Neil Jung wrote:We are visiting SF at the end of March 18. Can anyone recommend anywhere to stay in SF that’s good but doesn’t break the bank? There are 4 of us plus the car.
Advice gratefully accepted. Thanks.
Our itinerary is currently as below.
04/04/18-07/04/18 Santa Monica
07/04/18-08/04/18 Anaheim / LA
08/04/17-08/04/18 Sequoia NP
09/04/18-11/04/18 Yosemite NP
We had a great time but although it was supposed to be a road trip, we over reached ourselves and spent too long driving and not enough time enjoying ourselves being in places! People were really friendly, food was fantastic, the weather fine. No rain at all. We even got sunburnt in SF in early April.
The traffic around Oakland and LA was shocking, even when 20 or 30 miles out! Travel times on Google Maps were way out. We spent hours more driving than we had expected. Maybe try the Waze app instead. Whilst in the UK you can easily drive 250 miles in 4 or 5 hours, it is far less achievable in California. Add an hour or three more!
One highlight was hiring bikes from Fisherman’s Wharf and cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge and round to Sausalito. Took the ferry back, but had to wait in huge queue for 2 hours. You can, for extra money, leave the bikes and return as foot passengers and avoid the queues of bikers. Really really liked SF. Ran out of time there. Didn’t get to Haight Ashbury (although drove down Fulton St) or Berkeley. Drove past the RHP’s Ocean Beach windmill on the way out to Monterey. Took the cable car from FWharf to Union Square. What a ride! I’d like to have done it again! Had lunch on terrace of the Cheesecake Factory. Great food, great views. Returned via Uber as cable car queues at Union Square were very very long. Shocked at all the homeless people. Would like to go back.
Monterey was good, bigger than I expected. Actually everywhere was bigger than I expected. We did a 4 hour whale watch, saw humpbacks and killer whales, sea otters. The Aquarium is expensive but easily the best my girls have visited, and they’ve been to loads. Toasted marshmallows on the beach at our hotel, the Monterey Tides, which was the reason we stayed there. Otherwise it was in need of some TLC and I wouldn’t recommend it.
We were supposed to be driving down Highway 1 from SF to LA, which is the Pacific Coast Highway at the southern end, but at times it wasnt that well signposted and I think isn’t a separate road to the faster, straighter and busier Highway 101. As it is still closed south of a Big Sur, you can’t drive the entire way from Monterey to LA via PCH. Highway 1 is beautiful but quite windy as it follows the ocean. It’s a great drive, but not a quick way of getting from A to B.
Drove up from San Luis Obispo where we stayed one night in the very quirky Madonna Inn to Hearst Castle (worth a visit) then to LA (Santa Monica) in one day. Big mistake. Far too far. Horrendous traffic on Highway 101. Took a detour to avoid it suggested by Google Maps. Detour was hilly, windy, with few overtaking places. More terrifying drops! Ended up driving into LA in the dark on Highway 101 which was about 10 lanes wide in our rental car which we found had dismal headlights. Got slightly lost when came off at Exit 198B instead of 198A, or something. Nearly ran out of petrol. Not an enjoyable afternoon / evening.
The roads around Sequoia National Park (ok if you like big trees) and Yosemite are also tortuous and slow. Probably because they are in the mountains! Another night in Yosemite would have been good, three or four instead of two. It’s a very big park. Incredibly windy roadsin and out, lots of drops and roads clinging to the sides of mountains, speed limits of 25 mph that you wouldn’t want to exceed. We stayed at the Yosemite Valley Lodge. Expensive for what you get. Not as expensive as the Majestic, which is seriously expensive, but at least it’s in the centre of the park. You don’t want to be staying outside the park as it’s quite a drive in. We didn’t see any bears, but saw deer and the scenery and waterfalls were majestic.
Unless you need to go, I really wouldn’t bother with LA. Spend more time in SF. Santa Monica where we stayed on the western edge on the coast up from Venice Beach was OK, we took the Metro into LA for a day (you really don’t want to drive in LA) visited Japan Town, the Hollywood walk of sleaze (I really wouldn’t bother if I were you), Union Station, I forget where else. The Metro was really cheap and easy to navigate. I had hoped to book the Bosch Tour but it was far too expensive. Also planned to drive Mulholland etc at night but was too traumatised by the journey in! Drove over to stay in Anaheim for the girls to go to Disneyland, whereas I had a great time meeting up with Quaco, Heidi, Matt Wilson and TG.
I’d recommend meeting the locals and perhaps getting them to review your itinerary before you book anything!
It was raining when we drove up the two-lane highway through the long tunnel of trees that led into the black district on the south end of St. Martinville.