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Travelling from San Francisco to LA

Travel Forums North America Travelling from San Francisco to LA

1. Posted by Tracey01 (First Time Poster 1 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!


We are planning on driving from San Francisco to LA in the same day. Can anyone give some advice on whether this is possible or should we stop overnight along the way?

2. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5107 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

It's possible and really easy along I-5, the most boring straight road through the most boring lack of scenery anyone could imagine, taking you roughly six hours (an hour more if you hit rush hour at either end). Very convenient if you just need to get between the cities swiftly.

It's a nicer drive if you take Highway 101 via the west Bay and Santa Barbara. Would take you 7 hours and a bit that way, I think. (Again an hour more if you hit rush hour.)

It's a really nice drive and an experience totally worth the extra time if you follow Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway, via Santa Cruz, Big Sur and Santa Barbara. This take 9.5 hours straight driving time over a lot of winding roads between the ocean and the hills (with an hour more if you hit rush hour), but you'll want to stop off at secluded beaches and gorgeous vistas (especially around the Big Sur area), and so I'd highly recommend taking two days for the drive. Maybe see the Aquarium at Monterey, or spend some time exploring the rather nice town of Santa Cruz. There's only really expensive overnight stops between Monterey and San Luis Obispo, so if you take this option (which I highly recommend), keep that in mind and decide beforehand which of those two places you're overnighting at.

(If this sounds nice but you'd have that cut that day from your itinerary somewhere else, I'd recommend spending a day less in LA. It's really a very boring and dirty and most of all grey city, which you're better off far away from.)

[ Edit: Edited on 22-Jul-2009, at 15:23 by Sander ]

3. Posted by Daawgon (Travel Guru 2012 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Sander knows what he's talking about - why people still go to LA is beyond me?????

I try to fly that route, and it's often cheaper than driving if you can get advance purchase sale tix (see Virgin America, Alaska or Southwest Airlines)

Los Angeles has many many airports:


A far more pleasant and beautiful option awaits those who head north from SF to Oregon and Washington:

[ Edit: Edited on 22-Jul-2009, at 17:11 by Daawgon ]

4. Posted by Calcruzer (Travel Guru 2003 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

I live in central California in a redwood forest near Santa Cruz--and used to live in LA--and to repeat what the others have said, LA is overrated. It is also full of cars and traffic in LA is terrible.

Just last week my sister and her family came up to visit me from an area just south of LA. They took Hwy 101 and decided to drive straight through to get here (a 7 1/2 hour drive). It took them 3 1/2 hours of that time to get through LA and up to Santa Barbara (just 90 miles from LA)--an average of about 25 miles an hour. It then took them 4 hours to go the remaining 250 miles to get to my house--an average of about 65 miles an hour.

The nice places or sites to visit between SF and LA are (listed in order from northernmost to southernmost):
Winchester Mystery House (near San Jose)
Big Basin State Park
Santa Cruz (and its beach boardwalk and yacht harbor)
Monterey (Cannery Row and aquarium)
Carmel (beautiful town and great beach)
Drive between Carmel and San Simeon (most beautiful drive in the US--and featured in lots of car commercials)
San Simeon (visit the famous Hearst Castle)
Cambria (and its Moonstone Beach)
Paso Robles (lots of great wineries)
Morro Bay (giant rock landmark where you can park and picnic)
Pismo Beach (used to be able to dig up giant clams right on the beach)
Los Olivos (great small town and wineries made famous in the movie "Sideways")
Solvang (small dutch town near horse country--and also famous for being near the ranches of both Michael Jackson and Ronald Reagan)
Santa Barbara (beautiful beach town with the best old Spanish mission in the country)
Malibu (where the movie stars and celebrities all live)