The Barefoot Mermaid’s Travels to California

The Barefoot Mermaid’s Travels to California


In 2015, we took a trip to California with my cousin twin and her husband, before I blogged much. I’ve always meant to create a journal/recommendations for what we did. Mimi and Shark leave for vacation soon so they inspired me to document so they could know what we did. There are many stops along the way. I recommend researching many blogs etc to find what interest you the most. I’ll post some links at the bottom of this as well as throughout. Also, please excuse my 2015 photograph skills.

We flew into LAX. Alyssa and Ian had been there for a day or so camping at Joshua Tree. We met at the airport picked up our car and we were off on our adventure.

Our general plan was head down to San Diego. Then back up to San Francisco all on the Pacific Coast Highway. Alyssa and Ian flew out from San Fran and Ryan and I continued back to LA via roads other than Highway 1. We spent time in LA before flying out.

Our first stop was Santa Monica Pier. We ate lunch at the Mexican restaurant at the end. Rode the ferris wheel and walked around. It was interesting but nothing too compelling for me. We ventured around Venice Beach before heading towards San Diego. I was disappointed in how dirty Venice Beach seemed to be and how far away the water actually was.


We stopped at Encinitas Beach at twilight where I fully intend to touch the Pacific for the first time but alas there were hazardous water condition signs. This I believe is one place that sometimes you can see the bio-luminescence. Worth looking into for sure.

We continued on to our hotel. It was just a generic hotel in the downtown area. We grabbed pizza with a friend from college. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I loved San Diego. It was clean, not too crowded and greener than I expected which I love.

While in San Diego we visited the San Diego Zoo. We have all heard how fabulous it is but it’s hard to imagine! There’s bus tours inside the zoo and a sky tram. My most memorable animals where the pandas, koalas and flamingos for obvious reasons.

We also visited the world famous Coronado Island. We took the Coronado Ferry over and back. But we walked from the ferry dock over the island to the resort and beach area. This is actually where I was able to put my toes in the Pacific for the first time. We grabbed tacos for lunch at Clayton’s Mexican Takeout. Popped in a few stores and just leisurely explored the island. Seaside Papery was one if the cute stores we visited.  Charming and fun. Watched the sunset from the beach at the resort.

A few years ago when traveling here doughnuts where all the rage everywhere. We pre-ordered some of the famous Donut Bar. By preordering you can skip the line but there is a minimum order. They were so good and fun. I have followed their journey and they still seem to be doing an amazing business and growing. There is one in Las Vegas if you ever visit there.


We had dinner one night at Stone Brewing at Liberty Station. I am not a huge alcohol fan but the food was good. I highly recommend it based on the atmosphere. We sat outside in the garden/patio area which was lovely.

We headed up Highway 1 with some stops along the way. We drove from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. If I did it again I would stop somewhere in between for the night if there was time. Traffic in LA will slow you down more than you can imagine. But if you had to chose add a day in the Big Sur/Monterey area.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve was one of my favorite stops. We hiked on the cliffs and visited the beaches below. (Mimi and Shark this is a place for y’all.)


Of course we had to stop at La Jolla to see the seals. We didn’t do much else here but I know there is shopping and dining if that’s your thing.


Huntington Beach was another stop. A quintessential California beach. Think surfing and lifeguard towers. We stopped in Malibu at Wildfox.  Before continuing to the Madonna Inn.

I love funky, crazy, beautiful, historic hotels. Here is one area where Ryan and I differ but I see his point. He would rather spend money doing thing around and area and just get a reasonable hotel but to me sometimes the hotel can be part of the destination not just a place to sleep. Over the years we have had a great mix of the two. The Madonna Inn being one of them. I had to stay in the pink glitter room. So we did. I definitely want to go back here one day.

That night we got in later than expected. We had Mexican food as it was one of the only places open. We picked up our famous cake from the bakery at the Madonna Inn and played in the hot tub and pool. It was so cold but also so fun. The cold made the memories of fun had stick a little more. The wind was blowing like crazy and we had the place to ourselves.

We had breakfast at the cafe at the Inn and on true want to be blogger fashion we basically did a photo shoot with our cake and pink glitter walls. We headed back onto the Pacific Coast Highway, for arguably the most famous and most beautiful portion of the drive towards Monterey.

Along the way we stopped at some of my favorite spots.   Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park offers hiking, views of the Pacific and  McWay Falls. This falls drop from the cliffs 80 feet into the Pacific. You park inside the park to your right and then walk down a short easy trail under the highway to the falls. Breathtaking.

A MUST stop for lunch, dinner or even a snack is Nepenthe. The prices are not cheap but the view is incredible. Try the roasted garlic appetizer.

We continued to chase the sun and race against sunset to stop at our next two stops.

Pfeiffer Beach is located down a dirt road but worth the trip. There is a beautiful rock formation. It’s a great spot for sunset to watch the sun come through the rocks and cast everything in a golden glow. We found a In Pursuit of Magic sign here. Lovely.Bixby Bridge is the picturesque bridge often in car commercials. You can stop off the left side for views or the bridge and land but I preferred the right side with the ocean and bridge. If you have time do both. We lost daylight here this any good hope of a quality picture.

We unfortunately just didn’t have time for everything. Guess we will have to go back! Hearst Castle and Carmel by the Sea are also in this area. This area in between San Luis Obispo and Monterey is the main place I would add another night if I could.

We spent the night in Monterey at a generic hotel. Here we had planned to have a fire on the beach but never got around to it. That is one of my regrets since it’s legal and common on the West coast but not on the East coast.

We had a delicious dinner at Monterey’s Fish House. The next morning we took a whale watching tour. One of the best I have been on. We saw a pod of doulphins that was estimated to be 500 large. We toured with the Monterey Bay Whale Watching company. One side of the boat saw a whale breech. We missed it but had other great sightings as well. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is also a large tourist attraction in this area.

From here we continued onward to San Francisco. First we went to the Golden Gate Bridge park. Grabbed some photographs and walked around before driving over the bridge to head to Muir Woods National Monument. Again we lost daylight here but saw the great redwoods and a raccoon at dusk. We had dinner in the Mission District at Pancho Villa Taqueria. We drove down Lombard Street.

We woke up at the crack of dawn to head to Point Reyes National Seashore. We explored the area and went to visit the lighthouse when it opened. Sadly the winds were too strong so they did not open the stairs down to the lighthouse that day. There are many beautiful areas to explore in this National Seashore. We also stopped by  Cowgirl Creamery, as recommended by Shauna Niequist. It did not disappoint.

We headed back to San Francisco to drop Alyssa and Ian off at the airport for their flight out.

Ryan and I checked into a new hotel. We rode a trolley around to see some sights, stopped in China Town for dinner and hit up  Ghiradelli Square. As well as chocolate there were some cute shops and a beautiful jewelry store. We even were able to take a pic in front of the trolley since the one in front of us hit a car and so we were stopped for a bit then ended up getting off and walking.

We grabbed sandwiches from Davey Jones Deli. Which I am pretty sure is one of the best wraps I have had in my life. We took them to Rodeo Beach. It was a bit windy and cold so we didn’t stay too long.

Of course we had  stop by Alamo Square/Full House. We continued back towards LA via more inland roads.

We expected to go to Sequoia National Park but upon getting closer we saw signs stating the roads were already snowy. So we had to turn around. The area was beautiful though. We spent the night in Bakersville. We did stay in a cool hotel here The Padre Hotel.

Next we went back to LA. Ryan hurt his back somewhere along the way so I ended up driving from Bakersville to LA. We checked into the Millennium Biltmore Hotel early rested a bit then headed to Disneyland! Of course I got my Dole Whip Float West Coast style. We also grabbed Roscoes Chicken Waffles with another friend from college.

We had a great adventure and I can not wait to go back.

For more websites or blogs just search Pacific Coast Highway road trips.

Happy Travels!

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