My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Enjoy a Southern California spring road trip

2013/02/28by Donna Hull

Updated 08.01.2013


Point Mugu State Park

Are you tired of being cooped up in the house? In many parts of the U.S., it’s been a rough winter. Right now, all I’m thinking about is a spring road trip. If you need a winter weather break sooner rather than later, drive this Southern California itinerary to satisfy your need for the open road.

Your Southern California spring road trip starts and ends in Los Angeles

Whether you’ve just arrived at LAX (rent a Toyota Venza for a roomy ride) or driven to town from who knows where, this spring road trip begins at Lowes Santa Monica Beach Hotel in Santa Monica. I don’t know about you, but I could use a room with an ocean view right about now…and a pool overlooking the blue Pacific…with a cute attendant bringing me a margarita or a glass of sauvignon blanc to accompany my gazpacho lunch. Although it’s probably too cold for swimming, unless you’re a die-hard who wears a wet suit and has a penchant for cold water, the ocean view is still good, especially at night when the ferris wheel lights up the sky on Santa Monica Pier. And while we’re playing tourist, let’s walk over to the pier for dinner at The Lobster Restaurant. I’m ordering the grilled lobster. How about you?


LA to Santa Barbara itinerary courtesy Google maps

After a good night’s sleep, we’ll start our spring road trip to El Capitan Canyon in Santa Barbara County on a sunny southern California morning. From Lowes Santa Monica Beach Hotel, our itinerary follows Highway 1 as it hugs the coast on a curvy drive through Malibu. At Point Mugu State Park, it’s time to stretch our legs, take photos and enjoy the sandy beach that’s guarded by the jagged cliffs of Boney Mountains State Wilderness Area. With over 70 miles of hiking trails, it’s a shame that we can’t spend more time exploring, but we have a lunch date to keep in Santa Barbara.

A little north of Mugu State Park, our route turns inland to connect with Highway 101. Don’t worry, you’ll see those Pacific Ocean views again after Ventura. By the time we reach Santa Barbara, we’ll be hungry for lunch. Let’s drive over to Stearns Wharf for a seafood meal at The Harbor Restaurant. Although the water’s cold, we’ll ask for a table by one of the large windows to watch the sun as it sparkles on the Pacific Ocean. Wait, what’s that? A standup paddleboarder who doesn’t mind the cold water glides into our view.


Cedar cagin at El Capitan Canyon Resort. Photo courtesy Toyota USA

After lunch, it’s a short drive to El Capitan Canyon, our headquarters for however many nights you choose. While it might be tempting to reserve one of the safari tents for a more off-the-beaten-path experience, I recommend staying in one of the cedar cabins in the Upper Meadow. Why? The safari tents are positioned very close together. Besides, the cabins include a mini kitchen for cooking breakfast and lunch (and maybe dinner). It’s a good thing we stopped at a grocery store in Santa Barbara for supplies. Of course the Canyon Market and Deli is available for those who don’t want to cook. And, with all of the fine dining in Santa Barabara, it’s worth a drive back to town for an evening meal.


Sanford Winery in the Santa Rita Hills. Photo courtesy Toyota USA

If we’re lucky, the wildflowers will already be blooming on the hillsides, which means the hikes and bike rides will be extra special. Spring is a little too cool for ocean kayaking at Refugio State Park, but it’s also great place to walk. And we can’t be this close to wine country and not go for a ride through the vineyards. Sanford Winery is in a particularly stunning location in the Santa Rita Hills so drive by for a tasting, better yet, scheduled a winery tour.


Santa Barbara to LA itinerary courtesy Google Maps

Every California road trip that ends in Los Angeles needs a bit of glamor. We’ll complete our spring jaunt with a route that takes us back down Highway 101 past Thousand Oaks and onto the 405 and I-10 freeways to West Hollywood and the hip and happening SLS Hotel Beverly Hills. Wait until you see the lobby decorated completely in black and white—walls, carpet, furniture—and the red elevator area. If it’s a nice afternoon, we’ll hang out with the beautiful people at the rooftop pool. And, we’ll celebrate the end of a fun spring road trip with dinner at The Bazaar by José Andrés (it’s just a walk across the SLS Hotel’s outdoor lobby area). Foam topped martinis and tapas dinner anyone?

Do you have a favorite spring road trip itinerary in California? Post a comment to share it with us. Alan missed this boomer adventure, which means we’ll be doing it again.

Disclosure: Toyota U.S.A. provided this travel experience but the opinions are my own. 

My article is part of the spring-themed blog carnival hosted at Traveling with SweeneyBe sure to check out all the spring related posts, they’ll make you want to get up and go.

A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

santafetraveler March 1, 2013 at 9:06 am

We did one a few years ago from San Diego to Carmel with overnights at Santa Barbara and Big Sur along the way. Our one regret was we didn’t have more time. We have to go back and do it again! I got to see a Bird of Paradise growing in the ground and not in a vase for the first time on this trip.
santafetraveler recently posted..Blooming: spring in Santa FeMy Profile


Cathy Sweeney
March 1, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Nice road trip and perfect ending at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills (where I’ve never been, BTW)! I’ve taken lots of California road trips — hard to go wrong most anywhere in this beautiful state. Springtime road trips in the desert are great, too. You’ve got me ready to get behind the wheel and head out of town.
Cathy Sweeney recently posted..You Give Me Fever — Spring FeverMy Profile


March 2, 2013 at 4:50 pm

Pretty much any section of Hwy 101 is good for me. Although Hwy 1 follows right along the cliffs, it’s a bit too curvy for this carsick girl. I like 101 because it offers more of a variety, both inland and coastline scenery. If I had to choose I guess I’d have to say the stretch between Santa Cruz and Carmel/Monterrey, there is just something about it that has always spoken to me and I have driven that stretch at least 50 – 75 times and I never get tired of. The fields of farm fresh produce growing, the sand dunes, the beaches; it’s all there.
Patti recently posted..Spring Fever ~My Profile


Debbie Beardsley
March 4, 2013 at 5:14 pm

I love driving along California’s coast! You covered a great portion on this trip.
Debbie Beardsley recently posted..Whimsical SalzburgMy Profile


sheryl March 6, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Wish I was back there now! I recently visited my friend in southern California and it was really tough to leave to come back home..
sheryl recently posted..As Good as Chicken Soup?My Profile


Christinegl March 10, 2013 at 10:44 am

Sounds like a fabulous journey – reminds me of the time years ago I drove up and down the CA coast…


ruth pennebaker March 12, 2013 at 7:28 am

This looks simply wonderful. It’s now on my list.
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Jeanine Barone March 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I did this trip a few years ago – by bicycle. (I actually started in Seattle and ended in San Diego.) So many great beaches and parks to explore.


Donna Hull
March 13, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Bicycling from Seattle to San Diego is impressive, Jeanine. Were you by yourself or being supported by a bicycle tour?
Donna Hull recently posted..Traveling with TieksMy Profile


Jeanine Barone March 13, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Hi Donna, I was with a group of cyclists but this was a self-contained tour where we carried all our gear on front and rear panniers. There was no support vehicle. And we camped the whole way.

MyKidsEatSquid March 16, 2013 at 8:42 pm

We explored Northern CA last year, sounds like it’s time to go to Southern CA. I’d love to visit there when the wildflowers are in bloom–sounds lovely


Living Large March 17, 2013 at 8:25 am

This looks like a lovely road trip. I wish I had your post in hand years ago when we visited Southern California. The hotel we stayed at in Santa Monica was a dive. My dream is to go back and if we do, I’ll have your recommendations in hand.
Living Large recently posted..Continually Chasing DreamsMy Profile


March 22, 2013 at 9:19 am

I love spring road trips. Now if it will only stop snowing here so we can get out of town. Love the California itinerary.
HeatherL recently posted..White Pass Stages a Winter CarnivalMy Profile


noel August 20, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Driving along the coastline on Highway 1 from LA gets even better once you pass Santa Monica and start seeing the wonderful beach communities and small towns along the way…love Santa Barbara and Cambria.
noel recently posted..Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, Sunday brunchMy Profile


Kristen August 21, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Looks like a fun idea! Cali is a long ways from Ohio. LOL! Welcome to Social Fabric!


Jennifer E. August 22, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Looks like you had a fantastic trip. Just stopping by to say HI from the Social Fabric Community!


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