Hey guys! So here is a highly requested blog post; where we stayed, what we did and (most importantly!) where we ate during our three week honeymoon in California. I’ve had so many messaging asking for advice and I honestly couldn’t wait to talk you through our trip and I’ve even made a short video!
My amazing sister bought us a Go Pro as a wedding gift and thanks to it, I’ve managed to cram 3 whole weeks of our Californian honeymoon into less than 5 minutes of footage for you! We had such an incredible time and I really couldn’t recommend it enough.
So, if you want to know more about where we stayed, what we did and (of course!) where we ate then carry on reading for my California Honeymoon Guide!
P.S. I’ve also included things that we unfortunately didn’t have time to do, which you may want to look in to!
- Santa Monica – 1 Night
Oliver and I got married on Saturday the 16th of September and on Monday the 18th (having frantically packed Sunday night!!) we headed to Manchester airport to fly direct to LAX. After a 3 hour delay and 13 hour flight we touched down in Los Angeles and jumped in a taxi to Santa Monica. I fell in love with California straight away and couldn’t contain my excitement for the adventure that waited for us!
We stayed for one night at The Georgian Hotel in L.A., which is a stone’s throw from Santa Monica Pier. That night we headed out to explore and had dinner in a local restaurant called Del Friscos Grille (recommended to us by the staff at the hotel!). We tried to stay awake for as long as possible to beat the jet lag and apart from accidentally calling my parents when it was their 4am, things went well! For breakfast the next day I had a blogger classic.. avocado toast with a side of fruit!
The next day, after a stroll along Venice Beach we headed to Enterprise to pick up our red convertible Mustang (we were on honeymoon!) which was so amazing and easy to drive; it was an automatic!
We didn’t have time to go to roller blading along the sea front, visit The Getty Museum or eat at two of the cafes that were recommended to us but do let me know if you go! They were called Urth Caffe & Kreation Juice.
- Santa Barbara – 2 Nights
After picking up our hire car we headed to Santa Barbara, via Malibu and enjoyed hummus platter for lunch! We stayed in a cute little place with a pool called Franciscan Inn, which was two minutes from the beautiful Santa Barbara Pier. Breakfast and wifi was included and we ate at a local cafe for lunch along the seafront.
For dinner, if you like sea food, you MUST dine at Brophy’s – I had THE BEST tuna I have ever tasted! And if you fancy an amazing pizza on a budget then check out Rusty’s Pizza Palor – it even has its own salad bar! There are lots of bars in Santa Barbara too; both along the pier and on the main strip itself.
The image at the top of this blog post was taken at Santa Barbara during sunset; it’s such a magical place that has a wonderful Spanish feel.
- The Big Sur
After 2 nights in Santa Barbara we headed up highway one, stopping at Pismo Beach, Madonna Inn & Hearst Castle on the way to Carmel. Hearst Castle is amazing and a must see if you like a bit of history and culture (Madonna Inn is just fun!!).
NB When we were there, part of Highway 1 was unfortunately closed due to a landslide so we had to come in land for some of the journey; make sure to check Google maps before you go!
- Carmel by Sea – 3 Nights
Carmel was one of our favourite spots from our trip. It’s a beautiful town covered in pine trees with the most amazing houses overlooking the sea (the houses are worth $10 million and upwards!). We stayed at Svensgaard’s Inn and although we booked here for the pool it was unfortunately too cold to use and to be honest, with such a beautiful beach you don’t need a pool! I would recommend this Inn if you have a dog (as it’s dog friendly), but not otherwise; it did though have free breakfast as well as tea, coffee and cookies, and the bar opposite was really great.
We ate at two amazing places in Carmel (thanks to Oliver researching before we went!); we dined at a lovely French restaurant called La Bicyclette as well as The Tree House Cafe, and had cocktails on an amazing roof top bar called Vesuvio (very popular with the locals!).
In Carmel we strolled around the town, had coffee, relaxed on the beach, watched the sun go down and also drove down Highway 1 for lunch (as far as we could!). We also went Whale watching in Monterey (thanks to a wedding gift from one of my best friends!), visited Point Lobos National Park (which is stunning!) and did the ’17 mile drive’ in Carmel before driving to San Fransisco.
We didn’t hire bikes here but I know that there are several places where you can do this, including Big Sur Adventures.
- San Francisco – 3 Nights
We drove from Carmel all the way up Highway 1 to San Francisco and we stayed at a beautiful pineapple themed hotel called The Alise – A Staypineppale Hotel. Breakfast in the hotel was amazing; I had porridge, granola with yoghurt, and of course, many almond milk cappuccinos to help me to beat the jet lag!
On our first day in San Fransisco we headed to Pier 33 to take the 8:45am ferry over to Alcatraz; we had pre-booked this and took a cheap Uber from our hotel to make sure we didn’t miss it! Alcatraz was really good; I didn’t think I would like the audio tour but it was so realistic and really interesting!
Once back on dry land we headed to Pier 39 to hire bikes; we cycled over the Golden Gate Bridge which was amazing to a cute little town called Sausalito. One of our friend’s had suggested we had lunch in Salito’s Crab House which didn’t disappoint! Their cocktails were also delicious and naturally, we followed up lunch with an iced coffee from Starbucks!
On our second day in San Fransisco we headed to Golden Gate Park and after visiting the Japanese Tea Garden, I made Oliver come to Vegan Burg with me (near to Golden Gate Park in the hippy district!) which was such a cool place! We also visited Chinatown by Uber and then went onto see Lombard Street (the windy steep road!).
- Napa Valley (Yountville) – 3 Nights
On our third day in San Fransisco we drove to Napa Valley which is known for its vineyards and wine tasting! We decided to stay in a cute little town called Yountville and our hotel, Hotel Yountville, was amazing; we loved the pool, outdoor fires, bar, bedrooms and free bike hire; it’s a must stay if you’re on your honeymoon!
We visited a few different vineyards whilst in Napa Valley, both in the car and by bike. Some of our favourites were Stirling Vineyards (which you visit via a cable car!), Rutherford Ranch (for wine and chocolate tasting!), Hall Wines (for red wine) and Chandon (my personal favourite for sparkling wine!).
As well as drinking wine I also discovered Lavender Kombucha from the local supermarket which was so delicious!
- The French Laundry for Dinner – Yountville
I couldn’t not mention my time in Yountville without mentioning The French Laundry, a three-starred Michelin restaurant, which we managed to get a reservation for on the night (this is pretty unheard of however we managed to time our arrival perfectly!!). We tried to book a few months before our arrival however (as usual) they were fully booked, so if you want to go make sure to book as early as possible.
We enjoyed the most incredible 12 course tasting menu with an amazing Canadian couple who we met by the pool the day before. The whole experience was out of this world; at one time there were 8 waiters around us delivering the food and explaining in minute detail what we were about to eat.
I have honestly never tasted food as exquisite in all my life (and I probably never will again!). We were even lucky enough to see the chefs in action just before midnight brain storming the menu, which changes daily, for the next day.
- Yosemite National Park – 3 Nights
We were really sad to leave Yountville; it was so beautiful and warm; a stark contrast to Yosemite which although was beautiful, was absolutely freezing!! Yosemite National Park is simply stunning; as you’ll see from the images. We unfortunately booked too late to secure accommodation in the park itself so instead we stayed about an hour south of the park at a place called Tenaya Lodge in Fish Camp. And after some handy Googling I managed to find a promo-code for free breakfast at the buffet during our stay, as well as a free 5 day pass to the park! Whoop!
We spent the first day in Yosemite doing the ‘4 mile trail’ to see half dome (pictured below). Now, don’t let the name fool you, as it turned out this ‘trail’ is more like a 4 mile HIKE up a mountain, and then it’s 4 miles back down! I loved this walk though and it was a great chance to soak up the amazing views. On the drive home we stopped to see Tunnel View and the next day we went to see the giant sequoia trees.
We didn’t have time visit Bass Lake unfortunately!
- Las Vegas – 3 Nights
After saying goodbye to Yosemite we headed to Las Vegas (via a walnut orchard which was an experience!). Oliver booked us a room at the Bellagio in Las Vegas and we decided to upgrade to a strip view; you can see the view from our room below! Las Vegas is crazy; I didn’t think I would like it but I honestly fell in love with it.
During the day we chilled around the pool and on an evening we had dinner (I loved the Noodle Bar in the Bellagio), saw the O (a water based Cirque du Soleil!), visited Fremont Street (as featured in the video), which is even crazier than the main strip, and of course had a go at gambling; which was so much fun! We booked the O the day before through our hotel who gave us 20% off the tickets because we stayed there.
On our last day we woke up at 4am to be picked up and taken to the helicopters which fly people to the Grand Canyon. We booked this the day before we went and I’m so glad that we did. We didn’t fancy driving to the Grand Canyon, which would have taken over two hours (a 5 hour round trip) so instead flew there, via the Hoover Dam in just 40 minutes. The views were amazing and I highly recommend this as a special trip!
- Hollywood & L.A.
After our trip to the Grand Canyon we drove from Las Vegas to Los Angeles to drop back our beautiful Mustang; which we were very sad to see go! We then took a taxi to the Hilton Universal hotel which we booked purely for location; it’s a short Uber drive to Rodeo Drive, the famous Beverly Hilton (where Pretty Woman was filmed!), the original Farmer’s Market (which is amazing for lunch) and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s also a 2 minute walk from Universal Studios which we decided to visit on our penultimate day.
After ordering room service during our first night at the Hilton (we were too tired to go out!), on our second evening in Hollywood we headed to the The Griffith Observatory to see the Hollywood sign at sunset. We just made it in time (after jumping out of our taxi and sprinting up the hill!) and the views were out of this world.
We didn’t have time to eat at Gracias Madre but it was recommended to me!
- Universal Studios – Theme Park
If you like rides, Harry Potter and/or just having fun then you MUST visit Universal studios. We had so much fun here! We bought tickets which allowed us into the park an hour before the crowds (yes we acted like two big kids!) and went back for the evening as it was Horror Night (we went in October just before halloween) – it was so much fun and I even made a cheeky trip to the frozen yoghurt shop on Universal Walk where there are loads of places to eat.
We fell in love with Bubba Gump on Universal Walk, which we spotted on Santa Monica Pier too; if you like shrimp definitely check this place out! We also had a drink in the Howl at the Moon bar which is really fun.
We really felt like we finished our honeymoon with a bang; the last few days were so much fun!
Journey Driving Times:
Santa Monica (L.A.) to Santa Barbara = 1 hour 50 mins
Santa Barbara to Carmel by Sea = 4 hours
Carmel by Sea to San Fransisco = 2 hours
San Fransisco to Yountville (in Napa) = 1 hour 20 mins
Yountville to Fish Camp in Yosemite = 4 hours
Yosemite to Las Vegas (not via death valley) = 7 hours
Las Vegas to L.A. = 4 hours
I really hope you find this blog post useful; I cannot recommend California (and Nevada) enough, and if we go back (which I hope we do!) I would like to visit Death Valley, San Diego and Hawaii too!
Have you been to California? Would you recommend it too?
I want to say a huge thank you to my friends Rachel, Amy, Catherine and Sarah who helped in the planning of our trip (they had all been to California before!) as well as Faya from Fitness on Toast who sent me the most brilliant email suggesting things to do and places to eat!