San Diego to San Francisco—the Perfect California Road Trip!
Summer is almost upon us, and you know what that means— road trips! Packing up the car, filling up the tank, and setting off for an adventure. Well, one state that offers some pretty epic road trips in California. The state, the size of a small country, offers everything from sandy beaches to amusement parks galore.
If you’re looking for an urban adventure, California has fantastic museums, nightlife, and shopping. Or if you prefer the quieter side of life and love exploring rugged mountains and trails, California has something for you. So, grab your favorite Sea & Grass bag and hit the road.
Experience San Diego to San Francisco
There’s always been a debate amongst the locals about which part of California is better, Southern or Northern, but you don’t have to choose on this road trip. The best part is that you get to experience the magic of two very different cities.
We suggest starting in San Diego and making your way through Las Angeles, and traveling along Highway 1 to San Francisco with stops along the way. But you could quickly reverse your route and start in San Francisco. The road trip could take you a week or easily two weeks.
San Diego Beaches and Attractions
San Diego is nestled along the coast in Southern California, about 20 miles from the Mexico border. It’s famous for Comic-Con, the San Diego Zoo, and fish tacos. Once considered a sleepy city, it has risen as one of the most popular places to visit in Southern California. And for a good reason, it has fantastic beaches perfect for swimming and surfing.
San Diego Beaches
The two main San Diego beaches are Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach. Pacific Beach is where the young party crowd hangs out along the three miles of boardwalk. Ocean Beach is a short walk away but is a little quieter and has more of a hippy vibe.
But close by are two other beaches worth checking out—Coronado Beach and La Jolla Shores. Coronado Beach on Coronado Island is by far the prettiest beach in the area with white sand and lapping waves. La Jolla Shores manages to create a small-town vibe with epic waves and a California burrito close at hand. You’ll never be bored!
Fun Activities In San Diego
It may be hard to choose what to do in San Diego; there really is something for everyone. The best part is that it has something for the whole family or friends out on an adventure. Below are some of the highlights of this incredible city.
- View a movie under the stars
- Take the ferry to Coronado
- Bike the Silverstrand
- Try a Cali Burrito
- Try yoga outside
- Explore a farmer’s market
- Try a fish taco
- Say hi to your favorite animal at The San Diego Zoo
- Explore Balboa Park
- Tour the USS Midway Museum
- Experience the views at Birch Aquarium at Scripps
- Go back in history at the Cabrillo National Monument
- Eat tasty Italian bites in Little Italy
- Excite your taste buds at the Seven Seas Food Festival and SeaWorld San Diego
- Kayak at La Jolla Shores
- Check out the seals and sea lions in La Jolla
- Hike Torrey Pines
- Discover Sunny Jim’s Sea Cave
- Explore the beautiful desert wildflowers in Anza-Borrego State Park
From San Diego to San Francisco
Once you’ve had your fill of San Diego, pack up the car and head north on Interstate 5. You’ll travel through Orange County to Los Angeles. It’s hard not to resist a stop somewhere in Las Angeles, so these attractions may be just what the road trip calls for.
- Sunbathe at the beaches in Los Angeles
- Stop at Disneyland
- Soak up the view at Griffith Park
- Shop at The Grove
- Check out the Getty Center
Once you get your fill of Los Angeles, hop back in the car and head to Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 1. Highway 1, along the Pacific Ocean, offers incredible scenery, fun stops along the way, and many photo opportunities.
Stops Along Highway 1
The distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco is about 381 miles, or roughly 5.5 hours. But you could easily stretch it out a few days with some must-see stops along the way.
- Explore Carmel Valley
- Experience Hearst Castle
- Wine tasting along the Pacific Coast Highway
- Say hello to the fish at Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Walk the boardwalk in Santa Cruz
- Surf some epic waves along Highway 1
- Take time out for a coastal hike
End the Trip in San Francisco
Locals would argue there’s nothing like San Francisco, and they may be right. With its rolling hills, colorful architecture, and thriving food scene, you could spend days exploring this much-loved city. But keep your wallet in check; San Francisco isn’t known as budget-friendly. It is lovely for walking and using public transportation.
- Go on a city hike
- Explore the different San Francisco neighborhoods
- Shop in the Mission or in Union Square
- Walk the Golden Gate Bridge
- Tour Coit Tower
- Enjoy seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf
- Snap a photo in front of Google
- Take in a San Francisco Theater show
- Have a picnic in Golden Gate Park
- Sink into a cup of clam chowder
- Ride the cable cars and stop for Irish coffee
- Escape to Alcatraz Island
- Fall in love with Chinatown
- Soak up culture at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor
- Grab a photo opportunity at the Palace of Fine Arts
- Gaze at a Matisse at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
- Revel in the view at the top of Twin Peaks
- Explore the Asian Art Museum
- Get a ticket for the family-friendly Exploratorium
- Day trip to Napa Valley
- Hike and picnic at Angel Island State Park
- Order a hot fudge sundae at Ghirardelli Square
Say Goodbye to the California Sunshine
Ending a road trip is always bittersweet. You’re thankful to be home and snuggled in the comfort of your own bed. Yet the road calls again. Well, there’s always your next adventure and the perfect Sea & Grass tote. The best part of visiting California is that there’s always more roads to explore.