Location: Los Angeles, California & Las Vegas, Nevada
Last Friday, I released Part I of my ten day west coast itinerary. It covered everything I got up to in San Francisco. If you haven’t seen it yet, just click here and leave your comments – I love reading them. Part II continues where we left of, talking about how we left San Francisco to drive down to Los Angeles via the Big Sur. Such a beautiful drive! We stopped at Monterey and Santa Barbara, before driving down to LA. Our driving adventure ended here, before catching a flight to Las Vegas for the final leg. Read on to find out how we did it!
Day V continues on from Part I. We arrived at San Francisco airport and picked up our rental car. We got an amazing deal because we booked it a couple of months in advance. The arrangement was to drop it off at LAX a few days later and we paid just under $200 – which I’m told is much lower than average. To be fair, we did not opt for the stereotypical Mustang as we weren’t all that bothered, but of course getting a Mustang will increase the price significantly.
The first part of the drive was down to Monterey, a small seaside town just under two hours away from San Francisco. Monterey is quiet and sleepy, with a load of seafood restaurants on the pier, bars in old factories and a number of tourist gift shops. If you have time, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is meant to be quite nice, but we didn’t stop to check it out. We checked into Merritt House Inn, a small boutique hotel which was ok, but not the finest place you could stay. We decided to choose a reasonably priced inn in the middle of town since we knew we were only spending the night there. If you are looking for something a little upmarket, then it’s not the place for you. That being said, it was clean and central enough and therefore served its purpose. We were a little underwhelmed with Monterey itself but I hear Carmel, the neighbouring town, is meant to be beautiful. Also, don’t expect too much from the seafood restaurants – they were really touristy and not authentic at all. In fact, I don’t even have any photos.
Day VI. The next morning, we left pretty early and started our drive down the Big Sur. This is basically a really picturesque coastal drive with stunning views of the ocean that goes on for hours. We followed this route for about four hours all the way down to Santa Barbara until we got to our hotel – another small little inn. Again, not the most glamorous place we stayed, but there is a little more to see in Santa Barbara. The town is really pretty, with lots of lush greenery, Spanish Franciscan architecture (think red tiled roofs) and a plethora of restaurants, bars and shops. Described as the ‘Riviera of the West’, Santa Barbara is definitely worth stopping at. If you are looking for a hotel to treat yourself, the Four Seasons has just re-opened on June 1st 2018, and it looks absolutely perfect.
Now that I have done this leg of the trip and know what to expect, here’s what I would have done. I think I would have skipped Monterey altogether. I would have driven all the way from San Francisco straight to the Big Sur, which would have taken slightly over two hours. I would have spent the night here, at Post Ranch Inn. In heaven. It’s this stunning hotel located on the cliffs of the Big Sur. I sometimes get frustrated with myself when I haven’t done my research properly, and then find out that there is so much better when you just ask the locals. That is one of the reasons I started this blog to begin with, to record my journeys and hope that readers will be able to get lots of tips for their own travels. As I did in Part I, I will be including a day-by-day itinerary at the bottom, with my new recommendations.
Day VII started with us making the short one hour drive from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, my absolute favourite part of the trip. I wrote another post a few weeks ago on what I love about LA, and that has a whole load of tips on things to see whilst in LA. You can get a lot of the touristy things done in a day. When I say touristy things, I mean the Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theatre, Rodeo Drive and Sunset Boulevard. Of course, there are all the movie studios and parks, but this isn’t really my thing. Maybe add an extra day for that.
Day VIII was a day of relaxation for us, and we spent the day wondering around LA, strolling through Santa Monica beach, getting LA facials and trying more delicious food. The food scene in LA is amazing, and we actually found it better than in San Francisco. I’ve linked a few of our favourites down below. Whilst in LA, we stayed at the Intercontinental Los Angeles Downtown Hotel. The hotel was recently opened and felt all fresh and new – our room had a stunning view of the city below us, incuding the Hollywood sign in the distance. That being said, the hotel is downtown in the Financial District, which is fine if you have a car (and you do really need a car in LA). If you want to stay in Beverly Hills or by the beach, it’s not the hotel for you. I’ve linked some hotels which others have recommended to me down below. I haven’t used that many photos of LA in this post, mostly because they’re spread out over other ones – check them out here and here.
Day IX was the day we had to leave LA. We returned the rental car at LAX and caught an internal flight to Las Vegas early in the morning. You can drive this instead and it will take you around four and a half hours. The views are meant to be lovely, but I’m not the biggest fan of road trips and we decided to admire the view from the air. Our plane landed in Vegas about an hour later and we caught a taxi to the Bellagio hotel, right in the heart of the strip. For me, two days were enough to enjoy Vegas. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t my favourite place in the world. It reminded me of a neon-drenched adult’s Disneyland resort, that played on every adults’ vices. I’m no prude, but I found the whole concept just a little too vulgar for me.
Starting with hotels, choose wisely. The whole idea around Vegas is that you spend as much time in hotels (and gambling) as possible. So everything, literally everything, there is to see is tied to some hotel. The gambling tables and slots, the shops, the restaurants, the shows – they are all inside the hotels along the Strip. Inside the casinos, there are no windows, no clocks and so long as you are gambling, cocktail waitresses will walk around offering you free (watered down) alcoholic beverages. Anything to keep you gambling. It could be 2pm or 4am and you wouldn’t notice the difference. If you’re a smoker, you’re in luck – you can smoke at the tables or slot machines, making the whole atmosphere quite smokey. Two hotels were recommended to me, and those are the Bellagio and the Wynn. After walking around most of the hotels, I think I would agree. They are just that little bit less smokey and look the freshest. The rest all seemed a bit tired. The Bellagio is right in the middle of the Strip, but the Wynn is a little bit further out and it takes about 20 minutes (or maybe a little more) to walk to the centre.
So what is there to see in Vegas? Of course the casinos are the main feature, but you can also check out the Bellagio fountain, watch a show and stroll around the Forum Shops in Caesar’s Palace (the ceiling is painted with clouds to make you think you are walking through a Roman street). The Venetian is more of the same, with gondola rides on offers through the man-made canals. Further up the road and you’ll find the Eiffel Tower replica.
Day X is the end of the trip. Our plan was to visit Death Valley, however we couldn’t find a tour that was operating on that day. Instead, we spent our last day in Vegas chilling by the pool until we flew back to San Francisco to return home back to London.
And that’s it! Our tour around the US West Coast over ten days. I have definitely missed out on things to see as time was limited, so would love to hear from others about other things that could be incorporated into the trip. How many days would you spend touring the West Coast? Leave your tips and tricks in the comments section below!
Suggested West Coast Itinerary
Day V (cont’d)
Collect rental car and drive down to Post Ranch Inn. Enjoy the stunning views.
Drive to Santa Barbara (about 4.5 hours)
Walk around the town and admire the Spanish-style architecture, shops and nighlife.
Drive to Los Angeles (1 hour)
Sightseeing in Los Angeles
Head to one of LA’s pretty beaches, spend the day relaxing in the sunshine.
Treat yourself to one of LA’s amazing facials. My favourite is Face Place, but other recommended spas include: ZO Skin Care Center by Zein Obagi, Vida Emmanuel Day Spa, Ole Henriksen Spa and Kate Sommerville.
Take early morning flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.
Tour of Vegas:
Forum Shops at Caesars Palace
Eiffel Tower Replica
Take a gondola ride at the Venetian
Watch a show
Recommended Restaurants in LA
Recommended Hotels in LA, the Big Sur & Santa Barbara
Big Sur: Post Ranch Inn
Santa Barbara: The Four Seasons
Los Angeles Beachside: Shutters on the Beach
Some other tips for Los Angeles & Las Vegas:
You need a rental car to get around in Los Angeles – makes sure you rent one in advance. Also, for fellow Europeans, you can turn right on red. Think of it more of a stop sign rather than a traffic light. Also, everywhere offers valet parking; don’t just drive into a car park (like we did) – you’ll get told off.
Traffic in LA is crazy. Factor this in if you need to be somewhere at a certain time.
If you are going to gamble in Vegas, please gamble responsibly – remember the house ALWAYS wins.