San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip itinerary 5 days

Multiple routes can take you from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but there is one that passes through your areas of interest. Your bucket list determines the places, depending on your budget and time. For five days, you can see and do a lot. This article divides your trip into five days, giving you interesting activities in specific places. 

Overview of the San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip

Table Of Contents

There are quicker and more ways to do the drive, but the road trip can best be enjoyed by driving along the Pacific Coast. This drive covers 460 miles and takes 10 hours if you do not have stops.

You could take off early in the morning to create more time for your tour and get to The City of Angels by dinnertime, but you get more out of the experience if you take at least five days or a week to see everything this route has to offer.

The trip incorporates parks, forests, beaches, and iconic coastal towns into your journey, making it one of the most diverse driving experiences you could want. 

Be careful of traffic, since more of the route’s attractions are popular with tourists. That turn leads to congestion during summer, holidays, and weekends. Download a traffic app to monitor the road ahead, especially near coastal cities.

The 460-mile road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles includes incredible stops like Hearst Castle and Monarch Butterfly Grove, Los Padres National Forest and Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Malibu, Ventura, San Jose, and many more. 

Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about this beautiful itinerary, including where to stay along the way, the best time to visit, and our top tips on things to do between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Image by Bishnu Sarangi from Pixabay

Purpose of the itinerary (to provide a 5-day plan for the trip)

Day 1

Start in San Francisco

San Francisco is your starting point for this itinerary. Experience the Golden Gate City as you explore your day. Take a tour of Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, eat sourdough clam chowder soup at Fisherman’s Wharf, and drive down the twisting Lombard Street ( For an incredible experience, cycle down the Golden Gate Bridge and explore the beautiful city of Sausalito. 

Venture into San Jose, a trendy city with restaurants, cafes, and pubs. Visit the famous Winchester Mystery House, a weird house with mysteries and haunted stories. Drop into Silicon Valley to check out the headquarters of Facebook and Google.

Popular landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island

Visiting the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge allows you to hike, walk, bike, shop, and a guided tour. The Bridge’s Welcome Center offers merchandise and historical information. The Center welcomes visitors, provides orientation and information services, and houses exhibits, and high-quality commemorative and interpretive merchandise. Check out the Golden Gate Parks Conservancy online store for gifts and collectibles. Enjoy picturesque trails and vista points. Interactive and stationery exhibits allow you to learn more about national parks.

Most of the land and attractions are in and around the Golden Gate Bridge, including the Presidio, and the Marin Headlands. Alcatraz Island, Fort Point National Historic Site, and Muir Woods.

Suggested activities, such as hiking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area or touring the Painted Ladies

Baker Beach gives you a view of the Pacific Ocean. It is ideal for sunbathing, hanging out, and barbeques. Hike from the beach, walk up to the bluffs, and take the Batteries to Bluffs Trail east toward the bridge. The Cross under the bridge to the Welcome Center and then continue walking on the Golden Gate Bridge.

It is also part of the California Coastal Trail and gives you a resting, or endpoint if you walk it. Take a tour around the Steinhart Aquarium, and state-of-the-art Planetarium. Find places to relax like the serene Japanese Tea Garden or Stow Lake.

Day 2

Leave San Francisco and head south towards Monterey and Big Sur

As you leave San Francisco, head south towards Monterey and Big Sur where the south of Carmel is. It has many state parks, nature trails, and wilderness areas. Big Sur stretches for 90 miles and is great for camping, backpacking, and hiking.

Recommend stopping at popular attractions, such as the 17-Mile Drive and Hearst Castle

Check out the Rocky Creek Bridge, the famous Bixby Bridge, the charming Point Sur Lighthouse, and McWay Falls. Spend the night at Cayucos, camp at Julia Pfeiffer State Park, or stay in the many campgrounds.

Suggested activities, such as visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium or hiking in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Monterey Bay Aquarium is worth a visit, although it is ideal for kids. If you love the ocean, you can still enjoy it. Big Sur has more beaches, hiking trails, and beautiful cliffside views.

Day 3

Continue south towards Santa Barbara

Highway 1 from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles is Pacific Coast Highway. Santa Barbara has beautiful houses, romantic views of the Pacific Ocean, and sparkling beaches. Santa Barbara offers many other attractions, including the Zoo, Museum of Fine Arts, Maritime Museum, Museum of Natural History, and a sprawling Farmer’s market.

Recommend visiting popular attractions, such as the Santa Barbara Mission and the Santa Barbara County Courthouse

Santa Barbara carries California’s history and architecture, art, music, makers, and fascinating characters since it has a collection of museums and cultural attractions. Santa Barbara County Courthouse features displays of brilliantly colored tiles and cinematic murals in some of its historic rooms. 

It has several historic theaters that are still performing arts venues. The architecture and interiors of these theaters provide backdrops for music, plays, and dance. The Old Mission Santa Barbara hailed as the “Queen of the Missions” is known for its iconic beauty.

Suggested activities, such as wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley or visiting the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Enjoy lush gardens, a pool, bonfire pits, and an outdoor pavilion perfect for stargazing. Taste some local wine and snacks from the Botanic Garden.

Day 4

Leave Santa Barbara and head towards Los Angeles

From Santa Barbara, head straight onward to Los Angeles. In Los Angels Hollywood fans can visit the famous Kodak and Oriental Theatres, go star-spotting in Beverly Hills, take pictures with the Hollywood sign, or find their favorite stars on the Walk of Fame.

Recommend visiting popular attractions, such as the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Walk of Fame

The tour should start with the iconic welcoming sign of the walk of fame. You get to see the Hollywood industry’s famous and renowned names and aces in acting, music, direction, photography, and other areas like lighting and the technology behind moviemaking. It also covers the TV industry, motion pictures, the aces of live theatre, and the unforgettable voices on the radio.

Suggested activities, such as visiting the Getty Center or taking a bike tour of Venice Beach

Getty center is a place to hang out, explore, walk around, meet interesting people, and enjoy the views. It features remarkable architecture, gardens, and fantastic views of the city.

Day 5

Explore Los Angeles

Los Angels have great deals, new attractions, free things to do, and more. Relax on postcard-perfect beaches in Malibu, and grab a bite at Grand Central Market and the museum. Make a beeline for the Dolby Theatre, experience the wet and wild fun of Raging Waters Water Park, and snap a selfie with a celeb.

Recommend visiting popular attractions, such as the Santa Monica Pier and the Hollywood Hills

The best fishing spot is in Santa Monica. The Santa Monica Pier, a symbol of both Los Angeles beach life is a classic attraction that anyone planning a California road trip itinerary should consider. Do activities such as sunbathing, biking, and volleyball.

Suggested activities, such as visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art or taking a sunset hike in Runyon Canyon Park

Visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art or take a sunset hike in Runyon Canyon Park. It takes almost 1hr 33min to complete the hike. We get a view of the Skyline. 


In conclusion, the San Francisco to Los Angeles route is packed with the most exciting scenes and activities. Do not rush the tour but spend at least five days experiencing the goodness of the states. Take guided hiking, and watch the beautiful views, and take many photos.  When planning the trip, use California’s Official Travel Guide( and the California Road Trips ( for guidelines, tips, and planning. Do not forget to share your experiences and tips for the San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip.

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