Having only visited the USA once before; to the expansive mid-West cities of Minneapolis and Chicago, I thought it was high time I added at least one coastal visit to my experience of North American life.

The west coast of the USA has a plethora of interesting and exiting hotspots to visit, from Seattle in the north down to Baja in the south there is almost too much to fit into a few weeks. Basing my choices of destinations on a few key interests (mainly places to surf, warm climate and great food and culture) I opted for a four day San Francisco city break and about two weeks to visit San Diego, California and its surrounds.

San Francisco

San Francisco tram

San Francisco is a city close to my heart – its liberal outlook on life, wonderful architecture and relaxed atmosphere are some of the key reasons to add this to your list of cities to experience. Having a few days here only, I made sure to get as much of the city in as I could, without feeling rushed.

Flying directly into Oakland from London Gatwick on Norwegian Airlines was a huge highlight – the flight was comfortable and both Gatwick and Oakland are remarkably accessible to their respective areas.

Hire a bike and discover the city on 2 wheels

Adam at the Golden Gate Bridge

Once in the city of San Francisco, I hired a bike for two days which was an amazing experience. Cycling through the sights of the old harbour, up to the Golden Gate Bridge, and meandering down Lombard Street were particularly memorable!

San Francisco’s nightlife and food scene are also not to be missed, and I certainly had my fair share of good food and drink around the streets surrounding Union Square. Fans of seafood won’t be disappointed here, as fresh sushi and oysters are a speciality! The second day in San Francisco was spent heading to the piers and grabbing a great view of Alcatraz. Although I didn’t jump on a tour, they were readily available and reasonably priced to boot. Staying near Union Square was a doddle. The area can cater for anyone looking for accommodation ranging from a cheap and cheerful hostel, to more lavish and swanky hotels.

Alcatraz island, San Francisco
Staying near Union Square was a doddle

San Francisco to San Diego flights are only 50 minutes

Following my stay in this wonderful city, I had a domestic flight booked from Oakland airport down to San Diego. This is only a short 50 minute hop down the coast, but the change in climate is instantly palpable! Getting out of the aircraft, I was greeted with a blast of 30 degree air, palm trees surrounding the streets and boulevards, and heat hazes on the pavement. Lovely!

San Diego

San Diego is a short flight from San Francisco

Having met a fair few American friends whilst travelling, I had arranged to stay with a San Diegan local – nothing like a free tour guide! San Diego is so close to the Mexican border and the change in culture is recognisable. Departing from the colonial architecture of San Francisco, I found myself surrounded by hacienda-like buildings, taco stands and the Spanish language.

California coast hopping through Orange County

Orange County is the perfect spot for some surfing

Being a fan of surfing, my friend and I headed up the coast of Orange County and flitted between beachside cottages in Camp Pendleton and the small town of San Clemente.

The waves in this area are great for beginners and more advanced surfers alike, with mild beach breaks, and more rowdy and energetic point breaks to be had. Hiring a car along the west coast of southern California would be an ideal way to visit these smaller towns and really get a feel for the relaxed and sun-baked lifestyle that this area of the world breeds.

Things to do in San Diego

San Diego offers some fantastic parks, gardens and museums

Although the beach life is a big part of what to soak in down here, there are so many more experiences to be had in the city of San Diego itself. It’s a cultural hub for the American micro-brewery movement, so beers are delicious and cheap, there is a wonderful set of parks, gardens and museums to get lost in and to find shelter from the mid-day sun, and the shopping is also fantastic.

The centre of the city also boasts a wonderful marina with many lovely hangouts and cafes to watch the boats drift into the bay, and some fantastic eateries. For those looking to explore more of the surrounds, you can easily hop across the Mexican border into Tijuana – something that I didn’t manage to achieve, but would certainly have done if time wasn’t such a commodity for me!

So next time you’re looking at the 50 states on a map, and want to experience some sunshine, great food and greater surf, pick the coast between San Diego and San Francisco! This stretch of the USA has it all!

Want to visit San Diego or explore more of the southern California coast?

If you’d like to explore the California coast between San Francisco and San Diego as a holiday, or you’d like to include any of these USA coastal cities in you multi-stop ticket, we can help!

We can tailor-make your trip, find the perfect flight itinerary, trip ideas, accommodation and car or camper van hire. To start planning your trip – simply call us on +44 1273320580  or request a quote by email.

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