The Golden State is without a doubt the best road trip state of the US! Enigmatic sites like Yosemite, Big Sur and Death Valley are not only best discovered by car, they are almost impossible to reach by public transport. Therefore most people prefer to explore California with their own rental car.?
The international airports of Los Angeles and San Francisco are certainly the best getaways to the state, and a host of rental companies offer cars at affordable rates. Most tourists prefer to travel between these two cities and drop off the rental at a different city.
California is especially known for its natural and cultural heritage. It is the state with the highest number of national parks, some easily attract thousands of tourists per day. Most parks do not have any hotels on the park, only campgrounds. So a car or private transfer is advisable to get to your lodging outside the park.?
Since the campgrounds of the National Parks Services are amongst the best in the world, many people rent a camper, which are available at both SFO and LAX.??
California is of course not only about Giant Sequoias and crystal clear lakes, it is also home to multiple large cities rife in cultural heritage, excellent restaurants, artsy shopping opportunities and bustling nightlife. One can easily spend an entire holiday in San Francisco or Los Angeles. But also San Diego is a must see for any visitor to the West Coast! Although Las Vegas is technically in the state of Nevada, because of its proximity to LA it is often included in a visit to the Golden State.
An ambitious high speed railway network linking these large cities is under construction, but because of the complexity of the project it will take at least another decade before it is completed. For now, travel between these urban centres is best done by car or plane. Luckily there are plenty of flights between these large cities and airport shuttles can get you to the city centre in an instance.
Perhaps some of the most scenic routes of the US are located between these metropoles. The highway 101 between San Francisco and Los Angeles not only lets you discover the untouched coast of Southern California, it also brings you to the seaside town of Santa Barbara and the trendy Santa Cruz. If you are up for a short detour when traveling between LA and Las Vegas, we would definitely encourage you to take a small detour via Palm Springs and the magnificent Joshua Tree National Park.?
San Francisco has the best developed public transport system. It is probably one of the few places in the world where the main tourist attraction is its public transport: the iconic cable cars of San Francisco! These carts are essential to conquer the town with its steep hills and slopes.?
The BART metro system and impressive light rail network enable you to easily access most of the important hotspots. San Francisco is also a terminus on the Caltrain network, which you can use to discover “the Bay” and visit places such as the wonderful campus of Stanford University and tech capital San Jose. Also San Diego has a well established public transportation network with at its heart an expanding light rail network.
Both San Diego and San Francisco are also extraordinarily bike friendly. Both cities are perhaps best discovered by bike since they allow you to discover some highlights situated just outside downtown. Perhaps one of the most epic bike rides in the world is the one across the Golden Gate bridge. There are a few options for bike rental packages. Once you cross this impressive bridge you can easily take the ferry back to San Francisco from Sausalito.
The view from the ferry on SF’s bay-front is impressive! If you are not up for the bicycle ride, you can also just take a ferry or cruise from the 19th century ferry building in the heart of the city.
Los Angeles is entirely developed around the car. If you look at California’s largest city from the air you will see a complex network of highways and interstates. Biking is not advisable (except in Venice Beach) and the public transport system is infrequent and less developed. Luckily there are various tours and hop-on-hop-off busses available to tourists.
Although self driving is the best way to discover California, sometimes you just want or need a private chauffeur. Californian’s love their state and have many stories to tell, so you always have a complimentary guide included. A suite of tours are available from Los Angeles and Las Vegas that pick you up from your hotel to the most scenic parks in the regions. Sometimes you also do not want to (drink and) drive yourself, especially when you are interested in visiting the wine region of Napa valley!
Thinking about what to do when you are in California? Check out this list of activities, there is something for everyone!?