Skip Navigation

California Trip- Best form of Transport

Travel Forums North America California Trip- Best form of Transport

Last Post This thread is marked as being about California
1. Posted by Sam_H_88 (Budding Member 21 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!


I am going to California for 3 weeks next week and have a plan in mind for the first half of my trip:

  • I land at LAX on 20th November and have booked my hostel for 4 nights
  • I will get the Greyhound bus to San Francisco on the 24th (already booked)
  • Will meet some friends on the 26th and will go camping with them for Thanksgiving
  • Will return to San Francisco on the 3rd or 4th December

And now my dilemma is what to do then, I need to be back in LA for the 13th December to catch my flight home, as I am getting the Greyhound up, and as it goes through the middle of the state, I would like to go back down via the coastal line....could anybody please tell me if they know what the best form of transportation is to see the coastal drive from SF to LA??

I want to make this the best trip ever! :D

Many Thanks, Sam

2. Posted by Peter (Admin 6278 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

I understand the train (Coast Starlight) is rather scenic along that route and I would seriously be looking at that.

I've taken the train in California before, but from LA down to San Diego. Very, very enjoyable - certainly beats driving. So yeah, I'd be looking at that.

3. Posted by Sam_H_88 (Budding Member 21 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Thanks very much for the link :)

Iv had a look at the website and the prices seem very good, one thing I'm confused about though, It says there's a transfer bus for 2 hours before, is this normal?

4. Posted by Peter (Admin 6278 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Ah, that seems to be their way of picking up people from downtown SF. So if you can make your own way to Oakland or Emeryville, then you could get on the train from there.

Note, when you do a search on Amtrak that it does bring up a bunch of other travel options including some which have a lot more bus travel, ie. combo of 1 hour bus, 6 hours train, 2 hours bus.

I would specifically opt for the ones that are mostly train (they include "11 - Coast Starlight" in the description). It is a bit more expensive, but frankly I'd happily pay that to sit on a train instead of a bus ;)

And remember you can make some stops along the way. You could catch the train from Oakland to Salinas then spend a day in nearby Monterey. And definitely consider spending a day in Santa Barbara as well.

Here's one other thing to consider - the drive between Monterey and San Luis Obispo is one of the world's best coastal drives, the Big Sur. Consider a route something like this:

1. Oakland - Salinas by Train
2. Salinas - Monterey by public bus or cab, spend a night in Monterey.
3. Monterey to San Luis Obispo by other means along Route 1. Options are:
a) Rent a car (probably the cheapest option if you can do it)
b) Ride a bike (in my view, the most enjoyable option, but obviously also slowest - allow 4 days.)
c) Find a tour bus that does this route.
4. Train from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara. Spend a day and night in Santa Barbara.
5. Train to LA

If you have the time and feel the bike option might be a possibility for you, then I would strongly lean towards that. Cycling along the coast in California is quite a normal thing to do. Have a look at this page for costs:

5. Posted by Sam_H_88 (Budding Member 21 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Oh wow, that's some great advice! thanks a lot! :)

Will I have to book it online before I go? or is there somewhere I can go in and book it all? I think I'd prefer to talk to someone face-to-face and I'm still unsure about exact dates

6. Posted by Peter (Admin 6278 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Having never done this bike trip, I have no idea :) Maybe it's worth getting in touch with them via email to see what they think. I think, it being November and off-season, you probably wouldn't have any trouble booking it nearer the date.

I don't think you would need to book the train trips though. I can't remember if we did or not, but the trains we caught always had plenty of room. Not sure if these legs would be any different, but I sort of doubt it. Maybe just keep an eye on the day you want to book to see if it looks like any of the trains are selling out?

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

You see extremely little of the coast from the Coast Starlight - you really need a rental car for the best of the coast. If you can, you should stop off in the Monterey/Carmel area as well as Hearst Castle - you want to be on Route #1 closest to the coast (one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world).

California is the land of the automobile - public transportation is poor because it's a wealthy area - everyone owns 1 or more cars! Yes, Cycling is an excellent way to see the coast, too.

If you can't afford a car, I recommend the Green Tortoise bus tours instead of nasty Greyhound/Amtrak.

[ Edit: Edited on 14-Nov-2014, at 12:13 by Daawgon ]

8. Posted by Sam_H_88 (Budding Member 21 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for all the help :) I'm getting the Greyhound up because I'm limited with time, but I'll have a lot into the tours on the journey down because I'll have more time,