California/trip to CA


Hey Steve, just read your answer to another question asked of you and thought I would give it a go.  We are coming to Anaheim in July for a conference and are spending several days in southern California.  We have 4 kids ranging from 16 to 6 and are staying with an Uncle in Long Beach, but are wanting to rent a van (or an RV, thoughts?) for a week and see your beautiful countryside.  We don't want to spend all of our time in the car, but want to do things that are off the beaten path - you know, jump off a cliff into the ocean, hike up some beautiful trails, camp on a beach one night (can you do that anywhere?)  WE definitely are going to go to the SD Zoo, so we will be heading down there for a day or two. Not a huge fan of going to Disney, we've been in FL, way too expensive if you ask me.  Would love to drive up PC HWY for the beauty, what beaches would you suggest?  Or any other national parks or neat findings that not everyone goes to.  Please advise!

Hi Tangi,

There are a number of things you can do like that:

If you take PCH from world Famous Santa Monica Pier and drive north about 40 miles, you come to Mugu Rock where you can jump off of a smallish cliff into the sea. It's quite dangerous, and I can only recommend it for expert swimmers. The tidal surges are deadly. However, you can find a couple of danger seekers who have done it and posted it on youtube.

As for camping on the beach, there are only a couple of places for that. Unlike the east coast, beaches in SoCal are public property. Being that, you would think you could camp there, right? Wrong. You can only camp on one of the few state beaches: Carpinteria is the best, but there is also Doheny, El Capitan, Refugio, and McGrath. Doheny is the closest to LA, around 50 miles south. Carpinteria is about 90 miles north. However, you should go online now to see if there are any cancellations. For July, the campsites start booking in January, and the sites disappeaar within minutes for Carpinteria. Bring marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers to make S'mores.

Driving up PCH to Point Mugu and beyond is very nice. If you get deja vu, it's because they shoot a LOT of car commercials there, and Santa Monica Pier is very recognizable. It takes about an hour drive, and you can either continue north towards Santa Barbara, or turn back and take highway 101 from Oxnard.

There is also Highway 1, from San Luis Obispo to Monterey. It's about 200 miles from LA to SLO, then highway 1 runs about 100 miles. It takes 3 hours of drive time, plus any stops (Hearst Castle, Piedras Blanca Seal Sanctuary, Shopping and food in Big Sur). It's good for the soul, but it's much harder in an RV. I've driven it in regular cars and RV's, and the RV is very hard to drive on the twisty turns. Take turns driving, whichever you choose, because the driver must concentrate more on the road and less on the scenery. Be fair.

There are SO many nice beach towns. Our current favorite is Coronado, which is by San Diego. Visit it while you are in the area of the SD Zoo. Carpinteria is a great little beach town. Local food spots include The Spot (burgers) and the Palms (self-cooked steaks). Pismo Beach is a can't miss, just south of SLO. Splash Cafe is the best clam chowder in a bread bowl south of San Francisco. Pismo Beach Fish and Chips is also excellent, as is the Cracked Crab. In Monterey, there are hundreds of good places. We love Cannery Row, and eating at Bubba Gump's (for the view). There used to be a great restaurant in the Spindrift Inn, but it has since closed.

San Francisco is also fabulous, but it's 400 miles away and you could probably spend a whole week there.

Places like Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe are breathtaking, but they are 10 hour drives, and you said you didn't want to spend all day in the car.

Good local beaches include Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. Santa Monica Beach is famous, but it's the easiest beach to get to if you live in LA, and it's very crowded.

Keep in mind that LA is infamous for its traffic. Get an early start to anything. Download and use's app. Also, there aren't a lot of trails in the main part of LA: It's all urban sprawl for 100 miles in all directions. There are some great hikes in Griffith Park, however, and you can even hike to the famous Hollywood Sign. Go to for details.

Gotta go! Have fun!


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Steve Summers


I was born and raised in Los Angeles. I`ve lived in the Valley, west side, east side, and South Bay, so I`m an expert on getting around town. I`m knowledgeable about all of the Southern California tourist attractions. I am also an expert on state beaches in Southern California, and have an expansive camping background. No relocation/moving questions, please.


I have lived in Southern California my entire life. I'm a "local", with expert knowledge of Southern California. I've done a lot of extensive traveling to NorCal, so I can provide answers about northern California as a visitor, and southern California as a local.

Not that this matters, but since it's required, I have a Bachelor's Degree. I also have a Master's Degree in the University of Life.

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