California Dreaming part 2 – Highway 1 road trip


If you plan to go to California, a roadtrip is the thing to do as there are so many wonderful places to be seen all over the state. Here is what we did while we were staying in the West Coast, hope you can find inspiration for future travels 🙂

The car

We rented a car for a week to get to know more places in California and got on a 7 days road trip. As we traveled on a quite low budget, we wanted to save some money with accommodation and therefore we chose a small SUV (a jeep Patriot) that we could be turned into a “bed” at night by putting down the back sits and lying a foam mattress on top.

Our car in night mode

As it was summer time and we didnt plan it ahead, finding nice cheap campings was a challenge, so most nights we just found a mall with free parking and rested for the night. It was really the minimum comfort but this way we managed to see thousand of places respecting our budget.

An ambitious itinerary

We wanted to see as much as possible in a week between San Diego and San Francisco. For that we took highway 1 almost all the way up to SF, where we saw some spectacular Landscapes and wildlife. From San Francisco we left the coastal road behind and went down through the middle to get to know Taohe Lake and Yosemite Park.

Day 1 – L.A. Coast

After getting the car in the morning we immediately went to the department store to by a foam mattress, 2 pillows, a blanket and some food for breakfast and snacks. Then we drove to Santa Monica Peer where we had lunch at Bubba Gump (yes, the one from Forest Gump movie!).

Sta Monica pier

After lunch we drove to Malibu and had a lovely walk along the beach trying to spot some celebrities (#fail) and then we finally drove to Santa Barbara to enjoy the Sunset. At night we parked the car on a mall parking where we had a little privacy and could have some hot coffee and a restroom in the morning when the shops were open.

Sunset at Sta Barbara

Day 2 – Highway 1

The goal of the day was to reach Monterey through highway 1. We did it till a certain point where the highway was temporally closed and we had to drive back to take an alternative way. Even if this was much longer in the end we don’t regret it for a minute because the landscapes were stunning. We even saw whales from the edge of the road and some elephants seals resting on a beach. Just amazing!! 


Our little detour took us right on the California wine heart, and what was supposed to be a wasted time on the road became quite interesting. Visiting wineries was not in our plans coz we did not have much time… lucky us!  We decided to stop at a lovely vineyard for some wine tasting (we arrived quite late and got to do it for free!). There we were advised to go to a place called Carmel by the Sea on our way up to SF. What a charming village! Just a couple of miles from Monterey. Even if we were sleeping on a parking lot again (accomodation prices were crazy high there) we enjoyed a romantic evening near the ocean in a fun mediteranian restaurant with music and dance.

Days 3 and 4 – San Francisco

We stayed 2 days in San Francisco as the city has a lot to offer. Of course the Golden Gate bridge and the streets on the hill are worldwide famous and are worth knowing, but you might enjoy as well trying to live SF from the inside. Hayes street is the place locals go to enjoy great restaurants and cafes.

During summer there is usually a lot of fog in the area and it might ruins your sightseeing plans, so remain flexible while you are there. We didnt get to enjoy the panoramic view from Twin Peaks. But in the end we had a great time there and if you travel in a hurry, 2 days should be enough to have a good overview of the city.

In SF we had a couple of friends from Alex’s family to host us just outside the city, we heard that sleeping in the car on open spaces there was not very safe.

Day 5 – Tahoe Lake

What a beautiful place!

We left San Francisco in the morning and drove all the way to Tahoe lake. We arrived there at lunch time and spent the afternoon on the edge of the lake. The whole surroundings of the lake is very beautiful but the Sand Harbor where we spent most of our time was absolutely wonderful with all the rocks colors…

At night we got back on the road and started driving towards the Yosemite Park. We stopped on a camping for the night on our way, it had an interesting concept that im guessing is quite popular in the US: no one is actually working there to collect your money. You get in, find a spot you like, fill a paper with ur main infos, put the paper and the amount they charge on an evelop and thats it! They might come in the morning to check if you payed, we didnt see anybody but we left pretty early in the morning… Ah, and it only costed costed 20$ a night (most campings we found were around 100$). It was by far the best ‘hotel room’ in the world:

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Camping near Yosemite

Day 6 – Yosemite park

Yosemite park is really beautiful and worth knowing, probably worth to stay more than just a day. The park is enormous so I guess you could spend a year there without knowing everything. For us 1 day was totally enough as we were pretty tired to go on long hikes but if you enjoy some trekking, you should totally spend a couple of night in one of the campings or rooms of the park.

If, like us, you stay there only for the day, you probably want to stay in Yosemite Valley as it is where you’ll find most of the waterfalls and cliffs of the park.

Yosemite valley

While we were driving to the Valley we got lucky enough to see a bear from far on the edge of the street. We can’t see it very well on the picture as it was hiding from all the touristsbut it was definetly a moment we wont forget!! 

Check out the bear in the background

At night we started driving back to San Diego and stopped on a cheap motel near Bakersfield to sleep.

Day 7 – laguna beach and back to San Diego

On our last day we wanted to know Laguna Beach. The famous beach was still beautiful but as the weather was not amazing the ocean did not have all the amazing colors we expected, ruining our sexy pictures…

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Laguna Beach…

At the end of the afternoon we finally reached San Diego where we could return the car and end this wonderful trip. Boy, we were tired!

It was an exhausting but wonderful adventure and we can only recommend it to anyone visiting California.

Stay tuned for more adventures soon.

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