||Outbound international flight to San Diego.
Stay: The US Grant (2 nights)
Taking a half-day guided tour of this Californian city will mean you get to see everything – but we particularly recommend visiting the Gaslamp Quarter: 16 blocks peppered with Victorian-style buildings that now house a variety of shops, galleries and trendy restaurants, as well as some of San Diego’s most popular nightlife venues.
||San Diego to Los Angeles
Drive Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes | Distance: 135 miles
Heading north to LALA Land, take a side visit to beautiful La Jolla, where classy shopping and sidewalk cafés abound; or if you’re taking the scenic route via Highway One, the California surf capital of Huntington Beach.
Stay: Montage Beverly Hills (3 nights)
Start your day in legendary Beverly Hills, where cars with tinted windows pull up to Chanel and the other super-luxe boutiques dotted along Rodeo Drive. In the afternoon continue east to Hollywood for a stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a visit to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (though its official, less-memorable name is now the TCL Chinese Theatre).
No trip to LA is complete without a trip to Anaheim to visit the original Disneyland or Universal Studios Hollywood. If you only have time for one though, Universal Studios with its movie-themed rides and back-lot tours is definitely the one we’d pick.
||Los Angeles to Santa Monica
Drive Time: 30 minutes | Distance: 9 miles
Today it’s just a short drive to Santa Monica, with its wide, uncrowded beach, signature pier topped with carnival rides and restaurants, and outstanding shopping at Third Street Promenade and fancy Santa Monica Place shopping centre (also great for rooftop dining with its views over the city and ocean).
Stay: Shutters on the Beach (2 nights)
||Santa Monica to Santa Barbara
Drive Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes | Distance: 84 miles
Heading north, you’ll drive through Malibu and journey on to one of California’s prettiest cities, the super-romantic Santa Barbara.
Stay: San Ysidro Ranch (2 nights)
Take it from the movie stars who sneak away to Santa Barbara all the time – or just straight-up move there. Oprah, Brad, Ellen and many more A-listers have estates here – mainly down to the legendary Old World beauty that more than befits the city’s nickname, ‘The American Riviera’.
||Santa Barbara to Paso Robles
Drive Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes | Distance: 127 miles
Travelling from Santa Barbara to Paso Robles you can be assured that the scenery is simply stunning. The winery-lined backroads are a dream to drive, and if you’re taking the scenic route via Highway 1, stop at Jack Creek Farms on Highway 46, just 12 miles from Paso Robles, for an apple cider slush.
Stay: Hotel Cheval (2 nights)
With over 170 wineries and 40 varieties of wine, Paso Robles is still relatively unknown – even to the locals. In fact, we’d say it’s how Napa used to be: charming and unpretentious, but as California’s fastest-growing wine region, it’s likely to be like Napa in 10 years or so, so to see it at its best, be sure to see it soon.
||Paso Robles to Carmel
Drive Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes | Distance: 116 miles
This drive is mainly over farmland, with little in the way of scenery, so we suggest leaving mid-morning, meaning you’ll arrive just in time for a long, languid lunch in the beautiful coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Stay: Carmel Valley Ranch (2 nights)
Artsy Carmel-by-the-Sea (locals just call it Carmel) is a town that deftly straddles the balance point of rich history and new wealth. The Carmel Mission is one of the State’s most beautiful, and shady trails fan out from the site into the lush Mission Trail Nature Preserve. Stroll the white sands of Carmel Beach, or explore a mosaic of meadows, wave-battered bluffs, and wind-twisted trees at nearby Point Lobos State Reserve.
||Carmel to San Francisco
Drive Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
| Distance: 140 miles
Take a detour on your way to San Francisco and visit Santa Cruz – an ultra-mellow beach town with a decidedly split personality - both of which are very cool. First, there’s the family fun of the boardwalk – a yesteryear-style esplanade lined with classic coasters, arcade games, corn dogs and a historic carousel. Then there’s downtown Santa Cruz, where local college students browse for vintage and boho chic goodies, and relaxed restaurants focus on organic, local ingredients.
Fairmont San Francisco (3 nights)
End your trip in one of the world’s great cities. For a novel way to visit “the City by the Bay” park your car and explore by foot, bike, and the unique public transportation. Pedal bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, explore the lush Presidio, or head into Golden Gate Park to visit museums and row across a secret gem, Stow Lake. Continue along the flat Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf and the Exploratorium science and learning museum.
||Depart San Francisco on your international flight back to London Heathrow Airport.
16 nights from £4,750 per person, including flights & car hire