USA - California Driving Trip Los Angeles to Santa Barbara - Highway 101, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Solvang, El Capitan Canyon, & Glamping

California Driving Trip Los Angeles to Santa Barbara - Highway 101, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Solvang, El Capitan Canyon, & Glamping (8/13-17/2012)We loved our trip along California’s famous Highway 101 enjoying the beautiful tranquil California Coast with our Toyota hosts.

Wayne Pat Dunlap Solvang Toyota Venza California's Central Coast
Wayne & Pat in Solvang, California,
with our Toyota Venza
- California's Central Coast, USA

California’s Southern Central Coast

On this trip, we explored the southern portion of
California’s Central Coast (Los Angeles to Santa Barbara)California's Central Coast remains calm and tranquil. Situated between the megalopolises of San Francisco’s Bay Area and Southern California, the complete Central Coast of California provides wide-open natural spaces, nice beaches, beautiful Spanish missions, and a more peaceful way of life. The Central Coast includes some of the classic tourist country of California - particularly the scenic version of the drive (or train ride) between San Francisco and Los Angeles. One of the U.S.’s most scenic driving routes, US Highway 101 goes virtually its entire length offering beautiful ocean and countryside vistas.

Beach Santa Monica California
Beach in Santa Monica, California, USA
Some places to visit are Hearst Castle at San Simeon and the Monterey Peninsula, home to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the 17-Mile Drive, Cannery Row, and downtown Pacific Grove. Population in the Central Coast is concentrated in a series of fun-to-visit small to medium sized towns and cities such as Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, Pismo Beach, Cambria, San Luis Obispo, Solvang, and Santa Cruz.

The following are some of the places we enjoyed on this trip:

Santa Monica Pier View from Our Room Lowes Santa Monica Beach Hotel
Santa Monica Pier - View from Our Room
at the Lowes Santa Monica Beach Hotel
Santa Monica, California
Wayne Pat Dunlap 3-pound Lobsters The Lobster Restaurant Santa Monica Pier California USA
Wayne & Pat Enjoying Our 3-pound Lobsters
at The Lobster Restaurant
- Santa Monica Pier, California, USA

Our first night, we stayed at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel enjoying laid-back contemporary comfort right on the beach. While Pat enjoyed the pool, Wayne bodysurfed some waves in the shadow of the Santa Monica Pier (see photo). The Santa Monica Pier has been famous for years being the end of the famed Route 66 Highway. We walked to the nearby cliff-top Palisades Park and trendy Third Street Promenade. 

We had dinner at The Lobster restaurant located on the Santa Monica Pier. The original restaurant opened in 1925 and became popular through the 50's, 60's, and 70's. Our 3-pound lobsters with side dishes were amazing.

Toyota Venza

Toyota hosted us on this trip and loaned us a new 2013 Venza crossover car (see photos). We had seen the fun ads on TV about the Venza showing the daughter with hundreds of Facebook friends saying it was not fair that her parents, having only a few Facebook friends, were having so much fun and the guy wondering where is mom to fix dinner. At first we were not sure about the Venza. We ended up liking it and became those fun-loving parents.
Pat Dunlap Driving Toyota Venza on Stearns Wharf Santa Monica California USA
Pat Driving our Toyota Venza on Stearns Wharf
- Santa Monica, California, USA

We discovered that the Toyota Venza ride is very smooth and comfortable and the car is excellent for a driving trip adventure and looks great for a night out. It has some nice features for us active retired or soon-to-be retired ‘parents’ including easy access to get in and out with a lowered back-end access with a power liftgate making loading easier. The reclining back seats fold down with a simple pull of a lever in the back creating a large area to haul things around. The powerful engine made driving fun and the Entune touch-screen multi-media system that includes navigation, entertainment, rear back-up camera, and location information finding is fun to use and useful. The Venza even has an iPod hookup and hand-free phone capability.

With all this and Toyota’s great record of ergonomics, safety, and reliability, the Toyota Venza deserves a look.

Beach Point Mugu State Park California USA
Beach - Point Mugu State Park, California, USA
Point Mugu State Park

We stopped at the beach at Point Mugu State Park (see photo). This State Park features five miles of ocean shoreline with bluffs, sandy beaches, sand dunes, rugged hills, and uplands. There are more than 70 miles of hiking trails. The beach features swimming, body surfing and surf fishing.

Beach Santa Barbara California USA
Pat with Venza at Beach 
- Santa Barbara, California, USA
Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara is less than 100 miles from hyper-metropolitan Los Angeles but differs vastly. With a temperate climate and lush nature surroundings, Santa Barbara has wide sandy beaches, highly rated wineries, and a large variety of shopping and dining choices. Santa Barbara’s 90,000 residents enjoy the sort of cultural and social amenities usually found only in much larger cities. 

We had lunch at the oceanfront Harbor Restaurant on Stearns Wharf and drove through Santa Barbara’s downtown's main street (State Street) and the Santa Barbara County wine country made famous in the movie Sideways (see photos).

Dinner Barrow Room Stanford Winery Santa Barbara California USA
Dinner in Barrow Room -
Stanford Winery, Santa Barbara, California, USA
We had a special evening planned for us by our Toyota hosts at the Sanford Winery with wine tasting and a catered dinner in their barrel room (see photo). The prime rib with cognac sauce was very impressive. Sanford Winery was one of the first wineries that took advantage of the unique combination of climate and soil conditions in this area that are much like those in France's famed Burgundy province. Sanford Winery produces award-winning Pinot Noir and other wines.

Our Cabin Glamping El Capitan Canyon Resort Santa Barbara California USA
Our Cabin - Glamping at El Capitan Canyon Resort
- Santa Barbara, California, USA
Glamping at the El Capitan Canyon resort

An increasing popular travel experience is called glamping – glamour camping. Yes, you are out in nature. The difference is we saw a deer from the window of our cabin that featured room service and web access at the El Capitan Canyon nature resort (see photo). Located just 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, the El Capitan Canyon Resort is spread out over 300+ acres on the picturesque Pacific coast with miles of hiking trails and walk to El Capitan State Beach. El Capitan Canyon is a place for those who have the desire to unwind, relax, and commune with nature.

Fishing El Capitan Canyon San Barbara California USA
Here We Are Going 'Fishing' at El Capitan Canyon
- Santa Barbara, California, USA
In a camp-like surrounding at El Capitan Canyon Resort you can enjoy services and amenities, like massages with a view, typically found in a traditional resort - really roughing it. Nestled in historic groves of oak and sycamore trees along El Capitan Creek, cedar cabins and safari tents are grouped in villages called Stone Pine, Peace Tree, Lone Stone and Shaded Creek.

Pat Dunlap Rambler Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch Santa Barbara California USA
Pat with Rambler - Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch
- Solvang, California, USA
Solvang California USA
Solvang, California, USA

Danish immigrants founded Danish-themed Solvang and a number of Danish descendants live here. The drive to this area is beautiful and it is fun to wander around the pretty little town of Solvang. Driving through the tree-lined Santa Barbara hills, we visited the Quicksilver Miniature Horse Ranch where we met the miniature horse Rambler (see photo) and we stopped for freshly picked tree-ripened apples at the Apple Lane stand.
Lobby SLS Beverly Hills Hotel Beverly Hills California USA
Lobby of SLS Beverly Hills Hotel
- Beverly Hills, California, USA

SLS Beverly Hills Hotel

Ending our trip back near Los Angeles, Toyota hosted our stay at the contemporary luxury SLS Beverly Hills Hotel (see photo). The SLS is a completely novel guest experience. The essential components of the SLS guest experience are style, luxury and service - and they delivered in a unique way. The SLS Beverly Hills Hotel is just steps from The Beverly Center and nearby are the sparkling storefronts of Rodeo Drive, top Beverly Hills and Los Angeles restaurants and nightlife venues, celebrity haunts, and The Getty Center.

Our trip’s farewell dinner at the SLS was amazing. We were treated to 21 separate modern Spanish cuisine “tapas” at the Bazaar by José Andrés. This wonderful culinary experience is nothing like we have ever had before blending Old World delicacies with avant-garde delights - one amazing dish after another with wine parings.

Wayne Dunlap End of the Trail Sign Famous Route 66 Santa Monica Pier California USA
Wayne at the End of the Famous Route 66
- Santa Monica Pier, California, USA

This trip was just a 5-day driving adventure and we look forward to return and explore more of the wonderful California Central Coast.

We gratefully thank our Toyota hosts for having us as their guests on this wonderful experience. We found the Toyota Venza to be a very comfortable cruising car with many nice features – great for having an adventure. It made our trip more enjoyable. We liked this car very much and now miss it after our trip. You should check out the Toyota Venza.

Please see our other 11 blog posts on beautiful California:

Santa Barbara, California

Please enjoy 250+ wonderful places around the world, with award-winning photos, from our BLOG ARCHIVE on the right ---->

To receive free travel tips and cost-saving bargains from a former Economics professor, join our social media: 

 Facebook   Twitter   LinkedIn   Flickr   Google   pinterest

For free travel tips and cost-saving bargains:
- Like us on our Facebook travel page
- Follow us on Twitter:

Treat yourself and see many more photos (some winners of awards) of our worldwide travel adventures - click on our travel photo file:

Contact us to Arrange an inspirational and informative Plan Your Escape® travel presentation for your organization about great travel tips, unique bargain-finding strategies, easy-to-use trip planning tools, and interesting stories.

Travel for half the cost for all levels of travel from budget to luxury and 100's of other unique travel tips! From a former Economic professor, experienced traveler (100 countries), award-winning travel photojournalist/blogger, featured speaker at large travel shows, host of the travel TV show Plan Your Escape® TV aired on the CW network, and travel columnist for the Huffington Post, our popular 5-star customer rated groundbreaking and comprehensive how-to world travel book (available as paperback or Ebook for $7.96) Plan Your Escape®, Secrets of Traveling the World for Less Than the Cost of Living at Home reveals secrets how you can travel and see more for half the cost for all trips from weekend getaways to longer vacations and trips, experience more adventure and romance, safely realize your travel dreams with comprehensive planning tools and checklists, travel the world for less than $100/day for a couple, and much more! – for additional information and sign up for free travel tips and bargains, go to

1 comment:

  1. Super drive on a super car... I can feel the fun and excitement while even reading your post, By the way very nice post with exciting clicks right now i am in days inn international drive. i am also on the go to California next week so wish me fun too...and thank u very much for sharing the post.


We love to hear from you!