THE GOLDEN STATE FULL CIRCLE

California in Depth

California

Duration: 20 nights

Price: From £5,150 per person in low season based on two adults travelling together and including all flights in economy class, accommodation, car hire and taxes

This epic journey is the ultimate US road trip: taking in some of North America’s most dazzling and iconic sights. From glitzy West Hollywood, you’ll drive through the north of California, and right down to the surfer beaches of Orange County. Get ready to hike through breathtaking Yosemite National Park, experience iconic city life in San Francsico, and toast an unforgettable adventure in the Napa Valley wine region.
Perfect forCouples on their first trip to California, looking to explore it in depth.
In the knowStopping off at Big Sur for scenic coastal beauty on the iconic Highway One.

Best for

  • Landscapes & Scenery
  • Road Trip
  • Adventure
  • Beach

All Exsus holidays are tailor-made

This itinerary is just a starting point. Tell us your budget/wishlist/preferred length of stay and we'll help you select the best hotels and experiences, so your holiday is totally personalised.

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Itinerary details

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2 nightsWEST HOLLYWOOD

Flying into LAX, the first stop on your comprehensive Californian adventure is nearby West Hollywood, popular with celebrities for its fashionable nightclubs and bars such as the Whisky a Go Go and the Troubadour. You’ll spend two nights at the Andaz West Hollywood, a luxury hotel steeped in rock ‘n’ roll history which lost several televisions throughout the 1970s to the likes of Keith Richards and Keith Moon. The attractions of Los Angeles are within easy reach of this hotel, from the art exhibitions of the Getty Center to the iconic nightspots of the Sunset Strip. Clubs like the Viper Room and Rainbow Room, long the preserve of rock and movie icons, are within easy reach, as are the world-class shopping street Rodeo Drive and attractions like the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Dolby Theatre.
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2 nightsPALM SPRINGS

After two nights in West Hollywood it’s time to take to the road as you venture out into the desert town of Palm Springs, a couple of hours’ drive away. Once the playground of the likes of Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe, this glitzy town has retained its retro charms whilst enjoying a significant revival in popularity since the turn of the millennium, and is now once more a favourite for celebrities looking to escape the Hollywood Hills for a few days. Your hotel, The Parker, is a luxurious property surrounded by 13 acres of gardens with the desert and mountains beyond; it’s also in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, meaning the city’s attractions are within easy reach. For beautiful views over the desert and the San Jacinto Mountains, take a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the largest rotating tramway in the world; to get a closer look at the scenery, head to Joshua Tree National Park, where you can hike, climb and horseback ride, among other things.
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1 nightDEATH VALLEY

The next stop on your self-drive adventure is Death Valley, the hottest, driest and lowest area of North America. You’ll spend one night at The Inn at Furnace Creek, around four and a half hours inland from Palm Springs. Open since 1927, Furnace Creek remains one of the most uniquely situated hotels in the States, surrounded by the desolate beauty of Death Valley National Park. With salt flats, strange rock formations and vast canyons, it’s not difficult to see how the likes of Dante’s View, Coffin Peak and Devil’s Golf Course got their infernal names. Cycling, horseback and wagon rides, and hiking are all great ways to explore. The Borax Museum is the oldest structure in the valley and tells the story of its history, and Artist’s Drive is well worth checking out for its bizarre multi-coloured rock formations.
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2 nightsMAMMOTH LAKES

After one night at Furnace Creek, you’ll hit the road again for the three and a half hour drive to Mammoth Lakes, a mountain resort town in beautiful natural surroundings. Your hotel is Tamarack Lodge, a collection of homely alpine cabins on the shores of Twin Lakes. The varied terrain of this area can be explored in a variety of ways. A gondola ride to the 11,000 foot high summit of Mammoth Mountain affords incredible views and a rewarding hike back down (return tickets are also available!), while Mammoth Mountain Bike Park has trails for riders of every ability level. On Mammoth Lakes, you can boat and fish, and Devil’s Postpile – a bizarre formation of basalt columns – is also nearby on the fork of the San Joaquin River.
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3 nightsYOSEMITE

Departing Mammoth Lakes after two nights, you’ll continue to the next stop on your journey, the iconic Yosemite National Park. Home to huge, ancient sequoias, sheer granite cliffs and plunging waterfalls, Yosemite is breath-taking in its beauty and the diversity of its flora and fauna. Your home for the next three nights is Tenaya Lodge, a cosy and rustic hotel just outside the park’s south gate. A rang of outdoor activities are on offer, including hiking, biking and horseback riding; professional guides can be arranged to lead you to ancient sequoia groves and hidden waterfalls which you’d never see otherwise. Iconic spots well worth visiting in the park include the rock formations Half Dome and El Capitan, the rolling Tuolumne Meadows, and the cascading Yosemite Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in the world.
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2 nightsNAPA VALLEY

Departing Yosemite after three nights, you will head deep into Californian wine country in the Napa Valley. You’ll spend the next two nights at the Carneros Inn, a collection of luxurious cottages and the perfect place for enjoying the famous wine and cuisine of this region. Tours and tastings can be arranged at a range of acclaimed wineries nearby, including PlumpJack Winery, CADE Winery and Odette Estate. There’s also world-class cuisine within easy reach, with the small town of Yountville – around 20 minutes’ drive from the hotel – boasting the highest number of Michelin stars per capita in the country. They are shared between two restaurants owned by acclaimed celebrity chef Thomas Keller, The French Laundry and Bouchon.
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2 nightsSAN FRANCISCO

A short drive of less than an hour from Napa Valley will take you to San Francisco, one of the US’s most individual cities. Check in to the Hotel Vitale, one of the top hotels in San Francisco, where you’ll be spending the next three nights. This vibrant, colourful city is home to a multitude of cultures and creeds and it’s the melting pot of people that creates such an exciting city– so absorb the rich mix by wandering through Chinatown, Japantown and Little Italy in North Beach, before heading down to the Mexican-influenced Mission district and the flamboyant Castro. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge, a San Fran and US icon, and journey up the impossibly steep hills of the city in one of the historic cable cars, before catching the ferry to Alcatraz and enjoying some ocean-fresh seafood by the harbour.
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1 nightCARMEL

The next stop on your journey is the quaint seaside town of Carmel, around two hours’ drive down the coast from San Fran. Famous for its natural beauty and cultural history, Carmel is also known for its association with dogs – hotels and restaurants are remarkably canine friendly, with food often left out for passing mutts. Jack London, author of classic wolf adventures Call of the Wild and White Fang, is one of the many writers and artists who made their home here, and the town has a rich history of Shakespearean theatre. Your home for a night in Carmel is La Playa, the grand dame of hotels on the Monterey Peninsula which, as the name suggests, is seconds from Carmel Beach.
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2 nightsSANTA BARBARA

Hop back in your car and continue for four hours down Highway One until you arrive in Santa Barbara. Your hotel, Spanish Garden Inn, is a beautiful whitewashed and red-roofed property in keeping with the Mission-style Spanish colonial architecture for which Santa Barbara is famous. Hire a bicycle for a leisurely jaunt into Santa Barbara, where you can shop, stroll down the beach, or spend the evening in one of the restaurants and bars along State Street. The famous Franciscan outpost, Mission Santa Barbara, is a beautiful site dating from the 18th century, while the rickety wooden pier Stearns Wharf is home to seafood restaurants and boutiques which are great places to pop in and pick up a souvenir.
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3 nightsLAGUNA BEACH

The final stop on your self-drive journey is Laguna Beach, around six hours’ drive south of Carmel. Combining beauty and glamour with a rich artistic and cultural heritage, Laguna encapsulates everything that’s great about California. Main Beach is the place to go for surfing and beach volleyball, with secluded Divers Cove great for scuba and snorkelling. For a culture fix, head to Laguna Art Museum, the only one in California dedicated solely to Californian artists, including the famous plen air Impressionists. At the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, you can check in on sick and injured marine mammals who are being rehabilitated by a dedicated team of staff and volunteers, and learn about the area’s rich marine wildlife. Your hotel is Surf & Sand, a luxurious resort overlooking the ocean. After three nights in Laguna Beach, your self-drive Californian adventure comes to an end, and you’ll drive to LAX for your flight home.
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