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Driving up the California coast is something the everyone should shot to perform at some suggest in their lifetime. Unfortunately, periodically embarking top top a complete San Diego to san Francisco road trip or also up north towards Portland & Seattle isn’t a viable selection for everyone — even if it is you’re pressed for time or only have actually a minimal California take trip budget. However, the doesn’t mean that friend can’t enjoy some the the highlights the a much longer trip follow me the Pacific coastline Highway by dealing with the brief LA to san Diego drive as a funny road expedition in and also of itself.

Because southern California is quite densely populated, there are many fun and also interesting stops the you could make when driving from Los Angeles to san Diego that you might easily spend a number of days on this drive alone.

The street on the journey from LA to san Diego is about 120 miles (193 kilometres) and also while it have to only take about 2 hrs non-stop in a vehicle without traffic, it deserve to be very worth taking the moment to get out that the car and explore what lies between these two vibrant and dynamic cities over a day or two.

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LA to san Diego drive Stops

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

The most common route come take when driving native Los Angeles to san Diego is along the I-5, the federal government freeway the starts in ~ the mexican border and also goes every the means to Canada. While taking the 5 is definitely convenient, the majority of it will take you with boring, inland suburbs and it can often be so packed with traffic you could be forgiven because that mistaking it as a parking lot.

Though you are definitely going to must drive at least a section of your journey follow me the 5, that isn’t totally necessary to take it (or any type of interstate, for the matter) the entire way. A far better and much more scenic option would be to take the Pacific shore Highway, also known together the Highway 1, native Los Angeles till it end (or begins depending on i m sorry direction you’re driving!) in south Orange County.

If you take the PCH for the bulk of her drive, it is far simpler to act the journey as an LA to san Diego road trip. There are numerous interesting stops you have the right to make and the drive along the shore is one of the many beautiful in the state.

Of course, you’re walking to need to have a automobile to go on the mountain Diego to Los Angeles drive and if you room looking to rental one for your trip, friend can’t walk wrong through booking v RentalCars.com. This communication aggregated every one of the ideal prices across most major companies come ensure the you gain the ideal rate on her rental car.

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

There is a lot to see before you get to Downtown mountain Diego

LA to mountain Diego journey Stops

If you desire to take it the monotony the end of the traditionally boring san Diego to LA drive, climate make certain to check out the beautiful seaside area that lies between these two southerly California cities. Most of this stops lie within Orange County, wherein I had actually the satisfied of living for a variety of years before my life to be centred about travelling. Therefore this write-up will be packed through some first-hand local knowledge and also a few hidden spots that room well turn off the common tourist trail.

Stops in this list are listed from north to south, however, if you desire to make all of them, that would just really be feasible if you decided to spend the night somewhere follow me the way. The halfway allude between LA and also San Diego would be in southern Orange Country, therefore look because that accommodation around the cities of san Clemente, Dana Point, or Laguna Beach.

1. Huntington Beach

If you’re driving native Los Angeles to mountain Diego, the an initial stop exterior of the City that Angels along the PCH will certainly be beautiful Huntington Beach, i m sorry is around as much north together you can get in Orange Country.

Colloquially well-known as “Surf City USA,” Huntington beach is the quintessential California surf town and also possesses one of the biggest and also 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 protect against for you.

Besides the seemingly limitless expanse of beach here, take the time to stroll down the iconic Huntington coast pier, dip her toes in the water, and maybe try your hand in ~ surfing. There are countless surf institutions in Huntington and it is a fantastic place to learn exactly how to record some waves.

There are also a lot of shops come browse and also some great restaurants if you’re trying to find a bite to eat. Like somewhere else in southern California, taco stalls are particularly popular in HB and also you can uncover some really good places here. The coast area is situated on the Pacific coastline Highway, however, if you want to browse part shops or uncover a quite cafe or restaurant, climate take a stroll down main Street, which has actually most that the companies in HB.

Huntington beach Pier

2. Newport Beach

Drive southern along Highway 1 native Huntington and also then next town you will hit is the ultra swanky Newport Beach. Well-known to most non-Californians together the setting of the 2000’s TV drama The OC, Newport beach is additionally an very popular summer destination and also a good stop ~ above the LA to san Diego drive.

There space a the majority of things to perform in Newport, so much so that it could be a location all in its own rather 보다 a protect against on a san Diego to LA roadway trip. However, if girlfriend only have a limited amount the time to invest here, climate make certain to head come the Balboa Pier and also Fun Zone.

Here you will discover a exorbitant seaside amusement park complete with a tiny Ferris wheel, arcade games, and also traditional carnival food available. This is likewise the acquisition off allude to visit Balboa Island, which has a number of interesting boutiques and also multi-million dollar homes. Over there is a little car ferry that will take you over there in about 5 minutes from Balboa Pier if you’re interested.

If you’re much more interested in natural scenery than timeless seaside kitsch, climate head a tiny bit farther southern to crystal Cove State Park. Here you will find some untouched beaches, beautiful and dramatic cliffs, and numerous hiking and walking trails because that you to reap them.

3. Laguna Beach

South the Newport lies maybe the most renowned beach city 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 coast town, and high-end resort. Residence to several of Orange County’s best restaurants, boutique shopping, arts galleries, and also nightlife, it is difficult to gain bored throughout a protect against in Laguna Beach.

The bulk of the web page in Laguna are situated along the PCH, do it very convenient to protect against here. The is worth noting, however, the finding parking in Laguna have the right to be very complicated and I, therefore, introduce taking benefit of the an initial parking spot you see. You practically always will have to pay for parking and, specifically in the summer, your vehicle will it is in ticketed or also towed if friend park illegally, so i wouldn’t recommend testing your luck.

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

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

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

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

4. Table absent Beach

While many visitors to Laguna beach will just stop at the key Beach and think they’ve watched it all, they perform not know that this is very much the worst coast in the town. If you desire to stop the traveler crowds and treat yourself to some stunning seaside scenery, you must head come Table rock Beach.

Though small, Table rock is mine favourite beach in Orange County yet it have the right to be daunting to find and also you have to be in decent physical shape in stimulate to reach it. That isn’t an extremely well-marked, yet it is located just off the the Pacific shore Highway in south Laguna, just north the Mission Hospital.

Find street parking either on a side street or directly on the PCH and also then you need to walk down a number of stairs in order to with this beach, however, that is well worth it. Because it is type of challenging to reach and not well advertised, only a few locals really know about it.

It is blessed v some beautiful absent formations, exorbitant surf to gaze at, and also some solitude the one craves as soon as visiting the beach.

5. Dana point Harbor

If you’ve had sufficient of the beach, then heading to Dana allude Harbor together you endeavor farther south is a an excellent option for you. As one of the main cities in south Orange County, Dana point is a lovely ar to float around and also the Harbor has a lot of to sell visitors.

Not just are there countless boutique shops, restaurants, and cafes in the harbor area, it is likewise a taking-off allude for ferries to Catalina Island or whale city hall tours. Dana point is recognized as the “Whale resources of the West” and also you don’t need to undertaking far indigenous the harbour in order to see several of these majestic creatures.

Dana allude Harbor is additionally a good place to publication a deep-sea fishing tour, try your hand at a stand-up paddleboard, or to hire a kayak. Since of the perennial an excellent weather, you can enjoy activities like this pretty much year-round.

6. MissionSan Juan Capistrano

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

Located just inland native Dana suggest (drive increase Del Obispo street which intersects v the PCH), this old Spanish mission is located in the historic town of san Juan Capistrano and is well worth the visit.

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

This is one of the largest and most important missions set up through the Spanish and there is a long and also important history to find out here. Full-price entry for a general admission ticket is $10 and includes a self-guided audio tour.

7. Los Rios District

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

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

Home to a variety of restaurants, gardens, and interesting shops, this is just simply a pretty area to stroll through and also enjoy the laid-back atmosphere. Protect against for a drink at the wonderful covert House Coffee and also maybe stroll under to check out the llamas at the petting zoo best nearby.

8. San Clemente

If you’re not bored of classic Southern California beach communities (and how might you be?), then you cannot walk wrong through visiting mountain Clemente if driving from Los Angeles to san Diego.

San Clemente is the southernmost town in Orange County and is a quintessential surf town, equipped through a beloved beach, an iconic pier, and a beloved boardwalk vibe. There are countless cool cafes and shops throughout mountain Clemente together with some an excellent restaurants and taco stands.

If you desire to hit the coast (and why wouldn’t you?), girlfriend are definitely not starved for choice in san Clemente. The most well-known beach and also the one through the many amenities would certainly be the mountain Clemente State Beach, i beg your pardon is situated just surrounding to the key town. If you desire to watch the surfers strut your stuff and maybe reap fewer crowds ~ above a warm day, then head come the quieter Trestles coast to the south, nearby to san Onofre.

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

9. Carlsbad

After visiting san Juan Capistrano, the is time to head additional south and leave Orange county altogether. Highway 1 likewise ends in Dana Point, so after san Juan, you space going to require to acquire on to the federal government 5 in bespeak to make it to downtown san Diego.

However, leaving OC doesn’t average that you are casting aside exciting stops on the drive 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 of Carlsbad in North mountain Diego County.

Carlsbad is your usual laidback California beach town and also is home to a beautiful stretch that sand, eclectic surf shops and also cafes, and also a number of great restaurants. It is a perfect stop if you desire to continue to explore the coastline en path to downtown mountain Diego.

10. Encinitas

Apologies if I’m beginning to sound prefer a damaged record at this point, however the LA to san Diego drive is filled v idyllic coast towns and also you space really spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting which one come visit. If you want another selection for a quintessential California surf town through a laid ago vibe and lots the cool points to see and fo, then you can’t walk wrong v Encinitas.

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

If you’re looking for a mellow, to adjust back, and also ultra “SoCal” protect against on the san Diego come LA drive, climate Encinitas is the perfect an option for you!

11. La Jolla

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

As among the most expensive postal codes in the whole of the united Staes, La Jolla is dotted with multi-million dollar residences overlooking few of the many stunning cliffside and also beach scenery in san Diego.

Not only is the town dotted with an excellent restaurants, craft beer pubs, wine bars, and also high-end shops, however heading come La Jolla Coves assures views the frolicking sea lions and other maritime life. This is also an exceptionally popular ar to rent a kayak or go on a guided kayaking tourism to explore the cliffsides and natural arcs up close.

12. Mission Bay

One the the last an excellent stops top top the LA to mountain Diego drive to make prior to you with lovely downtown is Mission Bay. As among the most popular beach locations in mountain Diego, Mission beach is a terrific place come explore.

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

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

Where to remain on an LA to mountain Diego Drive

While the drive from Los Angeles to san Diego isn’t a long one and rarely constitutes the need to stop because that the night, if you’re keen come hit every one of the an excellent stops ~ above this list then it might be way to perform it over two days. Remaining somewhere halfway between the two cities is a good way to have the ability to enjoy the most of what this scenic drive has to offer! If you’re wondering wherein to stay, have actually a look at at this recommendations:

Seaside Laguna Inn – A little and cosy hotel located in the love of Laguna Beach just minutes indigenous the countless beaches in the area, this is a fantastic place come stay. They have a range of clean, air-conditioned rooms, totally free parking on the premises, and a fantastic breakfast included in the room rate.Click below to see their recent prices

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

Private Rental – If classic hotels and also B&B’s aren’t quite your speed, climate a exclusive rental might be a good choice for you. Over there are countless properties accessible that will suit any kind of personality and also budget such together this beautiful villa in Laguna Beach. Click here to watch the finest private rentals in the area.

See more: The Best 10 Mexican Restaurants In Santa Ana Mexican Food, Santa Ana Fresh Mexican Food

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

While you can easily drive from Los Angeles to san Diego in 2 2 to three hours along the 5 freeway, there are numerous fun and also interesting stop to do if you take the time venture off the interstate.

Are girlfriend planning to drive from mountain Diego to Los Angeles or angry versa? have you made this drive? let us recognize in the comments!