Let’s begin by settling the age-old argument about whether it’s best to drive north along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway (or PCH as the locals call it) from Los Angeles to San Francisco, or south from San Francisco to LA. The answer, according to Joe D’Alessandro, CEO of the San Francisco Travel Association, is that it doesn’t matter. “Both are great, it just depends whether you want to drive hugging the mountain or enjoy the sea view,” he joked.
Whichever direction your clients take, they’ll be treated to epic sights and experiences, from the glamour of Hollywood to the laid-back delights of SLO CAL, from wine-tasting to delicious farm-to-fork dining, from surfing to cycling across the majestic Golden Gate Bridge.
Clients can just as easily fly into San Francisco or Los Angeles for the start of their drive and, for those stepping off a long-haul flight, they can enjoy both cities for a few days before hiring a car (make it a convertible) and hitting the road.
The soon-to-open Regent Santa Monica Beach looks set to become one of the places to stay for clients making a leisurely pit stop on the PCH, while the recently restored Georgian Hotel is already the town’s premier boutique hotel. The hotel houses a private art gallery, which is currently displaying works by actress Sharon Stone, who took up painting during lockdown.
While in Santa Monica, clients can enjoy the laid-back town’s vast beaches – the biggest in California, according to Santa Monica President and CEO Misti Kerns – cycle along a 26-mile coastal path, or even fly on the trapeze at Santa Monica Pier, where popstar Pink has been known to train for her stage performances.
Three hours north of Santa Monica, half-way between LA and San Francisco, road trippers can take a breather and enjoy the 80 miles of coastline and rolling vineyards of SLO CAL, which promotes itself as ‘no people, no smog, no traffic’.
“You come here to slow down and enjoy the lifestyle,” said Visit SLO CAL President & CEO Chuck Davison.
Visitors have been flocking to the SLO CAL city of Paso Robles for centuries, lured first by its hot springs and more recently by its fine wines. Suggest clients take a tour of one of its 250 tasting rooms, or take the wine trail that winds through vineyards to the early 20th century Hearst Castle, a decadent and meticulously preserved hilltop estate.
Three miles south of Pismo Beach, you hit the Oceano Dunes Preserve, where you can camp on the beach, go horseriding on the sand, or rent a buggy to drive through the dunes.
For an authentic, all-American experience you clients can stay in a mom-and-pop hotel and watch a movie at one of the last remaining drive-in theatres in the US.
SLO CAL is a complete contrast to the next potential stop, San Jose in the heart of Silicon Valley and home to America’s booming tech industry. One of the biggest cities in the US, it’s also a good base for visiting Californian wineries, or visiting two of the world’s most prestigious universities, Stanford and University of California, Berkeley.
San Jose has the added benefit of being one of the most affordable places to stay, with the cost of hotel rooms ranging from around $150 to $200 a night, which leaves clients with plenty of money to enjoy a night on the town and some of the local brew from Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, located in Japantown, just ten minutes from downtown San Jose.
Your clients should not the miss the Gordon Biersch Night Market, held every Thursday evening during the summer, according to Gordon Biersch Brewing Company founder Dan Gordon. The market is popular for its live music and food trucks, and there is also a Sunday morning farmer’s market hosted by the brewery.
In San Francisco, it’s time for clients to park the car and walk or cycle. Ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and you can have lunch in one of the waterfront restaurants of the Mediterranean-esque Sausalito.
Not that your clients won’t be spoilt for choice in the city itself, where the Bay Area alone has the biggest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in the whole of California. “It’s not all fancy food though, we have some excellent dim sum too!” said Joe D’Alessandro.
It’s in San Francisco where your clients will find the west coast’s first sustainable-focused 1 Hotel, while, for a unique experience, LUMA can offer robot room service, plus it has a great roof-top bar with a view into Oracle Park, where clients can watch the San Francisco Giant’s Major League baseball team play. What a way to begin or end a roadtrip along the Pacific Coast Highway.