A Two Week Itinerary For The Pacific Coast
So, strap yourself in, this post is a humongous one! Today I'm sharing a two week Pacific Coast itinerary, and I haven't held back on the details. I didn’t know where to start with our holiday content, but thankfully you guys helped me out. My Instagram DMs and emails have been full of messages asking for details about the itinerary for our trip over the past few weeks, and I don’t wanna be smug, but I feel like we kinda nailed it, so I’m happy to share it with you all.
So that’s what today’s post is - a rundown of where we stayed, how long we stayed for and whether I would have done anything differently. I’ll be putting together guides and writing about each location in more detail soon, but if you’re looking to visit the Pacific Coast and have around two weeks, I reckon this should be a pretty good starting point.
Here's our two week Pacific Coast itinerary...
DAY 1-3 - LOS ANGELES
Accommodation: The Line Hotel, Koreatown
We spent our first three nights exploring LA, with The Line Hotel in Koreatown as our base. We hired a car at the airport and found that pretty much everywhere we wanted to get to in LA was within half an hour’s drive of The Line, including downtown, the Griffith Observatory and Beverly Hills.
The hotel was totally gorgeous - we stayed in a Hollywood Hills view room and could barely stop staring out of the window for the three days we were there. There was also a trendy rooftop pool, a great restaurant and a hip stationery shop, so it’s a good bet if you’re looking for somewhere you can relax too. We found it to be the perfect place for our first stop as we could hang out by the pool when jet lag hit and the room service menu was great for when we didn’t want to drag ourselves out for dinner. It’s worth noting that the valet parking is pretty steep here, but no more expensive than anywhere else in the city.
Three days is nowhere near enough to see everything in LA, but we found that it was a good amount of time to tick the main things off the list and get a good flavour for the city. We managed to see and do a lot, but we did visit over a bank holiday weekend which meant that the traffic was much easier than we had heard it would be.
DAY 4 - VENICE BEACH & SANTA MONICA
Accommodation: Sea Shore Motel, Santa Monica
When researching our trip, I realised that a lot of the hotspots on our list were in the Venice Beach and Santa Monica area. Both locations are teeming with great shops, bars and restaurants, as well as the obvious draw of the beaches, so we decided to spend a night on the coast rather than trying to squeeze everything into one afternoon.
I came across the gorgeous Sea Shore Motel after Sophie mentioned it to me and I’m so glad she did! Not only is it a baby pink Instagram dream, it’s also based on Main St which is pretty much slap bang in the middle of both Venice Beach and the Santa Monica pier, which meant we got to visit both locations. It’s a motel so definitely not as fancy as The Line, but we really liked getting the seaside motel experience, and it has everything you need for one night. There’s also free parking which makes it a good place to start a road trip from.
I’d really recommend dedicating some time to Santa Monica if you get chance as there’s so much to see here and the laid-back palm tree vibe will just make you feel like you’re living your best California life.
DAY 5 - MALIBU & SANTA BARBARA
Accommodation: Blue Sands Inn, Santa Barbara
Day 5 marked the official start of the road trip leg of our holiday as we started driving our way up the coast. Our first stop was in Malibu, which is around 20 minutes away from Santa Monica, where we stopped for brunch at Malibu Farm Cafe. The cafe is based at the end of the pier in Malibu and has the most gorgeous views of the coast. Sadly it was pretty cloudy and grey while we were there, and we didn’t get to sunbathe on the beach like we’d planned, but it was still cool to watch the surfers while we ate and get a small taste for the area.
From Malibu, we hit the road and headed for Santa Barbara, which took us about an hour and a half winding along the coast. This was our first taste of just how good the views from Highway 1 were going to be, and even though it was grey, neither of us could stop gawping out of the window.
We arrived at Blue Sands Inn around lunchtime - this hotel was so beautiful and just what I imagined when I pictured hotels on the Californian coast. There was a small pool, beautiful interiors and we were even lucky enough to have a sea view. It was located in the East Beach area of town, so really handy for getting to the beach, and about a 15 minute walk to “the funk zone”, an area known for it’s great restaurants and wineries. We loved our time in Santa Barbara, and if I was to do this trip again, I’d try to build in an extra night in here. There isn’t tonnes to do, but it’s the perfect seaside city and I just loved wandering around and pretending I was a Californian girl.
DAY 6 - PISMO BEACH, SAN LUIS OPISBO & MORRO BAY
Accommodation: Blue Sail Inn, Morro Bay
We decided to make Morro Bay our next stop, but we actually ended up making quite a few stops en route. That’s the real beauty about this street of coastline - no matter where you choose to stay, there’s plenty to see in the surrounding areas too.
We actually stumbled across our first stop accidentally - we were driving along, singing to our road trip playlist when suddenly we saw the beautiful Lake Cachuma appear next to us. We stopped for a quick ogle at the vista point before getting back in the car to Pismo Beach which was a little bit like Blackpool with a much nicer beach. From there, we headed 20 minutes inland to San Luis Obispo, which is a cute little town nestled in the hills. There wasn't a huge amount to see or do, but it definitely made a cute little lunch spot.
Finally, we drove the last few miles back along the coast to Morro Bay, where we stayed at Blue Sail Inn. It’s worth noting that this town was the cheapest place we stayed on our whole trip, and also happened to be one of our favourites. We had originally planned to go paddle boarding in the bay, but as the weather wasn’t great, we got drunk in dive bars and watched the sunset instead. It was awesome! Plus, the next morning we saw around 30 sea otters swimming in the wild in the bay by Morro Rock, so if you’re into wildlife, I’d 100% recommend making the stop.
DAY 7 - BIG SUR, 17 MILE DRIVE & MONTEREY
Accommodation: Casa Munras, Monterey
Annoyingly, a small stretch of Highway 1 is closed at the moment, which means that rather than driving straight up it to Monterey, we had to take the 101 to Carmel and then head back down to see Big Sur. The drive to Carmel took us about 3 hours and there wasn't a huge amount to see or do en route, but believe me when I say it was so worth it.
Big Sur was by far the highlight of our trip, and we ended up being pretty glad that we got to drive through it in both directions. The scenery really is like nothing I've ever seen before - make sure you build in enough time to stop for plenty of photos, you'll definitely need it! We also headed to 17 Mile Drive on the way to Monterey which is a private road that gives you access to lots of beautiful beaches and nature spots. The entrance fee was around $10 which we thought was great value - we loved ogling at all the insane houses and we even saw a couple of deer that were about a metre away from our car. You could spend a whole afternoon here having a little sunbathe at the beaches if that's your thing.
From there it was just a short drive to Monterey where we checked into Casa Munras. We found that Monterey was a pretty pricey destination, but this hotel was beautiful and not too expensive - we loved the pool area which we utilised the following morning, and it was only a short walk to the harbour. We didn't have a huge amount of time to explore Monterey itself, but from what we saw it was beautiful!
DAY 8-10 - SAN FRANCISCO
Accommodation: Hotel Zeppelin, San Francisco
Driving to San Francisco was the last part of our road trip leg of the journey, and after a little sunbathe in Monterey, we hit the road and started the drive which takes about an hour and a half. We had planned to make a stop in Santa Cruz, but as it was a very sunny Saturday, it seemed like half of California had too so we couldn't find anywhere to park. It looked like a cute place to spend an hour or two though if you get the chance!
We dropped our car back off at San Francisco airport (we made the decision not to have the car with us in the city and I'm glad we did, as parking seemed to be a nightmare) before catching an Uber to Hotel Zeppelin. I'd seen that a few other bloggers had recommended this hotel and I was so pleased we decided to book it - the decor was gorgeous, the bed was sooooo comfy and the location was perfect. It's about a two minute walk to Union Square, which feels like the most central hub of the city and is well connected by public transport.
Again, 2/3 days wasn't really enough to feel like we'd boxed everything off in San Francisco, but we definitely managed to squeeze a lot in, including visiting Alcatraz and cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge. My biggest tip would be to plan in advance what you'd like to see here, as even as a seasoned traveller I found the city quite overwhelming.
DAY 11-13 - PORTLAND
Accommodation: The Society Hotel, Portland
It is possible to drive from San Francisco to Portland (and I've heard that the route is really quite spectacular!), but it takes around 9 hours, and try as we might, we couldn't fit it into our two week trip. I'd love to go back and do a road trip focussing purely on the Pacific North West, but for the sake of trying to see as much as possible, we decided to fly from San Francisco which took about an hour.
Getting from the airport to our hotel was super easy - we just caught the tram from the station which cost around $5 for the both of us. We had originally wanted to stay at The Ace Hotel, but as that was fully booked we opted for The Society Hotel, and I'm really glad we did. It was in a really good position for exploring the downtown area (where all the good shops are!) and we found that we could walk to pretty much anywhere in the city (although Uber is a very cheap option here).
We loved Portland and felt like we got a really good feel for it during our time here. We were lucky that we have some friends who live there and some more friends who had recently visited, so we felt like we had a real insider's guide on how best to spend our time there, but it definitely felt like one of the most enjoyable places we visited on our trip, and I'd say it's a must see if you're visiting the Pacific Coast.
DAY 14-15 - SEATTLE
Accommodation: Kimpton Hotel Monaco Seattle, Seattle
The last destination on our trip was Seattle, a city I have wanted to visit for such a long time. We caught the Amtrak train from Portland and I would say that this is an experience in itself! It takes around 3 and a half hours but the time zips by as you take in the beautiful scenery from the window - we saw so many beautiful forests and lakes.
We found accommodation in Seattle to be really expensive compared to the other destinations on our trip, and in the end we decided to blow the budget and book a suite at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco. We decided to do this for two reasons: 1) we only had around 36 hours in the city and wanted to make sure we had a central location, and 2) we knew we'd be exhausted by this point and wanted somewhere we could truly rest before our long flight home. We were really happy with our decision as the suite was gorgeous (it had the best bathtub I've EVER seen) and we managed to squeeze in a lot during our short time in Seattle.
I didn't realise quite how huge this city was, but from the exploring we did in the central area, we absolutely loved it and are both dying to go back already. The one thing I will say is that the weather is unpredictable here - one minute we'd be rooting around for our sunglasses, and the next we'd need our anoraks. Pack accordingly!
So there you have it - our two week Pacific Coast itinerary. You could realistically spend upwards of 6 weeks doing this trip to really explore every destination, but if you're challenged with limited annual leave like us, I would highly recommend following a similar itinerary. We felt like we got to see and do so much in a relatively short period of time, and having a taster of each destination has given us an idea of where we'd like to go back and explore in more detail in the future.
If you have any questions about planning a Pacific Coast itinerary or road trip, feel free to get in touch - I'd be more than happy to help!