AN AMAZING 7-DAY CALIFORNIA ITINERARY
Are you planning your 7-day California itinerary and wondering how to spend one week in California? Then read on and will find your answers here.
California is most famous for Hollywood and all the movies that are made there. Still, there are many other fun and exciting things to do here as well and it is a great place to visit. However, it gets a bit problematic as the state of California is very large, and in 7 days in California, you will not see all the beautiful spots/cities.
But there are a few cities that I suggest you visit during your one-week itinerary: San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. San Francisco is more in the north of the state and has a different vibe from LA and San Diego in the south, so you get to experience different atmospheres and places.
If you have time, you can even add in a day trip – but we will talk about that later.
In this post, you will find out:
✔️ How to get to California
✔️ What to pack for one week in California
✔️ Where to stay in California for 7 days
✔️ How to get around California
✔️ More travel tips for your California itinerary
✔️ Map of places to visit for your 7-day California itinerary
✔️ San Francisco – 2-3 Days
✔️ Los Angeles – 3 Days
✔️ San Diego – 1 Day
✔️ Extra: California Day Trip – Big Sur
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TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOUR 7 DAYS IN CALIFORNIA ITINERARY
First, here are my travel tips for a California itinerary to some of the best destinations.
What to Pack for One Week in California
California’s climate is different in the north and the south. San Francisco was cooler than LA or San Diego. Depending on the season, pack appropriately – and most importantly, pack comfortable shoes. San Francisco is very hilly, and you will be doing a lot of walking in the other cities, too. Also, there are a couple of hikes you want to do.
Where to Stay For 7 Days in California
You will find some hotel recommendations for each city on this California itinerary below.
How to Get Around California
Whether you do a California road trip or explore the state by public transport – it is all possible.
From San Francisco to Los Angeles, you can take a bus or train. It takes a few hours (up to 8 hours) but it’s great if you get the bus in the afternoon and arrive in the evening.
From Los Angeles to San Diego, it is only about 2 hours by car, train, or bus. I surely don’t recommend flying there for that short distance, though you could fly into San Diego International Airport from Los Angeles.
THIS IS WHAT I DID
When I visited California, I started in San Francisco. I flew from New York to San Francisco International Airport, but you could also arrive via Oakland International Airport. I then took a Megabus from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
🚌 BY BUS: Getting from one city to another by bus was not bad. This was cheap and all right (and I prefer buses over flying), but the scenery was kind of boring. In the beginning, it was exciting, but there is a lot of nothing in between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
🚆 BY TRAIN: You can also travel between cities by train. It takes more time, but the views are supposedly good. You need to get a bus to San Diego to get to the city center.
🚘 BY CAR: Road-tripping California would probably be more fun (though also more expensive and less environmentally friendly).
GETTING AROUND IN SAN FRANCISCO / LOS ANGELES / SAN DIEGO
San Francisco is not geographically big, but due to the many hills, curvy streets, and hidden alleyways, getting around only on foot could be tiring. I never used any cabs, just walked or took the tram or bus.
ℹ️ Another great way to get around San Francisco is via cable cars, which are tourist attractions themselves.
ℹ️ Also, hop-on and hop-off buses, which I love, might be a good option for San Francisco, because they also include entry to some attractions.
ℹ️ In Los Angeles, you can get around using buses and the metro or rent a car. It’s very spread out here, and so while you can get nearly everywhere by public transportation, it sometimes takes a while. But you can also walk often, like when you are downtown. If you rent a car, California is well-known for its traffic and its roads that are hard to follow because of changing names and winding streets. GPS or a map is very helpful if you are driving.
ℹ️ San Diego has decent public transportation, with buses, trains, and trolleys. You can take a ferry to Coronado Island. But to go to nearby La Jolla, you will probably need to take a cab or Uber or rent a car.
More Travel Tips For your 7-Day in California Itinerary
ℹ️ While I was visiting California, I did not take any special precautions. I felt quite safe, even going to watch the sunset from the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course, LA Downtown after sunset was a bit dodgy. My tip is to leave a place when it does not feel safe. Just be careful and keep your belongings close to you and practice common sense.
ℹ️ Look into a city pass, like the Go San Diego Pass, for discounted entries to popular tourist spots.
Map of Places to Visit in Cali
Check out this map – here you can see the places to visit in 7 days in California.
One Week in California Itinerary
This itinerary is divided into three parts: San Francisco for 2.5 days, then another 2.5 days in Los Angeles, and 1 day in San Diego. There is about half a day in between each to account for travel time.
San Francisco – 2-3 Days
San Francisco is often called the most beautiful city in the US, and once you visit, you will know why people love the “City by the Bay” so much. Without a doubt, it is one of the best cities to visit in the US.
San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world! With its iconic cable cars, bustling pier, and unique culture, it’s no wonder so many people visit every year. There are plenty of things to see and do. Visit the famous Golden Gate Bridge or explore the city’s many museums and galleries. Take a stroll through Chinatown or take in the stunning views of San Francisco Bay.
Whether you’re looking for an exciting adventure or just want to relax and enjoy the sights, San Francisco has something for everyone. So come experience all that this amazing city has
In general, I suggest staying between 2 and 3 days if you have a week in California. Depending on how you get to LA (remember, I took a bus that took quite a while), you have to plan in some time for getting there.
Where to go in San Francisco
✔️ Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge or rent a bike and cycle the iconic bridge
✔️ Enjoy a boat cruise and see San Francisco from a different angle
✔️ See San Francisco Bay
✔️ Ride the cable car
✔️ See the views at Twin Peaks
✔️ Relax at Golden Gate Park
✔️ Visit Fisherman’s Wharf
✔️ See the sea lions at Pier 39
✔️ Stop by Lombard Street
✔️ Visit Alamo Square and see the Full House houses
✔️ Explore “The Castro”
✔️ Visit Union Square
I wrote a detailed post on San Francisco where you can find much more detailed info on different activities in the city.
Where to Stay in San Francisco
For a luxury stay, check out The Ritz-Carlton which is perfectly located (close to Union Square) and has all the amenities and facilities you can expect from a luxury hotel.
Los Angeles – 3 Days
I arrived by bus in LA and discovered the city – and its beautiful surroundings. There is so much to do and see, especially outside LA, so you need a minimum of 3 days to get a first glimpse of the area.
We all know that Los Angeles is the place to be if you want to experience the best of the California dream. Whether it’s the abundance of sunshine, diverse cuisine, or world-famous celebrity sightings, there are countless reasons why people visit L.A. From sightseeing in Hollywood to exploring LACMA and all its amazing art, Los Angeles has something for everyone.
But that’s not all – you can also enjoy the city’s great outdoor offerings. From hiking in Griffith Park to relaxing at Venice Beach, there are plenty of ways to get outside and explore the beauty of L.A.
I did have some great memories, and I was impressed with the beautiful places around LA, so it is a must for any California itinerary.
What to do in Los Angeles in 3 Days
✔️ Stroll Venice Beach
✔️ See Watts Towers Art Center
✔️ Visit LA Fashion District
✔️ Have a picnic at Echo Park Lake
✔️ Go to the Griffith Conservatory
✔️ See Shakespeare Bridge
✔️ Hike the Hollywood Sign Trail
✔️ Visit the Hollywood Walk-of-Fame
✔️ Take pictures at Mulholland Scenic Overlook
✔️ Wander Rodeo Drive
✔️ Visit Santa Monica Pier
✔️ Explore White Point Park
✔️ See the Getty
✔️ Relax at Huntington Beach
I have a detailed 3-day itinerary for LA for you, with more info on the best activities
Where to Stay in Los Angeles
For a luxury hotel, pick Hotel Bel-Air. It is an icon in the city and boasts amenities like an on-site restaurant, pools, etc.
A more mid-range option is Level DTLA, which is still a nice hotel and has a great location for getting to some popular attractions.
A budget hotel with clean rooms, a good location, and even a restaurant is the New Seoul Hotel.
San Diego – 1 Day
It is only about 2-3 hours from LA to San Diego. You can take a bus, train, or drive there (or fly, but I do not really recommend it due to the proximity to LA). It’s a beautiful trip as you spend some time traveling along the coast.
If you’re looking for a fun and unforgettable getaway, why not visit San Diego? From the beautiful beaches and amazing cuisine to the amazing attractions and outdoor activities, there’s something for everyone in this wonderful city.
Whether you want to explore Balboa Park or take in some of the city’s lively nightlife, you’ll find plenty of things to do in San Diego. Plus, it’s home to some of the most stunningly beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see!
San Diego is a beautiful city, and I liked the vibe there but compared to LA and San Francisco, I found fewer attractions I wanted to see and visit. So, while you could stay longer than 1 day, I think, with only one week in California, 1 day in San Diego is probably enough.
Where to Go in San Diego (1 day)
✔️ Explore Balboa Park
✔️ Relax at Mission Beach
✔️ Visit La Jolla
✔️ See the Point Loma Tide Pools
✔️ Explore San Diego’s Old Town
✔️ Wander the Gaslamp Quarter
Check out my detailed itinerary for San Diego to find out more about the city and what to do & see.
Where to Stay in San Diego
If you stay in San Diego, I would suggest taking a hotel in the downtown area or La Jolla, which has great ocean views.
For a luxury option, I suggest the Pendry San Diego Hotel Downtown, which has great amenities and service.
For a mid-range hotel, try the San Diego Marriot Gaslamp Quarter in the downtown area, which has a good location.
Extra: More Places to Visit in California
If you want to skip any of these places and take a day trip during your California itinerary, then here is my suggestion:
California Day Trip – Big Sur
Big Sur is a place I haven’t gotten to myself, but I recommend it if you want to take a day trip while in California.
Located on California’s Central Coast, Big Sur looks like one of the most stunningly beautiful regions in the world. Its rugged coastline and breathtaking views are simply unparalleled.
Located along the central coast, Big Sur is an area with lots of state parks that are popular for hiking and camping. The Santa Lucia Mountains are on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, so you should have some really nice scenery.
If you take State Route 1, you should also see many views of seaside cliffs and coastlines covered in mist. Big Sur is between San Francisco and Los Angeles, so if you drive down during your weeklong California trip, you can take this road and see Big Sur on your way.
FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT PLACES TO VISIT IN 7 DAYS IN CALIFORNIA
Hopefully, this one-week in California itinerary has shown you the best things to do and places to see while you are here. You can divide the days as you like, but with only 1 week, this is how I would do it.
I stayed a bit longer and created my California itinerary a bit differently back then. However, I hope you will have a fun 7 days in California using the above itinerary because it is how I would – in hindsight – plan my trip.
Stay safe and have fun!