For some couples the word ‘honeymoon’ conjures images of a remote tropical cabin, peace and quiet and gorgeous stretches of white sand somewhere exotic like the Maldives or Seychelles, but for us, we wanted a bit of adventure for our honeymoon!
We decided on a 3 week road trip, starting in Las Vegas, then flying to San Francisco and making our way by car down to Los Angeles. The trip was a mixture of lively cities, breathtaking hikes and gorgeous coastal towns and beaches.
Here's my 3 week itinerary:
Las Vegas, Days 1-3
We flew from London Heathrow into Las Vegas and landed early in the afternoon. We took a bus from the airport towards the strip - but what we didn't realise was that our hotel was about a 20 min walk from the bus stop, which doesn't sound like much but when you have your suitcase, and are wearing jeans in 40 degree heat - its AGES!! We stayed at The Cosmopolitan which is right in the centre of the strip, next to the Bellagio. The hotel was really nice - we paid for a junior suite as the prices were so cheap! (Honestly a Junior suite in Vegas was way cheaper than a tiny room in San Francisco, so if you can, treat yourself!)
We arrived in Vegas Sunday afternoon and our flight to San Francisco left on Wednesday, so we had 3 nights there in total - which, for us, was plenty. There’s so much to see in Vegas but, as you would expect, it’s really busy, noisy and crowded, so we were ready to leave after a couple of days. The highlight of our stay in Vegas was a helicopter ride we took into the Grand Canyon, which was amazing! Check out my top things to do in Las Vegas.
The view of the strip from our balcony and of the Grand Canyon from the helicopter
San Francisco, Days 4 - 6
San Francisco was the most expensive place to stay on our trip. Our hotel was the Grant Plaza in Chinatown. It was only a 2-3 star so we were not expecting much. Our room had only a tiny window overlooking a wall so it was quite dark, but it was quiet and in a good location and to be honest, we weren't planning on spending much time in the hotel. The downside was that it was just so expensive for what it was, in comparison to some of the other places we stayed during this trip!
San Francisco is a great city to explore on foot or by bike and there’s so many different neighbourhoods, each with a different feel to it. We stayed 3 nights in total, arriving Wednesday lunchtime and leaving Saturday morning, where we collected our hire car and set off for Yosemite National Park. I've written a couple of posts on San Francisco, one which covers the different neighbourhoods and also my top recommendations for what to do and see whilst you are there.
San Francisco Icons - Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate bridge
Yosemite National Park, Days 7 - 9
It took 3 and half hours to drive from San Francisco to Yosemite Cedar Lodge, which was our accommodation for the next two nights. We opted to stay outside of the park as the lodges in the national park were more expensive and we didn’t fancy camping as we were worried about bears roaming the campgrounds looking for food! (we were probably being too cautious!) Our lodge was 35 minutes outside of Yosemite Valley, which is the ‘central hub’ and houses many of the campgrounds and lodges. The drive in was so scenic, weaving around the mountains.
This was by far my favourite place on the entire trip and I wished that we had stayed here for longer, it was just beautiful. We were only here for a couple of days, but we managed to fit in as many walks as we could in the time we had! I’ve gone into more detail on our time at Yosemite here. We made the most of our last day in Yosemite, and didn’t set off for the coast until after lunch. It was a 4 hour drive from Yosemite Valley to Monterey, where we arrived early evening.
I would 100% recommend a visit to the beautiful Yosemite National Park
Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea, Days 10 - 11
We ended up staying in Monterey for 3 nights, so after arriving in the evening on the first night, we then had two full days here. In hindsight, I would have stayed an extra night in Yosemite and stayed just two nights here as that would have been plenty of time.
On the first day, we booked ourselves onto a whale watching trip from Monterey wharf. Unfortunately the weather was so cold and the water was very choppy and poor Lee was sick the whole time! We did see some whales though which was amazing! Lee was much happier the next day when we visited pebble beach golf club in Carmel! Carmel is smaller and prettier than Monterey and has little cafes and boutiques, so it's a nice place to spend the day, wandering around the town, before heading to the beach afterwards. For more reasons to visit Monterey, see my post, here.
Our plan upon leaving Monterey was to drive the Big Sur coastal road down to Santa Barbara. Unfortunately we managed to take the wrong turn and our sat nav took us the more direct, inland route on highway 101 and we didn't realise straight away, meaning that we missed out on driving the Big Sur! I was completely gutted. Honestly, it was so upsetting when we realised that we had gone the wrong way and missed it! We did consider turning back, but the drive from Monterey to Santa Barbara was 4 hours long and we didn't have the luxury of time unfortunately.
Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea were really pretty, peaceful stops on our road trip
Santa Barbara, Days 12-14
We left Monterey in the morning and drove the 4 hours to Santa Barbara and checked into the Avania Inn for 3 nights. The hotel was clean, comfortable and had a pool and was in a great location, close to the beach, shops and restaurants.
Santa Barbara is a lovely spot on the Californian coast. With beaches, boutique shops and lively bars and restaurants. There’s also several different day trips you can take from Santa Barbara. We did a great wine tasting tour which took us up into the Santa Ynez Valley, we also drive the 45 minutes to the town of Solvang which is worth a visit. And of course, there’s lots of activities you can do at the beach. See here for my recommendations for spending a few days in Santa Barbara.
A visit to Santa Barbara offers Danish towns, Mountain vineyards and glorious beaches
Los Angeles, Days 15 - 19
LA was the last stop on our road trip and we spent 4 nights here, in an Airbnb in between Santa Monica Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood.
The location was great, but we had under-estimated just how big LA is, places that look close by on the map are actually much further than you think! Luckily we had our own car, but there were buses available and we did walk to most places that we could.
The beaches of Santa Monica and Venice were 25 minutes away from our apartment, but it often took 40 minutes because of the amount of traffic. In hindsight, I probably would have preferred to stay by the coast and travel into the city, rather than the other way around, as I just preferred the atmosphere by the coast. But wherever you base yourself, there's lots to keep you occupied. Here’s my top things to do in LA
Hiking to the Hollywood sign and the Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard
On the last day, we drove the 30 minutes to LA airport and dropped off the car. We’d had such a good time on our honeymoon. Yes, there were a couple of things I would have changed slightly looking back, but that’s likely true with every trip. If there was one place from this trip i’d definitely go back to, it was Yosemite National Park. I loved it and wished we’d had more time to explore - next time I might even be brave enough to stay at the campground!
All links on this website are my own recommendations or sites I found useful when planning and are not affiliated. I do not receive any commission from including these links within this blog.