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Driving up the California shore is something that everyone should shot to execute at some point in their lifetime. Unfortunately, sometimes embarking upon a complete San Diego to mountain Francisco road trip or also up north in the direction of Portland & Seattle isn’t a viable selection for everyone — whether you’re pressed because that time or only have actually a minimal California take trip budget. However, that doesn’t mean that girlfriend can’t enjoy some that the highlights the a longer trip along the Pacific coastline Highway by treating the quick LA to mountain Diego drive together a funny road trip in and also of itself.

Because southern California is quite densely populated, over there are countless fun and also interesting stops that you can make once driving indigenous Los Angeles to mountain Diego that you might easily spend a number of days top top this drive alone.

The distance on the journey from LA to san Diego is around 120 miles (193 kilometres) and also while it should only take around 2 hours non-stop in a automobile without traffic, it deserve to be very worth taking the moment to get out of the car and explore what lies in between these 2 vibrant and also dynamic urban over a job or two.

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LA to mountain Diego journey Stops

Best path to take it on the LA to mountain Diego Drive

The most usual route come take once driving native Los Angeles to san Diego is follow me the I-5, the interstate freeway that starts at the mexican border and goes every the method to Canada. While acquisition the 5 is absolutely convenient, the majority of it will take you through boring, inland suburbs and it can frequently be so packed through traffic you can be forgiven for mistaking it together a parking lot.

Though friend are certainly going to must drive at least a part of her journey follow me the 5, it isn’t entirely necessary to take it (or any interstate, for that matter) the whole way. A far better and much more scenic alternative would be to take the Pacific shore Highway, also known as the Highway 1, indigenous Los Angeles until it ends (or starts depending on which direction you’re driving!) in south Orange County.

If you take the PCH for the bulk of your drive, it is far easier to law the journey as an LA to san Diego road trip. There are many interesting stop you deserve to make and the drive along the shore is one of the many beautiful in the state.

Of course, you’re going to require to have a auto to walk on the san Diego to Los Angeles drive and if you room looking to rent one for your trip, girlfriend can’t go wrong v booking v RentalCars.com. This communication aggregated every one of the ideal prices across most significant companies to ensure that you gain the ideal rate on your rental car.

Alternatively, you can hire a campervan or RV v Outdoorsy to conserve on house costs and to gain the liberty of gift on a road trip.

There is a lot to see before you acquire to Downtown san Diego

LA to san Diego journey Stops

If you want to take the monotony out of the traditionally boring mountain Diego come LA drive, then make sure to explore the beautiful seaside area the lies in between these two southerly California cities. Many of these stops lie in ~ Orange County, where I had actually the pleasure of living for a number of years prior to my life was centred roughly travelling. So this post will be packed v some first-hand neighborhood knowledge and a couple of hidden point out that room well turn off the common tourist trail.

Stops in this list are detailed from phibìc to south, however, if you want to make every one of them, that would just really be feasible if you decided to spend the night somewhere along the way. The halfway point between LA and San Diego would be in south Orange Country, therefore look for accommodation about the cities of san Clemente, Dana Point, or Laguna Beach.

1. Huntington Beach

If you’re driving indigenous Los Angeles to mountain Diego, the first stop exterior of the City the Angels along the PCH will be beautiful Huntington Beach, which is about as far north together you can acquire in Orange Country.

Colloquially well-known as “Surf City USA,” Huntington coast is the quintessential California surf town and possesses one of the biggest and also most beautiful beaches in the greater Los Angeles area. If you’re interested in taking in some sea air and chilled-out beachy vibes, then Huntington coast is the perfect protect against for you.

Besides the seemingly endless expanse of coast here, take the time to stroll under the top Huntington beach pier, dip her toes in the water, and maybe try your hand in ~ surfing. Over there are plenty of surf colleges in Huntington and also it is a fantastic place come learn just how to catch some waves.

There are additionally a the majority of shops come browse and some an excellent restaurants if you’re looking for a bite to eat. Like elsewhere in southern California, taco stalls are an especially popular in HB and also you can uncover some really great places here. The beach area is situated on the Pacific shore Highway, however, if you desire to browse part shops or discover a quite cafe or restaurant, then take a stroll down key Street, which has actually most of the enterprise in HB.

Huntington beach Pier

2. Newport Beach

Drive southern along Highway 1 from Huntington and then following town you will hit is the ultra swanky Newport Beach. Known to many non-Californians together the setup of the 2000’s TV drama The OC, Newport beach is likewise an extremely popular summer destination and a great stop ~ above the LA to san Diego drive.

There are a lot of things to execute in Newport, so lot so the it can be a destination all in its own rather 보다 a prevent on a mountain Diego come LA road trip. However, if friend only have a limited amount the time to spend here, then make certain to head to the Balboa Pier and Fun Zone.

Here friend will find a wonderful seaside amusement park complete with a small Ferris wheel, arcade games, and also traditional carnival food available. This is likewise the acquisition off suggest to visit Balboa Island, which has actually a variety of interesting boutiques and also multi-million dissension homes. There is a small car ferry that will certainly take you there in about 5 minute from Balboa Pier if you’re interested.

If you’re an ext interested in organic scenery than traditional seaside kitsch, then head a small bit farther southern to decision Cove State Park. Right here you will find some untouched beaches, beautiful and also dramatic cliffs, and numerous hiking and walking trails because that you to reap them.

3. Laguna Beach

South that Newport lies maybe the most well known beach town in Orange County and also on the mountain Diego come LA drive: Laguna Beach. Situated in main OC, Laguna beach is one eclectic mix of artist’s colony, hippie beach town, and high-end resort. House to several of Orange County’s best restaurants, boutique shopping, arts galleries, and also nightlife, that is tough to obtain bored during a stop in Laguna Beach.

The majority of the sites in Laguna are situated along the PCH, making it very convenient to avoid here. It is worth noting, however, the finding parking in Laguna have the right to be very challenging and I, therefore, introduce taking benefit of the first parking spot friend see. You almost always will have to pay because that parking and, particularly in the summer, your automobile will it is in ticketed or also towed if friend park illegally, so ns wouldn’t recommend experimentation your luck.

The most famous attraction in Laguna is, not surprisingly, the beach. The key beach in Laguna is not as big as Huntington or even Newport, however, there is a quite promenade area, park, and also it’s a great place to discover a bench and also people watch because that a bit.

There are also numerous arts galleries and trendy boutiques to browser while in Laguna, making it a good stop come occupy you yourself while driving from LA to san Diego.

This beachfront villa is a great option if you’re searching for somewhere to spend the night on your means from LA to san Diego.

Crystal Cove State Park is a great stop located simply north of Laguna Beach

4. Table absent Beach

While many visitors to Laguna beach will just stop in ~ the key Beach and also think they’ve watched it all, they do not recognize that this is an extremely much the worst coast in the town. If you want to stop the tourist crowds and also treat yourself to part stunning seaside scenery, you should head to Table absent Beach.

Though small, Table rock is mine favourite beach in Orange County yet it deserve to be an overwhelming to find and also you have to be in kind physical shape in order to reach it. It isn’t really well-marked, however it is located just off of the Pacific shore Highway in southern Laguna, just north of Mission Hospital.

Find street parking either on a next street or straight on the PCH and also then you have to walk down a variety of stairs in stimulate to reach this beach, however, the is fine worth it. Because it is type of difficult to reach and not fine advertised, just a few locals really know around it.

It is blessed with some beautiful absent formations, wonderful surf come gaze at, and also some solitude the one craves when visiting the beach.

5. Dana suggest Harbor

If you’ve had sufficient of the beach, then heading to Dana suggest Harbor together you endeavor farther south is a great option for you. As one of the main cities in southern Orange County, Dana allude is a lovely location to float around and also the Harbor has actually a lot to market visitors.

Not just are there countless boutique shops, restaurants, and also cafes in the port area, it is additionally a taking-off allude for ferries to Catalina Island or whale watching tours. Dana suggest is well-known as the “Whale funding of the West” and you don’t require to endeavor far indigenous the harbour in order to see several of these majestic creatures.

Dana suggest Harbor is likewise a an excellent place to shot your hand in ~ a stand-up paddleboard, or to rental a kayak. Since of the perennial great weather, you can enjoy tasks like this pretty much year-round.

6. MissionSan Juan Capistrano

This is the first stop that is situated inland that the Pacific coastline Highway, however I assure you that it is worth making a slim detour indigenous the coast.

Located simply inland from Dana point (drive increase Del Obispo street which intersects v the PCH), this old Spanish mission is located in the historical town of mountain Juan Capistrano and also is well worth the visit.

Founded in 1776, the Mission san Juan Capistrano is one of the peak attractions in every one of Orange County. Developed by Spanish saint Junipero Serra, who is well-known for setup up 21 objectives in what was then Spanish territory in California and Mexico, this mission to be the 7th the 9 missions to be created in Alta California, i beg your pardon is now present-day California in the USA.

This is among the largest and also most crucial missions collection up by the Spanish and there is a long and important background to find out here. Full-price entry for a general admission ticket is $10 and also includes a self-guided audio tour.

7. Los Rios District

After you’ve discover the Mission san Juan Capistrano, it is time to walk under Verdugo Street come the Los Rios District, i beg your pardon is located simply behind the train terminal in san Juan Capistrano.

What is stated the be the oldest continuously occupied street in California, the Los Rios District supplies a calm escape from her LA to mountain Diego drive.

Home to a number of restaurants, gardens, and interesting shops, this is simply simply a quite area to stroll through and also enjoy the laid-back atmosphere. Protect against for a drink in ~ the wonderful hidden House Coffee and also maybe stroll down to see the llamas at the petting zoo best nearby.

8. Mountain Clemente

If you’re no bored of classic Southern California beach communities (and how could you be?), climate you cannot walk wrong through visiting mountain Clemente while driving indigenous Los Angeles to san Diego.

San Clemente is the southernmost town in Orange County and is a quintessential surf town, equipped through a lovely beach, an top pier, and a beloved boardwalk vibe. Over there are plenty of cool cafes and shops throughout mountain Clemente along with some an excellent restaurants and also taco stands.

If you want to fight the beach (and why wouldn’t you?), friend are absolutely not starved for selection in mountain Clemente. The most renowned beach and also the one v the most amenities would certainly be the mountain Clemente State Beach, which is located just nearby to the main town. If you want to watch the surfers strut their stuff and also maybe enjoy fewer crowds ~ above a warm day, then head to the quieter Trestles coast to the south, nearby to san Onofre.

All in all, mountain Clemente makes for the ideal avoid on a journey from san Diego come Los Angeles.

9. Carlsbad

After visiting mountain Juan Capistrano, that is time come head additional south and leave Orange ar altogether. Highway 1 also ends in Dana Point, therefore after mountain Juan, you are going to need to acquire on to the federal government 5 in stimulate to make it to downtown san Diego.

However, leave OC doesn’t mean that friend are casting aside exciting stops on the journey from Los Angeles to mountain Diego. In fact, about a 30-minute drive (without traffic) south of san Juan Capistrano, you will reach the charming seaside city that Carlsbad in North san Diego County.

Carlsbad is your usual laidback California beach town and also is house to a beautiful stretch that sand, eclectic surf shops and also cafes, and also a number of great restaurants. That is a perfect avoid if you want to proceed to explore the coastline en course to downtown mountain Diego.

10. Encinitas

Apologies if I’m beginning to sound favor a damaged record at this point, but the LA to mountain Diego journey is filled v idyllic beach towns and you space really spoilt for selection when it comes to choosing which one to visit. If you desire another an option for a quintessential California surf town through a laid back vibe and also lots the cool points to see and also fo, climate you can’t walk wrong through Encinitas.

Located in north mountain Diego County just a little bit south that Carlsbad, Encinitas has actually a great vibe and it’s very own seaside charm that differentiates itself from surrounding Carlsbad or swanky La Jolla. The cute roads are packed with hip restaurants, funky cafes, and quirky shops. The coast is also expansive and soft and perfect because that spending a couple of hours lounging on or the town hall the surfers — or trying her hand in ~ surfing yourself!

If you’re in search of a mellow, set back, and also ultra “SoCal” stop on the san Diego to LA drive, climate Encinitas is the perfect selection for you!

11. La Jolla

After Carlsbad, the last 2 stops on you LA to mountain Diego journey are situated just exterior of san Diego proper. And also one of the ideal stops to include on this drive (or a component of a mountain Diego itinerary) is the beautiful neighbourhood of La Jolla (pronounced Luh HOY-uh).

As among the many expensive postal codes in the entirety of the unified Staes, La Jolla is dotted v multi-million dollar houses overlooking some of the many stunning cliffside and also beach scenery in mountain Diego.

Not just is the city dotted with an excellent restaurants, handmade beer pubs, alcohol bars, and high-end shops, but heading to La Jolla Coves guarantees views of frolicking sea lions and other naval life. This is likewise an very popular place to rent a kayak or go top top a guided kayaking tourism to explore the cliffsides and natural arches up close.

12. Mission Bay

One of the last great stops ~ above the LA to mountain Diego journey to make before you reach lovely downtown is Mission Bay. As one of the most popular beach locations in san Diego, Mission beach is a wonderful place come explore.

Along through a large expanse that beautiful white-sand beach — perfect because that surfing and sunbathing alike — Mission only is additionally famous for Belmont Park, and also an top boardwalk amusement park finish with a classic wooden roller coaster, a carousel, an arcade, and also much more.

There are also numerous taco shops, boutiques, and ice creamstands that make this among the finest places to spend a beachy couple of hours to finish your eventful journey from Los Angeles.

Where to stay on an LA to san Diego Drive

While the drive from Los Angeles to mountain Diego isn’t a long one and also rarely constitutes the have to stop because that the night, if you’re keen to hit every one of the great stops ~ above this list then it might be wise to perform it over two days. Remaining somewhere halfway between the 2 cities is a good way to be able to enjoy the most of what this scenic drive has to offer! If you’re wondering where to stay, have a watch at this recommendations:

Seaside Laguna Inn – A small and cosy hotel situated in the love of Laguna Beach only minutes native the plenty of beaches in the area, this is a fantastic place to stay. They have a selection of clean, air-conditioned rooms, cost-free parking on the premises, and also a great breakfast included in the room rate.Click right here to check out their recent prices

Always Inn mountain Clemente Bed & Breakfast – This cosy B&B situated in san Clemente is terrific place to continue to be in the geography halfway suggest between san Diego and Los Angeles. They have a few clean and comfortable rooms top top offer, are situated close to the beach, and also have a hearty breakfast included in the nightly rate.Click below to see their latest prices

Private Rental – If timeless hotels and also B&B’s aren’t fairly your speed, then a exclusive rental could be a great choice because that you. There are plenty of properties obtainable that will suit any personality and also budget such as this beautiful villa in Laguna Beach. Click below to see the ideal private rentals in the area.

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Not rather what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels on this drive!

While you might easily drive from Los Angeles to san Diego in 2 2 to three hours along the 5 freeway, there are many fun and interesting stops to do if you take the time endeavor off the interstate.

Are you planning to journey from san Diego come Los Angeles or evil versa? have actually you made this drive? let us recognize in the comments!