My Californian road trip – LA to San Diego

 In Active Travel, California, Get Inspired, Once In A Lifetime, Roadtrips, USA

My Californian road trip from LA down to San Diego in the back of my friends truck is hands down one of my favourite travel memories so far.

Most of my adventures are working adventures with itineraries, early starts, energy consuming days, late nights editing and to be honest… very little time for relaxing.But this Californian road trip seemed to come at a perfect time and was EXACTLY what I needed to switch off, kick back, relax and indulge in every single thing I love most about exploring the world.

  • No alarms
  • Spontaneous detours
  • Beautiful sunsets
  • Campstove dinners
  • Fresh air
  • Surfing
  • Bare feet
  • Palm trees
  • Sunshine
A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego
A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego

Usually when I’m exploring somewhere new, I jam pack the itinerary to make sure I cover the maximum ground to see as much as possible, to create as much content as possible.

But as I become a more seasoned traveller I’ve realised its SO much better and more rewarding to spend more time in less places.

To not rush and to really immerse myself in places.

Combine that with the fact I didn’t want my new travel partner (who I met randomly whilst adventuring in Paris last year) to feel like he was on a working mission with me.

So our Californian road trip was over a total distance of 120 miles which, in a straight run, would have taken about 2.5 hours, but we meandered down the route over a week.

Happy days.

In case you’re looking for California road trip inspiration…

Here are the main spots we covered, stopped and ate at, plus the bits that made my week so wonderful..

Day 1 – Venice Beach and Santa Monica

  • Walk down Santa Monica Beach and Venice Beach front and grab lunch

The stretch of path that runs along the beach front is 3 miles long. It takes about an hour to walk it, which we did, but cycling is a popular alternative. There are many bike rental shops along the front and plenty of spaces to lock up your bike when you want to dip into a restaurant for dinner.

The beach fronts definitely weren’t what I had pictured them to be. I quite literally saw EVERYTHING on this day, including the guy I managed to snap below. On TV, in films, in media, LA falls nothing short of glitz, glamour and fame and that’s the image I had, over the years, built in my head. But that image is very different to the reality. Yes all of that stuff is there, but LA is MASSIVE, seriously. And like any other city, there are the homeless, there are the rich and there is everything in-between.

A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego

After being quite taken aback by some of the sights and situations I witnessed on the beach front, I can’t say I felt much at home on first impressions. But a chance to catch up with my friend just a 10-minute walk off of the beach in Santa Monica town, had my opinions turned around pretty quickly…

  • Wander through the gorgeous palm lined streets of Santa Monica, dip into the shops and listen to the live buskers on the streets

A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego
A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego
  • Embrace American culture in the Sports Bar Cabo Cantina with 2-For-1 cocktails + enchiladas

  • Grab a peanut bowl from Shophouse Kitchen

We shared the enchiladas from the Mexican… but yes we are also piglets and ate here too!

On our first night we stayed in hotel near the airport, which we booked through priceline.com. AirBnb is also a great option if you’re on a budget – get up to £30 off your first stay with this link.

Day 2 – Be a Hollywood tourist

  • Hiked to the back of the Hollywood sign via Cahuenga Peak and the Wisdom Tree

There are 3 levels of difficulty depending on your ability. Our walk was deemed the hardest and took about 2 hours to complete.

You could also just opt to drive to the front of the sign for a photo, which requires about 30 seconds of walking.

A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego
A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego
  • Drive through Hollywood Boulevard, UCLA + Beverly Hills down to Westwood

A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego
A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego
  • Grab an unbelievable $2 ice cream sandwich from Diddy Riese’s

I had one peanut butter cookie and one smart filled chocolate cookie with rocky road icecream inbetween. UNREAL.

Find Diddy Riese’s here: 926 Broxton Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024, United States

Watch part 1 of my Californian road trip come to life in my vlog below…

Day 3 – Long Beach + Huntington Beach

  • Browse the shops in The Pike Shopping Village

  • Dine refreshingly on the gorgeous summer salads and cocktails at The Yard House Waterfront Eatery

  • Grab a doughnut for the road!

  • Drive down to Huntington Beach and park up for the night.

  • Walk the famous Huntington Beach pier

  • Dinner at Aloha Grill

A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego
A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego

Day 4 – Wake in Huntington Beach and drive onto Laguna Beach

  • Take an early morning surf or swim in the ocean

  • Grab a Banzai Bowl for breakfast and what the surfers do their thing from the beach or the pier.

  • Grab a doughnut for the road

  • Browse the endless surf shops and beach-vibed home stores

  • Drive down to Laguna for the night and watch the sun set over the stunning array of palm trees that line the coast.

  • Eat at Tortilla Republic

Rumour has it that ‘Nick’s’ is a great restaurant choice here in Laguna too, but we didn’t book ahead and it was full on the day we were visiting.

  • A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego

Watch part 2 of my Californian road trip come to life in my vlog below…

Day 5 – 1000 steps beach & Encinitas

  • Grab breakfast and walk through the gorgeous Heisler Park coastal trail in Laguna Beach

  • Drive 10 minutes south to soak up the sun on a beautiful beach, lined with dreamy Californian properties.

  • Drive on through the sunset to Encinitas and eat Mexican in Las Olas

We stayed over night on San Elijo State Beach campsite – book here.

A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego
A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego
A 7 Day Road Trip Itinerary in California, LA to San Diego

Day 6 – La Jolla cove and exploring San Diego

  • Grab a Sambazon acai bowl

  • Drive to La Jolla cove and hang out with the sea lions

  • Head down to Coronado Island for lunch and then walk down to the beach with a fresh scoop of gelato.

  • Grab some campfire goodies from Wholefoods and set up the camp stove and bonfire on Fiesta Island (note: you can’t stay overnight here).

Day 7 – Potato chip hike and exploring more of San Diego

  • Grab a banana and get an early start to hike up to Potato Chip Rock

It’s quite a challenging 8 mile hike and is BEST avoided between the midday heat hours. We begun at 8am and didn’t return to our car until 1.45pm, that included waiting in line to take the ultimate photo and resting to catch our breath for half an hour at the top.

It’s not a hike to be underestimated with a pretty consistent incline on the way up and there’s no water along the way so make sure you take a load with you plus some snacks!

  • Head down into San Diego’s University District for a well deserved and unrivalled feast at Snooze.

Recommend: Sweet potato pancakes, OMG! French Toast, Eggs Benedict

THIS PLACE IS GOD, ESPECIALLY AFTER SUCH A HIKE!

  • Browse one of the shopping districts and have a drink in Little Italy

  • Watch a baseball match at the Pecto Stadium

  • Go for a drink at Altitude Bar

Watch part 3 of my Californian road trip come to life in my vlog below…

Honestly, my Californian road trip was a week filled with moments, memories and sunsets that I’ll still be reminiscing over and telling my grand children when I’m 70 years old.

Shout out to T for driving and for being the best adventure buddy.

Here’s to the next Californian road trip!

Have you been to California?

What were your favourite spots? I’d love to know!

Love as always + happy adventuring,

Mollie.

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My Californian road trip - LA to San Diego
My Californian road trip - LA to San Diego
My Californian road trip - LA to San Diego
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