PCH Roadtrip: Why I Chose Los Angeles Over Portland

Last year I spent a bit of time daydreaming about how someday I would explore the Pacific Coast Highway. I spent some time researching and ultimately decided that April would be the time of year to do it: who doesn't want to see spring wildflowers snuggled up next to a gorgeous beach? Plus, I was kind of having Hawai'i withdrawals when I started planning to take this trip. The east coast beaches look less appealing after you've seen the crystal clear turqoise waters of the Pacific. Are west coast beaches more like Hawai'ian beaches? Or are they similar to those on the east coast?

When I got a new job in August with what I thought would be limited vacation time, I threw my dreams of visiting the PCH into the future. Going anywhere in the spring of 2018 and using up all of my time off seemed like a bad idea. And you can't do PCH in less than a week, or so I've found.

But then, a miracle, of sorts, occured.

My employer contacted me about wanting me to use my time off in April. I mean –hell no. But an extra week of vacation? It kind of seemed perfect. I'd have time off for when I needed it most, for traveling on the PCH. Yes, this could work. Of course, I didn't find out until mid January, but I got started planning right away.

Now, here's where you'll want to pay attention if you have any intention of drivving the PCH. I have spent countless weekends researching and I am only halfway (being generous) through the planning process. I consulted numerous blogs as well as two books: National Geographic's Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways and Moon's Roadtrip USA.* I jumped back and forth researching various travel destinations on the PCH. Literally, my planning was all over the coast. Until I ultimately decided.

* Pro tip: Both books were extraordinarly helpful, but if you are going to purchase one, I'd recommend Moon's book over National Geographic's.

Here's what I found in my research:

The northern Pacific coast between Portland and San Francisco looks incredible. It's ruggedly beautiful. But cold. And the possibility for fog is high if you go any time but late summer. However, those spring wild flowers? There's a chance you might see them! I fell in love with Portland, the city. A Japanese garden, Chinatown, an awesome looking art museum, waterfalls and gorgeous state parks… But ultimately, I knew that I had to see Big Sur and the Hearst Castle. Could all of that be accomplished within my limit of nine days? In short, no. And to be fair, I'm not even sure my current plan works with my nine day limit. *shrugs*

So, we opted instead to drive up from LA to SF. But then, in my research I discovered La Jolla. So, now I'm looking at flights to San Diego wherein we drive up through LA to ultimately reach SF.* Are you tired yet?

* There's a pit stop on Catalina Island thanks to my friend, Liz.

So, current schedule up for discussion from anyone in the bloggerverse that knows CA better than me:

Thursday night –
We begin our journey by flying in that night (no flight booked yet) to San Diego. It will be late, but we will muster up whatever energy we have left to make the drive to La Jolla and spend the night La Valencia. I chose the hotel because it is right on the coast. So, one less stop between San Diego and Los Angeles to make the next morning, because we will be waking up there! Also, La Valencia has a Spanish design that I find really appealing. And supposedly, it's within walking distance of shops and restaurants. That checks everything in my book: coastal views, bed, breakfast.

• Anyone have any suggestions for places to eat when we wake up?
• Or where to get groceries for a road picnic later in the day?

Friday –
As I said, we start our day in La Jolla. We will be able to sleep in a little bit, but because we are on east coast time, we will probably opt to get up early and see the sunrise. I realize the west coast is not optimal for seeing the sunrise, but we will make do. And if we can't get up (as is more typical for us), we will sleep in. There is no reason to start our journey off stressed out. Whatever we see on day one will be enough even though I have the full day planned.

Other items on our list:
Mission San Juan Capistrano
• Treasure Island Beach
• Heisler Park
• Crescent Bay Point Park

And, ending the day on the Catalina Express where we will spend the night at the Portofino Hotel. Hopefully, I will be able to catch both sunset and sunrise on the island and get a decent idea of what to expect from Catalina. (This is helpful if I ever want to return.)

Saturday –
We will begin our day, hopefully, with another sunrise and a bit of time exploring Catalina.

Then, this is where my plans get a little fuzzy:
• When do we head back to LA? Mid-afternoon or evening?
• If we go back mid-afternoon, will we have time to see a show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall? What about going on a Warner Brother's Studio tour?

I have not yet picked a hotel for our time (two nights) in LA.

Sunday – 
Ideally we will get a bit of extra sleep this morning since what I am planning, a tour, won't start until later in the day.

Question for LA peeps:
• Is it possible to tour LA yourself? How bad is traffic, really? If you were to tour LA and see the tourist sights, what would you do? (I'm thinking some of the theatres, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Hollywood Bowl, and a view of the Hollywood sign to name a few. Is it worth exploring Laguna Beach, Beverly Hills, or Venice Beach?)

If we can tour LA ourselves, we might have time to go on a studio tour in the afternoon. (I'm thinking Warner Brothers if we don't get a chance to do it on Saturday. I'm open to hearing about other studios, though, if any LA people/tourists think others are better?)

We will end the evening at OUE Skyspace, time-dependent, for a gorgeous view of the sunset over LA.

Monday –
We head out of LA and move on to Santa Barbara if we can get to it. If we can't, we will bypass it to Solvang. No matter where we go, though, we have to end up the White Water Inn, where we are spending night five.

Additional stops may include:
Old Mission Santa Barbara
Old Mission Santa Ines
• Moonstone Beach Park

A light day? Certainly. I just don't know what to expect out of Highway 1 with all of the mudslides that have occurred in the past few years. And we won't even talk about traffic getting out of LA!

Tuesday –
Obviously, waking up on the ocean will definitely be a highlight of the day. We may go for a walk… Or maybe not. It's hard to say. Either way, my plan is to fit both Hearst Castle and the Big Sur into day five. I have scheduled out a good three hours to spend at Hearst Castle and another three for Point Sur State Park. Will I need all of that time? Possibly not, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. I don't have it booked yet, but I intend on making reservations at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands for the night using Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Other stops we may make:
Mission San Antonio de Padua
• Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
• Point Sur State Historic Park

Wednesday –
Waking up with another gorgeous view of the ocean sounds like just the ticket for a bit of relaxation during what is otherwise a hectic vacation. Today, we will have a busy day working our way through Monterey and heading all the way up to Napa, completely bypassing San Francisco. This is what you call goals, my friends. There is wine that needs to be tasted.

Current plans include:
• Bixby Creek Bridge
• Rocky Creek Bridge
• Garrapata State Park
Carmel Mission Basilica 
• the Tor House
• the "Lone Cypress"
Monterey Bay Aquarium (for 3+ hours)

ending at Senza Hotel.

Thursday –
The entire reason I booked the Senza Hotel is so that we could wake up to the view of a beautiful Vineyard. It's not like you get that kind of view every day.  After that, things get a bit fuzzy. This time, not just for the rest of the day but for the rest of the trip! Not having flights booked certainly has something to do with it, but also not knowing what wine I like has made it difficult to determine which wineries to taste test at!

So far, the list (that continues to grow):
Sbragia Family Vineyards
Cast Wines
Chateau Montelena Winery
Castello di Amorosa
Frank Family Vineyards (I know I like their wine!)
Schramsberg Vineyards
Matanzas Creek Winery
Kuleto Estate Winery
Silverado Vineyards
Domaine Chandon (They have good sparkling wine!)
Domaine Carneros
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyard

Right now, the plan is to end the day in San Francisco, but we are still working out the kinks. For one, I want to visit the prettiest wineries with the best-tasting wine, preferably wine you can't buy just anywhere. Secondly, we need to think about transportation and how not to get drunk. I also need to research a good restaurant to end the day at, because I've heard the food is amazing in Napa Valley and that at least one meal should be eaten there. Ideally, we will watch the sunset over a vineyard before heading to our hotel in San Francisco, wherever that may be.

Friday –
I've left Friday pretty open. I absolutely want to visit The Walt Disney Family Museum, Alcatraz Island, the Land's End Labyrinth, and Lombard Street which I think will fill the day. I don't know what we will do afterward and I'm trying to keep it pretty open. For one day, I feel my schedule is pretty hectic, but, besides that, we have a friend we are trying to meet up with while we are in San Francisco. Ideally, keeping a flexible schedule will help make that meet-up happen.

I'm currently looking at these hotels in the San Francisco area:
• the Scarlet Huntington, which has a bit of a high price tag but is, supposedly, located in a decent area
the Alise, a hotel in a not so great area of town with a price tag only slightly less than The Scarlet Huntington but a gorgeous/fun pineapple theme to keep our stay exciting. (Because who doesn't like pineapples?)
Kimpton Sir Francis Drake, also not in a good area of town, but I could pay for it with IHG points.

Saturday –
I'm still working out flight plans. Right now I'm watching flights home for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Prices are high and getting higher and I'm being my usual indecisive self.

Anyway, having read through my itinerary, what do you all think? Is there anything you would do differently? Does my planning overwhelm and stress you out? Have you ever planned a trip so thoroughly? If so, how did it turn out?*

* I'd like to give a shout out to Visit A City for helping me work out timing details! The website is free to sign up and use, and no there are not paying me or giving me anything special for doing this shout out. I used them when I planned my trip to Hawai'i and everything worked out almost exactly according to the plan I set up using their website. If you need help with planning timing issues for your travel, they offer a great website for planning a trip up to ten days long!

Next week I'll explain more of my process for finding hotel deals and steals as well as cheaper prices for activities and how we are tasting wine at home to decide on wineries. (Or at least that's my current plan.) Stay tuned as I work my way through planning eight trips in twelve months!*

* See last week's post here.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...