My boyfriend and I recently got back from an AMAZING trip to California. We started in San Francisco (our first time there). We explored Alcatraz, had a really good lunch in China Town, rode an extremely crowded and rickety old Trolley up a very steep hill, saw the sea lions at Fisherman's Wharf and that was just the first day of our trip!
The next day we rented a car and drove to see the Redwoods in Muir Woods, on the way there we had to drive down Lombard street (the curviest and craziest street I have ever seen!) and over the Golden Gate bridge (which was pretty freaking cool!). Hiking in Muir Woods among the Redwoods was a hightlight of our trip! San Francisco is such a cool place. We were completely captivated by the beauty of this city and cannot wait to return.
The trip could have stopped here, but we kept going! Our plan was to drive Highway 1 down to Santa Barbara and then cut over to Palm Springs to visit family. If you are planning a trip to the bay area be sure to bring layers of clothing and a good pair of walking shoes for trekking up & down all those hills!Carmel
We drove down the coast through Salinas and Monterey Bay. I was amazed at how Salinas looked exactly like John Steinbeck described it in his novels. Cannery Row and the Monterey Bay aquarium are some of the must-see attractions here. This is also a great area for whale watching. As a matter of fact, Blue whales and Orcas were spotted in Monterey Bay just days after we passed through.
We had a room reserved for 2 nights in the Carmel Highlands, which is just south of Carmel By The Sea. This area is just like a fairytale with it's dramatic coastline, varied wildlife, dense fog and cute little cottages. Point Lobos state park is a great place to hike and witness seals and sea otters in their natural habitat. Carmel is just magical. We had dinner and drinks at Clint Eastwood's restaurant at Mission Ranch, which is nestled in a valley near the ocean. It's a beautiful spot to relax with a drink at the end of the day.
Be sure to bring warmer clothes. This is a great place to cuddle up by the fire as the average temp here is about 50 degrees and foggy days are the norm. A cozy cardigan is a must. This place has a great relaxed atmosphere. Nature lovers will have plenty to keep themselves occupied. Wine country is just 45 minutes away in Carmel Valley, which makes a great day trip.Big Sur
After 2 nights in Carmel, we drove down Hwy 1 through Big Sur. No photo can compare with the experience of being there in person. In one word, it is SPECTACULAR. This drive is a must on your bucket list, where you will see 90 miles of some of the most rugged and beautiful coastline in the world. Don't miss the elephant seals on the south end of Big Sur just as you leave. They are SO big and make these crazy growling noises as they face off with each other. Such a cool experience.Santa Barbara
We stayed in a cute little Spanish style boutique hotel in Santa Barbara. We walked down to the pier, had a really nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant off State Street and did a little shopping. This city is really beautiful, with the mountain peaks in the background and the wineries surrounding it. We only spent one night here and vowed we would come back and stay a bit longer next time. We went in June and the weather here was perfect.Palm Springs
After experiencing mild and temperate weather for most of our trip we were in for quite a change in Palm Springs. It was 108 degrees when we rolled into town. This beautiful oasis in the desert is surrounded by huge mountain tops and the clearest blue skies I have ever seen.
We had a great time here and spent most of our time just relaxing in the pool drinking cocktails or going to brunch. Don't miss Pinnochio in the desert where they have $4 bottomless champagne and servers who break into spontaneous mambo dancing. This place is really, really fun. Bring your favorite going out dress, there is a lot of dancing here and a vibrant nightlife. Palm Springs is a party town for adults! You can't take things too seriously here. Just relax and enjoy the ride. Be sure to pack some chic and colorful cover-ups, swimsuits, dresses for dancing and bring your coolest shades and a hat to shield you from the intense desert sun.Laguna Beach
We drove over to this seaside city on the cliffs for our last day and we were so glad we did. Swimming on the beach was a highlight here. We didn't stay here too long, but vowed to come back and experience it more fully next time. The coastline and the weather here are really gorgeous.
California is a beautiful state with so much variety you would have to do this 3 or 4 times to see it all. We didn't even explore the wine country, LA or San Diego. I guess we'll have to go back :)