This is already the last blog post on our wonderful vacation to the West Coast of America. In this blog I will tell you all about two of the most famous cities, San Francisco and Los Angeles. With a bunch of tips on what to do, what to avoid and of course, where to eat!
Let’s set things start from the beginning, we didn’t love the cities as much as we thought we would do. I think the main reason for this is that, after seeing all the magical nature, the city just isn’t the place you want to be. You want to go back into the mountains, back to the place where there were no high buildings, traffic jams and busy morning rushes. But when you are so close, you should take the time and at least explore the vibe of these cities a little bit.
Let’s start with the most important remark. San Francisco is way colder than you think it is. There is a sharp, cold wind and you better pack up some extra layers to keep you warm when visiting San Francisco. Apparently a famous saying is ‘the coldest winter I ever had was a summer in San Fransisco’ (It’s of course not that bad but you would just think it’s warmer than it actually is).
San Francisco is a vibrant city with the cutest and prettiest houses out there – and that’s what I really liked about the city, the cool alternative vibe – it’s not the same city as all the other ones you’ve already visited.
Make sure you visit Alcatraz, it’s cool to learn all about the history of the island and the tour is really fun and entertaining. You are free to discover the island yourself, which makes it more relaxed too! The tours sell out quickly so make sure to book your tickets upfront. You should calculate a half day to visit the island.
On top of visiting Alcatraz, we also discovered the city by bike. I always love biking a city – it’s healthy, it’s fun and you see way more than when you are underground or by foot. We rented our bikes at Basically free bike rentals and it was the best deal ever! You pay for your bikes but you get a gift card from their huge sports store for the same amount, where you can then buy a new sports outfit, a tent, a bikini or even some new sunglasses. Anyway – best deal ever! The store is on your route to the Golden Gate Bridge so that’s perfect too. And no, there are no tricks, just a nice deal.
Speaking of the Golden Gate Bridge, I know everybody says you should bike it, but let’s face it – ain’t nothing fun about that. The bridge is super busy with cars and other tourists and it’s just freaking cold. I wouldn’t say it’s a must to do. If you do it however, go for lunch or dinner in Sausalito, it’s a cosy town at the bottom of the Golden Gate. Be prepared to climb a lot however when going back up. For the best Thai food in Sausalito, go to Thaitanic, it was so yummy and not expensive!
Apart from that great restaurant, we ate some other good stuff too (upside about being in a city: the food is better):
- Eight am – A super yummy breakfast/lunch place which has an amazing score on Tripadvisor. Be prepared to wait 15 minutes due to the popularity
- Jones bar – A cosy cocktailbar with a nice patio where you can have a drink or have dinner too
- Tratto – Great Italian food in a cosy setting, what do you want more?
As for your stay, San Francisco is really expensive, so it wasn’t easy to find a hotel that was affordable, in the end we chose for the San Francisco Bay Inn and we were satisfied, the bed was good and the room clean. Price/Quality wise this is one of the best places in San Francisco if you ask me.
Highway 1 – Monterey & Santa Barbara
Since Highway 1 is described as one of the most scenic highways in the world, we wanted to do the drive from San Fransisco to Los Angeles via this road. Unfortunately, due to road works, we were only able to do a small part of the Highway 1 (well, you could do more but you would lose a lot of time). However, it’s nice to follow the road for one hour up until Big sur and then turn back. The views are definitely worth the ‘lost’ hour.
Monterey was one of the cities we loved the most – it’s cosy and calm, with a lot of nice restaurants. We decided to have dinner at the Big Little Lies café, which is an Italian restaurant in real life, called Paluca Trattoria. The setting and food were amazing! Definitely take the pesto scampi pasta, it’s to die for! And their wine is also decent, which was nice after all the bad wines we had in Vegas. 😉
The next day we went whale watching with ‘Discovery whale watch’. Unfortunately it wasn’t as cool as we hoped, sure we saw some whales but from far away and they never really came out of the water. These animals are of course wild so it might just be bad luck. I had a colleague who saw a lot of whales, orcas and dolphins from up close less than a year ago, so it all depends on some luck. So if you’re an animal lover – definitely do it! You might get sick on the boat so you can order motion sickness pills but be aware, you’ll get super sleepy afterwards, which is dangerous if you still need to drive! We both couldn’t stay awake and had to nap at a gas station before continuing our trip! 🙂
In the evening we stayed at Santa Barbara, unfortunately we arrived pretty late but it looked like a super cosy town! So if you have time, definitely stop by! In some travel books it says it is really expensive to park in Santa Barbara but that is absolutely not the case!
Ah, the city of dreams. But unfortunately, also the city of smog, traffic jams and a lot of poverty. It’s true like people say, you need some time to love LA. You need to drive your car to all the pretty places, and yes, you’ll be probably get stuck in a traffic jam. So did we love LA? Not really, but it was better than expected – you just need to plan well.
Although you need to take your car everywhere, parking here is super expensive! But like really expensive. On our last day we went for dinner and even had to pay to park on the premises of the restaurant, absurd… But on the other hand we discovered some of the best places to eat. Home restaurant is a cosy restaurant with the most beautiful terrace ever and some yummy food! But my favorite spot was ‘Mama shelter rooftop’, a rooftopbar close to Hollywood with the prettiest setting.
Our favorite place was Santa Monica and Venice Beach, just because it’s again a bit more relaxed. Rent a bicycle, that way you’ll have more time to discover the beaches. And while you’re there, go for breakfast or lunch at Butcher’s Daughter, the best place for your healthy fix!
If you still got questions on anything about your West Coast trip, do not hesitate to ask, I’d love to help you!