Pacific Beach, San Diego

California Sunshine Coast from San Francisco

California Sunshine Coast
from San Francisco

From £2,639
14 night fly drive includes flights, car and hotels.

Travelling next year? Book now for an early discount

Travel period: Year round

With 15 days spent in the warm sunny climate of southern California, this fly drive is great at any time of year and designed with a relaxed pace in mind. Travel the Pacific Coast Highway visiting San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Monterey and San Francisco.

Day 1 Arrive San Francisco

Non-stop flights from the UK, with free or discounted add-on flights from regional airports. The journey time from London is 11 hours.

On arrival we recommend that you do not collect your car as you will be tired and will only pay high fees to park the vehicle during your 3 days in the city. Either take a convenient metred cab from the airport terminal or we can arrange a shuttle transfer for you for a small fee. If you do prefer to collect your vehicle upon arrival into San Francisco, this can be done for an additional cost.

Hotel – Handlery Hotel San Francisco (Special offer – includes breakfast for 2)

Day 2 San Francisco


This morning we suggest you take a city tour – especially if this is your first time to this fabulous city as it will allow you to get your bearings.


Enjoy a quick 10-minute ferry ride to the centre of the San Francisco harbour to the infamous former prison island – Alcatraz. The visit includes a taped tour of the prison (once home to such famous criminals as gangster Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly”). Note: We strongly suggest that you pre-book this very popular Alcatraz tour which in our opinion is not to be missed – let us know at time of booking. Do book early to avoid disappointment!


Seafood dinner at one of many restaurants along the waterfront or at one of the trendy restaurants in the SoMa (South of Market) area! After dinner, enjoy a musical show, an American Conservatory Theatre performance or a comedy club, and a nightcap in one of the many rooftop cocktail lounges.

Hotel – Handlery Hotel San Francisco (Special offer – includes breakfast for 2)

Day 3 San Francisco


Take a tour to Muir Woods, a forest of giant California redwood trees – some of the biggest trees in the world. On the way back, stop for lunch and shopping in the beautiful little town of Sausalito. Return to San Francisco by ferry or by bus; or take a walking tour of Chinatown with a dim sum lunch.


Free afternoon to shop! Explore Union Square’s department stores, small boutiques and art galleries; visit the neighbourhood shopping areas South of Market or Union Street; take a five-minute walk from downtown to the Embarcadero Centre, a three-level, four-building complex of 150 shops. Shop at the many complexes in the Fisherman’s Wharf area such as PIER 39, Ghirardelli Square and The Cannery and enjoy the musicians and street performers. Take a jeep tour of the area, or rent a bike and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and ferry back to San Francisco.


San Francisco has over 3,000 restaurants! Take your choice: For instance, an authentic Chinese banquet in Chinatown – the largest Asian settlement outside of mainland China, an elaborate Korean barbecue or an Italian feast in The City’s Italian section, called “North Beach” or how about a dinner cruise on San Francisco Bay. Enjoy dinner and dancing to a live band as you cruise past The City’s famous skyline at sunset.


San Francisco is one of our favourite cities in the whole of North America & we would not recommend you spending any less than 3 nights in the city if this is your first visit. None of the tours or attractions mentioned in our suggested itinerary are included in your tour price, however, we would be very happy to make these arrangements on your behalf (subject to availability). In particular, as we have mentioned above, your visit to Alcatraz – as the ferry to the island can often be booked up days, or even weeks, in advance during the height of the season.

There are numerous festivals going on throughout the year in San Francisco, art, film and dance festivals and this is in addition to a packed sport scene, which includes the world famous San Francisco 49’ers. We are happy to help our customers with purchasing tickets and advising on events taking place during your stay, please ask for details.

Hotel – Handlery Hotel San Francisco (Special offer – includes breakfast for 2)

Day 4 San Francisco – Monterey
100 miles

We suggest returning to the airport to collect your rental vehicle. There is a greater choice of cars and the number of rental agents reduces the chance of long waiting lines. You will be heading south once you have your car anyway, so this makes sense.

Monterey is a 2-hour drive from San Francisco, so we suggest with so much to see and do in the Monterey / Carmel area that you head straight there.

Before heading int Monterey or Carmel, why not take the famous 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach where some of the most iconic California coastline pictures where taken. The cost is $10-$11, enter the gates and follow the red-dotted line to arrive at an enchanting world full of dramatic coastal cliffs, snow-white beaches, mystical forests and iconic golf courses. Discover one of the most scenic drives in the world as you meet the inspiring Lone Cypress, ponder the giant trees at Crocker Grove, digest the untouched beauty at Fanshell Beach, behold the power of the Restless Sea at Point Joe, stroll the boardwalk above the beach at Spanish Bay, and much, much more.

Our choice of hotel puts you right in the centre of quaint Monterey, so this afternoon would be perfect to park the car door the bags at the hotel and explore Monterey on foot. You are only blocks away from scenic Monterey Bay, historic Cannery Row, Old Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Get to know the peninsula and explore its local eateries, scenic coastal trails, and unique shops.

Hotel – Monterey Tides Hotel

Day 5 Monterey

A full day to explore the Monterey Peninsula, Pacific Grove and Carmel area. Enjoy exciting Bay adventures like whale-watching and kayaking.

A visit to the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must, it’s psychedelic jellies and bat-ray petting tanks amongst a whole host of species coupled with its story of the seas outside and the impressive conservation work, make it a real experience for families and couples alike. Step outside and find yourself among hotels, shops, and restaurants filling former fish-packing plants along Cannery Row, made famous by local author John Steinbeck. Rent bikes to follow the coast south around the peninsula to Pacific Grove, Asilomar State Beach, and the sea-and-spray beauty (and gazillion-dollar homes and celebrated Pebble Beach golf courses) along the 17-Mile Drive.

On Monterey Peninsula’s south side, explore artsy Carmel-by-the-Sea (locals just call it Carmel), a town that deftly straddles the balance point of rich history and new wealth. The Carmel Mission is one of the state’s most beautiful, and shady trails fan out from the site into lush Mission Trail Nature Preserve. Stroll the white sands of dog-friendly Carmel Beach, or explore a mosaic of meadows, wave-battered bluffs, and wind-twisted trees at nearby Point Lobos State Reserve. Venture into Carmel Valley for bright sun if (when) the foghorn starts blowing. Then come back to Carmel’s main village, with gallery-lined streets, cosy gastropubs, and even cosier inns.

Hotel – Monterey Tides Hotel

Day 6 Monterey – San Simeon
94 miles

Start at sunrise for an opportunity to travel the famous and spectacular Highway 1 winding through countless state parks and picturesque small towns south along the California coast. Though the route looks short we suggest an early start to accommodate the curvy roads and multiple stops, however we have purposefully designed the itinerary so that you do not have a long distance to cover today. Leaving Monterey, the stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway leading through Big Sur is one of the most famous roads in America, carved into cliffs where 1000-meter-high redwood covered mountains plunge down into the sea. Continue south to San Simeon, where you have the option to visit Hearst Castle and view the Elephant Seals that can be seen on the beaches just north of San Simeon. Peak season for the seals is December to March but you are pretty much guaranteed to see some on the beaches year round – it is a unique sight!

Hotel – Cavalier Inn

Day 7 – San Simeon – Santa Barbara
135 miles

If you did not have time yesterday you can head up to Hearst Castle this morning if you wish, it’s right on the doorstep of your oceanfront Inn, it’s worth going for the hilltop view if nothing else!

Once you are done continue along the Pacific Coast Highway, gradually the scenery changes as you start to experience more of the dry heat of Southern California. San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Pismo Beach are all worth lunch or coffee stops before you reach Solvang.

The city was founded in 1911 by Danish immigrants who wanted to create their own colony. A Danish speaking school was built three years later and their idea of creating a mini-Denmark went a step further in the 1940s when one of the town’s developers built his home in the style of his homeland. The Danish Village concept grew and, now, much of the city looks as though it’s been picked up from cold Copenhagen and dropped into sunny California. There is a great atmosphere in Solvang and whilst it does feel like something straight out of Disneyworld its quite unique and worth a stop.

Worth noting that if you are interested in wine this area is awash with wineries you can visit.

Re-join the coastal road and head for Santa Barbara, known as the American Riviera, where golden hillsides cascade into seas and the red tile roofs give way to abundantly sunny skies.

Hotel – Best Western Plus Peppertree Inn

Day 8 Santa Barbara

Take the day to explore. Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s 2018 Reader’s Choice Awards placed Santa Barbara on the list of “Best Small Cities in the U.S.” so you are in for a great day whatever you decided to do, especially given they enjoy over 300 days a year of sunshine.

Renting a bike in Santa Barbara is great fun. Cruising along the boardwalk at the beach, riding along State Street and down some of the ever so quaint side streets is a wonderful way to spend a morning.

Take some time to explore the Pier too where Pelicans take the place of the ice cream pinching seagulls found in our British seaside resorts. There are lovely places to eat on the pier and when you are done explore State street with its vast array of shops and restaurants.

Once again for those interested in California wine this region is great for a visit to a winery with over 200 in the area, made famous by the 2004 film Sideways which celebrated the regions signature wine, the Pinot Noir

Hotel – Best Western Plus Peppertree Inn

Day 9 – Santa Barbara – Los Angeles
100 miles

As you head toward Los Angeles you’ll pass Camarillo about 40 miles south of Santa Barbara. If you haven’t finished your shopping the Camarillo Premium Outlets mall featured over 160 stored with many famous brands. A fun and scenic way to enter Los Angeles is from Highway 1 through Malibu Beach and Santa Monica where you’ll quickly understand why these beaches are so popular!

Greater Los Angeles is enormous, towns within a city so it is important to understand what your interests are with Los Angeles and we can suggest where to stay that is close, For the purpose of this itinerary we have chosen The Portofino Hotel & Marina, giving you a nice view across the water and evenly about 45 minutes’ drive from places like Hollywood or Disneyland.

Hotel – The Portofino Hotel & Marina, Redondo Beach

Day 10 – Los Angeles

Los Angeles is really a jumble of many towns – 95 municipalities in fact, with as many unique personalities. Today there are many sightseeing opportunities including Hollywood with famous Grauman’s Theatre home to the famous hand and foot prints of the stars. From Grauman’s Theatre you can easily book a sightseeing tour of movie star homes with a lively and informative guide who’ll point out the famous homes and where the stars may be seen around town! Or you can visit Universal Studios for a behind the scenes look at movie making.

Perhaps in the afternoon if you have time visit the original ‘farmers market’. The Farmers Market is an area of food stalls, sit-down eateries, prepared food vendors, and produce markets. First opened in July 1934, it is also a historic Los Angeles landmark and I’d highly recommend stopping here for lunch or a snack. Thanks to LA’s ethnic diversity you can taste food from all over the world here.

Hotel – The Portofino Hotel & Marina, Redondo Beach

Day 11 – Los Angeles

So many things to see and do and so little time.. but here are just a few ideas for your 2nd day in Los Angeles.

The Miracle Mile is a stretch on Wilshire Blvd, home to four major Los Angeles museums: LA County Museum of Art, La Brea Tar Pits (Page Museum), Craft and Folk Art Museum, and Petersen’s Auto Museum. Add a bit of culture to your L.A. visit by stopping at the Miracle Mile.

The J. Paul Getty Museum, commonly referred to as The Getty, is an art museum housed on two campuses: the Getty Center and the Getty Villa. The Getty Center is in the Brentwood neighbourhood of Los Angeles and is the primary location of the museum. The collection features Western art from the Middle Ages to the present. Its estimated 1.3 million visitors annually make it one of the most visited museums in the United States. The museum’s second location, the Getty Villa, is in the Pacific Palisades neighbourhood and displays art from ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.

Griffith Park is a large municipal park. It has been referred to as the Central Park of Los Angeles but is much larger, more untamed, and rugged than its New York City counterpart. It holds the Griffiths Observatory where visitors can look through telescopes, explore exhibits, see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and enjoy spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign.

Venice Beach and it’s famous boardwalk is well known around the world for its funky and offbeat vibe. This 2.5 kilometre boardwalk has a bike path, skateboard ramps, restaurants, sunglasses, and plenty of tourists. Venice beach is famous for muscle beach, where body builders strut and invariably get mentioned in LA guides… On the west side of the “walk” are hundreds of street vendors and performers. You can see everything from break-dancing to broken glass walking. The Westside offers unique arts and crafts and on the Eastside you find the store fronts of the boardwalk. Here you will find every sort of t-shirt under the sun plus tattoo and piercing stores, skate and surf shops, medical marijuana dispensaries and more. This is all in addition to the large selection of restaurants, juice spots and bars.

Hotel – The Portofino Hotel & Marina, Redondo Beach

Day 12 – Los Angeles – San Diego
125 miles

Today head south to San Diego. With the constantly perfect weather, beautiful beaches, parks, delicious food and craft beverage scene, it’s hard not to fall in love with San Diego.  This is the perfect place for a little R&R at the end of your trip and with this in mind we have suggested a stay on Mission Bay with its beautiful beaches, laid-back vibe and close proximity to all the other attractions San Diego has to offer, we think it is perfect.

Hotel – The Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa

Day 13 – San Diego

If you would like to get out today and explore, we have some suggestions for you.

Balboa Park is San Diego’s biggest park. In fact, it’s bigger than Central Park! There are a ton of activities to do here depending on what you’re interested in. San Diego Zoo is in the park. It’s huge with many open areas for the animals. If you just love parks or nature, you can stroll through the park itself or one of its many gardens- including a rose garden, a Japanese garden, and a botanical garden.

If you love museums, there are over 15 museums to visit – art museums, history museums. Timken Museum of Art is always free, and the San Diego Museum of Art and the Museum of Photogenic Arts well worth a visit. For more art visit the Spanish village. These are historic buildings turned art galleries and stores which have a lot of their work for sale. Even just walking through this area is a fun experience.

For the afternoon you might like to visit the Oldtown. This is a historic district in California because it’s the state’s first European settlement. There are a lot of preserved old buildings from this time, now turned into museums that have exhibits on what they were used for back in the day, as well as on the native Kumeyaay population and the African American history. There’s even a haunted house if you’re feeling up for a spooky tour!

If you’re feeling tired from all the exploration, there are many Mexican restaurants here! Even the touristy restaurants are fun because of the colourful decorations and mariachi bands that play you music (if you tip).

Hotel – The Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa

Day 14 – San Diego

Well assuming the weather is good which is usually is we’d suggest your last day you enjoy the beaches!

That does not have to mean towel down and sit in the sun. For a fun morning, rent a bike, roller skates, or a scooter, and travel along the 2ish mile boardwalk from Mission Beach to Pacific Beach. There’s also a mini carnival in Mission Beach with arcade games and a roller coaster, and food and drinks along the boardwalk.

If you want to jump in the water, surfing is popular in this area. There are many board rental places and also groups that offer surfing lessons.

In the afternoon you could visit La Jolla, it is a neighbourhood north of San Diego that shouldn’t be missed. La Jolla also has a gorgeous coastline but with rockier, sand swept cliffs than the beaches of Mission and Pacific. You can still bike or stroll around this coast. But, if you’re looking for something more adventurous, there are many kayaking, paddle boarding, and snorkelling opportunities where you can explore La Jolla’s seven coves

If you wanted to head out on your evenings in San Diego, we’d suggest a visit to Gaslamp district if you want a lively night out in San Diego, with high energy bars and clubs and dancing all around.

North Park is great if you’re looking for something tamer with hip food and alcohol choices. If you want a more sophisticated night, check out Little Italy which has more upscale bars and restaurants for a spot of romance.

If you don’t drink alcohol, both Gaslamp and North Park also have arcade bars where you can just play games and have fun. Also, Little Italy is lovely to simply walk around and explore at night. It gets busy with a buzzy atmosphere and often has street performers performing Italian ballads.

Hotel – The Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa

Day 15 – San Diego Departure

Today you return your airport to San Diego airport for your flight back to the U.K. The non-stop flights we use do not leave until late in the evening so really you have another full day. If you have not already visited, San Diego has a rich Naval history and the Maritime museum and USS Midway museum are well worth a visit – The USS Midway is an aircraft carrier and you can explore all areas as well as loads of warplanes on deck and interactive experiences below deck.


Itinerary Summary

Location Nights
San Francisco 3
Monterey 2
San Simeon 1
Santa Barbara 2
Los Angeles 3
San Diego 3

Based on low season travel for 2 people

Factors affecting price:
Availability – early booking, best prices
Seasonal variations
Weekend travel/hotel stays
Special events/conferences
Varying available room types

For all of the above reasons, please speak to our experienced team who can offer relevant advice on seasonal variations and create a personalised itinerary and costing for your specific dates.


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Call now for further discounts of up to £100 when seat sale fares are available.

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Call us on 01159 610590 for availability and details.

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There is no substitute for first hand experience and David has visited California several times.

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