California - from San F to San Diego

Feb 16th, 2012, 05:01 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2012
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California - from San F to San Diego


My boyfriend and I are coming to california from England in august we arrive in san fran on the 27th August and then we will fly to New york (haven't booked that flight yet so can fly from anywhere san diego ??) on the 12th Sept I thought we could do a night flight so we get to new york for the 13th Sept am for four days or so..

So we have about 17 days, we can hire a car ( does anyone know any good companies that are not too expensive and also if we can hire in one place then drop of at another?)

Places that I think I want to see but not at all sure as have never been are;

San fran ( for how long and what to do see?)
Point reyes (someone said on here it was nice?)
Yosemite ( maybe ?? have we got time?)
Then travel down towards santa cruz (is that worth stopping at ?)
Monterey and Carmel
Pismo beach area and heart castle (is that what it's called?)
Santa barbara
Channel islands
Malibu - Santa monica
Laguna Beach
San diego - I was thinking of staying at laguna beach and the driving to san diego one day or is it worth going to san diego to stay ?

is there anywhere that anyone would reccomend staying along that way and how long to stay in places and cool things to do?

I love the outdoors, hiking, sailing, water skiing, diving, food and drink - my boyfriend loves the beach but i am keep to do some trails in forest area also as i get bored on the beach unless there is plenty to do..

Would like to stay on channel islands and go whale watching also ..

I dont mind staying in cheap places in cities but wouldn't mind a nice place on the beach also any unusual out of the way places finds???

Hmm my boyfriend also wants to go to las vegas I guess we could fly to save time and if so how long could i get away with spending there (doesn't apeal to me) - oh and also is los angeles worth going into or is it just crowded and concrete??

God i have gone on sorry any help would be so much appreciated - Thanks Charlotte
Charlottef is offline  
Feb 16th, 2012, 05:52 PM
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Hi, Charlottf:

Not at all, you haven't "gone on". This is exactly what we need, the more information you give us, the better we can answer your questions.

I'll tackle the car rental first. How old are you, under or over 26? The reason for asking is because there's a different rate for those under 25/26 (depending on the rental company).

Secondly, it is very expensive to pick up and drop off in a different city, so if you want to do SF to LA, you'll have to think about returning the car in SF to get the best rate.

Once in awhile you might luck out and get a small/no drop off fee, but probably not in peak season in August.

It really doesn't take that long to drive back from Los Angeles to San Francisco Airport, about 6 or 7 hours of straight, fast driving on Interstate 5.

The other option is to fly into Los Angeles, rent the car there, drive on Interstate 5 up to San Francisco and then start your trip southbound and return the car in Los Angeles.

In other words, pick up and drop off in the same location, whether SF or LA.

On lodging: could you give us some idea of how much you want to spend per night? Are you looking at hotels, hostels, B&Bs, apartment?

Las Vegas is probably best done as a separate trip by flying out of and into Los Angeles - if you have the time. Otherwise, you can skip LV.

It's exciting to be planning a new trip!
easytraveler is offline  
Feb 16th, 2012, 06:57 PM
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Your plan is quite good.

I have had very good luck renting cars from Thrifty and Dollar.

Santa Cruz is not as important a destination as Monterey and Carmel are. We skip Santa Cruz and we prefer to stay in Carmel which is more tranquil than Monterey.

The Hearst "Castle" is at San Simeon, just north of Cambria. It has a dramatic location but if you have visited some of the great and historic homes of England and Europe you may find it a curiosity.

We always enjoy a night at Pismo Beach because many of the rooms there have great ocean views and we enjoy dinner at Ventana Grill.

The Pacific Ocean is cold and not very suitable for swimming. Surfers wear wet suits.

San Diego is a popular tourist destination, but I don't recommend going there for a day while staying in Laguna Beach.

It would be a good idea for you to invest in a guide book of the type published by Fodor's, Frommer, or Lonely Planet.

happytrailstoyou is offline  
Feb 16th, 2012, 07:17 PM
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You have a direct flight from England to San Francisco with no other choice i.e. ticket already purchased?
The cheapest car rentals are in Las Vegas. The circle I would suggest is Las Vegas to San Diego to Santa Barbara to Monterey to San Francisco to Yosemite NP crossing Tioga Pass to get to Death Valley NP and back to Las Vegas. This circle is about 1550 miles with a driving time of about 29 hours total.
Las Vegas to San Diego is about 5.2 hours (332 miles).
The circle could be driven in either direction starting from SF, SD or LV.
Any of these airports should have flights to New York perhaps with a transfer.
If you must fly to SFO consider riding BART into the city and renting the car downtown the next day when you head for Monterey or Yosemite. In any case, return the car where you rented it.
tomfuller is offline  
Feb 16th, 2012, 08:04 PM
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"Secondly, it is very expensive to pick up and drop off in a different city, so if you want to do SF to LA, you'll have to think about returning the car in SF to get the best rate.

Once in awhile you might luck out and get a small/no drop off fee, but probably not in peak season in August.

NOT necessarily so. You are flying from the UK. It is very common for overseas visitors to get special rates including no drop-off fees. (Just like Americans get when we rent in the UK . . I get much cheaper rates in England than my British friends can)

So don't assume you'll have to pay high fees - most likely you will find some real bargains. Shop around, and especially check w/ your local High Street travel agent.

So . . . before jumping on some round trip loop itinerary or schelpping to Las Vegas, see what you can find in the way of car hire.

IF you find you will be hit w/ big drop off fees - that would point to one sort of itinerary. If there are high fees, you'd take a different route. (W/o big fees you'll want to fly open jaw into SF and out of San Diego or LA to New York.)
janisj is online now  
Feb 27th, 2012, 07:42 AM
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Wow sorry guys, I have been mega busy (my sister ust had a baby) and have not seen these i will read them now thank you so much for the help~!!
Charlottef is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 08:09 AM
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Great right - thanks everyone i have read your relpies and answered below as best i can

Ok well I think after your comments we will fly to las vegas (as the bf def wants to go) and then hire a car from there and drive up towards yosemite TOM what is the tioga pass? ANd are there any nice places to stop/see between las vegas and yosemite..

Then stay in yosemite which i have heard you have to book .. so suggestions on where to stay are welcome..

For accomodation ideally somewhere resonable - if somewhere was really nice i would be happy to pay, I like nature and would prefer to stay in a natural environment/cosy/friendly rather than a shiny hotel if that makes sense..
In compleate contradiction i have just booked up to stay at the wynn in las vegas does anyone know if this is nice or is the bellagio nicer?

Then head to san fran, then down the coast and towards laguna beach and san diego (happy trails to you why do you not suggest a day trip there??) and then back up to las vegas and the fly back ..

I am 26 and my boyfriend is 31 so hopefully we will get it a bit cheaper. I have actually got some airmiles that I am looking into trying to use for car hire. I have checked on hertz website and it seems about 500-600 dollors if not which is a lot better than i thought so thats good. I would rather go with a good company as I am prone to cars going wrong ha..
It is exciting to be planning this I know I usually have to plan all our trips so it can be quite tiring but I am very excited also..

The hearst castle maybe I will give it a miss then unless we are passing through i guess we can take it as it comes, I guess we are spoilt here in europe!
Will tyhe ocean be that cold?? Even further south? it can't be colder than the sea here ha!!
I have gone off santa cruz with your comments it sounds a little tacky but i guess we can drive through and see it as its on the way..

Hmm just reading janisj thread maybe ill look into hiring car from LV and the drop of in SanD to save that drive back to LV?
Charlottef is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 02:04 PM
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Never before seen the city called "San F" how funny! And so true
Dayenu is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 02:53 PM
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Don't know what Ocean somebody is talking about - but people swim all the time in the Pacific Ocean here in August - without wetsuits. Water temp is usually around 70 - but in the shallow areas - such as the beautiful Cove at La Jolla (a-hem - in San Diego) it's even warmer. It's a lot like going to the Med.

Flying into Vegas - assuming an inexpensive airfare - would be great - and then - you can go to Yo - through Death Valley (novel once IMO - but otherwise - Death Valley is just scorched rock for the most part)- and up the scenic/eastern side of the Sierras via 395- (check maps - which you should have with you - and up the Tioga grade and into the Touloumne Meadows part of Yo. From there - it's another hour or so over to the main area - the Valley Floor, with the total day of driving doable in a day - but suggest you start early.

The tent cabins - with cots - at Curry Village are great - and they have a fun pool - where you can look right up the cliffs at Glacier Point. OVMTC=Exact&site=&creative=6356730483&OVKEY=curry%2520village%2520yosemite&url_id=38637030&adpos=1t1&ic_pl_id=38637030&ic_lp_id=5931458&cdid=2752

Plenty of hiking and other options in Yo (riding around on the buses is also fun) including Ranger talks/walks, the like, and watching the mountain climbers scale the sheer face of El Captain - not to mention the waterfalls will still be pretty/flowing in August.

From Yo - it's about 4 hours into San Francisco - where you have many things to do.

From SF - suggest you drive the Coast road down to Carmel/Monterrey for a day or two - and then on through beautiful Big Sur to say Cambria. Even if you don't take the tour of Hearst Castle - stopping by the Visitor Center to see the little museum there and perhaps watch the short film would be interesting. There is also an Elephant Seal Beach just before you reach the Hearst Castle road - and those guys are big, especially if the mature males are in, as they weigh 5,000 lbs.

From there - we really like the Danish themed village of Solvang - and if you haven't been to any wineries yet (there are many in Napa Valley - an hour or so from SF - and also some by Cambria and nearby Paso Robles) - enjoy that around Solvang, or at least some of the tasting rooms along the main st. Have you seen the movie Sideways? Good primer for that area.

And from there - you could spend a day or two touring around LA - but then I would suggest coming to San Diego for your beach time, as you should be able to find more reasonable accommodations, and less traffic than in the greater LA area.

From here/SD back to Vegas - about 5 hours driving time.

Have a blast and if you want more SD info - there are other threds in here - or post back and I will try to provide more info/answers to Q's.
Tomsd is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 03:00 PM
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And here is a webpage for beaches in SD. Believe me - people flock to them in August - when the air temp is in the 80's (higher inland) - and people in swimsuits are frolicing in the sea.
Tomsd is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 05:39 PM
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My nieces were swimming along with many other people at Laguna Beach last Easter so the idea that the ocean would be too cold in August is absurd.

Laguna Beach is a lovely stop for the beach. San Diego is definitely worth a few days so better to not do it as a day trip.

You might have notices people on this forum seem to be very worried about paying drop-off fees - I've actually never found them to be more than $100 (often less than $50) and always well worth not backtracking or making some convoluted plan to avoid. Heck, by the time you factor in an extra day of car hire and the petrol costs you're rarely ahead. That's without factoring in using up precious holiday time. Anyway, that's my 2c on one way car hire fees.

I know you wouldn't necessarily think of LA as having good hiking but it really does have some great/interesting trails - and you never know who you might see out on the trails.
Hez is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 05:46 PM
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Tioga Pass is the pass/road into Yosemite National Park from the east side over the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is the only route that is worthwhile and it is GORGEOUS. You'd go from Las vegas across Death Valley, up Hwy 395, and then in to Yosemite.

I'd book only one place in Yosemite for this sort of visit- Yosemite Lodge. It is the middle priced accommodation in the Valley. The Ahwahnee is the grand/historic hotel but is very expensive (worth it, but pretty dear) and camp Curry/Curry Village is pretty basic/rustic. Those three are your options in the Valley - but you need to book as soon as your dates are firm. They book up FAR in advance. Don't stay outside the Valley.

The Wynn is super nice -not to worry.

Hearst Castle/San Simeon is beautiful and the views from the top of the hill are amazing. However, if you have ever been to Blenheim Palace or Chatsworth House or other major UK stately homes, it won't be that overly impressive.

IMO, Solvang is worth a complete miss. I cannot imagine anyone from the UK/Europe being the least bit impressed. It is a cute little totally touristy town w/ a vaguely Danish vibe.

Spend that time visiting wineries/vineyards instead.

As for water temps - the eastern Pacific is VERY cold. Definitely not tropical. In fact the water in the water off Cornwall/Devon/Dorset is warmer. But it warms up a bit the farther south you go. Tolerable in LA and OK in San Diego. San Francisco -- that is wet suit country.
janisj is online now  
Feb 27th, 2012, 06:00 PM
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The ocean in N. California is quite chilly. That is because of a cold current that runs along the coast here. But S. California is better.

Las Vegas is a sight to see, but I find a day or two is plenty. Then you can head for California by way of Death Valley, which is an interesting place, but extremely hot when you will be there, so you don't want to plan on hiking there in summer. When you leave Death Valley on the west side you will arrive at Highway 395, and you start driving north.

Tioga Pass is a road that leads from the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains over to the west side. It begins off of Highway 395 near the town of Lee Vining, which is at 8,000 feet, and climbs to about 10,000 feet at the summit. The drive is beautiful, with mountain lakes, gorgeous sweeping views, forests, meadows, and has lots of places to hike. It is mostly within Yosemite national Park. You will find the valley, on the west side, is only at 4500 feet.
charnees is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 06:38 PM
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The Bellagio used to be our favorite hotel and we still love to see the great fountains and also the Botanical Garden inside (they change the exhibit 4 times a year) and the biggest chocolate fountain in the world at the Patissiere next to the Botanical Garden.

Lately though - we have preferred Wynn (the newer place built by the Bellagio founder - Steve Wynn) - and the adjacent Encore is also nice. But hey - we are not above getting a good deal at say the Flamingo (they have refurbished rooms) - one with a view overlooing the great Bellagio Fountains.

Other than watching the fountains - or the great view if you get a room high up enough at Wynn, most of the time you are at the hotel pool - or checking out the sights, so it really doesn't matter that much IMO.

When you arrive - check out the Tix4less booths along the Strip (they also have a competitior - Discount tix or some such) for good deals and also check out the tourist mags for coupons, etc.

And would agree that Laguna Beach is nice - and if you can find parking - a good place to hang, but by and large - it's easier to get around in SD than Orange Cty or greater LA.

Also - Solvang may be touristy - be we still like it and the cute little palces to eat - which you can find if you check around. One of the wine tasting shops on the main street is as good as any place I have been - and got some great Chard there. The St. Rita hills are a relative "newcomer" - with a more chilly temp at night - which is good for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

And I say again: People are frocklicking in the ocean water all summer here - WITHOUT WETSUITS - even in June - and then it warms up a few more degrees by August - upper 70's or so.

Hey - when we lived in SF - I would go in the ocean over at Stinson Beach (in the summer) - and loved it -but I am part Polar Bear.
Tomsd is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 06:42 PM
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Also - if you like going back to your "camping days" - Curry Village is just fine - despite some semi-egalitarian views expressed herein. Of course, the Ahwanhee is gorgeous/world class - and we have also stayed at the Yosemite Lodge - but I like the tent cabins too.
Tomsd is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 08:36 PM
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Tomsd: We said the water was warmer down south, why the shouting?

I just think Solvang wouldn't interest folks from overseas all that much. Sort of ersatz 'quaint European village' . . . they have the real thing over there.
janisj is online now  
Feb 28th, 2012, 01:11 AM
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Wow - again thanks for everyone's reply's!!

San F ?? not sure I understand why that is funny but haha..
La jolla looks lovey on the net thanks! Yes I thought It would be warm enough to swim in any case i'll get in whatever the temp..
Well I need to look for flights to LV from NY so i'll look today I don't think they are too bad.. Maybe i will look into flying to LV then droping off car in SD and flying from there to NY if some of you think car drop off would not be too bad at a different point.
I originally thought that the drive from LV to Yosemite may be a little boring but a few of you say it is beautiful so would like to take the most scenic route we'll just get up mega early (try not to drink to much in Vegas and lose all our money!!. So maybe that Tioga pass ...

One other thing I wonder if anyone has done a helicopter flight over Grand canyon? We were atually going to miss the Grand canyon out compleatly unless people think that that's crazy? I have been to canyons/gorges before (colca canyon, peru and one in montenegro)and Didn't want to take another day but am I ignorant not going/seeing??

Glad I booked the Wynn then if its nice.. and we'll check out that tix 4 less then as do want to see a show if we are there ive heard the circ du soleil ones are good?

In yosemite right i'll get looking and booking That Hotel does look nice although I think I would rather stay in a more cabin lodge style in yosemite and stay somewhere plush somewher on the coast if anyone knows any nice places I think we will try and mix it up with some cheap places and if there is a really nice hotel on the ocast somewhere then i am happy (although my bank probably isn't) to pay..

Just looked think that yosemite lodge is full on a few sites .. so its either curry village or ahwahnee hmm I think Curry village then How many days should we stay? And do we have to book a hike etc or just rock up?

Great then on to San F, have to find somewher to stay there or just turn up and find somewhere i guess lots of people tell me it's a great city any fun things i shouldn't miss?

Hmm then montery/carmel/pacific grove then big sure and elephant beach .. maybe stop at hearst castle /san someon for the views ..

Ha Solvang seems a bone of contention as I'm half danish it does seem funny seeing the photos on the net I wonder what the history is there as to why it has popped up I have been back to Denmark recently so have had my fix and maybe give this a miss especially if its the same prices as Copenhagen ha..! But does look fun.. I am however interested in wine are the St. Rita hills near there then and can we visit and taste etc?

So is San diego definately better for beaches then .. that La jolla did look gorgeous...and if the water is a bit warmer maybe Stay around San Diego .. I dont mind driving down the coast and deciding where we will stay as and when but wouldn't mind syaing we will be in San Diego or a beach nearby, by a certain date and relax on a beach for a couple of days before we return the the UK.. so any nice hotels in that area I can book??

Thank you all!!
Charlottef is offline  
Feb 28th, 2012, 05:36 PM
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If you like diving, there are a number of useful websites for you to explore.

I'm not a diver, but there is a beautiful area, Point Lobos, which is often recommended here for the ground-level beauty. However, half of this state reserve is under water and it's a great place for people who like to be in the water to explore.

Here's one website with a list of the California dive sites. Point Lobos would be in the "Central California" section.

I know nothing about diving or this website, but like that it has maps with the dive locations pinpointed on the maps.

Hope this helps a bit.
easytraveler is offline  
Feb 29th, 2012, 03:31 AM
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Got qualified for diving in Monterrey Bay and have been diving/spear fishing around there also, and the Point Lobos area is a great place to dive - with a lot of underwater fauna, etc.

And Janis: Not sure who the collective "we" is - but some others had commented they thought the water was too cold in California - so had to make sure about the different water temps down here (into the high 70's when August rolls around) v. up north, which is chillier for sure up there.

And Charl - good for you to be checking on the advice the people have offered here, as nobody gets paid and we do is just for our love of travel. Hey - I loved Denmark - and I also love Solvang.
Tomsd is offline  
Feb 29th, 2012, 03:33 AM
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BTW - if you can't work out a visit/driving over to the Grand Canyon - do recommend you take either a one day tour from Vegas (by bus) or the Helicopter ride. I think the Grand Canyon is one of the most stunning sights I have ever had the pleasure of viewing.
Tomsd is offline  

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