Time difference: GMT -8 hours
Currency: US dollar
Flight time: 11-12 hours direct
California, the Golden State, is an enchanting stretch of land on America’s sunny western coast that’s as diverse as the country itself. From huge forest reserves in the north down to the river confluence state capital of Sacramento; swathes of dramatic though pristine coastline peppered with charming guesthouses; San Francisco to LA, via ethereal Redwood National Park and Big Sur along the Highway 1, possibly one of the most scenic driving roads on earth; a tailored trip to California has it all. In truth your luxury tour of California could look one of countless ways, depending on your specific interests or indeed whether you’ve visited this part of America before and simply want to see even more Californian highlights.
Some of the most impressive scenery in the USA can be found here. You have Yosemite, Death Valley and Redwood National Parks, as well as Lake Tahoe and many wonderful beaches such as Venice Beach in Los Angeles, Malibu, Santa Monica and San Diego, Laguna Beach and Carmel by the Sea, to name just a few. Big hitting and fun-filled cities then come in the form of San Francisco, birthplace of the hippie movement and still a hub of culture, art and music, beautiful boutique hotels and restaurants, the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, the list goes on.
Hop back over to Los Angeles however and witness the iconic Hollywood Hills, Disneyland Park, Universal Studios and the Walk of Fame, plus several museums, the Getty Centre, famous music venues and the counterculture of cosmopolitan Downtown L.A. Then, in a state known as much for its outdoor activities, top sightseeing tours and abundant natural beauty as it is for producing world-class wines and encouraging long, lazy lunches during irresistible tasting tours; a private trip to see the best of California with Infinity and Beyond Travel suddenly seems hard to resist.
A dramatic backdrop of wild ocean waves, crescents of golden beach and towering redwood forests, Big Sur is California’s untamed coastline at its best. Unfolding for 90 miles, this laidback gem is studded along Highway 1, the state’s famous coastal drive that connects San Francisco to Los Angeles, with Big Sur making a more than worthy stop en route.
Big Sur is backed by the Santa Lucia Mountains and fronted by the hypnotic Pacific Ocean, itself home to marine wildlife such as Sea Otters and majestic Whales – keep an eye out and you might just see them breaching the water. Other residents include the endangered California Condor and Double-crested Cormorants, so keen or budding twitchers will enjoy a visit here too. There are national parks for hiking and biking, such as Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park which is laced with many a nature trail with varied lengths and difficulty levels for riders and walkers of all abilities.
What’s more, having been a magnet for creative types in the 1950s-60s (such as Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac), Big Sur still has a reputation for drawing in writers, artists, hippies and the like, which lends it a spiritual air that works harmoniously with the unspoilt landscape. You can visit the Henry Miller Memorial Library, nestled in the woods and playing host to cultural events such as concerts and film screenings, though you are also free to simply sit with a book in-hand and feel inspired by your surroundings. Other Big Sur highlights are the Hawthorne Gallery, Point Sur Lighthouse, and iconic Bixby Bridge, which certainly deserves a photo stop!
Carmel-by-the-Sea has been attracting visitors for over 100 years, and with its striking coastal landscapes, charming laidback atmosphere and 18th century heritage, it’s no surprise why. Although not as bohemian as it once was (when writers such as Sinclair Lewis and Jack London were among local artists residing here), Carmel still exudes a sense of romance; particularly with its breath-taking beach scenes.
Go shopping at the quaint Ocean Avenue, a storybook setting of tumbledown Comstock cottages and paved pathways where myriad wood-clad cafes, art galleries and boutiques make for a pleasant afternoon. The Carmel Mission Basilica Museum is also worth a visit: dating back to the late 18th century, it’s a beautifully restored Franciscan mission, comprising of well-tendered gardens, a pretty courtyard and museum.
Then, get your heart rate up and enjoy a gentle stroll along Carmel Beach, or join the surfers and volleyball players for something even more active. There’s also Carmel River State Beach, which is great for birdwatching, kayaking and even scuba diving, while golfers will be pleased to know that the Pebble Beach Golf Links is an excellent club, with the course running right to the sea edge for unbeatable views. What’s more, Point Lobos State Reserve is then a stunning spot for hiking or bike rides, with many a picturesque scene to stop, admire, and maybe flex your photography skills. Essentially, a boutique break in Carmel-by-the-Sea can be as active or relaxing as you decide to make it, with Infinity & Beyond Travel.
Evocative LA is certainly one of the most exciting and iconic American cities, making for an unmissable stop full of Californian highlights while visiting America’s south-western coast as a family, couple or on honeymoon. The Hollywood Hills and unmistakable sign atop Mount Lee need no introduction, nor does a visit to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, clubs and steakhouses of Sunset Boulevard or restaurants of Rodeo Drive. LA is also awash with a fine selection of five-star hotels, each with its own appeal: whether a luxe rooftop swimming pool, instant access to downtown or views over Malibu Beach, to name just a few.
And for those seeking a little excitement or travelling to America with kids, your bespoke tour of LA may well include the occasional world-class theme park or two, and you’ll certainly have plenty to choose from! Whether booking a ticket to Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland or Pacific Park, perhaps the smaller scale Santa Monica Pier, rollercoasters, Ferris wheels and all types of themed fun are synonymous with any holiday in Los Angeles. However, the day trips don’t stop there as, in addition to the hiking trails, picnic spots and dramatic landscape that surrounds the city itself, LA also boasts the Griffith Observatory, Warner Bros Studios, Madame Tussaud’s and the Hollywood Bowl.
All that, before even getting to the countless art and natural history museums, Runyon Canyon Park or the Huntington Botanical Gardens and Library. Famous live music venues both big and small – from Roxy’s on The Strip to Walt Disney’s Concert Hall – seal the deal in this, one of America’s greatest, most influential and fun cities to visit during any luxury tour of the USA; just be sure to pencil in enough time to experience it all.
Manmade islands accessible nearby, a glam harbour area, interesting museums and of course, the long stretches of golden sand lined with mansions, seafront restaurants and the Huntington Pier; your exclusive Infinity & Beyond trip to Newport Beach in Orange County will have the lot. This affluent coastal region near LA is characterised by its country clubs, high-end boutiques, private yachts and waterfront homes, and makes for a wonderful stop during any five-star USA tour. It’s a place where, for all the open-top sports cars and chic cocktail bars, there’s also a tongue in cheek side to it all, as can been seen when visiting the retro Balboa Fun Zone or Newport Pier, for example.
Natural beauty exists here too, with whale watching trips, Crystal Cove State Park, the protected beaches of Corona del Mar, Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park plus the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve among many unexpected wildlife tours while visiting Newport Beach. The islands of the coast are also fun to visit, as are the golf courses and clutch of museums, though in truth this is a luxe beach escape from the bright lights of LA, a place of fine seafood, boutique hotels and living life between the sand and the surfing waves; no bad thing at all.
Probably one of the USA’s coolest cities, San Francisco makes for an awesome stop on any luxury California holiday, and is well worth taking a few days to properly explore. This coastal gem boasts many an iconic site, though it’s the hip atmosphere and laidback lifestyle that make it so brilliantly unique among the USA’s top travel destinations.
Luckily for foodies, San Francisco boasts more restaurants and markets per capita than anywhere else in the country, so if you have a weakness for seafood, love organic cuisine or want to try some of the best dishes America has to offer, you’d do well to opt for a city break in San Francisco. Peruse the stalls at Ferry Farmer Market, dip into Chinatown and Little Italy, though certainly don’t miss a trip to the Fisherman’s Wharf: where grabbing some street food, watching the sea lions and soaking up its buzzing ambience is order of the day.
Elsewhere, you can get around the city on one of the classic trams. A national historic landmark that was inaugurated back in 1873, it’s a special experience indeed, scooting you up and down iconic steep hills just like they do in the movies! Other recognisable landmarks include the jaw-dropping Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Prison, and Painted Ladies; Victorian houses that can be found on Alamo Square, a pretty row of pastel-hued facades with the contrasting modern skyscrapers as a backdrop in the distance.
This is just a taste of what a luxury holiday to San Francisco can offer: there are also speakeasy bars and craft breweries, hippie districts and techie neighbourhoods, day trips to the wine valleys of Sonoma and Napa, plus first-class museums like SFMOMA. All this, and more, awaits on a bespoke tour of San Francisco with Infinity & Beyond Travel.
With North Pacific beaches on one side and the Santa Ynez Mountains on the other, life in Santa Barbara is good, and best taken at a leisurely pace. That said, if you’re an active type and visiting Santa Barbara during your tailored USA tour, with Infinity & Beyond Travel you can enjoy some fantastic hiking and equally memorable viewpoints during a trek up Inspiration Point. Or, opt for something a little gentler with a walk through the Santa Barbara Botanical Gardens and Lotusland, a huge private garden packed with tropical shrubs, plants, trees and exotic flowers aplenty.
Being one of California’s most glamorous, alluring towns, it’s no surprise that beloved Santa Barbara has its fair share of fantastic restaurants, fashionable bars and beaches (to see and be seen) either side of Stearns Wharf. This all means that your time here can quickly descend into a heady daydream of long lunches, sunbathing and waltzing Santa Barbara’s wide leafy boulevards – no bad thing during any American vacation. Along the way, the Spanish colonial-style architecture of terracotta tiled houses surrounded by polished white pillars is also a joy to behold, perfectly in line with the town’s sunny disposition and intriguing heritage.
There are natural history and art museums in Santa Barbara too, and a dusting of original Spanish Moorish architecture to enjoy such as the County Courthouse and 18th-century Old Mission building. And it is these cultural gems, mixed with a passion for enjoying the finer things in life, those long sandy beaches and clutch of boutique sea view hotels, fine dining eateries and trendy nightspots that makes a bespoke holiday to Santa Barbara so appealing.
Ever-alluring Santa Monica will tempt you in, chill you out and send you home feeling ever so slightly more hip and cool than when you arrived, such is the effect of a trip to LA’s more laidback neighbourhood. The wide boulevards lined with palm trees, balconied oceanfront apartment blocks and glamorous-looking beaches really do set the scene for what is certainly one of the USA’s more sought-after holiday destinations.
There are many reasons why visiting Santa Monica is such an appealing prospect. First off is the all-round relaxed ambience that exudes from every vintage convertible Cadillac, bohemian coffee shop or artisan eatery; this is a town where they do everything well though in their own inimitable style, and it’s a pleasure to be around. Then you have essential iconic sites to visit, such as the famous Santa Monica Pier with its fun shops and rollercoasters; the long golden sands of Santa Monica Beach; Downtown – full of fine dining restaurants and uber-cool cocktail bars; Pacific Park which is great if visiting California as a family; and the simple, lip-smacking pleasures of touring the Santa Monica Farmers Market where all manner of organic, kaleidoscopic produce, fresh oysters, fruits or homemade delicacies can be both purchased and tasted alongside friendly locals, doing their daily shop.
You could even base yourself permanently in Santa Monica for the duration of your Californian holiday, as from here it’s easy enough to take a tour of central Los Angeles, Malibu, the dramatic cliffs of Point Dume and other coastal gems found along the Pacific Highway as well as Santa Barbara, Los Padres National Park, even Orange County or the pristine Angeles National Forest. If deciding to do this, you won’t be disappointed, as on top of everything else Santa Monica is also known for its enchanting boutique hotels, many of them looking out towards the ocean; making returning home each evening an added delight.