Travelling the West Coast of California was the most incredible experience I have had to date and I’m excited to share it all with you in the hope that it is on your bucket list by the time you finish reading this post.
First things first, when booking flights, accommodation and car hire set yourself a budget in advance and this will make it much easier to manage and save your money.
TIP: Book all accommodation through booking.com (cancellation up to 24 hours), look out for car hire deals on Rentalcars.com on a daily basis (if you are under 25 it will be more expensive), luckily, we got a deal which included the young driver fee.
On 28 August, we arrived in beautiful San Francisco or ‘Fog City’ as some prefer to call it, where you are surrounded by stunning architecture, parks, VERY steep streets and the gorgeous bay area.
Three of my favourite days in San Francisco
- Hop-on-hop-off tour bus, I know what you’re thinking… tourist central, but it is honestly the best way to see the city and after all, you are a tourist!
- The Alcatraz Tour, this will take up most of the day and is worth every penny
- Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are beautiful areas to walk, eat and people watch
TIP: 5-7 days is enough time to explore the city, bring comfortable footwear, it is chilly so bring jeans and a jacket and I assure you, this is the only time you will need this attire on your trip!
During our time in San Francisco we allowed 2 days to travel to Yosemite National Park, where we reserved a camp space ($18) 5 months in advance. Yosemite gave us the full camping experience, from cooking dinner & breakfast on a campfire to having zero phone signal.
TIP: Hike to Nevada Falls, it was unbelievable. The route is ranked ‘difficult’ but is definitely doable and took us 4.5 hours.
Back in San Francisco, we picked up our little blue racer and headed for Highway 1, not before Cathal almost drove into the side of Walmart, the sound of the American woman’s voice is still ringing in my ears ‘WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING, DUMBASS.’
Our next stop was Avenue Inn and Suites in San Luis Obispo (SLO), a small ‘student’ sort of town, although we didn’t get to a sorority party it was the cutest town EVER. A one night stay was perfect!
TIP: Stop in Monterey on the way down for lunch at any restaurant on the pier. In SLO look out for ‘Bubble-gum Alley’ it is disgustingly cool.
Next up was Santa Barbara, the quirkiest town with beautiful houses, cobbled streets, unique shops and restaurants all within walking distance from our accommodation, the Orange Tree Inn.
TIP: There is a handy bus stop every 200 metres down the strip, the open bus comes every 10 mins, this will take you to the beach for ($1.50).
Hi View Inn & Suites in Manhattan Beach was by far the best accommodation of the whole trip. We chose to stay just outside LA and used Uber which was cheap and cheerful. Manhattan Beach is a relaxing area with very few tourists which we loved!
TIPS: Stop in Santa Monica before you reach Manhattan Beach, hire bikes and cycle the boardwalk to Venice Beach it is SO much fun!
Hike to the Hollywood sign, it takes about 2 hours and you will get amazing views of LA.
Visit Rodeo Drive, the more luxurious side of LA with a strip of designer shops.
Finally, have a coffee break at Alfred’s Coffee House (490 N Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, USA).
San Clemente was our second last stop, this was really only to ‘rest our heads’ for one night. There isn’t much to do here except chill on the gorgeous beach which is walking distance from San Clemente Inn.
TIPS: Stop off at Laguna Beach before you reach San Clemente, parking is cheap, it is a beautiful place to have lunch and a walk around the town.
In San Clemente, dine at The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar with the sound of the waves crashing right below you.
Last but certainly not least of our West Coast (‘best coast’) experience was San Diego. We stayed in the amazing Kings Inn, it is 10 minutes out of the city centre but easily accessed from Highway 1, driving into the city was super easy (says me in the passenger seat) but Cathal agreed! It was comfortable, spacious and had a great pool and Jacuzzi.
TIP: Visit the zoo (we are children at heart), it is the rated the No.1 in the world and I couldn’t agree more!
Pay a visit to Fashion Valley outlet shopping mall for all the best deals
Dock the boat from downtown San Diego to Coronado Island for $5 and cycle around the 84.6km island, the 15-minute boat ride provides breath-taking views of San Diego’s skyline.
I mean… you can’t fly all the way to the states and not pay a visit to the big apple. New York was our very last stop before heading back to Dublin.
TIP: The trusty hop-on-hop-off tour bus, in just 4 days we were able to see the city under no pressure.
Our favourite places where Brooklyn Bridge, Top of the Rock (go during the day), Central Park, 230th Roof Top Bar on 5th Avenue, 911 memorial… I guess all of it was pretty amazing but those are the ‘must-dos’
GENERAL ‘MUST KNOWS’ FOR THIS TRIP:
- All accommodation SO easily accessed from Highway 1
- Do not pay extra for a GPS from the car hire company, your iPhone is just as good
- You’ll notice that there isn’t much negativity in this post, that is genuinely because everywhere we visited and stayed was amazing
- If I have been successful in inspiring you to book a trip to palm tree paradise & spectacular New York City, I hope you enjoy every minute of it!
Laura Duffy is a final year Public Relations Student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Instagram @laura_duffyy and on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-duffy-8803b7105/