Guide to a road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco

One of the most scenic and memorable coastal drives in all of the U.S. is located between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and we can’t wait to show you why. The famous Pacific Coast Highway through Highway 1 offers 400 miles (8-9 hours) of stunning natural beauty, historical landmarks, sandy beaches, rocky cliffs, tasty restaurants, entertainment, 5-star hotels, and so much more! If you’re looking for a scenic and fun-filled Los Angeles road trip, this is it.

You could make the drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco in just one day, but why rush it? Allow yourself at least 3-4 days to relax and explore all the coastal sights along the way. The Pacific Coast Highway was rated “Best American Road Trips” by National Geographic, and it’s certainly one you’ll want to experience at least once in your lifetime.

Busy Los Angeles Freeway Interchange Aerial

Now, imagine yourself driving along the beautiful California coastline in the car of your dreams. Can you picture it? Whether it’s a Lamborghini or a Mercedes Benz, you can make your dreams a reality by renting a luxury rental car from CarHopper. It’s the important cherry on top of your already spectacular Los Angeles road trip.

Let’s dive in…Here are all the best spots to sightsee, rest, eat, drink, and explore along the way!

Santa Barbara

We’re starting our Los Angeles road trip off at one of the prettiest cities in America. Santa Barbara is a must-see city if you haven’t explored it yet, and it’s located just 90 minutes North of LA.

A terrific spot you’ll want to check out is the Santa Barbara Public Market, conveniently located in the heart of downtown. It’s a contemporary urban marketplace that offers locally and regionally sourced food, wine, and beer. Premiere dining is right at your fingertips, and you’ll enjoy the unique and fun experience that the Public Market offers.

Just 40 minutes North is the Camarillo Shopping Outlets if you love to shop til you drop. Many shops and eateries are located here with brands including Gap, Banana Republic, North Face, and more, all at insanely great prices too.

Looking for more things to do? Head down to State Street, it’s lined with boutiques, restaurants, and yogurt shops. Or ride the waterfront shuttle for a quick peek! Enjoy smoothies at Backyard Bowls for a delicious and healthy treat.

Rest your head at the impeccable Kimpton Canary for a night or two. This Spanish style hotel provides luxurious 5-star accommodations and has many perks such as a rooftop pool, stunning views, wine hour, complimentary bikes (perfect for riding to the beach), and so much more. You’ll feel like royalty.

Big Sur

This will be your longest driving day, so get ready to soak up all those breathtaking views along your to Big Sur! Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for San Simeon to check out the huge, loud, but incredibly cute elephant seals that hang out here. Big Sur is known for its cliffside views, so make sure to stop and take it all in. Catching a sunset is even better!

You’ll also want to explore Hearst Castle, an amazing “place like no other” which started from humble beginnings as a bungalow, and then turned into a 130+ room castle! It took 28 years to complete and entertained many Hollywood stars in the 1930s. If only those walls could talk! Hearst Castle also used to be the site of the world’s largest private zoo, and they still have zebras roaming the grounds which you may be able to see from the highway! Make time for this awesome spot, it’s well worth it.

Car at beach at sunset

Later, grab a bite to eat at Nepenthe. It’s situated high on a cliffside and offers a little slice of paradise for all of its guests. This place speaks for itself, as it’s been serving people for over 68 years! Sit out on the terrace to enjoy a glass of wine, Ambrosia Burger, and a homemade dessert for the ultimate experience. Your taste buds will be craving this place long after you leave.

Located high above the ocean you’ll find private stunning ocean views at Ventana Inn. It’s truly a beautiful sanctuary where you’ll see people roaming around in fluffy bathrobes on their way to the spa, sitting outside soaking up the sun’s rays, and even a clothing-optional pool! The staff and grounds are incredible, and you’ll feel all those cozy relaxation vibes the moment you step foot on the property.


The 17-mile drive along the peninsula is very popular if you want to see the coastline and explore attractions such as Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Fisherman’s Wharf, wine tastings, golfing, sailing, and biking. You’ll also see impressive $20,000,000 houses along the way. You’ll fit right in as you cruise along in your luxury rental car. Monterey is a charming town whether you wish to spend a night here or simply stop by for a few hours.

The world-renowned PGA Golf Course at the Pebble Beach is nearby, too, for all the golf lovers! Now there are only 2 hours left until we reach the final destination on our Los Angeles road trip…

Santa Cruz

Beautiful coastlines await you in Santa Cruz, and by now, you’re only a little over an hour away to beautiful San Francisco! More beautiful beaches await you here, as it’s known for being a surf town. Check out Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for a mile stretch including an amusement park, carnival foods, mini golf, and other sightseeing! You can also take yacht tours, sail, or enjoy many other waterfront activities.

If you’re looking for a great hotel for the night, the Dream Inn is located right on the beach. All rooms have ocean views with private balconies, and there’s just something magical about listening to the waves as you fall into a deep, rejuvenating sleep.

San Francisco

You’ve made it! The gorgeous city of San Francisco is filled with so many fun things to see and do. Do yourself a favor and put Sausalito into your GPS as you arrive. It’ll take you over the famous Golden Gate Bridge and into a seaside town filled with waterfront restaurants and boutiques. It’s filled with incredible views and offers an atmosphere like no other.

Back in San Francisco, you can check out the Painted Ladies (opening credits of Full House), which is a row of painted houses with the stunning city view in the background. Next, head over to Alcatraz to see one of the world’s most haunted and notorious prisons in the world. (The history is great!)

Other things to explore are Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, Napa & Sonoma Wineries, cable cars, Chinatown, Golden Gate Park, Museum of Modern Art, and Ghirardelli Square!

Located in the heart of San Franciso, you’ll find Loews Hotel. A 5-star hotel that’s close to everything and offers anything you could possibly need. Enjoy breathtaking views over the entire city and San Francisco Bay, modern amenities, and timeless designs. Staying at Loews will be an unforgettable experience to end your incredible road trip.

Luxurious Car Rentals for Your Los Angeles Road Trip From CarHopper

Your road trip from LA to SF just wouldn’t be complete without renting a luxury car from CarHopper. Whether you have a need for speed, comfort, or both, the choice is yours. Put yourself in the driver’s seat of the car of your dreams. You deserve it!

We partner with the best local luxury car rental companies in top destinations across MiamiLos AngelesLas VegasSan FranciscoNew York City and the Hamptons. We take care of everything, so all you have to do is book it and show up. It’s that simple. We update our website frequently, so take a look around and see what excites you. Our 24/7 customer service team is ready to help, contact us today!

The car you drive tells a beautiful story. Make it a great one.