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4 day Drive PCH:Monterey to LA to San Diego

New York City, New...
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4 day Drive PCH:Monterey to LA to San Diego

Hello,

We are planning to visit Ca in April. I really want to drive the PCH, but we also want to visit San Diego and LA.

Coming only for 5 nights, 4 full days ( Coming late night 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, flying out 5)

Here is the itinerary that I am hesitant about:

night 0 - fly in to Monterey/Carmel

1 day - Monterey, Big Sure, 17 Mile drive, Pismo beach, Santa Barbara - destination: LA ( late night)

2 day - LA, driving late night to San Diego, overnight San Diego

3 day - San Diego

4 day - San Diego

5 day - fly out

Having very busy schedules at work, I am not sure if such a heavy itinerary is doable, and most importantly - enjoyable...Could you please suggest if it is well worth it to do the following:

1) Is it worth it to start only half way: from Monterey, not SF? Should we postpoe the drive and do it another time from SF to SD?

2) what are the best stops to make on the PCH if you have only 1 full day ( we love hiking and nature, cute towns, architecture. Shopping malls is not in our list). Would you recommend a cute romantic hotel/B7B,inn in Monterey/Carmel/Pacific Grove?

3)Our plan was to stop in Monterey, Big Sur, 17 mile drive, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara. is it doable to do it all in 1 day, enjoying - or is it too much?

4) if doing all in 1 day as showed in #3 is too much, would you suggest to sleep in Santa Barbara before getting to LA?

5) Is it enough 0.5 day in LA?

6) 2 days in San Diego?

Thank you in advance!

Grover Beach...
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1. Re: 4 day Drive PCH:Monterey to LA to San Diego

"....3)Our plan was to stop in Monterey, Big Sur, 17 mile drive, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara. is it doable to do it all in 1 day, enjoying - or is it too much?"....

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Too much! Monterey to LA, alone, is a almost a 7 hour drive!!! The drive through Big Sur is slow, elevated hundreds of feet above the ocean with sheer drop offs and several really tight hairpin turns. It can not be rushed through and it can be quite tiring. Once off the elevated section of roadway, you would have a LONG drive ahead of you to LA. and you might begin to feel like the drive will NEVER end!! You realistically won't have time to stop and enjoy any "cute" towns, architecture, etc with this plan.

I would drop San Diego entirely. Not sure I would even suggest trying for LA.

Perhaps a loop trip so you can truly enjoy what the California coast has to offer?

Monterey: 2 nights (Point Lobos, Carmel By The Sea, Carmel Beach, Monterey Bay Aquarium)

Cambria: 1 night (Big Sur en route)

Santa Barbara: 1 night

Perhaps fit a few LA sights in before a late flight home?

Edited: 13 February 2014, 17:38
San Jose, California
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2. Re: 4 day Drive PCH:Monterey to LA to San Diego

1) Is it worth it to start only half way: from Monterey, not SF? Should we postpoe the drive and do it another time from SF to SD?

* With limited time, starting in Monterey makes complete sense. The coastline between SF and Monterey is great, but not the same caliber as the dramatic coastline south of Monterey. However, Monterey airport is pretty small, so flights are limited. If you can't find a good flight, consider flying into SJ, which is an hour north of Monterey.

However, even from Monterey, this plan is extremely tight. I would either limit the scope and go from Monterey to LA only (save SD for another time) or spend only 1 day in SD so that you can spend more time on the Central Coast.

3)Our plan was to stop in Monterey, Big Sur, 17 mile drive, Pismo Beach, Santa Barbara. is it doable to do it all in 1 day, enjoying - or is it too much?

* This is too much. The drive from Monterey to Cambria takes about 3 hours without stops - it is only 90 miles, but the road is very slow. Then it is another couple of hours down to Santa Barbara and about 90 minutes from there to LA. That's 6.5 hours of driving, not including any stops. If you want to do this in 1 day, I would skip 17 Mile Drive, get an early start out of Monterey (8am at the latest). Then plan for a late lunch in Cambria - arrival about 2pm. This will give you 6 hours for your drive through Big Sur - 3 hours for driving, 3 hours for stops. If you leave Cambria around 3, you can be in Santa Barbara about 5 if you skip Pismo Beach. This will give you a couple hours in Santa Barbara to wander around, then have dinner about 7 and finish the drive down to LA after dinner.

4) if doing all in 1 day as showed in #3 is too much, would you suggest to sleep in Santa Barbara before getting to LA?

* Cambria, Pismo Beach, and Santa Barbara all make good stops to break up this drive.

5) Is it enough 0.5 day in LA?

* No. I can't think of any city where a half day would be sufficient, but if it is all you have, that is all you have. Pick one or 2 things to see or do in LA and then move on.

6) 2 days in San Diego?

* 2 Days in SD is decent - you could spend a week and not see it all, but with 2 days you will be able to get a good feeling for the city and see some things without being terribly rushed.

Fremont, California
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3. Re: 4 day Drive PCH:Monterey to LA to San Diego

If you are ok with spending a fair amount of your time in the car and stopping to sightsee, this is fine. It depends in part on your travel style and what you want to see and do. Also, if you can let us know what you want to do in LA that will help - if just drive through then you have time to do per your itinerary. We've done this a number of times - i.e. spend one overnight along the coast and then drive the rest of the way to San Diego the next.

. Of course, locals love to spend more time in each of these delightful areas. It looks like you are just driving through LA area - and then this makes sense. If you were spending time in LA it does not.

Flying iinto Monterey and spending one night there makes a lot of sense. The other option would be to fly into San Jose (not SFO or Oakland) as it will be about a 90 minute drive from San Jose. The decision here should be solely made on what you are willing to pay in cost. Monterey would be the preferred place to fly into.

Unfortunately drop off fees since you are flying into Monterey to San Diego will be an additional expense.

I would revise day two to Monterey and stay in Santa Barbara. The Big Sur stretch will make you tired - even though just 90 minutes due to the beautiful scenery it takes more time; it also takes more time due to the twists and turns. The drive once you get to San Simeon area is basically freeway to Santa Barbara, You will be tired by then.

The problem is what do you want to see in LA - if just pass through continue to San Diego. if you want to see LA, then stay in Santa Monica or Huntington Beach or Laguna Beach instead if you want a coastal city. If you do this you would fly out of LAX or if Huntington Beach/Laguna Beach John Wayne Airport.

The question really is yours - Yes, you can do this but only if you are not planning to do things in LA.

Edited: 13 February 2014, 19:33
Fremont, California
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4. Re: 4 day Drive PCH:Monterey to LA to San Diego

Sorry - meant to say just 90 miles (not minutes from Carmel through Big Sur.)

Grover Beach...
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5. Re: 4 day Drive PCH:Monterey to LA to San Diego

"....The Big Sur stretch will make you tired - even though just 90 minutes due to the beautiful scenery it takes more time"....

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Actually, it's 90 miles, but the drive is closer to 2 1/2 hours WITHOUT stops because the road sits hundreds of feet above the Pacific Ocean with sheer drop offs and lots of REALLY tight, slowing hairpin turns.

Los Angeles
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6. Re: 4 day Drive PCH:Monterey to LA to San Diego

Last time we did MOnterey to L.A. it was 9 hours. Just saying. Actually 9.5 because we stopped twice, for 10 minutes once, and 20 minutes the other time. And we didn't go all the way into L.A. - just to the northern boundary. Monterey to Santa Barbara was just under 8 hours. It was on a weekend. So I really hope you aren't planning this for a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Or even a Thursday (it's the new Friday). The time previous (these trips are both in the last year), it was a weekday, but the traffic from SB has been and is terrible heading south any time after 3 pm (I am in it almost every day - am sitting at home watching google traffic to time a trip up that way right now). It's actually slow in both directions between Northern L.A. and Santa Barbara right now. (That's the part where 101 and 1 are the same highway - and surely you aren't intending to stay on 1 the entire way - if you are going through Lompoc and Oxnard, add more time).

You will have seen nothing of Monterey in this scheme, btw, and you have no time to stop in Carmel. Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel are all wonderful destinations in and of themselves. They are worth a day, collectively (at least). Then, Carmel to Cambria is a nice long day. There are so many places to stop (but you won't see any of them if you keep to your schedule; instead you'll spend a lot of time in very urban San Diego - which has pretty beaches, but nothing like the grandeur of the coast between Carmel and Cambria, IMO). San Diego's most attractive spots are also its most crowded (was just there last weekend).

Anyway, your itinerary for that day, if you stick to it, should read Monterey - LA (no stops, do not pretend you're going to see or experience Santa Barbara! You won't get off the freeway!) You'll eat fast food if you can (Pismo has a nice deli next to a gas station on Spyglass Road). Realistically, with stopping for gas and the way traffic is between SB and...where ever you are staying in L.A. (where, exactly? I know every single route into L.A. from SB and depending on traffic, I would take various ones - but if I were heading toward, say, Santa Monica to stay overnight, I'd allow more time than if I were staying in...Topanga). Anyway, think about staying in northern L.A. (San Fernando Valley) and arriving very late indeed (if you stop at all, which you will).

Next day, well, if you are a veteran driver of L.A., you check the sig alert maps and you know all your options, you can easily make it to San Diego in 3 hours, especially if you're leaving at 8 pm. OTOH, it could take 4 if a single person decides to have fender bender (and it happens all the time). This is a road where people travel with one car length between them at 60 mph (or more), so there's that. It's not a relaxing drive (unless you take Highway 1 - but with all the stoplights, it's definitely 4 hours to SD from L.A.)

Just exactly what it is it that you're hoping San Diego will contain? Having sped past some of California's most amazing resorts and scenery, I'm curious what the lure of San Diego is. I've been there so many times, there's nothing in particular that stands out - there's a lot to do (as with any major city), but is there something special about SD? Are you expecting warmer weather? Do not expect any particular kind of weather in April. If we're lucky, it will be raining - and if it is raining, your whole trip will slow down even more.

And check this out:

http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi

Note the many places that Highway 1 is undergoing construction and down to 1 lane along the scenic route between Carmel and Cambria. That's just another reason it took us so long the last two trips.

7. Re: 4 day Drive PCH:Monterey to LA to San Diego

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