A Journey Along the California Coast

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

To kick-off summer vacation, I ventured to the west coast and explored the beautiful state of California. I've always admired the atmosphere and scenery and felt like it was the perfect place to go before I start my exciting life transitions. I am so thankful for my Aunt Jenny, as she was eager to join me on this adventure as a graduation gift.

If you're thinking about heading out to northern Cali, I wanted to share a few of my favorite must-see spots and if you haven't been, well this is where you need to go.

My goal of this trip was to drive the California coast (Highway 1) and spend as much time outdoors as possible. And we did just that. We started our adventure in Monterey, down to Big Sur then up to San Francisco and Sausalito. I used Yelp and Roadtrippers to find the best spots and Groupon to see if there were any cool local deals.

Although pictures and words cannot do it justice, here's where we visited and what we saw:

Monterey

Our first stop after we flew into the San Francisco airport was Monterey. It's about a 2 hour drive from the airport, but a good place to start if you're not trying to go too far south and still want to experience the beautiful Highway 1 drive.

Since we got in towards the evening, we stayed at the cutest little inn, called Inn By The Bay Monterey. It was cute and quaint and all we really needed was a place to sleep. Throughout the trip we were trying to keep the hotel prices as low as possible, so definitely shoot for Kayak, Priceline and Booking.com if you are too.

 We headed out for dinner on Fisherman's Wharf, and it is the touristy crowd so be prepared for a bunch of commercialized stores and restaurants, but still a cool site to see.

A couple of other stops in Monterey that we made:

Cannery Row - A commercialized area, but there are a bunch of little stores and restaurants that lead right to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

17 Mile Drive - closer to Carmel off Highway 1, this is definitely a stop you want to make. The 17 mile drive takes you through beautiful tree-line roads, by multi-million dollar homes and to the infamous Pebble Beach where you can see the Lone Cypress Tree. This could be done in an hour if you stop at the best parts on the map (all labeled) and look out to the coast.

Sunset at Asilomar Beach, CA

Sunset at Asilomar Beach, CA

Asilomar Beach - if you're looking for a relaxing beach and a place to watch the sunset, this is it. Located on the coast of the Pacific Grove area, Asilomar Beaches white sands, and calm waters make the perfect sunset atmosphere.

While I was there, I saw groups of friends building small fires between dunes and it was picture perfect.

 

Our next stop was just less than 30 minutes south, as we headed to Carmel, CA.

Carmel

One of my favorite days was spent in Carmel. I really wanted to go for a hike and I read the best place to do that is at Point Lobos State Reserve.

For a mere $10 parking fee (which btw get's you into any State park on the same day), you can drive through the reserve and park at one of the lots to start your hike. They give you a map so you can pin point exactly what you want to see and however many miles you feel like hiking that day. We hiked the North Shore Trail and pictures can't even do this scene justice. Beautiful cliffs, coastal views and trees just put me at peace and a loss for words. Here's just a glimpse of what we saw.

After our hike, I was so grateful to run into my favorite local, Therese! Therese offered a hand because we looked lost (obviously we werent. ;)), then preceded to tell us a little bit of history about Point Lobos, Carmel and her life.

She directed us to Big Sur and to the best restaurant in the area, called Nepenthe. She was not lying when she said the views were immaculate and you won't find a better burger. Of course it was a little pricey, but so worth it. Our server was the cherry on top, as he could sell anything to a rock and had the humor of James Franco. Amazing.

Unfortunately we were too tired to hike in Big Sur, but I heard that the McWay Waterfall Trail and the Julia Pfeiffer State Park are beautiful spots.

Nepenthe Restaurant, Big Sur

Nepenthe Restaurant, Big Sur

That evening I had the urge to do some kind of outdoor sport and be on the water, so I looked to Groupon and we found a $30 kayaking trip in Santa Cruz!


Santa Cruz

So, the next morning, we drove an hour to Santa Cruz and made it to the pier. We rented the Kayaks from Venture Quest and Dave was a great help. On the kayaking trip, we saw a bunch of seals, the cutest sea otters and early mornin' surfers. What a dream/workout.

Kayaking in the Pacific Ocean

Kayaking in the Pacific Ocean

Since kayaking for a couple hours was exhausting, we carbed up at The Picnic Basket near the Santa Cruz boardwalk and I spent a couple hours on the beach chatting it up with some locals.

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk has a cute little theme park with roller coasters and arcades, making it the 'go-to' weekend hang out for teens.

While driving around, the downtown area looked cute as well. 

 

Needless to say, I fell in love with the vibe at Santa Cruz.

 

San Francisco

The next day, we started our journey to good 'ol San Fran. We made a few pit stops in the Mission and Golden Gate Heights District to see:

- Alamo Square & The Painted Ladies (which happened to be under construction. BUMMER.)

- The Mosaic Staircase, that honors loved ones and community. (see photo below, it's incredible.)

- Dolores Park and Dolores Park Café for lunch (courtesy of a tip from a friend!)

After checking into our hotel at Fisherman's Wharf we were exhausted, so In 'n Out Burger, a movie and ice cream happened. No shame. We planned the next three days at that point, which included:

- A tour of Alcatraz Island

- Renting bikes to ride the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and many other areas on San Fran.

(Shout out to Bay City Bike Rentals for hookin' us up!)

- The Coit Tower

As you can see, California is such an awesome state with such good vibes. The people are awesome and the scenery is just breathtaking. This is just the first of my summer adventures and I'm stoked for the upcoming months.