How to Spend Three Months in America Part Three: West Coast

How to Spend Three Months in America: West Coast

16 April 2018

Who doesn’t get excited at the thought of an epic west coast road trip? The perfect way to cap off your three-month travel adventure across America can only be with a journey up the coastline with the Pacific Ocean serving as your shimmery blue guide. And while you probably have Los Angeles and San Francisco at the top of your list, your itinerary must include the charming small towns that you’ll encounter along the way too for the full California experience. 

In SoCal there’s beaches for swimming, endless days of sunshine, and the iconic pop culture must-sees in the metropolis that is L.A., and in NorCal, there’s San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and hilly streets, plus charming beachside havens where you can unplug and unwind. And while you’re in this part of the country, it’s worth a stop in Portland, Oregon for some of the quirky culture. 

Along the way, HI USA hostels will help you make the most of the coast with excellent in-house activities and tours, plus the kind of insider knowledge you couldn’t get from a Google search. 


Los Angeles 

Why go: The food, the beaches, the movie stars… Los Angeles is an American icon, and beachside Santa Monica is the perfect place to base yourself if you want to discover it all.
How long should I stay: 3 to 5 days depending on your Los Angeles bucket list
Do I need a car: L.A. is definitely a car city, and though you can technically get by without one, you’ll be able to see and do more with a car. We recommend renting one and keeping it to do the iconic road trip along Highway 1 to San Francisco. 
Must do: Join as many of the hostel-offered tours as you can to see the Hollywood sign, Getty Museum and more. 
Where should I stay:HI Los Angeles Santa Monica is the right near the famous pier, beach, and more local attractions. 

San Diego

Why go: Just a hop, skip, and a jump from Mexico, San Diego offers a unique blend of cultures, along with killer beaches and nightlife, and near-constant sunny weather.
How long should I stay: 2 to 3 days 
Do I need a car: San Diego is about a two-hour drive south from Los Angeles. You can also take the Pacific Surfliner train from L.A. Once you’re in San Diego, a car can make it easier to get around, but the city also has a good network of buses and trams, and sharing taxis with other hostel guests can be an economical way to travel longer distances.  
Must do: Sunbathe, relax, or surf at some of the country’s best beaches, and ask the hostel staff where to get the best fish tacos. 
Where should I stay: Be right in the heart of the action in the Gaslamp Quarter when you stay at HI San Diego Downtown.

San Francisco

Why go: Come for the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf, stay for the city’s collection of unique neighborhoods and laid-back California lifestyle.
How long should I stay: 3 to 5 days 
Do I need a car: San Francisco is very pedestrian and bike friendly and has good public transportation.
Must do: Do the Bike the Golden Gate Bridge tour offered at the hostel, then keep your bike for the day to do more exploring. 
Where should I stay: Stay at HI San Franciso Downtown hostel to be right near major attractions and for in-house activities that will help you make the most of your stay


Why go: Surf, tide pool, or hike by day, and sleep at the foot of a historic lighthouse by night.
How long should I stay: 2 days 
Do I need a car: Yes. The hostel’s about an hour’s drive south of San Francisco.  
Must do: Watch the sunset from the hostel’s famous cliff-side hot tub, visit the elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Park. 
Where should I stay: Wake up next to the beautiful beacon at HI Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel

Point Reyes National Seashore 

Why go: The secluded Point Reyes National Seashore offers hikes and wildlife spotting across hilly terrain and windswept beaches. 
How long should I stay: 2 days 
Do I need a car: You’ll need a car to get to the hostel, which is within a national park, and to get around the cute towns just outside the park. 
Must do: Go for a long hike, get some cheese at Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station for a picnic.
Where should I stay: The only non-camping accommodation in the national park is HI Point Reyes hostel.  


Why go: Portland is “weird” in all the best ways, with the food, art, and music scenes to prove it.
How long should I stay: 2 to 3 days 
Do I need a car: No, rent a bicycle from the hostel instead or utilize the city’s vast bus and light rail network. 
Must do: Go thrift shopping, eat donuts, bike around, and taste local craft beer!  
Where should I stay: HI Portland Hawthorne is in one of the coolest neighborhoods in the city. 


The West Coast is a little more car-centric than the East, so you might want to seek out a long-term rental to get around and embark on an iconic California road trip. There are Amtrak trains, which also offer some beautiful scenery, if you are not up for too much driving. We recommend ditching the car in San Francisco and taking the train up to Portland. 


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