West Coast Road Trip Itinerary - RV Road Trip
Updated: Jul 9
West Coast RV Road Trip
Experiencing the West Coast of the USA is on most world traveler's bucket lists. A West Coast road trip is the best way to see everything Washington State, Oregon, and California to offer.
Rugged coastlines, ancient forests of giant trees, incredible National Parks, picturesque golden beaches, and iconic cities. A west coast road trip through has something to impress every traveler.
We covered over 3000 miles in 6 weeks during our West Coast Road Trip in the USA. We started our trip in Seattle, Washington, bought an RV in Portland, Oregon and ended our road trip in San Diego, California.
The Main Attractions:
Multnomah Falls, OR
Dunes City, OR
Crater Lake, OR
Avenue of the Giants, CA
San Francisco, CA
Big Sur, CA
Santa Monica, CA
Venice Beach, CA
Los Angeles, CA
San Diego, CA
New York, NY
Las Vegas, NV
Grand Canyon, AZ
This itinerary consists of all the activities we did on our 6 week USA West Coast road trip. We reveal our favorite cities and sites to see, the best free camping spots for an RV, tips for living in an RV and how to save money on the road.
SEATTLE: 5th/6th of August 2019
We got lucky with the weather when we arrived in the US. Seattle was sunny and beautiful. It was an amazing city to get our first taste of America. It is a modern city, you’re surrounded by skyscrapers and futuristic tech buildings. The streets are really clean, with trees and greenery all over the city.
We checked into our hostel and then went to explore the city.
Accommodation: City Hostel Seattle at $30 each/night for a shared dorm room.
Pike Public Market Place was one of the first stops, it is a busy marketplace on the harbor, that is bustling with activity. It was a cool experience, there is a lot of classic American food stalls so we tried some BBQ meat. Check Pike Market out when you head to Seattle.
Seattle is built on a huge harbor and downtown they have lots of parks spread out along the waterfront. We wandered along the boardwalk for a while and found a nice open grass area. Here we got an incredible view of the skyline, the harbor and huge mountains in the far north.
We’d just checked out a dispensary and purchased our first ever legal weed. The weed industry is growing enormously in the USA and especially the West coast, it was legalized for recreational use in Washington in 2012, Oregon in 2014 and California in 2016.
Dispensaries are like bars for weed, there is music pumping, neon lights and every kind of edible, or smokable type of Marijuana. Go in and tell them what kind of activities you are planning on doing and what kind of high you want, and the lively ‘budtenders’ will sort you out. It's crazy.
So we tried the weed that the budtenders had given us then went to a little bar and tried Seattle's local beer, and our new favorite ‘Rainier’.
After a few Rainier’s we tried to go out to a place called ‘Mo-Town’ in Capitol Hill, which is supposed to be a cool place to dance and party. But it was a Monday night, and after an expensive ride there we found it pretty much dead.
Tip: Monday nights aren’t very popular for going out to town in Seattle.
To see Seattle from the sky you can pay $32.50 for general admission. But we wanted to find a free view. We didn’t have any luck. The Starbucks at Columbia tower is on the 40th floor of the tallest building in Seattle and offers an impressive view of the city. This is perfect for travelers on a budget, instead of $32.50, it’s the price of a Starbucks coffee. Unfortunately, it was closed when we got there, so we ‘accidentally’ went into a very fancy law firm to sneak a peek out the window.
There were free art galleries all over downtown and we checked a few cool ones out, if you’re traveling on a budget this is an awesome activity to do. There are so many different styles of art and you can easily spend a few hours just browsing and it doesn’t cost anything.
We biked to union park and laid in the sun then swam in the harbor. This is an awesome spot to hang out and socialize. When we were there, a lot of younger people were out doing activities and playing drinking games.
Tip: Sam’s Tavern is a very fun night out.
PORTLAND: 7th/8th of August 2019
We left Seattle by Amtrak train at 8.30 am and arrived at Portland’s train station. It cost us $36.00 each and took 3 1/2 hours.
We took an über from there out to meet our RV, it was love at first sight with Jenny, (her name didn’t come till much later). We paid for her and got all the papers.
None of us had any experience driving or living in an RV, so the guy we bought it off gave us a crash course on how to look after an RV, then we were off. It was a figure it out on the way and hope for the best kind of feeling.
Before you drive anywhere on an American Road, you have to at least have to have 3rd party or liability insurance. So we ordered ours online just before we picked it up. For 5 registered drivers, all on foreign drivers licenses and under 25, we were able to get a 12-month insurance plan for $810. We chose to pay in 3-month installments and that was $270 a month. So $54 each per month to be insured.
Read this for a full breakdown of the Cost of our Road Trip.
Even after getting insured and paying for the RV, there is still one final admin task you have to do. The dreaded trip to the DMV to change registration. It’s a pretty painful process but it has to be done.
Tip: If you go with 5 people, you can take turns waiting in line so it makes it much more bearable, the wait times can be 2 hours+.
So once we had organized the registration and insurance we were free to hit the open road!
The first stop was Walmart, we loaded Jenny up with all supplies. We did our first major grocery shop and got all the bedding, plates, cups, cutlery and necessities for a Campervan.
Some Key Items to buy for an RV Road Trip:
Broom/Mop - RVs floors get dirty super quickly
Camping Lantern - If you charge it while you drive you can limit your camper's battery or generator use.
Portable Battery Bank - You can charge these in your RV and then plug your phone or laptop in when the battery runs low. It is perfect for when you’re going off-grid or hiking for a few days and still want to take pictures or use your devices.
Camping Chairs and Table - Great for RV Road Trips in good weather, gives you a lot more space for preparing and eating meals (there’s not a lot of room in an RV kitchen…) and a nice outside area to hang out.
Basic First Aid Kit - These come in really handy sometimes, you never know what you might need. Fill it with band-aids, antiseptic creams, sunscreen, insect repellant, and painkillers/medication.
Check out our post for a Full Checklist of Essential Road Trip items.
After our big Walmart shop, we did some research to find a campground for the night. We settled on Oxborough Regional Park. But we never quite made it into the campground. There was a big downhill on the way to the campground and us being rookie motorhome drivers, didn’t know how to use the brakes in an RV. Turns out you couldn’t just ride the brakes…
A burnt rubber smell started to fill the motorhome and we could see a little bit of smoke under the hood. We thought we’d been ripped off and the RV was cooked. We were never going to finish our west coast road trip.
Our driver managed to come to a stop, but not in a hurry as the brakes weren’t working properly. We ended up around 100m from the entrance of the campground. Without much say in the matter, we had made it to our first campsite, albeit a roadside (little did we know, roadside camping would become the main choice of campsite for our trip).
We jumped out to inspect the damage, the brakes were hot and smoking. We tried to call roadside assistance but we had no service... We would reassess in the morning and hope for the best.
MULTNOMAH FALLS TO CORVALLIS: 9th August 2019
The next morning we woke early and went for a drive to test the brakes. No issues at all! We decided it was driver error and there was nothing wrong. Lesson learned!
Tip: Use engine braking when going down steep hills. This will save you a lot of stress when learning to drive a motorhome.
We made our way into Portland but couldn’t find any vacancy in the campgrounds near the city. So we settled for one half an hour out of town. We ubered back in and had dinner and some drinks in Portland city. There is a long list of cool activities to do in Portland but we were having to much fun on the road in our new home that we didn’t have time to check many out.
The next morning we woke up and drove around 50 minutes from Portland to Multnomah Falls. It's only a 30-minute drive in a car, but Jenny’s slow. It’s a nice scenic drive out to the falls, but the road tightens a lot when you get close to the car park area. Which is fun for rookie RV drivers to try and navigate…
It’s not an easy place to find RV parking but we eventually found one and went for a hike to the lower falls, which is one of the smaller ones. Then carried on to the main attraction. The 189m (620ft) tall Multnomah falls. It’s widely debated but it is one of the tallest waterfalls in North America. It’s an impressive sight to see. Make sure you add this as a stop on your West Coast Road Trip itinerary!
After exploring the Multnomah falls area for a few hours we got back to the road trip and made our way south to Corvallis. Corvallis is a college town that hosts students attending Oregon State College.
We had a friend in Corvallis and were able to park our Motorhome on the street outside their house for the night. Once again we got our timing slightly wrong and we had come to a college town during summer break, so there was a lack of students. We still had a fun night at a rowing party and immersed ourselves in the American drinking culture, learning some new party games.
DUNES CITY: 10th August 2019
We left Corvallis relatively early in the morning despite nursing a few headaches. We were heading to the Oregon coast, Dunes City specifically. Dunes City is a beautiful area surrounded by lakes and enormous dunes. We found a campsite on the edge of a lake that had some space for us and booked a spot for the day. $40 for a night. $8 each, not bad for waterfront real estate.
You can hire ATV's for $60 an hour and take them out on the dunes. We decided that it was worth blowing the budget on.
We got a quick rundown on how to use the ATV's and then they led us through a forest path out onto the dunes. The view opened up and we were blown away. There were dunes as far as the eye could see in every direction, all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
After racing each other across the dunes for an hour, nearly escaping without any crashes... we made our way back to the rental place and returned our bikes. We were stoked when only half our group had to pay so we got a massive discount and it didn't end up hurting the budget too much.
We made our way back to our campground and Jenny's holding tanks were both full, so we would have to do our first RV dump. This was an interesting experience, and we did not know what we were doing. The previous owner had briefly shown us, but once again we would figure it out for ourselves. Plus, the dumping pipes she had come with were not in great condition. Some Key Items to make RV Dumping Easier
A good quality RV sewer hose - you won't have any leaks and you'll be able to store it easily, unlike an old bulky hose.
Support stands for the sewer hose - this makes it a lot easier to clean and your hose won't lay in any leftover liquid from previous campers.
Disposable Gloves - It's a messy job and gloves would've helped a lot during the road trip.
Check out our post for a Full Checklist of Essential Road Trip items.
After the dump station, we made our way for dinner to a cute, little town on the Siuslaw River called Florence. We found a very American style karaoke bar to get some food and listened to some below-par karaoke singing from the locals. We made our way back to our campsite after dinner and parked up for the night.
CRATER LAKE: 11th/12th August 2019
We pretended to be mechanics and gave Jenny a quick check under the hood before we made our way inland to Crater Lake. Everything looked okay so we got on the road again. It was a long haul for us to go all the way to Crater lake in one shot, so we stopped off at an outlet mall in Eugene for a bit of shopping.
This is a bit of a shock when you aren't used to American malls. We didn't hang around too long, we bought a few cheap clothes each and kept going, onwards to Crater Lake National Park.
To get to Crater Lake, we had to enter the national park and then climb 6000 ft in the RV. This would be a great test to see how good Jenny was, we hadn't had any issues since the first night. We took it very easy but she charged up the mountain.
We made it to 5000 ft elevation before it got dark and found another awesome spot on the lake to camp, this one was free. It may have taken Jenny a while, but we'd made it.
It was our first time that we were allowed to have a campfire on the trip and we cooked our dinner over it, in true camping style.
Check out the Lonely Planet USA Travel Book. They have thousands of sights to see, places to eat at, and things to do in the states. We used their book to plan the majority of our trip.
We got up the next morning and took Jenny for the final 1000 ft climb to the top of Crater lake. As we reached the top, you get an incredible view down into the crater. The water is a shade of blue, unlike anything I've seen before. Crater lake is the deepest lake in North America at 594m deep and was formed when a volcano erupted. The water was unbelievably clear, you could see so far down into it.
After admiring the view for a long time, we decided we wanted to hike Cleetwood Trail, this would take us down to the edge of the lake and we could go for a chilly swim. It is relatively steep and strenuous but it's only a 2.2-mile round trip down to the water and back. So you can do it pretty quickly if you're pressed for time. We didn't have anywhere to be so we hung out by the lake for a while, swimming and jumping off the rocks. It's not easy to stay in the water for a long time because it's so cold. Crater lake has no inlets or outlets so all the water is from rain or snow melts, and even in the middle of summer, it was not warm.
After the hike, we took Rim road around the lake and on our way down from 6000 ft we watched one of the most amazing sunsets we had seen. It was dark by the time we found a campsite for the night, more free roadside camping. It's so easy to find places to boondock in national parks in the US.
REDWOOD HIGHWAY: 13th August 2019
The next morning we were headed down the Redwood Highway into California. We got to the 'Welcome to California' sign at the Oregon/California border and Jenny decided it was too hot, and started sputtering. I pulled over and turned her off to let her cool down. We topped her up with oil, just in case and then waited about 10 minutes and then tried to turn her back on. No luck. Once again we were broken down on the side of the road with no phone service.
We brainstormed and decided we would send two people hitchhiking and get them to find phone service so we could call a mechanic. As they were getting ready to go we tried to turn Jenny on again, this time she started, so we drove as if nothing happened. We decided it was best to turn around and find a mechanic before carrying on down the coast. We saw a painting of a SparkPlug and decided that it looked promising. It turns out that we had just arrived at SparkPlug's Motorcycle Campground.
We met the man known only as SparkPlug and told him about our issues with the RV. He said he would be more than happy to take a look at it but it would need to cool down before he got under the hood. In the meantime, he was going to take us for a VIP tour around his motorcycle campground. He showed us some dead rattlesnakes, gave us some beers and let us have a quick swim in the river running through his property.
He was very keen for his new little brothers to stay the night at his campground but we wanted to keep moving down the coast. So after an hour or so of touring his property and listening to his stories, he took a look at jenny.
He got under the hood and came out with some of a rat's nest. He said that it was sitting on the engine and working like a blanket, making it overheat and sputter. We couldn't get it all out but he said we should be okay to continue driving into California, just try to find a mechanic who could get it out in the next town.
We got back on the road and crossed the California state line again. Here we were entering the Redwood National Forest and we were starting to see some enormous trees. We continued down the highway until we found a nice swimming spot, just outside Crescent City. We parked our camper at another free camping spot by the river and went for a little hike along the river's edge and through the trees before the sun went down.
REDWOOD NATIONAL FOREST & EUREKA: 14th August 2019
All the mechanics were booked in Crescent City. So we decided to risk it and push on for the next town, Eureka. We continued our drive south through the Californian Redwoods, Jenny running smoothly, albeit a bit hot. We made it to the mechanics around midday which was lucky because the temperature was up around 40 degrees celsius and Jenny doesn't like the heat.
The mechanic said it would take a few hours, so while we waited we decided to head into town and see what Eureka had to offer... It was too hot to want to do anything, not that there were many options to choose from.
We killed some time by the water and walking through the town but we were itching to get back on the road again. Turns out Eureka doesn't have much to offer.
After spending 4 hours in Eureka, Jenny was finally ready to go. She had a bit of r&r and was feeling good. We got back onto the redwood highway and once again found ourselves amongst enormous trees. We found another free camping spot and parked up in the forest for the night.
AVENUE OF THE GIANTS TO WINDSOR: 15th August 2019
Jenny woke up feeling very fresh after her time at the mechanics, so we took her to the Shrine Drive-Thru tree on the Avenue of the Giants. Unfortunately, Jenny was a bit big to squeeze through the tree, so we got out and walked through instead.
If you do want to drive through the tree, you will need to be in a car. Some SUVs were getting through with their mirrors folded in, it has a 7'6 clearance overhead so most cars will be fine. There is also a $10 fee to drive your car through and take a pic. It's free to walk through though.
We went for another awesome walk through the Giants, driving down the Redwood Highway is a must if you are traveling from Oregon to California, or down through California. The trees are enormous, and after we left the Avenue of the Giants, normal trees didn't look the same. They looked too small.
After leaving the trees we made our way through another small town called Ukiah. We were only intending to pass through, but it was 41 degrees and Jenny wanted a break. We let her cool down for a while and tried to escape the heat. Not easy when the air conditioning doesn't work in your RV. She had a good break so we continued to Windsor. We were meeting a friend there who was letting us park the RV out front of their house for the night.
Tip: American Suburban roads are great for parking your campervan overnight when you're on a west coast road trip. Be sure to read all the street signs, but usually, you can get away with it for a night, just be sure to find a new park the next day. They have street sweepers once a week or fortnight, so you can't be on the street during that time, but any other time is fine. We did this a lot and only got one parking ticket in Santa Monica.
SAN FRANCISCO: 16th/17th/18th August 2019
We drove in from the north of the city and got an amazing view of the San Francisco skyline. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and were in awe of the views, we could see Alcatraz in the harbor looking very creepy surrounded by ocean fog. Our first stop was Crissy field, it's a cool little park with lots of people out walking dogs and exercising. We had a quick dip in the cold San Francisco bay.
We gave Jenny a big clean as it had been a while, and with five guys living in her, she gets pretty dirty. The floors get dusty in a camper with people coming in and out, so having a broom to sweep your floors will make your RV a nicer place to live in.
Jenny was looking a lot cleaner, so we left her parked at Crissy field and walked downtown. In'n'Out burger was our first port of call. We had heard great things about the classic American hamburger takeout, so we went to see what it was all about.
On arrival we saw people queueing outside the door, we debated but decided it was worth the wait. In'n'Out has extremely quick service, so we ordered a 'Double Double Animal Style' burger, (Animal Style was a hot tip from our friends in Windsor, and it's not on the menu. See the rest of the Not so Secret Menu here.). I loved In'n'Out and it became a frequent stop on our trip.
Pier 39 was the next tourist attraction we went to, they have great views of the harbor and some sea lions chilling on the pier. There are all kinds of different street entertainers, that will try and suck you in to be part of their stunts. You end up having to stand there for 10+ mins waiting for them to collect money and then they backflip over you. We saw groups of people doing very similar acts in New York and Venice Beach. It's impressive the first time, but we learned not to stick around.
We walked through the Palace of Fine Arts, an open area art museum in downtown San Francisco that has sculptures and magnificent buildings spread around a park.
After exploring the city for a while, we made our way back to Jenny and drove her to a campsite we had booked in Hunters Point. We stayed at the Candlestick RV park on the 16th, it was $115 a night for RVs under 30ft. We each paid $28. Pretty steep, but San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities in the US for accommodation.
We took an uber back into San Francisco to meet with some friends and see the city at night. On the way, our driver asked us how we ended up in the Hunter Point neighborhood, as it used to be the murder capital of San Francisco and is a rough area. Good to know. We had a very fun night out in San Francisco, we went to a cool nightclub called White Rabbit which was packed full of people.
There was an awesome Irish nightclub in downtown San Francisco that we checked out. It had a packed dance floor and bar downstairs and a karaoke area upstairs.
As we are Kiwis and it was the middle of the Rugby World Cup, we tried to find a sports bar that was playing the All Blacks game. But the American bars weren't showing it so we made our way back to Hunter's Point to try stream the game.
The next day we went out and explored Chinatown, we got some really good Chinese food from a little stall. Apparently there is an awesome food street in Chinatown with lots of vendors and shops like this one, but we were too hungry to wait to find it.
We hired bikes as we thought it would be a quicker way to get around the city. It was, but it was a leg workout. San Francisco is full of hills and we decided to bike up a renowned steep street Lombard Street. It gave us a cool shot of the city and we saw San Francisco's funky houses like the painted ladies.
We spent some time at the Marin Headlands, just north of the city over the golden gate bridge. We parked the RV there and walked back across the Golden Gate Bridge. It was an incredible experience and blew our minds that it was a suspension bridge, held up by the wires.
There was so much action to see from the bridge, we saw dolphins, seals, massive cruise liners and shipping container ships, and countless boats and windsurfers. To top it off a plane flew under the bridge while we were walking across.
This is a must-do if you are planning on traveling to San Francisco, and it is free, apart from the bridge toll to drive across.
After paying for accommodation at an RV campground the first night we stayed in San Fran, we decided we would try to find parks on the street for the next couple of nights. As I mentioned, San Fran is a hilly city, so we were on a lean in the camper, not fun when sharing a small bed.
Tip: Use Leveling Blocks to even out your RV when you are parked on uneven ground.
Our final night in the city we parked back at Crissy field, as there were plenty of other RVs parked there, but it did say no overnight parking. Unfortunately, as we were settling in, a cop came up to our window and told us to move. We just drove around for a little and then parked on the street in a flash neighborhood. Another free night camping.
We set off from San Francisco early in the morning, heading for Yosemite Valley, maps told us it would take around 4 hours to get there. But we new if Jenny was to make the climb in the hot Californian weather, we would have to take it slow.
After a few pit stops, we were overlooking Yosemite Valley just over 6 hours after we left San Fran. Half Dome and El Capitan were looking ominous, huge granite faces jutting out of the valley floor. However, the appreciation didn't set in till the next day when we got up close and personal with the rock faces.
We found a beautiful little swimming hole to cool off in. It was a little waterfall streaming out of a boulder, this was the first of our many freshwater swims in Yosemite Valley.
Our first night we parked up and had our favorite RV dinner, steak, potatoes, and salad, while we watched the sunset over the valley and played Catan.
We woke up early the next morning to drive into the valley and take on one of the hikes. We were doing the hike to the top of Yosemite Point, which is Upper Yosemite Falls.
The hike is a 7-mile round trip and a pretty grueling climb. But we beat the crowds and were rewarded with an incredible, unobstructed view of Yosemite Valley from the top of the falls. We had lunch up here and saw at the top of the waterfalls before heading back down to the bottom.
Once we were back down to the Yosemite Visitor Centre, we were exhausted and hungry so we tried the famous El Capitan burgers.
Being back down by the RV and looking up at the falls had given me a whole new appreciation of Yosemite after hiking to the top.
We found another perfect little swimming spot with a jumping bridge to help us cool off after the hike. Seeing El Capitan up close was our next mission. We wanted to get there before the sun started to go down. We got a great view of the rock face from the road and it blew our mind that people have rock-climbed up it. It looks impossible.
Even though our legs were shot from the hike, we took an easy 20-minute stroll to the base of El Capitan. We laid on some rocks and just stared up at the wall for a while. It was a humbling experience. Hiking to the top of El Cap is on my bucket list, I want to walk it next time I'm at Yosemite.
As the sun started to go down we made our way back to Jenny so we could find a campsite before dark. We didn't have to drive far and we found arguably our best free campsite of the trip. We were parked on the valley floor of Yosemite National Park, surrounded by Half Dome, El Cap and Yosemite Falls, some deer grazing not far from the RV and an unpolluted night sky full of stars. Camping doesn't get much better.
Yosemite National Park is a must, it was the highlight of the trip for me.
Our final day at Yosemite National Park was spent hiking to some more incredible waterfalls: Vernal and Nevada Falls or 'nature's giant staircase'.
The hikes were a lot easier than the Upper Yosemite Falls track, but we'd slept in a bit and the track was packed with hikers. If you want to beat the crowds at Yosemite, get up early in the morning, this also helps you beat the heat in the summer.
We hiked the bottom of the falls which took around an hour. It is a nice, easy hike and is part of the mist trail so don't free afraid of getting a little bit damp. It's quite refreshing as you walk, and you get to see a lot of rainbows. After the hike, we made our way out of Yosemite National park, headed for Big Sur on the California Coast. We stopped off at one final swimming hole on the way out of the valley.
BIG SUR to SANTA MONICA: 22nd August 2019
We made it to Monterrey, California the night before and found a free spot to camp. The next morning we drove down Big Sur, taking in the rugged West Coast views.
Unfortunately, we hadn't picked the best day to do the drive, there was fog coming off the ocean so we missed a lot of the scenery. This included missing the turn off to the famous Waterfall on the Beach at Big Sur. I will have to check that one out next time.
We did stop off and see some Elephant Seals hanging out at the beach. This was primarily a travel day for us as we spent about 7 hours cruising down highway 101. We hit Santa Monica in the late afternoon and went to get our first experience of California's Golden Beaches.
SAN DIEGO: 23rd/24th/25th/26th/27th August 2019
San Diego was one of our favorite cities of the trip, it has a real beach vibe and a lot of people our age hanging out. We spent 5 days here, soaking up the sun, enjoying the beaches and eating a lot of Mexican food. The fish tacos are incredible.
When we arrived, we went and booked a spot at the Mission Bay RV Resort for the weekend. It was a central spot close to the water and a few km lime scooter from Pacific Beach. It cost $120 a night over the weekend and we stayed for two nights, so $48 each.
We spent a lot of our time in San Diego on the beach, whether it was laying in the sun, swimming in the warm water or throwing a football. We tried Pacific Beach and Coronado and they are both nice spots.
After staying at the campground our first two nights, we went and found a free spot to park at Coronado, right on the beachfront.
Pacific Beach was our area of choice for nightlife, the town was packed full of people and we had really fun nights at Mavericks, Moonshine and Water Bar. If you are in San Diego, Pacific Beach is the place to be. It seems to go off every night in the summer.
On Monday morning we headed to the San Diego Zoo. It's a world-famous zoo that holds 3500 animals. General admission was around $50 and it was a one-time thing for me. It was a stinking hot day and we were constantly walking around trying to find shade, and so were the animals because they were all hiding from the sun in their enclosures.
We did see some very weird animals that looked like cat-dogs and we finally got to see a bear, but I still want to see one in its natural habitat. If you go to San Diego Zoo, bring a packed lunch to avoid the expensive food stalls, I paid $15 for a shitty little hot-dog because I was hungry.
We lasted as long as we could in the heat and then decided we were better off at our beachfront campsite, so we made our way back to Coronado.
Of the five nights we spent in San Diego, we probably had Mexican food every night. It is so so good. Oscars Fish Tacos and Rigoberto's Carnitas Tacos, both in Pacific Beach were my two favorites.
On Tuesday, we chilled at the beach for the morning and then thought we would take Jenny for a drive towards Mexico. It's only about 20 miles drive from San Diego to the border of Mexico.
We didn't go across because it can take a few hours each way if you are in a vehicle. If you park your car and walk through the border it's much faster.
So while we didn't step foot in Mexico, we could see Tijuana from a distance. On the way back to our free beachfront accommodation we found another super cheap shopping outlet and got some clothes.
Some other places I highly recommend visiting in San Diego are La Jolla, La Jolla Cove is beautiful and there are free art galleries downtown, including local legend Dr. Seuss' Gallery. Old Town is a historic part of San Diego and was the birthplace of California.
SIX FLAGS + LAX: 28th August 2019
After spending 5 nights in San Diego we made our way north, heading to Six Flags Magic Mountain. If you haven't been to a Six Flags, and you're a bit of a thrillseeker, then you have to check them out. Even watching the rollercoasters can make your stomach turn.
A day pass to the roller-coasters cost $90, but if you order your tickets online the day before it costs $60. Unfortunately, we didn't do this. It was also over 40 degrees celsius and we didn't feel like standing in line waiting for rides all day. Sweating due to a combination of fear and heat.
So we went next door to Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Waterpark. Day passes here are $48, so a little bit gentler on the budget.
Bonzai Pipelines and the Tornado were our two favorite rides at the waterpark. In the Bonzai, you stand in a chamber waiting for the floor to drop out from under you and send you sliding into the pool.
The Tornado is an inflatable tube that gets sent down a giant funnel. 4 people can go on this ride so it's fun if you're in groups.
After we had tried out most of the rides at the waterpark we jumped into Jenny and made our way to LAX, we were flying red-eye to New York later that evening.
We left the waterpark at 3 pm, thinking we allowed ourselves enough time to make our 9.50 pm red-eye flight.
Unfortunately, when we booked a parking garage to store our RV in, we didn’t check the clearance height. When we arrived we saw the parking space was underground and there was no way Jenny would fit under the clearance height. We quickly tried to call other parking areas around LAX but they were all full or had no spaces for RVs. So we decided to try to find a free parking spot on the side of the road and hope for the best.
After lots of driving around and some google maps street view research. We found Jenny a nice wee spot by Venice beach to park her for 5 days.
For our Tips on Saving Money with Cheap Flights, read here.
NEW YORK: 29th/30th/31st August, 1st September 2019
We wrote a separate blog post for our 3 Day New York Itinerary because we can't really consider it part of a West Coast Road Trip.
If you're on the East Coast check out these 6 Epic RV Road Trips from Atlanta
VENICE BEACH: 2nd September 2019
We caught a flight out of New York very early Monday morning. We took some melatonin to avoid any jetlag and help us get some more sleep which worked well. We got back into LA feeling refreshed.
We got a lyft out to Jenny, hoping like hell that she hadn't been towed or ticketed. Thankfully, she was there waiting for us when we arrived. 5 nights of free parking in Venice Beach.
It was around 10 am when we got back, so we went and saw the buzz that is Venice Beach. The Boardwalk was humming with people and there were all kinds of activities going on, Muscle Beach, Pick Up Basketball games, Snake Charmers and of course surfing and skating.
There was a huge crowd of people watching skaters at The Venice Beach Skate Park. We watched some little kids absolutely carving up.
Venice Beach itself is beautiful with long stretches of golden sand and California Summer weather. It was the perfect place for us to lay in the sun, throw the football and body-surf in the waves. We had a day to recover from the weekend in New York before taking off to Las Vegas.
After spending the day at the beach we took the RV to a residential area in North LA and parked on a street that was free parking without street sweeping. We had gotten bloody good at scoring free parks.
LAS VEGAS/GRAND CANYON: 3rd/4th September 2019
Check out our in-depth blog post about our Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Road Trip.
ROSE BOWL & SANTA MONICA: 7th/8th/9th September 2019
Luckily we timed our return from Las Vegas perfectly. When we got back to our RV, warning notices on the windscreen were saying we had 24 hours before we were towed. Jenny just seems to know how to get free parking.
That night we enjoyed In'n'Out for dinner, then Jenny worked her magic again and parked us amongst million dollar beachfront houses in Hermosa Beach. Free of course.
We bought tickets for our first-ever live football game. UCLA vs San Diego State College football was on tomorrow at the Rose Bowl. We got a great, last-minute deal on Stubhub and they cost us $18 each.
The next morning, we printed our tickets and got breakfast then drove to a Pasadena to where the game was played at the Rose Bowl stadium.
Planes fly overhead as fireworks go off and the star-spangled banner is sung. We get a real taste of American sporting culture here. The Rose Bowl Stadium is enormous and seats 90,000 people, it wasn't at full capacity that day though. San Diego State ended up getting the road win.
If you are into sports, go to a college football game, they know how to put on an event, there is tailgating outside where you park your cars in the car park. So, set up camp and start pre-drinking with other supporters. Americans take their football seriously.
We were loving being back at the California beaches so we drive Jenny to Santa Monica. We found a great free beachfront spot by the pier so stayed for a couple of nights.
Food Tip: Check out Cha Cha Chicken Restaurant if you are in Santa Monica, it's Caribbean cuisine and was the best food we had had on our whole west coast road trip, so we went 3 times in 2 days.
After dinner, we walked down to the pier and had a little six flags teaser on the mini roller coaster. We played a few of the carnival type games here and won some little toys.
The next day we made the wrong decision to head into Hollywood boulevard in the RV. Firstly, LA's traffic is shocking and even worse when you're in an RV. and secondly, Hollywood Boulevard sucks. We walked along the walk of fame for about 5 minutes and turned around and headed straight back to Santa Monica.
We threw the ball around and lay on the beach for the rest of the day, then watched a perfect sunset over the ocean while we were surrounded by palm trees. Livin'.
SIX FLAGS + MALIBU: 10th September 2019
After getting a taste of the thrills at Six Flags, we all decided we wanted to go back and try the roller coasters. We bought our tickets online the night before for a $30 discount. We spent $60 each.
We all secretly got extremely nervous driving into the theme park. Some of the roller coasters they have there are insane. We tried our hand at all the thrill seeker rides.
Best rides at Six Flags Magic Mountain:
Batman The Ride
If you are looking for an adrenaline rush, try any of these rides, they get the heart pumping.
Once we had had our fix on the roller-coasters we left Magic Mountain and drove about an hour south to Malibu Beach.
We found a free parking spot right by the ocean on the Pacific Coast Highway and made camp for the night.
MALIBU: 11th September 2019
The next day we woke to some perfect beginner waves at Malibu Beach. Malibu consists of 3 main point breaks. It's a great spot for surfers who are just learning as you don't have to struggle through whitewater to get to the waves, you can just go around.
We hired boards from a van on the side of the road. $20 for a longboard for a day. We just hired two between the 5 of us. alternating between hanging on the beach and catching waves for the day.
Being an iconic surf beach, Malibu gets packed. There were a lot of surfers in the water the day we were there. But if you are careful and respectful you won't have any issues.
The waves were perfect for us to get some good surfing in, nothing too big but enough to have fun on.
We hung out on the beach all afternoon and watch the sun go down from the sand. Once it got dark we went and got some beers. Later we went down to a karaoke bar a local had told us about. We hung out and listened to a few songs then went back to our free beachfront campsite.
There are some nice hikes along the pacific coast highway and the Solstice Canyon Hiking Trail by Malibu beach is a great example of this. It offers spectacular views of the rugged pacific coast and the beautiful golden beaches. You can see the impressive LA skyline in the distance too.
MANHATTAN BEACH: 12th/13th September 2019
Our last two days of our West Coast RV road trip were spent at the beautiful beaches of Manhattan and Hermosa, we had free parking one block back from the beach both nights.
We swum in the surf, lay in the sun, threw the football, enjoyed American food and had some beers while reflecting on the holiday.
It was a great way to finish the road trip. Enjoying the California beaches and sunsets before returning to New Zealand.
We did a spot of last-minute shopping and got some cheap clothes from another outlet mall. They are everywhere on the West Coast, it doesn't make much sense shopping at full price stores.
Of the 5 of us on the road trip, 3 were flying out of LAX on the 13th of September, the other 2 had picked San Diego as the place we wanted to live for the next few months at least.
So when we dropped the other 3 at LAX and said our goodbyes. Jenny was down to two men, cruising down the I-5 to sunny San Diego.