Seriously? This was the best way to say "See you California". One of the best trips ever. If you ever come to San Francisco, San Diego or Los Angeles make sure you allow yourself to go at least to Big Sur. Highway 1 is not just a highway, it's THE highway. From Cambria until Monterey you drive along the Pacific Coast with extraordinary landscape. You make a bunch of stops along the way: to take pictures, to watch the beauty, to close your eyes and listen the waves and smell the ocean, to visit elephant seals in wildlife, to explore National Parks and on and on and on. WARNING: GET READY FOR A BUNCH OF OCEAN PICS!!
I will give you my itinerary so you have a guideline, but don't forget that it's YOUR trip so feel free to do whatever you enjoy.
Jenn arrived from Maine and went directly to pick up the car we rent. We payed 130 dollars for 6 days!! Bargain!! But Jenn has a car insurance that covers everything so you get a big discount using your own car insurance. Call Super Cheap! Car Rental 650-777-9993 or email firstname.lastname@example.org :: We start speculating that was probably a 20 years old car, in very bad conditions but it was a nice Toyota Corolla and didn't give us any trouble ;)
Suggestion for route: San Francisco > Santa Cruz > Monterey and Carmel > Big Sur > Cambria > Santa Barbara > Los Angeles > San Diego
From San Francisco we drove directly to Santa Barbara because it was pretty late. Get ready for the traffic to get in and out San Francisco, it's insane!! After 2 months and a half in Lake County, pretty much mini towns and country side we were facing traffic jams... boriiiiing. Good thing I didn't see Jenn for 5 years and we had a lot to catch up. So we decided to visit Jenn's aunt in Newport Beach (Los Angeles) for the weekend and start the road trip from there heading North.
Santa Barbara is worth a visit. We spent the entire day there. Walk on the beach and the Pier, explore the adorable downtown (you can have a view of the town if you go to the CourtHouse, see first pic, it's free), Hike in the Botanic Gardens (to be honest I don't think is a botanic garden for real, more like a hike in the nature and not really amazing, $8) and attend the Folk and Tribal Arts Market that was going on that weekend (it was so well organized, not to mention the tibetian, african, nepali goodies).
Los Angeles is a crap, like we thought. But we were about 40m driving to the city so we allowed ourselves to see the crap in real :P Been in the Walk of Fame, more like a show off place ($20/all day parking). After that we went to the Observatory and that was pretty nice, the view to the city is nothing special but is surrounded by montains and inside you have kinda free museum about the Galaxy. Cool!! Fom the Observatory you can watch the Famous Hollywood Sign :)
Sue (Jenn's auntie) is living in Newport Beach, her house is right in between the Pier and the beach!! Dreamy House right? On Summer Time this beach is packed by tourists. Laguna Beach is also pretty, check out the stores in town, a bunch of Art going on.
From Newport Beach we drove to Cambria. It's a pleasant drive along the Coast. Between Hearst Castle and Piedras Blancas Lighthouse you can find Elephant Seals Colony, there are thousands and thousands! They make funny noises, like to play in the ocean and to lay down in the sun. It was one of my top moments in this road trip, it's not everyday you watch elephant seals in their wildlife and for free! You can't touch them or feed them or disturbe in general, but it's good enough just to watch them.
In Cambria we stayed in Hostelling International Hostel, the only hostels company you will find along the way and they are pricey (more or less $35 for a dorm). This one in Cambria is special because is in a 155 years old house and it's so cozy out there. Breakfast and Wifi included, yey!
Big Sur is between Cambria and Monterey. Staying in a Cosy Cabin for $150 was out of question so we spent the night in Monterey and decided to explore Big Sur the day after. In the way you will pass thru Big Sur, a special nature spot. The way from Cambria to Monterey is a-m-a-z-i-n-g you gotta do it during the day to enjoy the Coast. Before arriving Big Sur make a short stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park where you will find a small waterfall on the beach. It's a 0.60 mile walk.
Our last day of Road Trippin' the awesome highway 1 was spent in Point Lobos, they call it hiking but for me it's walking along the Coast. You pay $10 for parking and free entrance. They give you a paper to use in all National Parks for free parking. I enjoyed a lot this place, nice walk! You will find volunteers along the way and you can ask about anything. You will see adorable Sea Lions here!!
In the way back to San Francisco, for some reason, we didn't reach Santa Cruz so we went to the RedWoods National Park nearby. I will post about this later on because these trees are something, very old, unique and special.
It's all for now folks! If you have any questions don't hesitate to contact me, I will be more then happy to help you out planning your Route 1 Trip.