The west coast of the United States is one of the most scenic places in the country. From the mountains of Washington to the sandy beaches of California, there’s so much to put on a west coast road trip itinerary. That’s why you’ll love taking a Seattle to San Diego road trip at least once in your life.
I’ve been lucky enough to explore dozens of different destinations from Washington to California in the past few years. Based on my experience, I decided to compile all of these destinations into a Seattle to San Diego drive that others could follow to explore this side of the country.
Some of my favorite places are included in this road trip from Seattle to San Diego. Take your time to plan your trip and adjust the stops as needed. You can always decide to skip one or two of these stops if you want to spend more time in a specific city. Here are some tips to get started on planning your west coast trip, suggested itineraries, and details about each location.
Tips for Driving From Seattle to San Diego
Here are a few things to keep in mind before your Seattle to San Diego drive (or a San Diego to Seattle drive).
Which Way to Drive on a West Coast Road Trip From Seattle
If you have the choice, I recommend starting your trip from Seattle and heading south from there. A Seattle to San Diego road trip lets you start in Washington state where you can explore mountains and forest, and then end up in sunny California.
However, there’s nothing wrong with doing a San Diego to Seattle road trip as well. You can decide and adjust the itinerary based on where you’re starting from.
Best Time for a Road Trip From San Diego to Seattle
You can do a west coast trip during any time of the year, but you should be aware that Washington and Oregon can get the occasional snow in the winter. While this west coast road trip itinerary mainly has you sticking to I-5, there are parts you may be going on less traveled roads, so be aware it may be icy.
That said, the best time for a west coast road trip is from April to September. You’ll have drier weather during this time and be able to enjoy your stops outside more.
Choosing a Rental Car When Driving From Seattle to San Diego
If you need to rent a car for your trip from Seattle to San Diego, you can easily do that in Seattle. There are multiple places to book from, and you can do everything online. When I did my road trip from Seattle to Yellowstone, I wanted a car that was able to go on bumpy roads. However, I wasn’t worried about that with this trip and knew a standard car would be fine.
Compare the prices and see what type of car will work best. I recommend getting a medium-sized car so it’s comfortable and can fit down smaller streets and parking spots.
You’ll also want to think about which vehicle will have the best gas mileage. Here are several reliable car rental companies to check out for your Seattle to San Diego road trip:
West Coast Road Trip Packing List
Make sure you’re well-prepared for your Seattle to San Diego road trip before you leave. While I have a comprehensive road trip packing list tips post, here are a few essentials I recommend for this trip:
- Emergency roadside kit – If you’re renting a car, you may have roadside assistance that you can call. Otherwise, I recommend throwing in an emergency kit to help with any issues that may come up.
- USB car chargers – Charge your phone and camera while you’re driving so you’re ready to use them when you stop.
- Camera – You don’t miss out on some of the amazing scenery you’ll see on your road trip from San Diego to Seattle.
- Reusable coffee mug – Don’t waste paper cups every morning and just bring your reusable one instead to fill up.
- Snacks – Staying fueled with healthy snacks like trail mix and protein bars will prevent you from crashing.
- Reusable water bottle – Staying hydrated is important when you travel, but don’t waste dozens of plastic water bottles in the process. Many restaurants and cafes are more than happy to fill up your water bottle.
Some people enjoy taking their road trip a day at a time and seeing where they end up that night. That gives me anxiety personally, so I’ve listed my suggested stops, places to check out, and hotels to stay at.
Need help planning out your road trip? I’ve been using Roadtrippers for years to see exactly how long it’ll take from one point to the next and also find new places to add to my itinerary!
Itineraries for a Seattle to San Diego Drive
The best part about going on a Seattle to San Diego road trip is there are many different options as far as where to stop and how long to go for. Some people may be visiting this side of the country for the first time and want to go on a Seattle to California road trip for 2 weeks. Others may have less time and want a west coast road trip itinerary for 5 days.
5 Day West Coast Road Trip Itinerary
You can plan to do a Seattle to San Diego road trip itinerary in 5 days, but you’ll be very rushed. While I’ll give a sample itinerary below, you can save a few hours by having Los Angeles be your last stop on your west coast roadtrip from Seattle.
7 Day West Coast Road Trip Itinerary
If you have a full week, you’ll love this itinerary for a 7 day road trip from Seattle. You’ll get to spend several days in Washington, Oregon, and California to see the best of what they have to offer.
10 Day West Coast Road Trip Itinerary
Here’s the breakdown of your 10-day west coast road trip. Some of your drives will be short to the next destination, while others will be a bit longer, but I promise they’re worth it!
14 Day West Coast Road Trip Itinerary
If you’re lucky enough to have time to go on a 2-week west coast road trip from Seattle, you’ll get to stop at some amazing places. Here are my suggested places to visit during your 14 days.
15 Stops to Make on a Seattle to San Diego Road Trip
Here are 15 places on the west coast that you won’t want to miss. Pick and choose as you wish to make the trip your own!
Where to Stay:
- Hilton Seattle is in the middle of downtown and close to the Space Needle, Westlake Center, and plenty of shopping. (rates start at $87 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Hotel 1000 is a modern hotel with a restaurant and bar, and centrally located by the piers, Pike Place Market, and the general downtown area. (rates start at $255 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
If you’re starting in Seattle, I recommend spending more than one day since there’s so much to see. There are many day trips from Seattle to go on if you want to extend your trip before you head out.
However, if you just have a day, make sure to stop by Pike Place Market. While it may seem like a tourist trap, I still enjoy going there for fresh flowers and produce. While you’re there, check out the Le Panier for French macarons and stop by Pike Place Chowder for some delicious seafood chowder.
You can also walk around or take a taxi to see the following tourist attractions:
- Chihuly Garden and Glass
- Space Needle
- MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture)
- Seattle Aquarium
On a sunny summer day in Seattle, there’s nothing better than taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island. You’ll have beautiful views of Puget Sound and can check out the cute little town near the ferry dock. There are plenty of Seattle Instagram spots here to enjoy.
When you get back, head to the Smith Tower for happy hour while watching the sun go down over the city. You can check out my one day in Seattle itinerary for more ideas of how to spend your day in the city.
2. Gig Harbor
Where to Stay:
- Best Western Wesley Inn & Suites is close to downtown, dog-friendly, and includes free breakfast. (rates start at $117 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- The INN at Gig Harbor is near the water, has a fitness center, and offers rooms with jacuzzi tubs in them. (rates start at $128 per night, book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Your next stop when on a road trip from Seattle to San Diego is only a short drive from the city. However, you’ll love relaxing in this small town to start your US west coast road trip off slowly. If you’re here in time for breakfast, stop at Netshed No 9 for a hearty breakfast with a view of the water. After that, walk around the shops in town and grab a cup of coffee.
The city of Gig Harbor is a great place to just relax and enjoy walking along the waterfront. You can grab food to go from one of the restaurants and enjoy a picnic on a bench. I love nothing more than getting a latte in the morning and walking through town as it slowly opens up.
If you love boutique shopping, there are many places to check out while you’re here. On a sunny day, I recommend going on a boat tour of the area to see the water and learn the history.
For a romantic way to see the area, book a tour with Gig Harbor Gondola, where you’ll have a friendly gondolier take you down the harbor in a real gondola from Italy. Top off your night with dinner at Brix 25 before continuing your Seattle to San Diego road trip itinerary.
3. Olympic National Park
Where to Stay:
- Port Angeles Inn is great if you want to be on the waterfront and near a variety of shops and restaurants in Port Angeles. (rates start at $72 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Lake Crescent Lodge is one of the best places to stay if you want to be in the park. (rates start at $139 per night; book your room on Booking.com or read reviews on TripAdvisor)
One of the most amazing national parks in Washington is Olympic National Park, so you’ll want to stop here if you have time on your west coast trip. You can soak in a hot tub, walk through a rainforest, and visit the coast, all in 1 day at Olympic National Park.
There is also a good variety of Olympic National Park hikes to explore, whether you’re looking for a short one to stretch your legs on or a long, challenging hike. This stop is one of the most scenic ones in nature on your trip, and I recommend stopping here if you’re going on a 10-day west coast road trip. This is a great family-friendly vacation in Washington as well.
4. Long Beach
Where to Stay:
- Adrift Hotel gives you a view of the water and is right next to the beach. (rates start at $127 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Shelburne Hotel is a cute bed and breakfast on the main street. (Rates start at $89 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
You’ll head down the state to the Washington coast next. Visiting Long Beach is a must to add to your west coast road trip itinerary, as it has a lot to offer for a small town on the water. This is one of the longest beaches in the country, so you’ll love adding it to your list of places to see in Washington.
You’ll also get to drive on the beginning of the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway, which is one of the best scenic drives in Washington. Take a long walk along the beach or go on a horseback riding tour of the area. It’s also a great place to fly a kite, so bring your own or rent one while you’re there.
For a casual lunch, stop by Pickled Fish, where you can fuel up and have a view of the Pacific Ocean. If you’re in the mood for a pint, head over to North Jetty Brewing to try some of the local beer.
You can also catch live music at the restaurant at the Adrift Hotel. It’s a fun way to taste local seafood, see a small band, and have a view of the Pacific Ocean as well.
Alternatively, you could visit Ocean Shores instead, which is north of Long Beach and has a beach town charm all its own.
Where to Stay:
- Hotel Elliott has a rooftop deck and you’ll be able to walk around to many restaurants and stores without needing to drive. (rates start at $149 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Best Western Astoria Bayfront Hotel is near the water and has a pool and hot tub. (rates start at $119 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Many people haven’t heard of the town of Astoria, yet they’ve seen it many times. It’s been featured in dozens of movies, including The Goonies, Free Willy, and more, and there are plenty of things to do in Astoria.
Astoria faces Washington and is right on the Columbia River (seeing a theme with places by the water yet?). Walk through the town to see historic buildings and stop by Pier 39 to see the Bumble Bee Cannery Museum, which had a huge impact on the town’s growth.
If you’re into movies, you’ll love the Oregon Film Museum, where you can see old film sets and even pretend you’re in a movie. For wood-fired pizza and local beer, head over to Fort George Brewery. To watch the sun go down, drive up to the Astoria Column to have a view of the entire city. Stopping in this charming city is one of the best things to do in the Pacific Northwest.
Where to Stay:
- Hilton Portland Downtown is conveniently located downtown and there’s even a parking garage to keep your car in (rare in Portland). (rates start at $242 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- AC Hotel is dog-friendly and has a great location in downtown Portland. (rates start at $127 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
I always prefer to visit small cities over larger ones, but Portland’s a fun city to stop in for a day on a Pacific Northwest road trip. You’ll have to stop at Voodoo Donuts to start the day, as they’re one of the most famous things to do in Portland. If you love books, head to Powell’s City of Books, where you could easily spend an hour or two.
There are dozens of food carts in Portland, so you won’t have to walk far to find one for lunch. Oregon produces some great beer, so stop by a few of the breweries such as Upright Brewing or Ground Breaker Brewing. For dinner, head to Von Ebert Brewing for burgers, wings, salads, and more.
Where to Stay:
- Inn at the 5th is in downtown Eugene near plenty of shops and is right next to a delicious French restaurant. (rates start at $209 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Residence Inn Eugene Springfield is a great place to stay when you need a place to stay and the basic amenities on your road trip. (rates start at $139 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Most people put Portland on their itinerary for a west coast road trip from Seattle for at least a day, but make sure to check out Eugene on the way south on your Seattle to San Diego road trip. Downtown Eugene is full of hip eateries, kid and dog-friendly breweries, and local shops.
If you’re in town during football season, check out a University of Oregon football game for a unique experience. If kids are with you on your trip, they’ll love spending time at the interactive Eugene Children’s Museum. You can also take a stroll along the Willamette River.
Where to Stay:
- McMenamins Old St. Francis is a plush place to stay with multiple restaurants and bars on-site. (rates start at $175 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Hampton Inn & Suites is a more affordable place to stay and family-friendly if your kids are with you. (rates start at $154 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Many people stop in Portland and then keep going to California, but Bend is a place that’s becoming popular for an Oregon vacation. I recommend stopping here for a day during your west coast road trip from Seattle. The area is known for its outdoor activities and beer, so take advantage of both by adding this to your west coast trip itinerary.
You can go parasailing, hiking, or canoeing to get out some pent-up energy from driving.
Bend is also known for its famous Bend Ale Trail, which features 16 different breweries from the area. While you probably shouldn’t visit all of these in just a day, check out at least a few of them. Some I recommend include Sunriver Brewing Company or Boneyard Beer.
For dinner check out The Blacksmith to sample local seafood and beef.
Oregon is known for its chain of hotels and restaurants called McMenamins. I always try to stay in them when I can due. The rooms are well-decorated and they have plenty of activities to do. In addition to a restaurant, they also tend to have a bar or two in the hotel.
Where to Stay:
- Hilton Garden Inn Redding includes a restaurant on-site and free cookies in the lobby for a snack, plus they’re close to the freeway. (rates start at $115 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Comfort Suites Redding has an indoor pool and a fitness center. (rates start at $93 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Many people stop in Redding on the way down California since it’s right off I-5, but it’s worth it to spend some time exploring the area by adding it to your west coast road trip.
Head to Whiskeytown Lake to go hiking, kayaking, or swimming. There are also many hikes north of Redding in the Shasta Cascade region. Redding is an outdoor lover’s dream with how much there is to do.
When you’re ready for food, head to downtown Redding to The Mosiac and enjoy seating on their outdoor patio. After, take a walk along the Sacramento River and see the Sundial Bridge.
Where to Stay:
- Hotel Petaluma is a restored boutique hotel from the 1920s that is in the heart of downtown Petaluma. (rates start at $93 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Petaluma Valley Inn has a pool and is nearby the famous Lagunitas Brewing Company. (rates start at $81 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Sonoma and Napa are popular places to go wine tasting but don’t overlook Petaluma on your Seattle to San Diego road trip. This adorable town is in Sonoma County and much less crowded than Napa Valley. Staying here is also generally more affordable during your road trip from Seattle to San Diego.
There are dozens of wineries to visit in Petaluma and the surrounding Sonoma County. When you’ve had your share of wine, you can head to downtown Petaluma for dinner or to go shopping in some of the boutique stores. You won’t want to miss this town on your 7 day west coast road trip.
11. San Francisco
Where to Stay:
- Bay Bridge Inn is a modern hotel within walking distance of many attractions. (rates start at $88 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- SOMA Park Inn is downtown and has a view of the city. (rates start at $90 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
San Francisco is always a fun city to stop in, whether it’s for a day or a few days. You can visit places like Alcatraz Island to visit a former prison and learn about the history of it. Fisherman’s Wharf is another fun place to visit by the water and buy seafood when you’re on a Seattle to San Diego road trip.
Some other areas to check out when you’re in San Francisco include:
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Painted Ladies
- Golden Gate Park
- Muir Woods
If you want to extend your trip, you can always take a drive over to Tahoe to enjoy all the fun summer activities in Lake Tahoe.
Where to Stay:
- Inn By the Bay Monterey has beautiful views of the ocean and a garden to walk around. (rates start at $151 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Portola Hotel & Spa is a place to indulge by taking advantage of the spa and having a glass of wine while staring at the Pacific Ocean. (rates start at $189 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Monterey is a beautiful city to stop in on your west coast road trip from Seattle that’s on the California coast. Head to Cannery Row to go wine tasting, have lunch, and enjoy sitting on a bench while watching boats go by.
If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can go scuba diving in Monterey Bay and see jellyfish, seals, and more. I’ve been diving in many different areas, but this is one of the most scenic ones. There’s a shop right by the water so you can gear up and walk straight into the water.
For a unique twist on Latin food, stop at The Haute Enchilada for a meal. You can also take a walk down Fisherman’s Wharf to sample seafood the local restaurants give out, buy taffy, and stop in the souvenir shops.
You only have a few days left on your west coast road trip itinerary, so you might be a little tired at this point. I suggest taking your time in Monterey to relax and enjoy the beautiful views while you’re here.
Alternatively, Monterey is a great base to go on a Big Sur day trip, so you could spend a day exploring the coast on your road trip from San Diego to Seattle.
13. Los Angeles
Where to Stay:
- Ramada Plaza by Wyndham West Hollywood Hotel & Suites is an Art Deco hotel with a restaurant and pool. (rates start at $159 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles is in central LA, has a pool, and is near some of the hippest restaurants in the city. (rates start at $179 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
Los Angeles is a crazy city that’s always busy but it’s still worth a stop on a Seattle to San Diego road trip. Trying to drive in Los Angeles can be tough with how crowded it is, but I do recommend spending a day exploring it.
My favorite breakfast there is an acai bowl, which you can find at dozens of different health shops around the city. After that, head over to Venice Beach to hang out on the beach and people watch. I love seeing some of the locals skateboarding or doing yoga on the beach.
One of the best places in the area to go for a hike is at Runyon Canyon. You’ll have a great view of the city and probably run into a few celebrities on this popular route. This is a great spot to get out any energy you may have from sitting in the car.
At night, head to Griffith Observatory to watch the stars to end the night. You’ll love this part of your west coast trip itinerary.
If you have time and want to extend your trip, you can easily do a day trip to Joshua Tree from Los Angeles.
Where to Stay:
- Hampton Inn & Suites Temecula is close to the freeway and only a five-minute walk from downtown. (rates start at $113 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Rancho California Inn Temecula is an affordable place to stay with an outdoor pool. (rates start at $65 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
There’s no reason to go to crowded Napa when you can enjoy the beauty of Temecula Valley. You’ll enjoy spending a day relaxing as your road trip starts to comes to an end.
Spend a few hours at Robert Renzoni sampling local wine and having lunch outdoors during your Seattle to San Diego road trip.
Head to downtown Temecula to browse the shops, such as the Temecula Lavender Co. and Old Town Sweet Shop. For dinner, stop by Crush and Brew and then head to the speakeasy in the back for a specialty cocktail.
15. San Diego
Where to Stay:
- Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown is in a great location downtown and close to plenty of restaurants and bars. (rates start at $120 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
- Wyndham San Diego Bayside has a fitness center and outdoor pool. (rates start at $135 per night; book your room on Booking.com or Hotels.com)
After you’re done exploring Temecula, it’s time to head to your final destination – San Diego. You may need to get to the airport at this point, and you can likely drive straight there to return your car when driving from Seattle to San Diego. However, there are plenty of things to do in San Diego if you have more time.
Head to La Jolla to relax on the beach or go kayaking in the ocean. You’ll see plenty of seals lounging in the water.
At night, head to the Pacific Beach neighborhood to check out the nightlife. There are plenty of restaurants near the beach to go to. These include the Pacific Beach Fish Shop or Amplified Ale Works Kitchen + Beer Garden. Head to PB Ale House for a nightcap and to celebrate your trip!
By now, you should have a good idea of what you want to put on your itinerary. You’ll see some amazing parts of this coast whether you take a Seattle to San Diego road trip or a San Diego to Seattle road trip.