Buckle Up! – Road Trip in California

California is one of the most diverse states you could visit. City breaks, coastal road trips, desert escapes, wine country immersions, wellness retreats and mountain adventures…When you’re ready, California offers you a wide variety of trip types. The best part? There’s no need to narrow it down to just one trip. You can easily mix and match many different experiences in one incredible itinerary.

California is the ultimate road trip destination. Home to some of the world’s most renowned thoroughfares, including coastal Highway 1 and the terminus of historical Route 66, the majestic views and rich history found on these iconic trips draw thousands of visitors to the Golden State every year. In addition to these classic, “bucket list” trips, California offers travelers seemingly endless adventures. Visitors can explore the wild “Lost Coast” in the state’s most northern counties, stargaze beneath dark skies on a road trip through the desert, walk amongst four types of volcanoes on a journey to Lassen Volcanic National Park, marvel at the untouched scenery of the Eastern Sierras along Route 395, and discover California’s missions along the famous El Camino Real, spanning from San Diego to San Francisco.

Make your way across California’s 400,000 miles of roadways, 840 miles of coastline and 127 national and state parks, choosing the freedom of travel on your own terms, discovering historic landmarks and monuments, as well as hidden gems and hot spots along the way.


San Diego

One of California’s sunniest destinations. This waterfront city is overflowing with exceptional dining and craft beer experiences, outdoor adventures, family fun, and great shopping. Explore diverse neighborhoods like Little Italy, the Gaslamp Quarter, the East Village, North Park, and Old Town, head to Balboa Park for a museum-filled day or a trip to see the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. Enjoy a day at the water at one of the city’s many beaches, such as Ocean Beach, Mission Beach, or Pacific Beach. You can rent stand-up paddleboards or kayaks at sparkling Mission Bay.

Huntington Beach

Plan at least a day to hang out and catch the surf vibe in this classic beach town, where the main drag heads straight to the beach. Southern California’s beach culture thrives along this city’s curving shoreline, where you can bicycle down an oceanfront path, play volleyball, and, of course, surf. Surfing definitely sets the tone in Huntington Beach, and even if you never grab a board, there’s shopping at leading surf retailers and great views of the locals riding the waves alongside the landmark Huntington Pier.

From the pier, it’s a short walk to the outdoor mall Pacific City, or Main Street’s stylish boutiques and restaurants, many with sidewalk tables or decks that let you bask in Huntington Beach’s fresh ocean breezes and sun-soaked afternoons.

Or discover more natural sides of town by trying horseback riding in 354-acre Huntington Central Park, or bird watching and exploring trails in Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, a restored wetlands and one of Southern California’s most vital coastal habitats.

Santa Barbara

Perfect architecture, and perfect setting. Santa Barbara, aka “The American Riviera” enjoys a dreamy Mediterranean climate, with plenty of sunny days and mild winters. Add wine country producing, award-winning vintages, outdoor adventures on land and sea, big-city arts and entertainment, and you have a city that’s a poster child for the California good life.

Stroll State Street for excellent shops and dining, launch a kayak from East Beach to paddle under Stearns Wharf, visit the classic Old Mission Santa Barbara, and tour the 1782 Presidio for a look at original adobes like El Cuartel, the second oldest surviving building in the state. Then explore the city’s forward-looking neighborhood—the rehabbed warehouses of The Funk Zone, now home to urban wine-tasting rooms, artist’s studios, and cool boutiques.

Big Sur

Welcome to Big Sur, one of the world’s most unforgettable stretches of coastline. This roughly 90-mile-long expanse of redwood- and fog-trimmed waterfront between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Hearst Castle draws you in with a magic allure. This is, quite simply, a place you want to be.

Drive Big Sur via twisting Highway One. One favorite photo op: McWay Falls, a silvery cascade falling some 70 feet from the cliffs to a remote beach in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. You can see it from the open sections of the park’s Overlook Trail. Look up to see endangered California condors, or look down to scan the swells for migrating whales or sea otters floating among dense beds of kelp.

Try the famous Ambrosia burger on the deck of Nepenthe, then nurse your beer to watch the sunset. Campgrounds abound around Big Sur, as do rustic cabins at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. The region’s beauty also makes it a magnet for splurge-worthy hotels like the cliff-hugging Post Ranch Inn, or Ventana Big Sur, which combines traditional luxury accommodations with fabulous glamping options.

So much to see, and even more to do! Where do you begin? Speak with a skilled AAA Travel advisor to find your next great escape. Schedule an appointment with an advisor now.