Ultimate West Coast USA Road Trip – Best Itinerary, Map & Tips

Petr Novák

National parks, amusement parks, sleepy beaches, bustling cities… the American West has it all. Here’s a detailed itinerary for a packed 21-day road trip across the USA. Three weeks may seem like a long time, yet you won’t want to go home.

Road Trip through the West USA: Itinerary, map, tips and experiences | © pixabay.com

Table of Contents
  1. What Is the Cost of a Road Trip Across the USA?
  2. Ten Valuable Tips for a Perfect Road Trip in America
  3. 21-Day Road Trip Itinerary for the Western USA
  4. Flight to Los Angeles
  5. Joshua Tree National Park
  6. Grand Canyon National Park and Horseshoe Bend
  7. Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley
  8. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks
  9. Capitol Reef National Park
  10. Zion National Park
  11. Las Vegas
  12. The Hoover Dam
  13. A Helicopter Tour Over the Grand Canyon
  14. Death Valley
  15. Sequoia National Park
  16. Yosemite National Park
  17. San Francisco: Lombard Street and a Streetcar Ride
  18. San Francisco: Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz
  19. Monterey, Pebble Beach, and Big Sur
  20. Hearst Castle, Pismo Beach, and Santa Barbara
  21. Universal Studios Hollywood
  22. Los Angeles: Hollywood and Griffith Observatory
  23. Los Angeles: Santa Monica and Venice Beach
  24. Flight Home

What Is the Cost of a Road Trip Across the USA?

It depends on what you make of it.

I estimate the lowest possible cost for a 21-day road trip to be $2,250 per person. The requirements to achieve this price are a bargain airfare of under $450, splitting the cost among four people, sleeping in sleeping bags or a single bed in a cheap motel, and being judicious with every dollar.

A comfortable trip for two, with accommodations in decent motels or hotels at a reasonable price, meals at Subway-type fast-food restaurants and enough pocket money for souvenirs will cost about $4,000 per person.

Flight Ticket

A round-trip ticket from Europe to the West Coast of the USA can be purchased for $450 to $900. At the lower end of the range, these are usually sale tickets with several changes and off-peak dates.

A more likely price is around $1,600 per person, including taxes. Search for tickets to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas.

Car Rental

Renting a mid-range car for three weeks will cost at least $1,500, including full insurance. You can save money by choosing a cheaper economy car, but I don’t recommend it. You’ll spend numerous hours in the car, and you may be able to split the cost with fellow passengers.

During the COVID pandemic, car rental companies sold off their fleets, and then had to purchase a large number of new cars after 2020. As a result, rental prices soared.

To get a better idea, you can try calculating a guideline car rental price for each car class. The calculation is free and doesn’t require entering an email.

Also, read advice on driving a car and renting a car in the USA.


With an average fuel consumption of 10 litres per 62 mi and a gasoline price of $4.12 per gallon, calculate a cost of $0.11/1 km.


A room for 2-4 people in the cheapest motel will cost $40–$80 per night, with only basic amenities and comfort provided.

A room in a cheaper hotel on the Las Vegas Strip will set you back from $75 per night. It’s not worth staying off the Strip, as the price difference is negligible when considering the inconvenience of commuting downtown. Beware of resort and other fees that hotels in Sin City often charge.

Often a cheaper alternative for multi-night stays in Los Angeles, Las Vegas or San Francisco is Airbnb. Learn what Airbnb is and then sign up.

You can find out approximate prices for accommodation on Booking.com.


When eating at fast-food restaurants, expect a minimum of $12.00–$18.00 per day. This is the lower limit for sustenance. Better quality and healthier food will cost you about $20.00–$25 per day, including water.

Travel Insurance

For a one-off travel insurance to the USA for three weeks, you’ll pay from $35, more depending on the add-ons you choose.

Beware of travel insurance for credit cards, which may have insufficient benefit limits.

National Park Entrance Fees

With a bargain pass to America the Beautiful, you can visit all USA national parks at no extra charge. The cost of a new pass is $80, and you can get a used one for half that. The pass is valid for 1 year and covers the entire car crew; each member of the expedition does not need to have their own.


For tourist travel to the USA for less than 90 days, no visa is required; you just need to fill out the ESTA Travel Authorization online.

There is a $4.00 fee for filling out the form, and if approved, your card will be charged an additional $10.00. If you have not overstayed in the USA in the past and have not been sanctioned, you have a 99% chance of being approved for travel to the USA.

Spending Money

This depends on how much control you have when opening your wallet. With less than $250 to spend on entrance fees, souvenirs, and other expenses, it’s probably not worth going to the USA. I consider a reasonable and comfortable amount to be around $1,000 per person.

Ten Valuable Tips for a Perfect Road Trip in America

1️⃣ Plan Ahead

Prepare your travel itinerary thoroughly long before you leave. Book the necessary tickets, and don’t forget to have a backup schedule in case of bad weather, for example. I can tell you from experience that improvising on the spot usually has a negative impact.

2️⃣ Think About What You Want to See

Just a few minutes of searching, and you will find hundreds of different itineraries for a road trip across America. Some detail exclusively the West Coast, while others guide you through the top attractions from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

You can’t go wrong with either; you just have to figure out what you’re after. Do you want to see the national parks, or relax on Venice Beach? Do you want to travel at leisure, or do you intend to make the most of every day?

3️⃣ A Road Trip Doesn’t Necessarily Have to Start in Los Angeles

I recommend comparing airfare prices to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Likewise, compare car rental prices in these cities. Add the two amounts, and whichever is lowest, fly there. Adjust your route on the map accordingly.

4️⃣ Once You Arrive in the USA, Get on the Road Right Away

Save sightseeing in the city where you arrive for the last few days. If there are any complications, you’ll have time to spare and won’t have to worry about missing your flight home.

5️⃣ Accept That You Won’t Be Able to Do Everything

The unwritten rule of long trips is that you plan every single day in detail, but after a few days, the itinerary takes a hit and has to be modified. Avoid second-guessing and prioritize what you want to see at all costs and what you are willing to sacrifice.

6️⃣ Rent a Big, Comfortable Car

Economy class cars are the cheapest, but they’re not suitable for long road trips. Be aware that you’ll be spending at least three hours a day in the car. A bigger and more comfortable car is not a luxury, it’s almost a necessity. You can compare rental prices for each class on this page.

7️⃣ Split Your Long Crossings into Morning and Evening

Personally, I don’t like endless hours of driving in a car, especially not as a passenger. If you feel the same way, split long stretches in half. For example, explore the Grand Canyon in the afternoon, then head towards Monument Valley in the evening. When you’re tired, stop at the first motel and get some sleep. In the morning, continue the rest of the route.

8️⃣ Take Turns Driving

Don’t rely on one driver to do all 21 days. Fatigue or illness may overtake them, and the whole trip could be ruined. It is more comfortable if at least two people can take turns driving.

9️⃣ How Much Does Gas Cost in the USA?

The price of gasoline in California is among the highest in the entire United States. A gallon of gasoline costs $5.69 (April 2022), compared to only $5.08 in Las Vegas. One gallon is 3.7854 litres.

Gas stations in the USA work a little differently than in some other countries. Before you go, read the instructions on how to fill up in America.

🔟 Don’t You Have 21 Days for a Road Trip in the USA?

The itinerary in this article assumes 21 days. However, you just need to omit some of the more time-consuming detours, and it can be adapted for a 14-day trip. For instance, you could skip visits to Canyonlands, Arches, and Capitol Reef parks. You’ll gain additional time if you head straight from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon National Park.

Ultimate West Coast USA Road Trip – Best Itinerary, Map & Tips

21-Day Road Trip Itinerary for the Western USA

  1. Ultimate West Coast USA Road Trip – Best Itinerary, Map & Tips | © Petr Novák

    Flight to Los Angeles

    Los Angeles is 9 hours behind Europe. Whether you arrive in the morning or evening, expect to experience jet lag. You’ll be tired and sleep-deprived, so don’t plan anything significant for the first day.

    Just pick up a rental car, move to a motel, and recharge for tomorrow. On the way, stop at Walmart, Walgreens, 7-Eleven, CVS Pharmacy, or another convenience store to buy a local SIM card and snacks for tomorrow, so you don’t waste time. The next day will be busy.

    If you still can’t sleep, take a walk around town. Just like that, without a prepared itinerary.

  2. Joshua Tree National Park | © nightowl / Pixabay.com

    Joshua Tree National Park

    In the morning, wake up early and head towards Joshua Tree National Park. You can cover 124 mi in about two and a half hours with minimal traffic.

    To enter the park, use the pass America the Beautiful.

    The Joshua Tree is an unmistakable tree in shape, found almost exclusively in the Mojave Desert. Thousands of them grow in the park, and I recommend taking one of the hiking trails to Barker Dam.

    If time allows, head back to nearby Palm Springs. Stop for lunch and take a cable car ride, which offers great views of the surrounding area.

    An architecturally and historically interesting homestead is Sunnylands. Nicknamed the “Camp David of the West”, it has been used by Presidents Eisenhower, Ford, and Reagan in the past. Tours of the interiors, with paintings by Picasso or Bearden, are available; book your tickets well in advance.

    In the early evening, get in the car and drive towards the Grand Canyon. Ideally, spend the night in Kingman, Arizona.

  3. Horseshoe Bend | © skeeze / Pixabay.com

    Grand Canyon National Park and Horseshoe Bend

    In Kingman, Arizona, you can find a Route 66 highway museum. Visit after breakfast to see original signs, period photographs, and vintage motorhome furnishings. Admission for adults is only $4.00.

    The Grand Canyon National Park is less than three hours from Kingman. First, stop at the visitor center to watch a 20-minute documentary about the canyon. Free shuttles are available to each viewpoint while your car remains parked at the center.

    An interesting feature of the park is the historic 1901 train station and depot, conveniently located near the information center.

    After exploring the Grand Canyon, embark on a two-hour drive to Horseshoe Bend. This is one of the most famous locations in the USA, recognized for its unique, giant, horseshoe-shaped canyon.

    If possible, try to arrive at Horseshoe Bend before sunset to capture the best photos. You can rest for the night in the nearby town of Page, only 4.97 mi away.

  4. Monument Valley | © HansenHimself / Pixabay.com

    Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley

    Wake up early in the morning to witness the sunrise over Horseshoe Bend. (Check the sunrise time)

    About 9.32 mi from Horseshoe Bend lies Antelope Canyon, a vibrant canyon resembling images from a Photoshop textbook. Yet, the deep orange-pink hues here are entirely natural. Do take some time to explore this beautiful location.

    Once you’ve had your fill, drive towards Monument Valley. This place, with its vast highways and stunning rock formations, epitomizes America for me.

    First, stop at the Monument Valley visitor center to learn about the history of the Navajo tribe that still governs the area today. The best way to view the various formations is by driving along Scenic Drive, a 16.78 mi long road with 14 stops. It takes approximately 3 hours to complete.

    After the tour, drive approximately two and a half hours north to the small town of Moab, Utah. Here, you’ll spend two consecutive nights in a local motel, taking a break from driving and perhaps doing some laundry. Grab dinner at one of the roadside motor inns.

  5. Arches National Park | © Unsplash / Pixabay.com

    Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

    The day begins with a visit to Arches National Park. Only a 10-minute drive from Moab, this park is famous for its spectacular rock arches and bridges. Use the America the Beautiful pass for entry.

    The park’s main attraction is the 66 ft sandstone Delicate Arch, which features on some Utah license plates. I recommend visiting early in the morning to avoid crowds. If you’re visiting in summer, bring plenty of water as it can get quite hot.

    In the afternoon, head to Canyonlands National Park. Just a 30-35 minute drive from Arches, it offers a contrasting landscape with its deep canyons. The northern part of the park is easily accessible by car. However, if you’re planning to go south, a 4×4 vehicle is necessary. Get some exercise by taking one of the park’s hiking trails, ranging from 2,625 ft to a challenging 21.13 mi.

    Return to the same motel as the previous night for some rest.

  6. Capitol Reef National Park | © Steppinstars / Pixabay.com

    Capitol Reef National Park

    After breakfast, set out on the two-and-a-half-hour drive from Moab to Capitol Reef National Park.

    Start with a visit to the information center, then take a drive along the 8.20 mi scenic road. There are 11 scenic stops along the way.

    If you’re up for a longer drive, the 59 mi Cathedral Valley Drive offers a wider variety of rock formations.

    I recommend spending sunset (check the time here) at Sunset Point. The trail is only 1,969 ft and can be covered in a few minutes.

    Drive to one of the motels in Beaver, Utah for the night. Capitol Reef NP is approximately two and a half hours by car.

  7. Zion National Park | © Lincoln Huseby / Pixabay.com

    Zion National Park

    In the morning, continue southeast towards Las Vegas, with the next stop scheduled after about two hours of driving.

    Put on sturdy shoes and explore Zion National Park, whose name in Hebrew refers to a sacred site. You can navigate the park using the free shuttles, which depart every few minutes from designated stops.

    In Zion National Park, you’ll encounter a photogenic cascade of waterfalls near the Temple of Sinawava, the 6,745 ft-high Great White Throne rock, and the 1,490 ft-high Angel’s Landing formation. If you’re a fan of rock climbing, consider giving it a try.

    Zion National Park offers more than ten hiking trails, the shortest being only 2,625 ft, and the longest being the West Rim Trail, which spans nearly 16.16 mi in one direction. This trail is often regarded as one of the most scenic in USA national parks.

    After the tour, hop in the car and drive another hour to the town of St. George. There, you’ll find branches of various motels and hotels such as Motel 6, Super 8, Days Inn, Best Western, and America’s Best Inn.

  8. Las Vegas | © YS-Park / Pixabay.com

    Las Vegas

    St. George is only 121 mi from Las Vegas and the distance can be covered in about two hours via I-15.

    In Las Vegas, I highly recommend staying in the heart of the action on the Strip. This long street is lined with hotels and casinos. The price difference between accommodations on and off the Strip is negligible compared to the inconvenience of commuting downtown several times a day.

    Park your car in the hotel garage and head out to explore the city. I suggest splitting the Strip in half and heading north on the first day. Near the intersections of I-15 and I-515 is Fremont Street, the historic center of Las Vegas with its original casinos and hotels. Compared to the bustling Strip, Fremont Street may feel a bit off-center. Yet, its charm is accentuated by more than two million light bulbs that illuminate the street at night.

    While on Fremont Street, consider visiting the unique Heart Attack Grill. If there’s a place that’s opposed to healthy eating, it’s definitely here. With the world’s most caloric burger, fries fried in lard, and restaurant guests obligatorily dressed as patients, the Heart Attack Grill is worth a visit even if you’re not particularly fond of fast food. It’s bizarre.

    The best view of Las Vegas is from the top of the city’s tallest tower, the 922 ft Stratosphere. For the adventurous, merely enjoying the surrounding landscape won’t suffice, as four adrenaline-pumping attractions await on the rooftop. I tried them a few years ago and personally recommend them. Do you dare to freefall off the roof?

    Before returning to your hotel, stop by the Mirage and Bellagio. In front of the former, an artificial volcano erupts every hour from 19:00 to 23:00. In contrast, the Bellagio is known for its dancing fountain, with performances throughout the day. From 7pm to midnight, they start every 15 minutes.

  9. Hoover Dam | © Petr Novák

    The Hoover Dam

    At the start of day nine, get in your car and head to the Hoover Dam, which is 34 mi away. With minimal traffic, the drive takes less than 40 minutes.

    The construction of Hoover Dam began in the 1920s, when Las Vegas had a population of just 5,000. This 722 ft-tall colossus can store as much water as the Colorado River flows in two years. The tourist center inside the dam is typically openfrom 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. An interpretive tour in English is available and highly recommended. You can leave your car in the nearby parking structure.

    After your return to Las Vegas, leave your car in the hotel garage and venture out to explore the opposite side of the Strip. The Eiffel Tower at the Paris Las Vegas hotel and the world’s largest Ferris wheel, the High Roller, offer unique vantage points.

  10. Sightseeing helicopter flight over the Grand Canyon | © Petr Novák

    A Helicopter Tour Over the Grand Canyon

    Today, leave your car in the parking lot and board a helicopter.

    A sightseeing flight over the Grand Canyon will lighten your wallet by at least $315, but the experience is well worth it. Purchase your tickets here before you fly to the USA.

    I have experienced the Papillon circuit over the west rim of the Grand Canyon, and I highly recommend securing seats in the front row of the helicopter for a superior view.

    Make the most of your last day in Las Vegas. Explore the most famous casinos, enjoy a ride on the mountain coaster at the New York, New York hotel, and consider visiting CBS Television City. Nestled within the hotel, this research center tests upcoming or currently airing television series with volunteer viewers. There is no admission fee, and you should expect to spend about an hour there.

    Pick up some unique souvenirs at the colossal Coca-Cola store, where you can sample 16 types of soda from around the world for a modest price.

  11. Death Valley | © simon-ho / Pixabay.com

    Death Valley

    After several days of respite from driving, prepare for longer journeys. Las Vegas is just over two hours away and 142 mi from Death Valley National Park.

    Death Valley is the driest and hottest location in the USA. Therefore, prepare for extreme conditions and ensure you have an adequate water supply to stay hydrated.

    Two attractions in this area are worth visiting: Badwater Basin, which at 282 ft below sea level is the second lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, and Dante’s View, a vista point at an altitude of 5,476 ft that can be reached by car.

    In the afternoon, embark on your journey to the small town of Bakersfield, California. After about four hours of driving, spend the night at a local motel.

  12. Sequoia National Park | © werner22brigitte / Pixabay.com

    Sequoia National Park

    In the morning, drive for less than two hours over 94 mi to Sequoia National Park.

    The park is home to the world’s tallest trees, the giant sequoias, which reach incredible heights of several tens of meters. The tallest specimen in the park, and a popular attraction, is the General Sherman tree, standing at 275 ft high and having a circumference of 103 ft.

    Another natural feature of the park is Tunnel Log, an 276 ft-long and over 19.69 ft-wide redwood tree that fell across a road during a storm in 1937. Instead of removing the log, park rangers cut a hole through it, creating a unique tunnel.

    For your overnight stay, I recommend traveling an additional 78 mi and booking a motel in Fresno, California.

    If you have some spare hours, consider driving from Sequoia NP to the more northerly Kings Canyon.

  13. Yosemite National Park | © Unsplash / Pixabay.com

    Yosemite National Park

    After breakfast, travel north to Yosemite National Park. The journey will take a bit over two hours.

    Once you’ve parked your car in Yosemite NP, put on sturdy footwear and head out to Tunnel View. This spot offers some of the best views in the entire park, including sights such as El Capitan Rock, Bridalveil Fall, and the granite Half Dome.

    If you have the stamina, consider taking a hike to the upper or lower falls. The hike to the lower falls is only 0.99 mi and takes about 30 minutes. The upper waterfalls are a greater challenge, being separated by an elevation gain of 2,700 ft and a distance of 7.46 mi that can be covered in 6-8 hours.

    In the evening, drive towards San Francisco. Choose a motel in either Turlock or Merced for your night’s stay.

  14. Streetcar in San Francisco | © Petr Novák

    San Francisco: Lombard Street and a Streetcar Ride

    If you managed to make it to Turlock the day before, you can afford to sleep in. San Francisco is 106 mi away, a distance you can cover in less than two hours at a brisk pace.

    In San Francisco, start by taking a drive down Lombard Street. This street is so steep that several serpentines had to be constructed to make it safe for vehicles. This transformed an ordinary street into an unexpected attraction.

    After the drive, check into your accommodation and park the car. Given the high cost of hotels in San Francisco, I recommend considering a room or an entire apartment rental through Airbnb. Since this service was established here years ago, finding a place to stay will be easy.

    In the evening, take a bus into the city and get on the historic streetcar, which has been traversing the streets of San Francisco since 1873. Board it at the intersection of Hyde Street and Beach Street. There is a unique turntable here where the streetcars are still manually turned today.

    Riding the streetcar will only be a genuine experience if you are standing at the open back or hanging on the side. Just ask the conductor.

  15. Alcatraz | © Petr Novák

    San Francisco: Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz

    You can sleep late in the morning.

    The itinerary for this day includes the Golden Gate Bridge, but it’s better to visit after lunch when the fog has usually cleared. This is quite typical of San Francisco, with fog blanketing the city an average of 105 days a year.

    After touring the Golden Gate Bridge, which, incidentally, is the second most popular suicide site in the world, take a tour of the legendary Alcatraz prison.

    Important advice: Book your Alcatraz tickets well in advance, as they tend to sell out very quickly. It would be a shame to miss a visit to Alcatraz.

    Fill the remaining time on this day with a tour of the Pier 39 and a stroll through the steep streets of San Francisco. You might stumble upon the sloping house, whose photo often circulates on social media.

  16. Pacific Coast Highway | © tomwhite12 / Pixabay.com

    Monterey, Pebble Beach, and Big Sur

    The Pacific Coast Highway is arguably the most beautiful highway in the world. It connects San Francisco with Los Angeles along the Pacific coast. Here, more than anywhere else, the famous adage that ‘the journey is the destination’ holds true.

    Leave San Francisco early in the morning, as the schedule for the day is packed. The first stop is the giant aquarium in Monterey. Adults pay $50 for entry and are rewarded with an exploration of an underwater world filled with octopuses, squids, sharks, otters, fish, and other marine life.

    Just 6.21 mi away is Pebble Beach. No need for towels or sunscreen here; this beach is all about cliffs, green lagoons, and dramatic ocean views.

    If time allows, take a drive along the scenic 17-Mile Drive. The loop passes lavish mansions and golf courses, the most famous spot being the Lone Cypress. This solitary tree has been growing for 250 years on a rock washed by the Pacific.

    On the sixteenth day of the road trip across America, there’s still a tour of Big Sur, where the famous author Jack Kerouac once lived and worked. On good weather days, it’s packed with surfers, who claim it has some of the best, highest, and wildest waves in the world. There are a number of restaurants in Big Sur where you can stop for a late lunch.

    Before you reach Big Sur, you’ll cross the 1933 Bixby Bridge. With beautiful hills on one side and the ocean on the other, it has become one of the most photographed bridges in the world.

    Beauty alternates with splendor also at McWay Falls, just off the highway about 29 mi and an hour’s drive past Big Sur. For lodging, choose one of the motels along the highway near San Simeon.

  17. Hearst Castle | © sarangib / Pixabay.com

    Hearst Castle, Pismo Beach, and Santa Barbara

    Perched on a hill near San Simeon is the Hearst Castle National Historic Site. This luxurious modern mansion was built in 1919 for tycoon William Randolph Hearst, the real-life inspiration for the movie Citizen Kane.

    The architecturally fascinating building is open to visitors daily from 9am. Adults pay $30 for a tour, and children under 12 pay $15.00. Hearst Castle now serves as a museum, with visitors being able to choose from several guided tours mainly focusing on the villa’s opulently decorated and furnished rooms. The terrace offers a beautiful view of the coastline.

    After the villa tour, hop in the car and head south on the Pacific Coast Highway. About an hour’s drive will bring you to Pismo Beach, a sleepy coastal town with less than eight thousand inhabitants. Here, you can relax on a sandy beach with a wooden pier, enjoying the spectacular sunset views.

    Alternatively, you could skip all the romance and drive for two hours to Santa Barbara, a city with a population of 100,000. This university town also boasts white-sand beaches, and for the adventurous, there’s the option to pay for a paragliding lesson, ride the waves on a surfboard, or go kayaking.

    In the evening, cover the final 101 mi and settle down for the night in Los Angeles. Don’t limit yourself to hotels and motels, also search for accommodation on Airbnb. For instance, you could rent a beachfront house and, surprisingly, expect a lower price than a hotel.

  18. Universal Studios Hollywood | © Petr Novák

    Universal Studios Hollywood

    Universal Studios Hollywood is both a real movie studio and a theme park. It’s arguably the best in the Los Angeles area.

    An adult ticket costs $109 and a child ticket is slightly less expensive, but it’s still worth saving.

    See original props from the Back to the Future and Fast and Furious film franchises firsthand. You’ll visit the street where the heroines of Desperate Housewives used to live, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll witness the filming of one of the upcoming Hollywood blockbusters.

    There are so many attractions in the park that you might find it challenging to visit them all. We arrived before opening and visited the most popular attractions first (where hour-long queues soon formed)… and still found it tough to catch everything. Golden advice: Arrive early in the morning.

    A must-do is the Studio Tour, a guided tour of the entire site in a small train. The Simpsons Ride, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park, WaterWorld, and Universal’s Animal Actors attractions are also above average. Animal trainers from Hollywood movies will demonstrate that even pigs, chicks, and birds can learn incredible things.

    After the park gates close, don’t rush off to bed, but take another stroll on the nearby Universal CityWalk. Magicians, musicians, and other entertainers often fill the promenade, and you can indulge in shopping and dining at dozens of shops and restaurants.

  19. Griffith Observatory and Los Angeles | © Petr Novák

    Los Angeles: Hollywood and Griffith Observatory

    No visit to Los Angeles would be complete without seeing the famous sign that has been towering over the Hollywood Hills for nearly 100 years. Although direct access to it is prohibited, it’s perfectly visible from several locations in the area. These are accessible by car, and if you’re of a sporty nature, you could enjoy a pleasant walk.

    You could combine this with a tour of the Griffith Observatory; admission is free. It opens at noon, 10am on weekends, and always closes at 10pm. Please note, Griffith Observatory is closed on Mondays. While inside, you can enjoy views of the stars and planets, and the patio offers a spectacular view of Los Angeles for a change.

    In the afternoon, make your way down the hills to Main Street Hollywood Boulevard and lower your gaze to the sidewalk. It features over 2,500 stars commemorating Hollywood’s most famous actors, singers, directors, and other performers. If luck is on your side, you might witness the unveiling of a new star.

    Sports fans should check the NHL, NBA, MLB, MLS, and NFL game schedules. The Kings for hockey, the Lakers and Clippers for basketball, the Dodgers for baseball, or the Rams and LA Galaxy for football might be playing in the evening. The former play rugby, the latter play soccer closer to home.

    Officially distributed tickets can be quite expensive, I recommend taking advantage of the cheaper resale from fans.

  20. Venice Beach | © Petr Novák

    Los Angeles: Santa Monica and Venice Beach

    Consider the penultimate day of your road trip across the USA as a reserve. With such long journeys, it almost always happens that the schedule slips and you’re unable to do everything you planned. So, don’t include anything in your itinerary that you’ve been eagerly anticipating since childhood.

    The beaches in Santa Monica and Venice Beach are among the most beautiful places in all of Los Angeles. The boardwalk is lined with palm trees and charming shops selling original T-shirts, filled with a mix of more or less eccentric street performers and medical marijuana dispensaries.

    You could easily spend the whole day here.

    Exercise at the famous Muscle Beach, the outdoor gym where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny Trejo got their start in the 1960s.

    Take in the atmosphere of the tiny Pacific Park amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier and take a ride on the West Coaster roller coaster. Its single set of coasters only speeds up to a breezy 56mph, but the friendly staff will give you a free ride. Just smile.

    And keep your eyes peeled. You might spot the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company Restaurant. It’s located on the same pier along with the bench where Forrest Gump sat years ago in the movie of the same name.

  21. Los Angeles Airport | © Petr Novák

    Flight Home

    On the last day, pack your bags, return the rental car and head to the airport.

    Take a memorable farewell photo near the airport on the western edge of West Century Blvd. The giant concrete letters LAX are situated on an island in the middle of the busy road. This is the acronym for Los Angeles Airport.

    There’s a branch of the Subway restaurant in the same location, where you can stop for one last meal before your flight.

Discussion (3)

Having embarked on a similar road trip across the USA last year, I can vouch for the accuracy of these estimates and offer some personal insights that might help others planning their adventure. The article does a great job breaking down the costs, but there’s always a bit more beneath the surface.

Firstly, the car rental tip is spot on. We opted for a mid-range car and split the cost among four, which not only made the long drives more comfortable but also saved us money on fuel compared to larger vehicles. One thing not mentioned is the importance of booking your rental well in advance and checking for any discounts or codes online. We managed to shave off about 15% from our rental cost with a discount code found on a travel forum.

For lodging, while motels and Airbnb are great options, don’t overlook camping in some of the national parks. Not only is it incredibly cheap, but it also offers a unique experience that you can’t get from city lodging. We alternated between camping and staying in motels to balance cost with comfort.

Eating out can indeed quickly add up. We saved a significant amount by shopping at local supermarkets and preparing our meals whenever we stayed in accommodations with kitchen facilities. This not only cut our food expenses by almost half but also allowed us to try local produce and specialties.

Lastly, the mention of the America the Beautiful pass is a must for anyone planning to visit multiple national parks. It paid for itself within the first week of our trip. However, make sure to check the expiration date if you’re buying a used one.

This trip was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, and while it requires careful planning and budgeting, it’s absolutely worth every penny. The freedom to explore at your own pace and see the diverse landscapes and cities the USA has to offer is unparalleled. Happy travels!


Hi, thanks so much in advance for a great site and lots of useful information! I’m planning a trip to the NP this September with an almost identical route, so I wanted to ask if there are any tolls on this circuit when passing through the different sections. If so, roughly how much is it for the whole route?


Hey Steve, thanks for the compliments.

There are two tolls to cross the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and another toll in Pebble Beach to enter the 17-Mile Drive scenic road.


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