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Driving increase the California coastline is something that everyone should shot to perform at some allude in their lifetime. Unfortunately, occasionally embarking ~ above a finish San Diego to mountain Francisco road trip or also up north towards Portland & Seattle isn’t a viable selection for everyone — whether you’re pressed for time or only have a restricted California travel budget. However, the doesn’t median that girlfriend can’t enjoy some the the highlights that a much longer trip along the Pacific shore Highway by dealing with the quick LA to san Diego drive together a funny road trip in and of itself.

Because southerly California is fairly densely populated, there are countless fun and also interesting stops that you could make when driving native Los Angeles to san Diego that you might easily invest a number of days top top this drive alone.

The distance on the drive from LA to san Diego is about 120 mile (193 kilometres) and also while it must only take around 2 hrs non-stop in a car without traffic, it deserve to be an extremely worth taking the time to acquire out that the car and also explore what lies between these 2 vibrant and dynamic cities over a job or two.


Table that Contents


LA to san Diego journey Stops

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

The most typical route come take when driving from Los Angeles to san Diego is follow me the I-5, the federal government freeway that starts in ~ the mexico border and also goes all the method to Canada. While acquisition the 5 is definitely convenient, the bulk of it will certainly take you v boring, inland suburbs and it can often be so packed through traffic you might be forgiven because that mistaking it as a parking lot.

Though girlfriend are certainly going to should drive at least a part of your journey along the 5, it isn’t completely necessary to take it it (or any interstate, for that matter) the entire way. A far far better and an ext scenic choice would be to take the Pacific coastline Highway, additionally known as the Highway 1, indigenous Los Angeles till it end (or begins depending on i beg your pardon direction you’re driving!) in south Orange County.

If you take it the PCH for the majority of your drive, that is far less complicated to treat the journey as an LA to san Diego road trip. There are countless interesting stops you can make and also the drive along the coastline is among the many beautiful in the state.

Of course, you’re walking to need to have actually a vehicle to walk on the san Diego come Los Angeles drive and also if you space looking to rent one for her trip, friend can’t walk wrong v booking through RentalCars.com. This communication aggregated every one of the finest prices across most major companies to ensure the you get the ideal rate on her rental car.

Alternatively, you can hire a campervan or RV v Outdoorsy to conserve on house costs and also to reap the liberty of being on a roadway trip.


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There is a lot come see prior to you obtain to Downtown mountain Diego

LA to mountain Diego journey Stops

If you want to take it the monotony out of the traditionally boring san Diego to LA drive, then make sure to check out the beautiful coastal area the lies in between these two southern California cities. Most of these stops lie within Orange County, whereby I had actually the satisfied of living for a variety of years prior to my life to be centred around travelling. For this reason this article will be packed with some first-hand local knowledge and also a couple of hidden point out that room well turn off the common tourist trail.

Stops in this perform are detailed from phibìc to south, however, if you desire to make all of them, the would only really be possible if you chose to invest the night somewhere along the way. The halfway point between LA and also San Diego would certainly be in southern Orange Country, therefore look because that accommodation around the urban of san Clemente, Dana Point, or Laguna Beach.

1. Huntington Beach

If you’re driving from Los Angeles to san Diego, the first stop external of the City the Angels along the PCH will be beautiful Huntington Beach, which is around as far north together you can get in Orange Country.

Colloquially well-known as “Surf City USA,” Huntington beach is the quintessential California surf town and possesses among the biggest and most beautiful beaches in the better Los Angeles area. If you’re interested in taking in some sea air and also chilled-out beachy vibes, climate Huntington beach is the perfect stop for you.

Besides the seemingly endless expanse of coast here, take the moment to stroll down the top Huntington beach pier, dip her toes in the water, and also maybe try your hand in ~ surfing. Over there are numerous surf schools in Huntington and also it is a great place to learn how to capture some waves.

There are likewise a lot of shops to browse and also some good restaurants if you’re in search of a bite to eat. Like elsewhere in southern California, taco stalls are an especially popular in HB and you can find some really an excellent places here. The beach area is located on the Pacific coast Highway, however, if you want to browse part shops or uncover a quite cafe or restaurant, then take a stroll down key Street, which has most of the businesses in HB.


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Huntington beach Pier

2. Newport Beach

Drive southern along Highway 1 indigenous Huntington and then following town you will hit is the ultra swanky Newport Beach. Known to most non-Californians together the setting of the 2000’s TV drama The OC, Newport beach is likewise an very popular summer destination and also a good stop top top the LA to mountain Diego drive.

There room a lot of things to perform in Newport, so lot so the it could be a destination all in its very own rather 보다 a stop on a mountain Diego to LA roadway trip. However, if friend only have actually a limited amount the time to invest here, then make sure to head come the Balboa Pier and also Fun Zone.

Here you will uncover a wonderful seaside amusement park complete with a tiny Ferris wheel, arcade games, and also traditional carnival food available. This is also the acquisition off point to visit Balboa Island, which has a variety of interesting boutiques and also multi-million disagreement homes. Over there is a little car ferry that will certainly take you there in around 5 minute from Balboa Pier if you’re interested.

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

3. Laguna Beach

South of Newport lies maybe the most renowned beach city in Orange County and on the mountain Diego to LA drive: Laguna Beach. Located in main OC, Laguna coast is an eclectic mix of artist’s colony, hippie beach town, and high-end resort. Residence to few of Orange County’s finest restaurants, boutique shopping, arts galleries, and also nightlife, that is tough to gain bored during a prevent in Laguna Beach.

The majority of the web page in Laguna are situated along the PCH, make it extremely convenient to stop here. That is precious noting, however, the finding parking in Laguna deserve to be very difficult and I, therefore, introduce taking advantage of the first parking spot friend see. You virtually always will have to pay because that parking and, particularly in the summer, your auto will it is in ticketed or also towed if friend park illegally, so i wouldn’t recommend testing your luck.

The most well known attraction in Laguna is, not surprisingly, the beach. The key beach in Laguna is no as big as Huntington or even Newport, however, over there is a nice promenade area, park, and also it’s a an excellent place to discover a bench and people watch because that a bit.

There are also numerous art galleries and also trendy boutiques to browse while in Laguna, making it a an excellent stop come occupy yourself while driving native LA to mountain Diego.

This beachfront villa is a an excellent option if you’re searching for somewhere to invest the night ~ above your method from LA to san Diego.


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Crystal Cove State Park is a good stop located just north of Laguna Beach

4. Table rock Beach

While most visitors to Laguna beach will just stop in ~ the main Beach and also think they’ve checked out it all, they perform not recognize that this is very much the worst beach in the town. If you desire to avoid the traveler crowds and treat you yourself to some stunning seaside scenery, you need to head come Table absent Beach.

Though small, Table rock is my favourite coast in Orange County yet it have the right to be complicated to find and you should be in kind physical form in bespeak to with it. The isn’t very well-marked, however it is located simply off of the Pacific coastline Highway in southern Laguna, just north that Mission Hospital.

Find street parking either on a next street or directly on the PCH and also then you need to walk down a variety of stairs in order to reach this beach, however, the is well worth it. Because it is sort of an overwhelming to reach and not fine advertised, only a few locals really know about it.

It is blessed through some beautiful rock formations, exorbitant surf come gaze at, and also some solitude the one craves once visiting the beach.


5. Dana point Harbor

If you’ve had sufficient of the beach, climate heading to Dana point Harbor as you undertaking farther southern is a great option because that you. As among the key cities in south Orange County, Dana allude is a lovely ar to float around and the Harbor has actually a lot of to sell visitors.

Not only are there countless boutique shops, restaurants, and also cafes in the port area, that is additionally a taking-off point for ferries come Catalina Island or whale the town hall tours. Dana allude is recognized as the “Whale resources of the West” and also you don’t require to undertaking far native the harbour in order come see few of these majestic creatures.

Dana suggest Harbor is also a good place to shot your hand in ~ a stand-up paddleboard, or to hire a kayak. Due to the fact that of the perennial good weather, you deserve to enjoy tasks like this pretty much year-round.

6. MissionSan Juan Capistrano

This is the very first stop that is situated inland that the Pacific coast Highway, however I guarantee you that it is precious making a slim detour native the coast.

Located just inland from Dana suggest (drive up Del Obispo street i m sorry intersects with the PCH), this old Spanish mission is located in the historical town of san Juan Capistrano and is fine worth the visit.

Founded in 1776, the Mission san Juan Capistrano is just one of the peak attractions in every one of Orange County. Developed by Spanish saint Junipero Serra, who is known for setting up 21 objectives in what was then Spanish territory in California and Mexico, this mission to be the 7th of 9 goals to be established in Alta California, which is currently present-day California in the USA.

This is among the largest and most necessary missions collection up by the Spanish and also there is a long and also important history to learn here. Full-price entry for a basic admission ticket is $10 and also includes a self-guided audio tour.


7. Los Rios District

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

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

Home come a number of restaurants, gardens, and interesting shops, this is simply simply a nice area come stroll through and also enjoy the laid-back atmosphere. Stop for a drink in ~ the wonderful concealed House Coffee and maybe stroll down to check out the llamas at the petting zoo right nearby.


8. San Clemente

If you’re no bored of classic Southern California beach communities (and how might you be?), then you cannot walk wrong v visiting mountain Clemente if driving from Los Angeles to mountain Diego.

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

If you desire to struggle the beach (and why wouldn’t you?), friend are absolutely not starved for an option in san Clemente. The most famous beach and also the one with the most amenities would be the mountain Clemente State Beach, which is located just surrounding to the key town. If you want to clock the surfers strut their stuff and also maybe gain fewer crowds ~ above a warm day, climate head come the quieter Trestles coast to the south, nearby to mountain Onofre.

All in all, san Clemente makes for the ideal avoid on a drive from san Diego to Los Angeles.


9. Carlsbad

After visiting san Juan Capistrano, the is time come head further south and leave Orange ar altogether. Highway 1 additionally ends in Dana Point, therefore after san Juan, you space going to require to acquire on come the federal government 5 in bespeak to do it come downtown san Diego.

However, leaving OC doesn’t median that friend are casting aside interesting stops on the journey from Los Angeles to san Diego. In fact, around a 30-minute journey (without traffic) southern of san Juan Capistrano, you will certainly reach the charming seaside city the Carlsbad in North mountain Diego County.

Carlsbad is your typical laidback California beach town and is residence to a beautiful stretch of sand, eclectic surf shops and cafes, and a number of an excellent restaurants. It is a perfect avoid if you desire to continue to explore the shore en course to downtown mountain Diego.

10. Encinitas

Apologies if I’m start to sound prefer a broken record in ~ this point, however the LA to mountain Diego journey is filled v idyllic beach towns and also you are really spoilt for an option when it comes to choosing which one to visit. If you desire another an option for a quintessential California surf town with a laid back vibe and lots that cool points to see and also fo, then you can’t walk wrong v Encinitas.

Located in north mountain Diego County just a bit south of Carlsbad, Encinitas has a good vibe and it’s very own seaside charm that differentiates chin from surrounding Carlsbad or swanky La Jolla. The cute roads are packed v hip restaurants, funky cafes, and quirky shops. The coast is likewise expansive and soft and perfect because that spending a few hours hover on or watching the surfers — or trying her hand at surfing yourself!

If you’re searching for a mellow, to adjust back, and ultra “SoCal” protect against on the mountain Diego come LA drive, climate Encinitas is the perfect selection for you!


11. La Jolla

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

As among the most expensive postal codes in the entirety of the joined Staes, La Jolla is dotted with multi-million dollar dwellings overlooking some of the most stunning cliffside and also beach see in san Diego.

Not only is the town dotted with an excellent restaurants, handmade beer pubs, wine bars, and also high-end shops, yet heading come La Jolla Coves promises views that frolicking sea lions and also other maritime life. This is also an extremely popular location to rental a kayak or go on a guided kayaking tourism to check out the cliffsides and also natural arches up close.


12. Mission Bay

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

Along through a broad expanse that beautiful white-sand beach — perfect because that surfing and sunbathing alike — Mission bay is additionally famous because that Belmont Park, and also an above boardwalk amusement park finish with a standard wooden roller coaster, a carousel, one arcade, and also much more.

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


Where to stay on one LA to san Diego Drive

While the drive from Los Angeles to mountain Diego isn’t a long one and also rarely constitutes the must stop because that the night, if you’re keen come hit all of the great stops on this list then it could be wise to execute it over 2 days. Continuing to be somewhere halfway in between the two cities is a good way to have the ability to enjoy the many 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 tiny and cosy hotel located in the love of Laguna Beach only minutes indigenous the many beaches in the area, this is a great place come stay. They have actually a range of clean, air-conditioned rooms, totally free parking ~ above the premises, and a great breakfast contained in the room rate.Click below to watch their recent prices

Always Inn mountain Clemente Bed & Breakfast – This cosy B&B situated in mountain Clemente is terrific place to continue to be in the geography halfway point between san Diego and also Los Angeles. They have actually a few clean and comfortable rooms on offer, are located close to the beach, and also have a hearty breakfast consisted of in the nightly rate.Click right here to view their latest prices

Private Rental – If traditional hotels and also B&B’s aren’t quite your speed, then a private rental can be a good choice for you. Over there are many properties accessible that will certainly suit any type of personality and also budget such as this beautiful villa in Laguna Beach. Click right here to watch the finest private rentals in the area.

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Not fairly what you’re looking for? Click here to browse various other hotels ~ above this drive!

While you could easily journey from Los Angeles to mountain Diego in 2 two to three hours along the 5 freeway, over there are numerous fun and also interesting stops to do if you take the time venture off the interstate.

Are girlfriend planning to drive from san Diego come Los Angeles or angry versa? have actually you do this drive? permit us understand in the comments!