California Tips for International Students

Ultimate California Road Trip: Los Angeles to San Francisco

July 12, 2018
! Ultimate California Road Trip

“Road trips are the equivalent of human wings. Ask me to go on one, anywhere. We’ll stop in every small town and learn the history and stories, feel the ground and capture the spirit. Then we’ll turn it into our own story that will live inside our history to carry with us, always. Because stories are more important than things.” – Victoria Erickson

Have you taken this famous road trip along the California coast? This drive takes you along the beautiful Pacific coast and through some of the most charming towns. Rent a car, grab a friend, make a playlist of songs for your road trip, and go! California is waiting!

Ultimate California Road Trip

Thanks to the wonderful California weather, this is a trip you can take throughout the year. Tag IEC@DVC in your road trip photos: we want to see you exploring California!

Part 1: Malibu to Santa Barbara

Start near Los Angeles in Malibu, one of the most beautiful beach towns in California (and a place where many celebrities live or vacation). Malibu has many beautiful restaurants that serve fresh seafood: have an early lunch before you drive up the coast and reach Santa Barbara. This trip only takes 1 ½ hours.

Ultimate California Road Trip: Los Angeles to San Francisco

Santa Barbara is another beautiful coastal city. It is known for its wine and beautiful Spanish architecture (and for UC Santa Barbara, the area’s university that has beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean). Spend the day exploring the city and its beaches.

Ultimate California Road Trip: Los Angeles to San Francisco


Part 2: Santa Barbara to Monterey/Santa Cruz

Wake up early the next morning for the beautiful drive from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz. This drive will take about 4 hours. If you want to take a little longer, drive along the coast and through Big Sur. Stop in Big Sur for lunch and to take some photos of the beautiful cliffs, then continue to Monterey or Santa Cruz. Spend the night in Monterey and visit Fisherman’s Wharf, which has many restaurants and shops, or Carmel, which has white sand beaches. Or go to Santa Cruz for a hippie vibe: visit the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and ride the famous roller coaster!

Ultimate California Road Trip: Los Angeles to San Francisco

Part 3: Santa Cruz to Napa/Sonoma

After Santa Cruz and Monterey, drive another 4 hours to Napa or Sonoma. A trip to Northern California requires you to see this famous California wine country! Enjoy the beautiful small towns, like Yountville, Calistoga, and Downtown Napa. Be sure to make reservations if you want to visit a winery.

Ultimate California Road Trip: Los Angeles to San Francisco

Part 4: Napa/Sonoma to San Francisco

From Napa, the drive to San Francisco is a little more than 1 hour. Once you’re in San Francisco, you can stay in the city for days as you explore its neighborhoods; you can also explore other cities nearby, such as Berkeley and Sausalito.

Ultimate California Road Trip: Los Angeles to San Francisco

Part 5: Return to Southern California, or . . .

Once you reach San Francisco, will you go home or keep going? Your options are endless! From San Francisco, you can go through Sacramento and visit Lake Tahoe; you can also keep going north to see the beautiful redwoods of Humboldt County. Where will you go, and what gorgeous cities in California will you visit?

Ultimate California Road Trip: Los Angeles to San Francisco

For more ideas, visit

Further learning

Use these questions for discussion or answer them in writing.

  1. Do you have a driver’s license? Why or why not?
  2. Do you prefer driving or taking another mode of transportation (like a train)?
  3. Have you ever taken a road trip? Where did you go?
  4. What is your dream car to take on a road trip?
  5. If you made a playlist for your road trip, what songs would you put on it?
  6. What are some places you want to see in California?
  7. If you planned a road trip, would you prefer to spend more time in cities, small towns, or in nature? Why?
  8. If you took a road trip, who would you want to come with you?

Photos from Pixabay or Visit Santa Barbara, Visit Santa Cruz, and Visit Monterey. 

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1 Comment

  • Reply 5 Fun Summer Activities in Southern California August 7, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    […] Grand Canyon. Or head North and see Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Monterey. Read our post on California Road Trips for more […]

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