How Many Days in California – Itineraries

With over 155,000 square miles of land, California is a formidable state. Even for residents, the state feels like a place of infinite exploration. That is why, when we were asked: “What should you visit in California?” we didn’t have a quick answer.

Your trip will depend on where you start: Los Angeles or San Francisco. So, our California residents created these suggested itineraries:

How Many Days You Should Spend in California?

Big Sur, California

Five days in California is enough to see major attractions in San Francisco and Los Angeles. We recommend spending at least ten days in the state, as you can visit additional places like Big Sur and Lake Tahoe, as well as major national parks like Yosemite.

Our California resident created four complete itineraries for you:

  • 5 Days
  • 7 Days
  • 10 Days
  • 14 Days

However, there are many more delightful areas we’ve left out, from Long Beach to Lassen National Park, but the reality is that if you can see all of California in one trip, you’d likely need three weeks or more. Instead, we recommend you visit this glorious state more than once. There’s simply too much beauty to capture in one stay.

Do You Need a Car in California?

You don’t need a car during your whole trip when visiting California. Especially when staying in San Francisco or Los Angeles, it’s possible to reach surrounding attractions via booked tours as a day trip.

However, that only applies to our 5- and 7-days itineraries. When staying longer (10, 14 days), you need to rent a car, at least for a certain time. We added specific information to each itinerary which helps you decide when to rent a car.

5 Days in California | Overview

Spending five days in California introduces you to the state’s two largest cities, Los Angeles and San Francisco. We’ve listed two five-day itineraries below, starting in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

On a five-day trip in California from LA, it’s possible to experience San Francisco, Hollywood, Disneyland, and the beaches in Los Angeles. If you start in San Francisco, your itinerary includes the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, and Napa Valley.

  • Car Rental: You’ll only need a rental car on Day 3 (Disneyland day trip) from Las Angeles. When doing everything from San Francisco, you don’t need a car at all, as you can/should book a day tour to Napa Valley (Day 3). That’s much easier and cheaper than renting a car.

5 Days from Los Angeles

  • Day 1: LA Beaches
  • Day 2: Hollywood and Griffith Observatory
  • Day 3: Disneyland
  • Days 4-5: San Francisco

5 Days from San Francisco

  • Day 1: Golden Gate Bridge
  • Day 2: Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz
  • Day 3: Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley
  • Days 4-5: Los Angeles

Jump to the full itinerary: 5 Days in California

7 Days in California | Overview

A seven-day trip in California will give you time to see Los Angeles, Disneyland, Palm Springs, and San Francisco, starting in LA. If you start in San Francisco, a one-week itinerary covers the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Napa Valley, Redwood Trees, and Los Angeles.

  • Car Rental: You need a rental car on certain days when starting from LA (see the full itinerary in the middle of the article for details). From San Francisco, you don’t need a car, as you can/should book a day tour to Napa Vally (Day 3). That’s much easier and cheaper than renting a car.

Our California residents have written two seven-day itineraries, starting in Los Angeles and San Francisco:

7 Days from Los Angeles

  • Days 1-2: Beaches, Hollywood, and Griffith Park
  • Day 3: Echo Park and Downtown LA
  • Day 4: Disneyland
  • Day 5: Palm Springs or Laguna Beach
  • Days 6-7: San Francisco

7 Days from San Francisco

  • Days 1-2: Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Alcatraz
  • Day 3: Chinatown
  • Day 4: Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley
  • Day 5: Redwood Trees and Half Moon Bay
  • Days 6-7: Los Angeles

Jump directly to the full itinerary: 7 Days in California

10 Days in California | Overview

Within ten days in California, you can see Los Angeles, San Francisco, and some fantastic locations in between, like beaches, forests, mountains, and deserts. Your itinerary includes San Diego, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Big Sur, Napa Valley, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

  • Car Rental: You need a rental car on certain days (see the full itineraries in the middle of the article for details).

We’ve listed two ten-day itineraries below, starting in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

10 Days from Los Angeles

  • Days 1-2: Beaches, Hollywood, Downtown LA, and Disneyland
  • Day 3: Laguna Beach
  • Day 4: San Diego
  • Day 5: Sequoia National Park
  • Day 6: Yosemite National Park
  • Day 7: Big Sur
  • Days 8-10: San Francisco

10 Days from San Francisco

  • Days 1-2: Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Alcatraz
  • Days 3-5: Redwood Trees, Big Sur, and Napa Valley/Sonoma Valley
  • Day 6: Lake Tahoe
  • Days 7-8: Yosemite
  • Days 9-10: Los Angeles

Jump directly to the full itinerary: 10 Days in California

14 Days in California | Overview

As long as you have a car, two weeks will allow you to see most of California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as historical sites, beaches, forests, mountains, and deserts. We’ve listed two 14-day itineraries below, starting in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

  • Car Rental: You need a rental car on most days (see the full itineraries at the end of this article for details).

Within a 14 days trip, you can see most of California, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as historical sites, beaches, forests, mountains, and deserts. This includes Death Valley National Park, Yosemite, Big Sur, Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

14 Days from Los Angeles

  • Days 1-3: Beaches, Hollywood, Downtown LA, Disneyland
  • Days 4-5: Laguna Beach and San Diego
  • Day 6: Newport Beach and Catalina Island
  • Day 6: Death Valley National Park
  • Day 7: Sequoia National Park
  • Day 8: Yosemite National Park
  • Day 9: Big Sur
  • Days 10-12: San Francisco

14 Days from San Francisco

  • Days 1-2: Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Alcatraz
  • Days 3-4: Redwood Trees and Big Sur
  • Day 5: Monterey Bay, Monarch Butterflies, and Santa Cruz
  • Day 6: Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley
  • Day 7: Sacramento
  • Days 8-9: Lake Tahoe
  • Day 10: Yosemite
  • Day 11: Sequoia
  • Days 12-14: Los Angeles and Disneyland

Jump directly to the full itinerary: 14 Days in California

5 Days in California | Detailed Itinerary

5 Days from Los Angeles

Five days in Los Angeles allow you to see the beaches and Hollywood, spend a day in Disneyland, and end your trip with two days in San Francisco.

Transportation/Car Rental: You’ll only need a rental car on Day 3 (Disneyland day trip). Otherwise, you can fly on Days 4-5 (San Francisco trip) and take public transportation or ride sharing on Days 1-2.

Day 1: LA Beaches

When you land in LAX, Los Angeles International Airport, you’ll probably want to go straight to your hotel and relax. The best place to get a hotel is close to the airport in Venice Beach or Santa Monica.

These are both walkable and bikeable cities, so rent some wheels (bikes, skateboards, and rollerskates are all popular) and explore the waterfront.

Venice Beach is quirky and artsy, an excellent location for young couples and solo travelers. At the same time, Santa Monica is more expensive and family-friendly, with an amusement park on the pier and street performances on Third Street Promenade.

Both cities are delightful, particularly in the winter when the sun is warm, and the skies are clear. You can see them both in one day, even if you arrive in the afternoon. And don’t miss the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. No matter the season, you can always try surfing with one of the many surf schools.

You’ll find multiple restaurants, both casual and posh, to eat at in Santa Monica. However, we prefer the beachfront restaurants and cafes in Venice Beach.

Day 2: Hollywood and Griffith Observatory or Universal Studios

Most visitors are eager to take a photo in front of the Hollywood sign, and there are few places where you can see the sign better than Griffith Observatory, which has the city’s best views. On a clear day, you can see across the ocean to the Channel Islands.

The observatory, which is free, is an architectural object of pride and provides opportunities for visitors to look through telescopes, learn about space, and take a photo with the Hollywood sign. The observatory will take at least two hours. We recommend visiting downtown Hollywood, 15 minutes away, notably the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Chinese Theatre if you have more time. You may even see a red-carpet event.

Alternative (Recommended): Instead of Griffith Observatory or too much time in Hollywood itself, spend one day at Universal Studios.

Universal Studios are incredible. As if you are in a movie! Every ride is amazing. The best ones are: The Mummy, Jurassic Park, and Transformers. It is a really unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience. Tip: One day is enough but definitely choose the express ticket option. Otherwise, you have to wait in line for every ride and show.

Day 3: Disneyland

It wouldn’t be a visit to Southern California if you didn’t see Disneyland, the “happiest place on earth.” So, get up very early to avoid morning traffic and make it to the amusement park gates by opening time (usually around 8:00 a.m.). Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before opening time to avoid the crowds. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and good walking shoes because this will be one of the most enjoyable and tiring days of your visit.

Days 4-5: San Francisco

Explore the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, Alcatraz Island, Ghirardelli Square, cable cars, and much more when you get to San Francisco. We’ve outlined a two-day itinerary below in our San Francisco itinerary. We recommend that you fly, not drive, to San Francisco from Los Angeles, as it’s only a one-hour hop between cities.

5 Days from San Francisco

Five days in San Francisco allows you to see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, spend a day enjoying Napa Valley, and then end your trip with two days in Los Angeles.

Transportation/Rental Car: You don’t need a rental car for this itinerary. On days 4-5 (Los Angeles trip), you can fly and take public transportation or ride-sharing on Days 1-2.

Day 1: Golden Gate Bridge

When you land in SFO, San Francisco International Airport, it’s ideal to stay in a central neighborhood like the picturesque Marina or Russian Hill neighborhoods. While you can stay in more affordable areas like Mission District, Marina, and Russian Hill will put you within walking distance of the city’s main attraction, Golden Gate Bridge.

Bring your best walking shoes. San Francisco is one of the most walkable cities in the U.S. but prepare for many hills. Once you get your first view of the bridge, you’ll know it was worth it.

Head straight to the Golden Gate Bridge, or at least to the city’s best viewpoint: Fort Point National Historic Site, underneath the iconic bridge. You can also walk over the bridge for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For a shorter walk, we recommend taking a one-hour boat cruise underneath the bridge, which you can bundle with a ticket to Alcatraz Island.

While you’re in the area, we recommend a short walk to the Palace of Fine Arts, a decadent architectural theatre that transports you to another era (it was built for the 1915 world fair). Walk amongst the buildings and take photos overlooking the lagoon.

Finally, have a casual meal with views over the San Francisco Bay at Equator Coffees or the many eateries near Fisherman’s Wharf.

Day 2: Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz

Get out your walking shoes and warm clothing for another day of exploring the San Francisco waterfront. While you can do the bridge, Wharf, and Alcatraz in one day, that would be one long and tiring day, so we recommend dividing the visits across two days. Today you’ll visit Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, and Alcatraz Island.

Start your morning at Pier 39, where you can buy tickets for a harbor cruise, whale watching, or the Alcatraz prison island tour. Then, jump on a cable car for the ultimate San Francisco tourist photo (several stops near the Wharf).

The rest of the day, you can enjoy sampling chocolate at Ghirardelli Square, named after California’s famous chocolatier, eating clam chowder at the Wharf, or stopping by any of the city’s ubiquitous coffee shops (e.g., Philz, Blue Bottle, Sightglass, Ritual).

Day 3: Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley

After all that walking, it’s time to relax. The ideal day trip from San Francisco is in Napa Valley, only an hour away by car. You don’t need to rent a car as you can take public transportation north to the Napa Valley Wine Train. Select a wine tasting tour with the train and enjoy coasting through California’s rolling golden hills. We can’t think of a better way to enjoy the country’s best wine.

Tip: Much easier and a lot more comfortable than taking public transportation is booking a guided tour which includes Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. It’s hassle free, with excellent guides and an awesome experience. However, you are free to do it on your own of course.

Days 4-5: Los Angeles

Once you’ve seen San Francisco for a few days, it’s time to explore the laidback beaches of LA, the eccentric streets of Hollywood, and the insightful views of Griffith Observatory. We’ve outlined a two-day itinerary in our Los Angeles itinerary above. We recommend that you fly, not drive, to Los Angeles from San Francisco, as it’s only a one-hour trip.

 

7 Days in California | Detailed Itinerary

7 Days from Los Angeles

A week in Los Angeles is a perfect length of time to explore the city for three days, visit Disneyland, take a day trip to Palm Springs or Laguna Beach, and end your California stay with two days in San Francisco.

Transportation/Rental Car: You’ll need a rental car on Days 4-5 (Disneyland and other day trips). Otherwise, you can fly on Days 6-7 (San Francisco trip) and take public transportation or ride sharing on Days 1-3. However, you can use a rental car for the whole trip, of course, if it’s more convenient for you.

Days 1-2: Beaches, Hollywood, and Griffith Park

No visit to Los Angeles would be complete without visiting Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Hollywood. We also recommend Griffith Observatory in Griffith Park, which offers the city’s best views. We’ve outlined these visits above in our five-day LA itinerary. This seven-day itinerary includes a few additions, including a third day exploring the city.

Alternative Day1: Instead of Griffith Observatory or too much time in Hollywood itself, spend one day at Universal Studios.

Universal Studios are incredible. As if you are in a movie! Every ride is amazing. The best ones are: The Mummy, Jurassic Park, and Transformers. It is a really unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Tip: One day is enough but definitely choose the express ticket option. Otherwise, you have to wait in line for every ride and show.

Day 3: Echo Park and Downtown LA

If you’re more of an urbanite, we recommend visiting Echo Park and Downtown Los Angeles (“DTLA”). Start with a morning stroll around the charming Echo Lake. You can also rent a swan boat to paddle around in the water for half an hour. Pick up a coffee, then head a couple of miles away to DTLA.

DTLA has classic attractions like Grand Central Market, The Broad art museum, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Bradbury Building, Angels Flight Railway, Union Station, and Olvera Street. Most of these sites are free. And if you’re still in DTLA for the evening, have dinner with a view at one of the many rooftop bars (e.g., Broken Shaker, Upstairs at the Ace, Perch). Take a Metro train directly to a Downtown LA stop like Union Station for a complete urban adventure.

Day 4: Disneyland

Disneyland is an expensive but memorable Southern California day trip. We’ve listed more tips for your visit to Disneyland above, but the best suggestion is to get there as early as possible, ideally before opening time.

Day 5: Palm Springs or Laguna Beach

You’ll need a car to visit Palm Springs, the charming desert city located a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles. You may also consider Laguna Beach, one of the most beautiful beach towns in Southern California, which is approximately a one-hour drive south of LA.

In the winter, we recommend Palm Springs and Laguna in the summer. Both are small, artistic communities with many art galleries, lush palm trees, and excellent restaurants. In Palm Springs, we recommend taking the aerial tram up to Mt. San Jacinto for a couple of hours, where you can build snowmen in the winter. And in Laguna Beach, we recommend trying stand-up paddling or snorkeling in the peaceful coves.

Days 6-7: San Francisco

We’ve already written up a San Francisco itinerary that includes the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, Alcatraz Island, Ghirardelli Square, and cable cars. Remember to fly to San Francisco from Los Angeles with one-way tickets typically costing $50.

7 Days from San Francisco

A week in San Francisco will give you enough time to see the city for three days, visit Napa Valley, explore the coastal forest of Central California, and complete your California stay in Los Angeles.

  • Transportation/Rental Car: You don’t need a rental car for this itinerary. On days 4-5 (Los Angeles trip), you can fly and take public transportation or ride-sharing on Days 1-2. For Napa Valley, you can book a day tour. However, you can use a rental car for the whole trip, of course, if it’s more convenient for you.
Days 1-2: Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Alcatraz

You’d regret visiting San Francisco without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. In our five-day itinerary, we also recommended seeing the Palace of Fine Arts, taking a cable car, exploring Fisherman’s Wharf, and taking a tour of Alcatraz prison island. This seven-day itinerary includes a few additions, including another day in San Francisco, exploring Chinatown.

Day 3: Chinatown

Unlike other Chinatowns in the U.S., San Francisco’s Chinatown is distinctive for several reasons. First, it is the oldest Chinatown in North America. Second, it is the largest Chinese population outside Asia.

Start by visiting the Dragon’s Gate, then walk to Portsmouth Square, where you’ll see people playing mah-jong or practicing tai-chi. You’ll see many art murals and temples along the way. You’ll also walk by many Chinese shops and restaurants, such as the famous House of Nanking.

Day 4: Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley

With a limited time in the Bay Area, you should visit Napa Valley, only an hour away. We’ve written some tips for a day trip to Napa above in our five-day itinerary.

Tip: Book a tour that includes Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. It’s hassle free, with excellent guides and an awesome experience. However, you are free to do it on your own of course.

Day 5: Redwood Trees and Half Moon Bay

If you’ve already rented a car to see Napa Valley, keep it for today. Few things are as remarkable as the ancient Redwood forests of the Bay Area. You can see these trees almost everywhere. We particularly loved Big Basin Redwoods State Park, though this park was destroyed in the 2020 wildfires. So, we recommend somewhere less-visited for this day trip: the Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve.

Environmental activists created this nature preserve to protect the Redwood trees. Fortunately, this preserve is not crowded. Consider hiking part or all of this 4-mile North Ridge trail through a redwood grove overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Then, drive to Half Moon Bay, a sleepy tourist town on the beach. Best of all, you won’t go more than an hour each way to and from San Francisco.

Days 6-7: Los Angeles

Once you’ve seen the Bay Area for a few days, you can fly to Los Angeles and visit LA’s beaches and urban lights. We’ve outlined a few things to do in our seven-day LA itinerary above, and we recommend that you at least see the beaches, Hollywood, and Griffith Observatory.

 

10 Days in California | Detailed Itinerary

10 Days from Los Angeles

Suppose you’ve got ten days to see California and you’re starting in Los Angeles. In that case, you’ll need a car for most of it to visit Disneyland, Laguna Beach, San Diego, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park, the Big Sur, and then San Francisco.

This is a tight itinerary, but we’ve tried to keep your driving to less than five hours per day. What can we say? California is enormous! If you’d like to extend your time somewhere, we recommend staying in San Diego or Yosemite for an extra day. However, this itinerary will get you to see the best of the Golden State.

Transportation/Rental Car: You will need a rental car for most of this itinerary – Days 3-8 – with most of the drives no longer than four hours (one day requires a seven-hour drive). For Days 1-2 and Days 9-10, you can use local public transportation or ride-sharing.

Days 1-2: Beaches, Hollywood, Downtown LA, and Disneyland

To see California in 10 days means you’ll have to narrow your choices of day trips. Instead of spending three days in LA, you’ll need to spend one or two days seeing as much as you can: the beaches and city life. You’ll need at least one day for Disneyland. See our five-day and seven-day itineraries above for more information.

Alternative Day1: Instead of Griffith Observatory or too much time in Hollywood itself, spend one day at Universal Studios.

Universal Studios are incredible. As if you are in a movie! Every show and ride is amazing.

Tip: One day is enough but definitely choose the express ticket option. Otherwise, you have to wait in line for every ride and show

Day 3: Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is only a one-hour drive away if you’re staying in Los Angeles or near Disneyland. It’s charming no matter the season; in the winter, you’ll enjoy the warm sunshine, and in the summer, you’ll be grateful for the waves. You can stay close to the beach for an affordable rate, particularly on the southern side of the city.

Enjoy exploring the town, its many art galleries, coves, and restaurants. One of our favorites for dinner with an ocean view is Las Brisas (“The Breezes”). Rent a boogie board or take a stand-up paddleboarding class. If you’ve got a wetsuit, you can also snorkel or dive in the kelp-forest coves. Staying in Laguna will make the next day’s drive much more effortless.

Day 4: San Diego

San Diego is the sunny, laidback younger sister of Los Angeles and San Francisco. In other words, most tourists forget to visit San Diego unless they’re visiting one of the city’s two zoos or SeaWorld. However, San Diego is a fantastic city worthy of a separate vacation.

You can wander through Balboa Park, walk through Gaslamp Quarter, kayak or scuba dive in La Jolla, walk to Tijuana, Mexico, hike in Torrey Pines, and much more. And, of course, you can see San Diego Zoo or the San Diego Safari Park. We recommend staying in San Diego for at least one more if you have extra days.

San Diego is far away from everything in California, so get ready for a lot of driving on the fifth day. Better yet, get an early start by driving up to and staying in LA before your drive to the state’s National Parks.

Day 5: Sequoia National Park

It’s approximately a seven-hour drive to Sequoia from San Diego, so we recommend staying in Los Angeles the night before your drive and getting an early start today. It’s best to visit Sequoia during the warmer months, but it is always a charming forest full of some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world.

Must-see spots include General Grant Tree, The Giant Forest, Moro Rock, and Tunnel Log (a tree you can drive through). It’s a park full of wonder and rarely over-filled with tourists. You can camp there in the summer or stay in a lodge or cabin during colder months.

Day 6: Yosemite National Park

Ready for more driving? Getting to Yosemite will take you four hours from Sequoia (or more, if it’s the summer tourism season). No Californian enjoys visiting Yosemite (except during the delightfully uncrowded off-season) so if you’re suffering in two-hour lines to get into the park, do what the locals do: park outside and take the shuttle. Or plan to be there by 8:00 a.m., and you should avoid (most of) the crowds. Yes, it’s that bad.

Once you’re in the center of Yosemite National Park, you’ll see why it’s Wildnerness Disneyland. With towering granite cliffs like Half Dome, lush meadows, and crashing waterfalls, you’ll take photos everywhere. Again, we recommend visiting but prefer to do so during the off-season; October is often the perfect month, for example. However, you won’t find a campground unless you stay in the winter or book at least six months in advance. For Yosemite, we recommend staying in the town of El Portal, just outside the park entrance.

Day 7: Big Sur

From Yosemite, you’ll have another four-hour drive directly west across California to the Central Coast, easily the prettiest section of the state. Take snacks and water for you on this drive across dry, agricultural land. Once you’re closer to the coast, you’ll start to smell the ocean air and see many fruit and vegetable stands near the road, so stop and try the freshest produce in the country.

You will eventually begin driving Highway 1 south through Monterey and then Big Sur, a region between Carmel-by-the-Sea and San Simeon. Stop as often as you’d like to take photos of scenic bridges, ocean overlooks, and curving roads.

A one-way drive would only take you two hours without stopping, but it’s going to take much longer. We strongly recommend stopping to photograph McWay Falls, Bixby Creek Bridge, and Pfeiffer Beach.

We also suggest staying in the area. Monterey Bay is a clear choice for an overnight stop, but anywhere along the coast will be fine. Budget travelers may opt to stay in Salinas, only a few minutes inland.

Days 8-10: San Francisco

The last day of driving is only two and a half hours from Big Sur to San Francisco, where you can surrender your car and buy a Clipper card for public transportation. Enjoy two days in San Francisco, seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Island, cable cars, and more.

You’ll probably have driven into San Francisco, but it’s going to be easier to fly out of SFO, OAK, or SJC on your way home. In the meantime, enjoy our suggestions for San Francisco sightseeing in our five-day and seven-day itineraries above.

10 Days from San Francisco

If you’ve only got ten days to see California and you’re starting in San Francisco, we designed the suggested itinerary that includes San Francisco, Coastal Central California, Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, and Los Angeles.

Transportation/Rental Car: You will need a rental car for most of this itinerary – days 3-9 (you can visit Napa Valley via tour, so a car for days 4-9 would also be possible) – with most of the drives no longer than four hours. For Days 1-2 and Day 10, you can use local public transportation or ride-sharing.

If you’ve got extra time, we recommend staying in Lake Tahoe for another day. However, this itinerary will have you seeing most of California.

Days 1-2: Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Alcatraz

Because this 10-day itinerary includes more road trips in California, you’ll need to be more selective about your days in San Francisco. We recommend two full days of seeing must-see destinations, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Alcatraz.

Days 3-5: Redwood Trees, Big Sur, and Napa Valley/Sonoma Valley

Even on a 10-day schedule, we still recommend spending a day in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Big Sur, and Napa Valley. At the very least, spend a half-day in each.

First, we think that spending a day or half-day hiking amongst the Redwood trees of the Santa Cruz mountains – like Purisima Creek – is a must-do for anyone inspired by the nature of Northern California.

But the ultimate California destination is Big Sur, which we’ve covered above in the 10-day LA itinerary. Stay overnight near the coast, such as Monterey Bay, so you can spend the day leisurely driving this route.

Finally, we always recommend exploring Napa Valley. We’ve written tips for a Napa day trip in our five-day itinerary above. It’s only a one-hour drive from San Francisco, but if you’re planning to enjoy the country’s best wine, you’ll want to stay in the area. We also suggest staying in Napa on Day 5, so you will have a shorter drive to Lake Tahoe on Day 6.

Tip: Book a tour for visiting Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. It’s hassle free, with excellent guides and an awesome experience. However, you are free to do it on your own of course.

Day 6: Lake Tahoe

You may be thinking that no place is more beautiful than the Big Sur, but Lake Tahoe is one of the most stunning sights in California. Prepare to be amazed by the freshwater lake’s bright, clear, blue water and its surrounding alpine forests. You can hike, rock climb, bike, kayak, swim, and more in the summer.

In the winter, you’ll have unlimited play in the deepest snow in the state. We can’t understate how excellent Tahoe is. So, if you have a couple of extra days in your itinerary, please consider adding a day to your Tahoe trip.

If you’re in South Lake Tahoe, explore hikes in Emerald Bay State Park, as well as the ​​Cascade Falls Trail. All sides of the lake are excellent for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, and in the summer, the water is warm enough to swim in. The cities are also relaxing places to enjoy après-ski in the winter or by the beach in the summer.

From Napa, it’s only a three-hour drive to Lake Tahoe. Most visitors will go to South Lake Tahoe, located near the Nevada border. Indeed, this is the best overall city to explore Lake Tahoe, especially in the summer. However, if you’re visiting Lake Tahoe in the winter, we prefer Tahoe City, which has the most snowfall. Even in spring, the Tahoe City ski resorts are open longer.

Days 7-8: Yosemite

Driving to Yosemite National Park from Lake Tahoe can take four to five hours, so it’s best to start early in the day as Yosemite becomes busy with traffic almost immediately, particularly in the summer.

It is always best to visit California’s most-visited National Park in the off-season (fall and spring are excellent) but if you must travel here during the summer, enter the park by 8:00 a.m. You may also park outside and take the shuttle if you arrive later.

Yosemite is a dream destination for nearly everyone with mountains, meadows, waterfalls, and wildlife. You will not run out of things to see or do in the park, including swimming, hiking, and rock climbing.

Enjoy, but book your campsite at least six months in advance or plan to stay in a lodge in Yosemite Village or outside the park in El Portal.

Days 9-10: Los Angeles

Once you’ve explored some of Northern and Central California’s best forests and coastline, it’s time to wrap up your ten days in California with a visit to Los Angeles for its urban beaches and downtown lights. Yosemite will be a four- to five-hour drive to LA, so leave as early as possible in the morning to avoid traffic in both places.

We’ve outlined a few things to do in the seven-day LA itinerary. Popular destinations in LA include Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Echo Park, Downtown LA, Hollywood, and Griffith Observatory. With an extra day, you can also visit Disneyland. You can fly out of LAX in Los Angeles or SNA in Orange County (near Disneyland) on your way home.

14 Days in California | Detailed Itinerary

14 Days from Los Angeles

You may think that two weeks is enough time to see all of California, and we’d love to tell you that you’re right, but truthfully, this state is so large that while you’re seeing some of the must-see spots, you’ll need more time to enjoy the many National Parks and cities of this tremendous place. Still, if you’re starting a 14-day visit in Los Angeles, we’ve got you covered.

Transportation/Rental Car: You’ll need a car (and one ferry) to get to Disneyland, Laguna Beach, San Diego, Catalina Island, Death Valley National Park, Sequoia National Park, Yosemite National Park, the Big Sur, and then San Francisco.

Again, if you’d like to extend your time somewhere, we recommend one more day in San Diego or Yosemite.

Days 1-3: Beaches, Hollywood, Downtown LA, Disneyland

Since you’re trying to see more of California in two weeks, we recommend a more condensed stay in Los Angeles. See Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Hollywood. We also recommend Griffith Park and Downtown LA, but if you want to see more of California, you’ll need to pick your locations carefully.

For instance, most first-time visitors will want to spend a day in Disneyland, leaving you only one day to see LA’s beaches and city life. We’ve included a third day to explore Los Angeles or Disneyland, but if you’d prefer to spend your time in San Diego, that’s another excellent choice for an extra day.

Days 4-5: Laguna Beach and San Diego

Explore two counties with Laguna Beach (Orange County) and San Diego (San Diego County). If you’ve got only two days for this section of the trip, we recommend a half-day in Laguna and at least one and a half days in San Diego.

You can stop by San Clemente, another charming beachside town along the Pacific Ocean if you’re driving. See our 10-day itinerary above for more information and tips on Laguna and San Diego travel.

Day 6: Newport Beach and Catalina Island

Even Californians escape their piece of paradise, and if they’re not flying to Hawaii, they take a day trip to Catalina Island. You’ll need to drive north to Newport Beach, where you’ll park by 8:00 a.m. for the first boat to Catalina. Buy a roundtrip ferry ticket from Newport Beach (Catalina Flyer is one affordable option, around $70 roundtrip), and make sure you leave San Diego early that morning.

Catalina offers you the chance to see wildlife like native foxes, roaming bison, and underwater fish (snorkeling, diving, or just a glass-bottom boat ride). You can even take a zipline ride. And if you prefer relaxing the day away, stroll down the beachfront to the casino, come back, buy some ice cream, and catch a ferry back to the mainland. This unique experience is uniquely Californian, so enjoy being a fellow tourist with locals.

Then, get ready for several days of long driving. After all, a road trip is also a typical Californian experience.

Day 6: Death Valley National Park

Even though it sounds intimidating, we love Death Valley National Park and recommend it to anyone who wants an off-the-beaten-path experience of California. Note: if you’re traveling to California between May and September, traveling here is uncomfortably hot, so we recommend staying another day in a coastal town like San Clemente, Newport, or San Diego.

If you’re traveling to California between October and April, though, Death Valley is a strongly-recommended site. See Zabriskie Point, Badwater Basin, the dunes, the painted rocks of Artists Drive, and – if you have time – Ubehebe Crater.

Driving to Death Valley is very long – over four hours from Newport Beach – so we wouldn’t recommend it lightly. It’s worth it. Stay in the Furnace Creek area at the inn, ranch, or campground when you’re there. You’ll have a long day of driving the next day too, so we recommend staying in Death Valley for a second day if you have extra time. Just be sure to fill up your tank before you enter the park – many people run out of gas here.

Extra days? See Las Vegas, Nevada, only two hours away by car.

Day 7: Sequoia National Park

As usual, even with the long drive, we recommend seeing some of the world’s tallest, oldest trees because it is an essential Californian experience to drive through Tunnel Log or stand next to General Grant Tree. See our travel tips on Day 5 of our 10-day LA itinerary.

Day 8: Yosemite National Park

We love Yosemite National Park, the pride of California’s nine National Parks. We always recommend it for visitors. However, we prefer to see it off-season (fall, winter, and early spring are good, if cold). If you visit Yosemite during the summer, please take the shuttle and enjoy exploring the park inside. Bring a swimsuit for a splash in Merced River! You’ll have another day of driving north tomorrow.

Day 9: Big Sur

Big Sur is absolutely a must-see, so please see our 10-day itinerary for more tips on where to go. You’ll need to drive four hours from Yosemite to Big Sur and drive some more because Big Sur is a road, not a destination. But trust us; it’s worth it. At least the next day’s drive (two and a half hours to San Francisco) is less time-consuming.

Days 10-12: San Francisco

We love San Francisco as much as we love Los Angeles, which is why we always recommend that if you start at one city, you should end at the other. And now that you’re in San Francisco, you’ve completed your trip to the Golden State.

14 Days from San Francisco

With two weeks to see California starting in San Francisco, the following suggested itinerary includes a bit of everything: San Francisco, Coastal Central California, Napa Valley, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Los Angeles, and Disneyland.

Transportation/Rental Car: You’ll need a rental car for Days 3-12, but we’ve made sure that none of the drives are longer than four hours. For Days 1-2 and Days 13-14, local transportation will do.

If you have extra time, see the Los Angeles itineraries for ideas on what to see there, like Laguna Beach, San Diego, and more.

Days 1-2: Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Alcatraz

This two-week itinerary is full of days of driving, so enjoy two car-free days exploring San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Alcatraz.

Days 3-4: Redwood Trees and Big Sur

We recommend a day in the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Big Sur, even with two weeks’ travel time. Start with a day or half-day walking in the Santa Cruz mountains’ lush forests, then spend a day driving along Big Sur. Stay overnight in Monterey Bay.

Day 5: Monterey Bay, Monarch Butterflies, and Santa Cruz

Monterey Bay is the jewel of the Central Coast, and its top attraction is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is often rated the top aquarium in the U.S. ($49 tickets for adults). It is a unique, nonprofit aquarium built into the ocean, so you have views of a natural kelp forest.

Take at least two hours for this aquarium. It is also centrally located in Cannery Row, a waterfront district of hotels, restaurants, and ocean views. You can walk or bike down the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail for even more views or take the 17-Mile Drive.

You’ll also want to take a trip to a couple of nearby spots. If you’re visiting between November and February, visit the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary, 10 minutes away in Pacific Grove. There is no admission fee. Here, you can see thousands of monarch butterflies fluttering in the trees as they winter in the warmer southern air.

Head north one hour to Santa Cruz to explore the Beach Boardwalk and other tourist attractions. Walk along the boardwalk, have dinner on the pier, and if time allows, take a train ride through the forest in Roaring Camp Railroads. Stay overnight in Santa Cruz.

Day 6: Napa Valley

It’ll be a two-hour drive from Santa Cruz to Napa Valley, and we recommend that any trip to Northern California includes a day enjoying the wine region. We’ve written tips for a Napa day trip in our five-day San Francisco itinerary. We suggest staying in Napa.

Day 7: Sacramento

From Napa Valley, you’ll drive an hour to Sacramento, California’s historic, relaxed state capital. It’s ideal for history fans. See the California State Capitol building, stroll through Old Sacramento, and explore many museums such as the California State Railroad Museum. If it’s the summer, it’ll be hot, and you’ll want to enjoy a swim in the river at Tiscornia Park or a boating excursion at the Sacramento State Aquatic Center. In the evening, enjoy a night out in Midtown.

Days 8-9: Lake Tahoe

We adore Lake Tahoe, the bright blue freshwater lake nestled among a thick forest. And it’s only two hours from Sacramento. Even with the recent fire damage, we can’t imagine a prettier place in California. You can ski, hike, rock climb, bike, kayak, and more here. Enjoy the vacation spot of many San Franciscans. See our 10-day San Francisco itinerary above for tips on what to do.

Day 10: Yosemite

It’s a four-hour drive or longer from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite National Park, so start your drive early, planning to arrive at the park gates by 8:00 a.m. or earlier in the summer. Yosemite is so lovely we’ve included it as a must-see in both our San Francisco and Los Angeles itineraries. Enjoy, but if you’re planning to camp or stay in an RV, book your campsite at least six months in advance. You can also stay overnight in El Portal, just outside the park.

Day 11: Sequoia

From Yosemite, it’s approximately a three-hour drive to Sequoia National Park, so again we recommend an early start. However, Sequoia is less visited than Yosemite, particularly off-season (fall and spring are ideal). Stop at sights include General Grant Tree, The Giant Forest, Moro Rock, and Tunnel Log. Camp at one of the multiple campgrounds or stay in a lodge or cabin.

Days 12-14: Los Angeles and Disneyland

After days of nature, it’s time for some urban adventures. The ideal way to end this California trip is by exploring Los Angeles’ beaches and downtown, as well as spending a day in Disneyland. Driving to LA from Sequoia can be a 3.5-hour drive.

There are many things to do in LA, which we listed in our seven-day itinerary: Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Echo Park, Downtown LA, Hollywood, Griffith Observatory, and more. You can also visit Disneyland, which requires an entire day. Fly out of LAX in Los Angeles or SNA in Orange County (near Disneyland) on your way home.