California: 10 Day itinerary

Last year, for our birthdays, my boyfriend & I traveled through California for 10 days. Our birthdays are in July, which is prime travel season. Mine is July 24th his is July 25th. Crazy right?

Originally we planned to hit Yosemite at the beginning of our trip but, turns out it was on fire, so I had to make some major adjustments & we ended up heading to Lake Tahoe. This is a complete breakdown of price, hotels, actives & time! Please keep in mind that a lot of this schedule is based off of the best photo opps times along with sunrise & sunset at this time of year.


I met my boo in Indiana, where he was living at the time & we flew out together. Our tickets at the time were around $350 each for round trip.

Day 1- July 19th. Traveling

6pm- Arrive @ IND 

8:15pm- Depart for Vegas 

12:12am- Arrive at McCarran International 

12:30am- Arrive at Fox Rent-a-car (total for car was $299.63)

1:12am- Depart for Tonopah Best Western Hi-desert inn (Hotel $149 for 1 night)

5:00am-Arrive @ Best Western 

S   L  E   E  P  zzzzzzZzzzzZzzzzz

We choose to fly into & rent a car in Vegas because the flights were cheaper & the car rental (even with a different drop off location) were cheaper. We ended up getting a free upgrade bc they were out of what we booked. I ALWAYS use Rentalcars.com to book cars.

Day 2- July 20th. Bristlecone Pine Forrest

11:00am- wake up

12:00pm- head to Bristlecone Pine Forrest 

4::30pm- arrive @ Bristlecone Pine Forrest (no entry fee)

6:00pm- head to Hotel Becket ($220.36)

10:00pm- arrive @ Hotel Becket

So we ended up only seeing Bristlecone Pine Forrest bc of over sleeping, flooding & some traffic, along with some minor GPS issues. Bristlecone Pine Forrest is home to some of the oldest recorded living things on earth. A millennium older than the Giant Sequoia trees in the nearby Sierra, many are well over 2,000 years old and the “Methuselah” tree in Schulman Grove is dated at more than 4,773 years old. These trees were young and growing at the time stone axes were being used in Europe, the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) was being built, and cuneiform clay tablets were being used in northern Syria.

Schulman Grove was a 2 hour hike from the Visitors Center, which we weren’t prepared for. So no, we did not see the ancient bristlecone pine, but we did explore the forrest a bit before heading out to our hotel.

 
Bristlecone Pine Forrest- California- The Chaos Collective
Bristlecone Pine Forrest-  California- The Chaos Collective
 


Day 3-July 21st. Lake Tahoe

9:00am-wake up

*Breakfast at the hotel*

10:00am- leave for Sand Harbor Beach 

10:30am- arrive @ Sand Harbor Beach 

6:00pm- leave for The Pickwick Hotel in San Fran ($869.69 for 3 nights)

9:30pm- arrive at The Pickwick Hotel

Sand Harbor beach is literally the most popular area of Incline Village at Lake Tahoe. Most parking lots are full by 8am. We had to drive into town & park at a school to catch a shuttle. The shuttles only take exact cash ($11 for 2 people round trip) so we missed the first one while we ran to 7-11 to break a $20. The shuttle getting to sand harbor was jam packed with as many people as possible & suffocatingly hot, so be prepared.

Once we got there, we had to find a spot to hang out. We didn’t have beach towels, or chairs. Just our backpacks. We hung out on these big ass rocks allll day. Also, I had a fun little panic attack in the middle of this Alpine lake trying to swim to a rock that wasn’t that far away, I’m just really out of shape & terrified of unknown water. (It’s a thing, look it up). Also, I didn’t put sunscreen on often enough so I got a nice burn. Protect your skin friends, don’t be like me.

Day 4- July 22nd. San Fransisco

9:30am- Wake Up

11:00am- Walk to Dotties True Blue Cafe

11:10am-Arrive @ Dotties

1:30pm- Walk to Mission Thrift 

2:00pm- Arrive @ Mission Thrift 

2:30pm-Walk to Haight-Ashbury

2:50pm-Arrive @ Haight-Ashbury

*Explore Haight-Ashbury & View the Painted Ladies in Alamo Square*

6:00pm-Leave for Bernal Heights

6:10pm-Arrive @ Bernal Heights

10:00pm Head back to Hotel

10:20pm- Arrive @ Hotel

Can I just tell you how much of a super hero I think I am? I literally thought walking ALLLLL around San Fran would be easy. It was a nightmare. It was basically hiking. My bae is a total food snob & said Dotties was one of the best places he’s eaten. I have to agree. When we arrived there was a line out the door. We ended up waiting about 40 mins for a table, but it was totally worth it. We did make it to Mission Thrift, it was stiflingly hot in there & not all its cracked up to be.

On to walking from Mission Thrift to Alamo Square. This walk actually takes you through the Haight-Ashbury area. We didn’t stop anywhere really, but the area is quite artsy & cute. After finally climbing 5787349 hills we made it to the Painted Ladies, the lawn was littered with people taking in the sun & tourist taking photos. We did our time there & then (smartly) Ubered our way over to my friend Rachel’s neck of the woods. She took us up to a “secret swing” that overlooks the city & makes for some incredible photos. We then followed her back down this hill & into the Bernal Heights neighborhood for some delicious Italian food. We ended our night at a cute dive bar 2 blocks down.

SN: Everything in San Fran is hella expensive, just look what 3 nights in a hotel cost us. Also, the parking at that hotel was $136 for our stay there. I will say as old as our hotel was, it was nice. It was refreshing being able to open the windows & fall asleep to the sounds of the city. The weather in July is a high of 69-72 degrees.

 
Bernal Heights- San Fransisco California- The Chaos Collective
Bernal Heights- San Fransisco California- The Chaos Collective
Painted Ladies- San Fransisco California- The Chaos Collective
 

Day 5- July 23rd. San Fransisco.

8:30am-Wake Up

9:30am- Walk to Bowl’D 

9:40am- Arrive @ Bowl’D

10:10am- Walk to Mr. Holmes Bakery 

10:35pm-Arrive @ Mr. Holmes Bakery

11:00am-Leave for Fishermans Warf (über)

10:15am--Arrive @ Fishermans Warf

*Explore the Warf*

12:00pm- Lunch @ Boudin Bakery

1:30pm- Walk to Pier 39 & Carosel

2:00pm- Leave for Hotel (uber)

2:15pm-Arrive @ Hotel

   *Change Clothes & Nap*

3:30-Leave for Golden Gate Overlook (Car)

4:00pm-Arrive @ Golden Gate Overlook

5:00pm- Leave for Kirby Cove (in Sausalito)

5:15pm- Arrive

6:30pm-Leave Sausalito head to China Beach

8:30pm- Leave China Beach

9:15pm-Arrive @ Hotel

Success! We managed to do everything on this list! Let me start by telling you, Boudin Bakery was another place bae was impressed by for food, so it’s highly recommended. We met up with my favorite local tour guide & friend, Rachel & headed out to the Golden Gate. The overlook at the Golden Gate was jam packed but, from up there you can see a little pier type area with running trails below. We quickly decided to leave the scene of tourism & head down there, this is where we got the most amazing photos & we had the area all to ourselves.

Sausalito is a cute little down with a delicious fish & chips restaurant that was super busy but worth the wait. We never found the area of Kirby Cove I was looking for but the drive up & down the hill with different pull offs for photos was worth it. Rachel recommended China Beach so we headed out there & ended up having a beautiful empty beach for sunset.

 
Golden Gate Bridge- San Fransisco California- The Chaos Collective
China Beach- San Fransisco California- The Chaos Collective
Golden Gate Bridge- San Fransisco California- The Chaos Collective
 
Golden Gate Bridge- San Fransisco California- The Chaos Collective

Day 6- July 24th. My Birthday

9:30am- Wake Up

10:30am-Leave for Half Moon Bay

11:30am-Arrive @ Half Moon Bay

  *Lunch @ Sam’s Chowder House*

12:30pm-Photos at Half Moon Bay

1:00pm- Leave for Shark Fin Cove

1:45pm-Arrive @ Shark Fin Cove

2:45pm-Leave for Hotel Paradox ($293.42 1 night)

3:00pm-Arrive @ Hotel

4:00pm-Drive to Santa Cruz Boardwalk

4:15pm-Arrive @ Boardwalk

7:45pm- Photos & Sunset @ Boardwalk

8:45pm-Drive to Rosie McCanns 

9:00pm-Arrive @ Rosie McCanns

   *Drinks & Dinner*

11:00pm-Drive back to Hotel

11:15pm Arrive @ Hotel

This day was definitely jam packed with adventure. First things first, bae did not like what he ordered at Sam’s Chowder House. I got a lobster roll & it was fucking delicious. This place was packed & comes highly recommended online so be prepared, we didn’t have to wait..happy birthday to me! This restaurant also happens to over look Half Moon Bay, so it has some seriously beautiful views. Half Moon Bay was cool, but probably better seen from above. Shark Fin Cove was one of my favorite stops, you do have to take a pretty steep & narrow hike up & down to get to the actual beach but, it’s worth it. It’s always worth it.

SN: Please take your trash & belongings. When we got to the bottom of the hill, onto the beach there was a literal mound of trash and shit people were to fucking lazy to carry back up with them. Chairs, coolers, you name it. Don’t be an ass hole to our planet guys.

As expected there were tons of people at the Santa Cruz boardwalk, this place is alive with color & fun! While we were doing our best to get photos in front of the boardwalk sign with as little people as possible, a group of students from China were leaving & one stopped to ask for a photo with me, then they all wanted a photo with me. lol. The guide with them explained that they don’t see people who look like me often where they are from & I was totally cool with all of it. Our last stop at Rosie McCanns was awesome, had a totally chill vibe & delicious apps to snack on while we unwinded from the day.

 
Half Moon Bay- California-The Chaos Collective
 
Santa Cruz Boardwalk- Santa Cruz California-The Chaos Collective
Santa Cruz Boardwalk- Santa Cruz California-The Chaos Collective
 
Shark Fin Cove- Highway 1 California-The Chaos Collective
 

Day 7- July 25th. Baes Birthday.

9:30am- Wake Up

10:30am-Leave for Capitola 

10:45am-Arrive @ Capitola 

11:15pm-Leave for Point Lobos (China Grove)

*Stop at In-N-Out for Lunch*

12:00pm- Arrive @ Point Lobos

1:00pm-Leave for Bixby Creek Bridge

1:15pm- Arrive @ Bixby Creek Bridge 

2:00pm-Head to Pfieffer Beach State Park

2:30pm- Arrive @ Pfieffer Beach State Park

3:30pm-Drive to McWay Falls

4:00pm- Arrive @ McWay Falls

4:45pm- Leave for Morro Bay

8:00pm-Arrive @  Inn at Morro Bay ($193.40 1 night)

Capitola is a cute little beach town next door to Santa Cruz. It has fun colorful buildings, but just happened to be covered in fog the morning we went so our photo opps were shot. The fog was just starting to lift when we got to China Grove but it was still overcast, that didn’t take away from the scenery though!

Bixby Creek Bridge was high on my list & did not disappoint & the sun came out to greet us when we got there! Bae’s favorite thing for his birthday were the redwoods at Pfieffer Beach State Park. He likes to be one with nature & I have to admit they were beautiful. McWay Falls was literally #1 on my list for Big Sur. This isn’t a beach you can access, but to see it in person is simply stunning.

SN: Morro Bay is basically an old folks town, everything closes at 8pm. I didn’t know this. So we ended up spending Bae’s birthday evening in our hotel room with pizza & beer. However, our hotel came with a full size fan & I was stoked on that. It’s the little things.

Pfiffer Beach State Park-Big Sur California-The Chaos Collective
Highway 1-Big Sur California-The Chaos Collective
McWay Falls-Big Sur California-The Chaos Collective
McWay Falls-Big Sur California-The Chaos Collective
Bixby Creek Bridge-Big Sur California-The Chaos Collective
Point Lobos- Big Sur California - The Chaos Collective

Day 8- July 26th. Malibu.

9:30am-Wake Up

11:00am-Leave for Frankie & Lolas 

11:10am-Arrive @ Frankie & Lolas

12:10pm-Leave for Morro Rock

12:20pm- Arrive @ Morro Rock

Santa Maria Glass Beach 

1:00pm-Leave for Pismo Beach

1:45pm Arrive @ Pismo Beach

2:30pm-Leave for Lompoc

3:30pm-Arrive in Lompoc

*Stop in Santa Barbara to stretch our legs*

4:30pm-Leave for Flower Fields

5:30pm-Leave for Malibu

8:00pm-Arrive @ Canoga Hotel in Malibu ($304.59 2 nights)

8:30pm- Head to Santa Monica Pier

Ok this whole day was fucked. We basically drove around all day. For one thing, the fog was so thick & it was so overcast that Morro Rock was invisible. Secondly, the Pismo Beach staircase to nowhere we were looking for, we found but was torn down in 2016. Clearly the place I got my info doens’t update their blogs. Also, Lompoc had ZEROOOOO flower fields. We drove all around the fields with not one in site. Apparently, according to the info that bae found, they move the flowers every year to a different section of the fields. Where, remains a mystery.

Santa Monica Pier is a neon sign dream. We spent hours there taking photos & people watching. Also, it’s home to the end of route 66 where bae almost knocked over the sign. lol.

End of Route 66-Santa Monica California-The Chaos Collective
Santa Monica Pier-Santa Monica California-The Chaos Collective
End of Route 66-Santa Monica California-The Chaos Collective


Day 9- July 27th. Malibu.

9:30am- Wake Up

10:30am-Leave for Malibu

11:00am- Arrive @ Malibu Farms

12:00pm- Head to El Matador Beach

12:07pm- Arrive @ El Matador Beach

12:07pm- Beach Hopping & Photos

7:00pm-Sunset Photos 

 *Sunset at 8:20pm*

So this was our one full day in Malibu & it was fun to just beach hop. I will tell you bae did NOT like Malibu Farms. He ate his burger then immediately walked across the street to Jack in the Box. I thought it was good, a bit pricey but still good.

El MATADOR BEACH IS THE BEST BEACH IN MALIBU!!! The sea caves are so beautiful & this is where we choose to spend sunset as well. There were definitely gangs of photographers & models doing the exact same thing.

 
EL Matador Beach-Malibu California-The Chaos Collective
EL Matador Beach-Malibu California-The Chaos Collective
 
 
EL Matador Beach-Malibu California-The Chaos Collective
EL Matador Beach-Malibu California-The Chaos Collective
 

Day 10- July 28th Venice Beach.

10:00am- Wake Up

11:00am-Leave for Venice Beach.

11:35am- Arrive @ Venice Beach

1:30pm- Lunch @ Surfside

2:30pm- Head to The Promenade

4:30- Leave for car return

This was a pretty light day. Venice Beach is kind of like any other board walk with more weirdos & a rainbow lifeguard stand. Surfside was good, & bae gave it a thumbs up! The Promenade is cool to just walk around & kill some time, because trust me girl there was no space in my luggage for anything extra!

 
Rainbow lifeguard tower-Venice Beach California-The Chaos Collective
Venice Beach California- The Chaos Collective
 

Overall our California trip was a success & there are a few things that we did that didn't make it onto this schedule because believe it or not, this is the schedule I made BEFORE we left. Can you tell I’m super Type-A?

Have you been to California or planning a trip soon? Tell me about it in the comments!

 
10 day California blog-The Chaos Collective
 

California: 10 Day itinerary - The Chaos Collective