No matter where we are in the world and what we are doing there is always an opportunity to keep fit and active – so I put that to the test doing the Pacific Coast Highway from LA to San Francisco last week, with a 72 hour deadline and a host of things to see. I was on my way to stay with friends in Mill Valley, Marin County, for some emergency Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge training – and thought I’d take 2 days to do the drive up the coast.
My goal: Arriving at LAX in the morning on a Wednesday, to be in Mill Valley, San Francisco by Friday afternoon.
It was a long drive but so worth the effort, the weather was amazing, the people were terrific and I caught up with some interesting friends along the way.
Here are my top tips on places to stay, walk, bike, run, do yoga, workout, eat and explore if you’re limited on time but still want to see the magnificent Pacific Coast
Hope you enjoy the tips and the gallery below !
DAY ONE – > LAX – SANTA BARBARA
Arrive on Qantas from Brisbane to LAX at 0630 AM. The airport had just opened for the day so it was unbelievably quick getting through customs – in an hour I was picking up my rental car and ready to roll. Map in hand, navigation on and I headed out of LA straight away, north towards Santa Barbara
You’ll see the Hollywood signs, boulevards and iconic LA elements as you drive out (stay in LAX for a day or two if you want to see the sites). Driving to Santa Barbara is a 1.5 – couple of hours depending on traffic – expect delays if you hit the morning traffic.
I hadn’t booked any accommodation but planned to stop off on the way, get a coffee and look online at the options. So I cruised up the coast and did just that!
Rocking into Santa Barbara is a great view as you wind your way down to the ocean front – dotted with hotels, motels, palm trees, people walking, cruising on bikes and in no great rush.
A tram runs from the pier up State Street for all the central shops, cafes and department stores. Think of a boutique LA with a laid back vibe.
Early October is a perfect time to go after school holidays, the weather was still great and it’s much quieter in terms of cafes, hotels and just getting around.
Where I stayed:
I splashed out a bit and stayed at the Hotel Oceana right on Santa Barbara Boulevard. Approx $150 – 270USD per night depending the room, season and deals. The rooms were great, spacious, with free WIFI, breakfast and free use of the bikes. Parking is $18 per day. The reception staff were super helpful, the hotel was spotless and check and in out was a breeze. Highly recommend it. Ideal if you’re sharing the room as well as it’s per room per night rates.
Where to eat:
- Best smoothies and yummy giant bowls of goodness : Backyard Bowls OMG try the Popeye Smoothie! Blenders In The Grass is a great place for a juice and there are lots of cute cafes that do fantastic salads.
- Japanese try: Kai on State Street
- Mexican in Montecito – Luckily for me kite surfer Ian Alldredge was home and they took me to an amazing mexican place for dinner Los Arroyos. If you have the time this is a great spot the restaurants and cafes are in this gorgeous little area, dangerous shopping too, as the main Montecito street is lined with boutique stores.
Workouts and Wellbeing:
I only had half a day so here were my top picks including my morning run before driving up north for day 2.
- Want to enjoy some yoga – try the Alchemy Arts Centre or Yoga Soup or hop into LuluLemon and enjoy one of their free yoga classes depending the day you’re there.
- Hire a bike and cruise the streets – plenty of bike lanes. It’s a perfect way to check out the area.
- Walk/Run the boulevard up to the Pier then out around the harbour over the hill for the best views of the bay. Keep on going and you’ll find a set of wooden stairs to take (depending the tide) and you’ll get even more breathtaking views. You’ll see seals bobbing around in the water, surfers, kayakers and stand up paddling galore!
Shopping: Want to fit some shopping in then you will find most of the usual suspects such as Victoria’s Secret, a mini Macy’s, MAC, Abercrombie & Fitch, LuluLemon, Guess, Banana Republic, Foot Locker + some cool surf shops, boutiques and the Australian fitness brand Lorna Jane has a lovely store there as well. I was holding out for San Fran…
So that ended day 1! It was 10pm – back in my fantastic Santa Barbara hotel room and I only arrived in LA at 0630 that morning. Had already seen so much, enjoyed meeting some fabulously fit people and seen a bit of the area thanks to a run, a hire bike and some good tips from the locals. It was time to download the info and get ready for Day 2.
Tune in on Tuesday for my DAY 2 Travel Fit Blog – Leaving Santa Barbara, meeting up with an inspirational author, visting one of the oldest Ranches in California, two horses and a black lab named Joy.
Health & Happiness
- Phones: If you want to get a sim card do this at the airport – take a spare phone you can use for the US sim card and keep your iphone handy for to use wifi for email and social media (avoiding roaming and data charges etc). The only reason I went into Starbucks was the free WIFI – its great marketing from them as it becomes an easy point to reach when you need to connect online in new places, and you always end buying some giant iced tea or mega drink of some sort! worryingly Starbucks was built into my navigation system so it made it super simple 🙂
- It is definitely worth hiring a sat nav for the car – it re-routed the drive to avoid traffic etc and took the guess-work out of distances and planning.
- If you’re in the area a short time and want to do yoga etc – just ask the studios what is possible or even book a mini session. People are super friendly and from my experience will try to help out where ever possible.
- Last minute bookings for hotels – if it’s not peak season make a short list of places and if you are arriving at a reasonable time, then drive along and pop into the ones you like the look of best. Ask them for any last-minute rates. If you’re arriving late somewhere it’s best to book (not all receptions are open late) and it takes the stress out of travel if you have a point to rest at the end of the day all sorted.
- Super Size: Even a “small” is a “tall” in portion sizes here. Be sure to know what size you’re ordering. Whether its drink or food the portions tend to be generous. I’m pretty sure one ginger iced tea I ordered was bigger than my back pack…I’d avoid the sugary drinks and ask around for great juice places or options with no added sugar.