San Francisco to Los Angeles Road Trip: The Best Stops

With only under 400 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles, the road is packed with adventure and great stops. Can you explore the beauty of the Pacific Coast with one short road trip? If you follow this guide and remember to bring a positive mood on the trip, I guarantee you an experience to remember.

While driving along Highway 1, you’ll experience some of the most breathtaking views in the States. When it comes to road trips, Californian scenery has no rivals. It is packed with the coastal wilderness that captures your breath and all the colors of nature you can imagine. If in a hurry, you choose to stick to the Highway and traverse those 6 hours in one go. However, where is there an actual adventure in such a trip? I suggest taking a slight detour to the nearby stops. Maybe, even prolong the journey for two days? I promise you’ll have plenty of affordable yet enigmatic B&B options. Ready to embark on a lovely trip across California? Let’s go!

San Francisco Car Rentals

san francisco carsIf you require a car for your trip, there’s plenty of options offered by rental companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Kyte, Upshift, Rent-A-Mile, etc. They vary in pricing and car brands. The rule is simple, the better the car, the more expensive it is. On average, vehicle prices start from around $20 a day for economy options and go way up to eternity. For Rent offers the cheapest deals I’ve found. However, car pickup is available only at the SF Airport; the same goes for LA. Thus, it’ll be a small trip from SFO to LAX. So, if you stay in San Francisco for a few days to enjoy the city, you’ll have to drive to the airport for the cheapest cars.

Half Moon Bay

A quick stop for a beautiful picture comes as early as under 30 miles on the road from San Francisco to LA. Half Moon Bay comes with a scenic coast – perfect for Instagram and a breath of fresh air. If you are a surfer with a passion, you can stop here at the famous surfing spot Mavericks for a while.

San Jose

san jose california The first big stop is around 50 miles from SF. San Jose is today the most progressive city in the US. This is the core of Silicon Valley, where dozens of huge international corporations of the high-tech sphere have headquarters, alongside hundreds and hundreds of smaller businesses. You can drive by the famous Hewlett Packard garage, take a look at the Google HQ, and feel like a part of the futuristic movie scene. Besides its business part, San Jose is simply a beautiful city on its own.

San Simeon

This stop along the way comes with a few attractions. To make this more of an eco trip, head to the coasts a bit north of San Simeon to catch a glimpse at the seal rookery, a truly unique view for the area.

For pop-culture enlightenment, you can drive to Hearst Castle on The Enchanted Hill, the location of Lady Gaga’s song “GUY.” A guided tour lasts 60 minutes, during which you’ll take a look at the most luxurious rooms and pools of the castle and learn an interesting story of its owner

Paso Robles

paso robles winery 200 miles from San Francisco is a short ride but one that will bring you to the best vineyards in the country. The best course of action would be to store here for the evening and enjoy the taste of exquisite wines and appetizers. Among the top 5 local wineries are Tobin James Cellars, DAOU Vineyards, Calcareous Vineyard, Sculpterra Winery & Sculpture Garden, and Eberle Winery. Here’s more about the best Paso Robles wineries in detail.

Taste-wise, each one of them is superb. When looking for a place to spend the night, the cradle of luxury and hospitality is The Canyon Villa. The cheaper option would be a High Ridge Manor with views just as beautiful. Both options have an impeccable 5.0 rating on Tripadvisor.

Morro Bay

morro bay californiaEarly in the morning, take a short trip to Morro Bay. Fresh air, warm sand, and the beauty of light reflected on the still surface is a sight to behold. The local market will supply you with fresh fruits and snacks for the rest of the San Fran to LA ride. You can also follow this guide on the things to do in Morro Bay.

If you feel fresh and active after the evening of wine tasting, I’d recommend hiking along the coast for a bit. This is one fantastic experience that will boost your mood and give you energy for the day.

Santa Barbara

While enjoying the coast of Morro Bay, head south past Santa Maria (stop for coffee at Jovi’s Delights Bakery & Coffee Shop, the perfect place for lunch) to reach Santa Barbara in around 100 miles. Before you dive into the buzz of city life, visit Stearns Wharf and East Beach.

Among the most interesting things in the city are the Historical Museum, Zoo, and Botanic Garden. Choose the one to your liking or enjoy a bit of shopping. Relaxing in one of its numerous cafes is also an option. This is the American Riviera, after all.


malibu california The last stop before you hit LA is Malibu. The drive-in itself is stunning. Be sure to pass Ventura Beach, another surfing haven. As you reach Malibu, the sun will already be setting – you get a rare opportunity to watch the sunset on a beach as beautiful as this one. If you travel on the weekend, the place will be buzzing with tourists, LA escapees, and a rare celebrity. No LA to San Francisco drive is complete without the best California beach, Malibu.

When you are ready to travel those last 40 miles to reach your destination, hit the road with a feeling of accomplishing a great road trip in one of the most picturesque states in the US.