California spans 900 miles of coastline on the west coast of the United States. Given its enormous size, California offers just about everything, from the tallest building west of Chicago, to towering Saguaro cacti, to epic surf waves. Well known for its laid back attitude, California offers visitors a slower pace of life than its opposite coast of New York. Delicious avocados and fresh farm produce make up the revered California Cuisine that many top restaurants around the world now serve. Keep in mind, however, that given California’s massive size, the farther north you go the colder it gets!
You will find anything from big brand hotels to small mom-and-pop boutique hotels in California. Prices range dramatically between weekdays and weekends in most of the cities and towns. Here are our favorite hotels going down the coast:
Napa: Carneros Resort & Spa
San Francisco: Hotel Vitale or Grand Hyatt
Half Moon Bay: Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
Carmel: Tradewinds Carmel
Los Angeles: Shutters on The Bach, Santa Monica
San Diego: The US Grant, a Luxury Collection
California is home to Uber and Lyft, making these services an easy option in every major city. If you plan to explore more of California, make it a road trip and rent a car. Caifornia is easy to get around, just expect traffic along the major cities.
California Cuisine is arguable some of the best in the country. Between the diversity of cultures within the state and the fresh food sources, you can find incredible, delicious cuisine even in the smallest of towns. With the Asian, Latin American and Indian influences in the state, California has seemingly endless world-class restaurants. Not to mention, California is the 4th largest wine business in the world!
California has a high sales tax, one of the highest in the country, at 7.25%, with local regions adding their own taxes, making shopping often cost you up to 10% extra. This is important to remember if you’re looking to buy luxury goods.
California is known by many as the laidback friendly state and you will find a stark contrast to other places around the country. People are generally friendly, open-minded and just trying to live their best life. California has such an eclectic mix of cultures and diversity, making it an incredibly easy place to fit in. Even major cities have distinct neighborhoods, catering to every type of interest, cuisine and culture.
As with most major cities, everything will cost money: transportation, lodging, meals, etc. When booking hotels, the majority of the rates do not include breakfast.
Car rentals typically range from $20 USD per day to $60 USD per day depending on the type of car and demand. Uber and Lyft ranges typically from $30-40 to and from the major airports.
Typical food & beverage costs range depending on how high-end the hotel brand is, but we typically budget $300 per day for food & alcohol. Transfers to & from the hotel to the airport range as well, but we typically budget $30-40. Be sure to budget for exploring the cities and surrounding areas.
While it totally depends on what you're going for, the best times to visit California as a whole for good weather are May, June, July, September and October. Winter months bring great snowfall to the Sierras around January and February most years.
Check out some of our favorite California hotels and what we like and don’t like about each of them.
We booked a standard room at the PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn and absolutely loved the small-town feel and Olympic nostalgia.
California is an amazing road trip destination. Driving up or down the coast can be an incredible way to experience California and all it has to offer. Start planning by picking your favorite destinations in California: LA? San Francisco? Napa? Ojai? From there, establish whether or not you want to explore the surrounding area.