Driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles has been something we have looked forward to since moving to SF. Having the Big Sur and LA practically on our doorstep is very exciting.
Here is our itinerary and guide from this long weekend road trip:
We started the day early at 6am driving to Santa Cruz, arriving an hour and half later in perfect time for coffee/tea at Verve. I had made my Chia Seed Pots for breakie, which we had sitting outside with our drinks.
We drove south along Route 1 to Monterey and Carmel. Here you have a number of choices from a walk/hike at Point Lobos to a scenic 17-mile drive. We stopped at Carmel for a short stroll along the white sand beach and the cute high street.
We continued on Route 1, crossing the famous Bixby Bridge for the Big Sur. This drive was stunning, and driving from San Francisco to LA is the best side of the road as you hug the coast and can pull in easily when ever you want.
Lunch was at the idyllic Big Sur Bakery, where it is best to make a reservation. We sat outside in the beautiful garden with cactus all around and a lovely canopy overhead protecting you from the sunshine. There were vegan and gluten-free options, and I had delicious sea bass with roasted green beans. Oh, and I almost forgot, I had the most amazing chai latte.
Back on the road, we continued in the beautiful scenery with many stops to take it in. A must-see along the road, which is well signed, are the elephant sea lions at Piedras Blancas. There is something very special about being so close to animals in their natural habitat. Nearby in the hills is the Hearst Castle, a popular site, which we didn’t visit, but saw from the road.
The next part of the drive is not quite as picturesque as you start moving inland. Our next stop was Santa Barbara, where we headed straight to the Super Rica Tacqueria (also mentioned in Katie Perry song). It has a family feel with delightful staff from all generations. Everything is made form scratch, unfortunately, not so good for me as I can’t eat corn, but you will find something on the menu. It’s a unique little place, but more for meat eating Mexican food lovers.
Malibu was our first port of call, just a short drive from Santa Barbara. I was super-excited to check out Malibu Farm Cafe on the pier after reading some excellent reviews. It is a very popular spot, so if you’re going for breakfast the earlier the better, as the queue builds up.
The cafe has a great system to deal with crowds: queue to order, take your order number, find a table and the food is brought to you. You can sit inside, which is charmingly designed, or outside on the deck, in the sun overlooking the water, total bliss.
I had the quinoa coconut milk porridge, which was amazing; it was beautifully presented and so nourishing and scrummy.
Lunch is served every day and dinner Wednesday to Sunday. The bar opens at 11am serving vegan soft serve ice cream and amazing smoothies.
After breakfast we were LA bound. Now I feel so much sympathy for people who live in LA, as the traffic really is a pain. I had so many places I wanted to try but the congestion limited us, although we still found a fair few. We parked near Moon Juice and I couldn’t decide what to have as there were so many yummy sounding juices, smoothies, bars, treats, pots. I wanted everything; luckily I was with my mum who was happy to share things with me. We had a green smoothie that was so creamy and tummy yummy, a carrot, coconut and lime juice that was total perfection, and perfect to refresh you on a hot day. Finally, we had a delicious strawberry rose geranium bar, a perfect snack while we walked to Venice Beach.
So Venice Beach, I guess you have to visit it, but it’s a bit touristy and tacky. After seeing the muscles at muscle beach we walked to Abbot Kinney Blvd, which turned out to be my favourite area of LA. This street is packed with amazing shops, cafes and restaurants. Plan to spend at least an afternoon just mooching.
We had lunch at Kreation, which is highly recommended. The menu is friendly to all eaters; there are vegan and gluten-free options, but also meat. Its nice to find somewhere we can all eat different things. In the takeaway section there is a wide range of amazing vegan, gluten-free items and incredible juices, so be sure to check these out. Kreation have a few different locations dotted around.
Other places on this street that looked awesome:
Toms store has a wicked cafe and open area out the back.
Van Leeuwan Ice Cream truck serving vegan ice cream, which I didn’t try because it was cashew based.
Juice Box truck serving yummy juices.
The highlight of the day was Kippy’s ice cream. This was a short drive away and we could have walked, but its LA, you drive everywhere. Kippy’s is vegan, coconut-based ice cream, in a range of flavours. It is rare to find this ice cream, with such a huge selection. Being able to try lots of the flavours was a blissful experience
We stayed with friends in LA where we had a delicious dinner and breakfast. The next day we embarked upon our touristy drive around the Hollywood sites, starting at Alfred’s coffee, Brentwood, on route to Beverly Hills. There is free valet parking here for 20 minutes.
Beverly Hills was fun locating the fabulous houses, taking no particular route and going where we fancied.
A short drive along Sunset Blvd takes you to the touristy and sometimes tacky Hollywood Blvd and the Stars on the pavement. Starting at the Dolby Theater (known before as Kodak Theater − where the Oscars are) you can buy an ice cream from Grom to keep you company as you walk. The Hollywood Sign can be seen from the back of the Mall next to the Dolby.
For lunch, we drove to an area called Larchmont, not far from Hollywood Blvd, to Café Gratitude. I have been to the branch in SF/Berkley, but the LA branch has a different menu so I was keen to try it out. Café Gratitude is also in Venice Beach opposite Moon Juice. It is a vegan café with many gluten-free items. The menu is full of delicious things; we started with the ‘Comforted’ (roasted yams, and a few shared a few dishes) followed by ‘Mucho’ (the Mexican bowl), ‘Fabulous’ (raw lasagna), and ‘Happy’ (a raw Mediterranean wrap). The raw lasagna was a bit of a let down, but the rest was scrumptious.
From here it was dessert time. A 10-minute walk away is the best gluten free, vegan bakery, ignore that it’s gluten free and vegan, Erin McKenna’s Bakery is the best bakery in general. I had visited it in New York and was in heaven, and when we planned our LA trip I knew a visit to her LA branch was a must do. We shared a cookie sandwich, a Samoa donut (the best flavoured donut), a slice of blueberry crumble cake and a Boston crème pie. All were spectacular; with the cookie and donut being my favourites. Erin Mckenna, your bakery is amazing, thank you!
Late afternoon we drove back to San Francisco taking the quicker roads via Interstate 5. We thought it would be a tedious journey, but it was beautiful, driving through the valleys, hills and vast open plains.
Later in the year we will be visiting south LA so I will have more on the city then.