase items and cook our own food – though there’s always the chance to use it for the occasional pizza night! The kitty is optional and for your convenience, so if you've got specific dietary requirements you can opt out and purchase (and cook) your own food.

  • The United States is a world of endless possibilities – that’s why our Basix trips are designed so they fit together as (not quite endless) combinations. That means while you might just be starting your trip, some of your new travel mates may have been travelling together for a week or more (and so have some great tips for you). You can see how our trips fit together and all the different possible combinations at Simply click view/download on the North America brochure and look at the combo map on page 12.

  • If you're under 25, the insurance rates for hiring a car in the US are very high. This trip allows you to avoid that, and let someone else do all the hard work of driving too!

  • 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 spending 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 if the group is full. 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 holiday periods. There may be delays, so be prepared to take part in car games to keep you entertained.

  • Road tripping is the ultimate way to see the USA, so the spectacular drive along the California coast is a main focus of this 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.

  • Some travellers have reported feeling unsafe in San Francisco due to the large number of homeless people. Unfortunately homelessness is a fact of life in San Francisco and the problem is widespread throughout the city. It is very likely that you will see homeless people on the street during your time in the city, and while it can appear intimidating, they are mostly harmless.


Welcome to the USA! Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the hotel loby today at 6 pm. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.

San Francisco is a cosmopolitan city with spectacular coastline, iconic sights, and a humming cultural mix across its unique neighbourhoods. As this short trip doesn’t include any time in San Francisco, arriving a day or so early to give you time to explore (and to be in time for the welcome meeting) is strongly recommended.
  • Hotel (1 night)
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
Notes: As there's very little time spent in San Francisco on this trip, we recommend you arrive a few days early to see the sights. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Consider doing our one-day sightseeing tours of San Francisco:

This trip doesn't allow time for a visit to Alcatraz, so you'll need to make your own arrangements if you want to see the island prison. Tickets must be booked in advance, as they sell out quickly and numbers are limited. You can make your reservations online at or by calling +1415 981 7625 between the hours of 8 am and 7 pm, Pacific Standard Time (USA). We recommend reserving your tickets for the day before the tour commences.
We leave the city this morning and drive south down the coast to Monterey (approximately 3.5 hours). You’ll spend the afternoon in the Monterey area, which is home to a National Marine sanctuary – an incredibly deep ecosystem just metres off shore. Mammals, seabirds, fish, invertebrates and plants all thrive in a remarkably productive coastal environment. Maybe see it up close up with a kayak around the bay, or head further out to try and spot some whales. On dry land, you can wander down atmospheric Cannery Row, a favourite hangout spot for sea lions. This evening you’ll set up camp here along the beautiful California Coast.
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Monterey - Kayak rental - USD30
  • Monterey - Bike rental - USD20
  • Monterey - Cannery Row - Free
  • Monterey - Monterey Bay Aquarium - USD50
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Special Information
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 a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in support of their conservation and education programs run by the Aquarium and it’s Center for Ocean Education and Leadership. It’s important to note that the Monterey Bay Aquarium does not keep large marine mammals such as dolphins and whales in captivity. We encourage you to do your own research on the aquarium, and welcome your feedback. You can view a copy of our animal welfare policy at
Today, cruise southbound along Highway 101 for approximately 4 hours. There will be restroom breaks along the way before stopping for lunch on San Simeon Beach. After lunch, head north and check out the elephant seals near Piedras Blancas. This special spot is visited by over 25,000 elephant seals every year! From here, head up to Ragged Point for a short walk overlooking the cliffs. Time permitting, we may also stop at one of the small seaside communities, such as Cambria or Morro Bay, before driving past classic Californian hotspots like San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach on the way Santa Barbara (approx. 2.5 hours).
  • Camping (with facilities) (1 night)
Optional Activities
  • Santa Barbara - Mission - USD8
  • Santa Barbara - Beaches - Free
  • San Luis Obispo - Bubblegum Alley - Free
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.
Spend some time in Santa Barbara this morning, one of the prettiest towns in California. The relaxed atmosphere, Mediterranean-style architecture and an exceptional year-round climate have long made it a millionaire’s residence of choice. It’s attracting a younger, ‘hipper’, crowd these days too thanks to its new “Funk Zone”, a 12-block area of converted warehouses with new restaurants, pop-up shops, galleries and craft breweries. A walk along the long beach, gazing out at Stearns Wharf, and then a sip of one of the famous local wines is the perfect way to round out your time here. Then it’s on to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood with a drive down to LA. The adventure down the California coast ends on arrival in the City of Angels. There much to see and do here, so maybe stay a couple of days longer to explore.
Meals Included
There are no meals included on this day.


No meals are included on this tour


Private vehicle


Camping (with facilities) (2 nights), Hotel (1 night)

Dates & availability

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Important notes

1. This trip finishes on arrival into Los Angeles in the afternoon on day 4.

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's Coast trips score an average of 4 out of 5 based on 10 reviews in the last year.

California's Coast, September 2018

Salome Mast

California's Coast, August 2018

Jack West