Most West Coast USA itineraries tend to follow the Pacific Coast Highway, taking in picture-perfect cities in California including San Diego, San Jose, Big Sur and Santa Cruz.
Most West Coast USA itineraries also tend to be road trip itineraries.
To be upfront with you, our 2 week USA itinerary is wrapped up in a unique little package, with a Hawaiian twist on the side. This is the same itinerary we embarked on ourselves back in September 2016.
Our itinerary is perfect for those of you who wish to get a taste of the Pacific Coast, as well as the delights of Hawaii – without needing to hire a car.
This is our unique 2 week West Coast USA itinerary…
Our 2 Week West Coast USA Itinerary
Days 1-3: Los Angeles
Our 2 week West Coast USA itinerary starts with a whirlwind 3 days in Los Angeles.
LA is full of sparkle and pizazz – as can be expected from somewhere that is so intrinsically linked with celebrity and stardom. But there’s also more to Los Angeles than first meets the eye.
By following our 3 day Los Angeles itinerary, you’ll see all of the top attractions you expect to, as well as some hidden gems that you may never have known about.
Note: To make the most of your 3 days in LA, we highly recommend using the CitySightseeing ‘Hop On Hop Off’ bus by Starline as it’s a really good way of getting around the city. For a 72 hour pass, you’ll pay $72 per person (roughly £60), but given you’re going to be using it A LOT during the 3 days, (LA is hardly a walkable city), then we think it’s great value for money.
Los Angeles – Day 1
Your first day in Los Angeles will be spent walking in the footsteps of Pretty Woman in Beverly Hills, and searching for your favourite celebrities along the Hollywood Walk of Fame and at the TCL Chinese Theatre.
In Beverly Hills, a splurge (or window shop) in Rodeo Drive, a walk through Beverly Hills Park, a quick selfie in front of one of many Beverly Hills signs and a drink and sit down in posh Beverly Canon Gardens should all be at the top of your list. This would take roughly 2-3 hours – or longer if you particularly love to shop!
From Beverly Hills, hop back on the bus and head towards Hollywood Boulevard.
At 1.3 miles in total, the Hollywood Walk of Fame will take roughly 45 minutes to walk in its entirety.
Seeing as you’re in the area, you should visit the lesser known TCL Chinese Theatre as well, which has handprints, footprints and signatures of yet more celebrities – as well as a superb view of the Hollywood sign at the top of the accompanying shopping mall.
Los Angeles – Day 2
Your second day should be spent lapping up all the beachy vibes that LA has to offer at Santa Monica Pier, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach, followed by a deep orange sunset over Manhattan Pier.
Santa Monica Pier is perfect if you love traditional funfair rides and games, with plenty of food stalls to grab lunch from. But Santa Monica beach is a little dirty, so we recommend wandering further along the coast to quieter (and much cleaner) beaches once you’re finished at the pier.
Along the way, you’ll pass through Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and end up at Redondo Beach if you walk the full stretch. But any one of these beaches are great to relax on.
Towards the end of the day, start making your way back up the beaches towards Manhattan Pier for a deliciously romantic Californian sunset.
Los Angeles – Day 3
On your final day in LA, we’re guiding you to a few lesser known – but still beautiful spots.
Start your day early in Fisherman’s Village and nearby Marina Del Rey. It will be quiet with hardly anyone around, allowing you to photograph the colourful buildings and boats without any interruptions.
And once the shops along the harbour front open, you’ll be the first to mooch about looking for your next favourite souvenir, clothing or home decor.
From here, hop back on the bus for a walk around the quaint canals in Venice, followed by an afternoon soaking up the Californian sunshine.
Days 4-6: O’ahu
From LAX, you can hop on one of a dozen daily 6 hour flights to Honolulu on the Hawaiian island of O’ahu.
This is the Hawaiian twist we talked about and we think it’s a detour well worth taking!
O’ahu – Day 1
On your first day, you’ll likely want to stay close to the capital city of Honolulu while you get your bearings.
Although lots of people complain about how built up Honolulu is, we both loved spending some time walking along the seafront and swimming in the sun-soaked waters of Waikiki Beach.
You can also follow the coast and hike the Diamond Head Trail, which is about an hour’s walk from the Waikiki Beach area and has beautiful views across the city and a nearby volcanic crater.
Hiking Diamond Head itself takes another 1-2 hours with several sets of steep steps to climb up. You can also take a local bus to Diamond Head as well.
O’ahu – Day 2
In order to see more of the stunning scenery that O’ahu has in abundance, you should aim to spend at least one full day or a half day exploring the rest of the island.
An easy way to do this is with an island tour. We chose KOS Tours, which enabled us to see a bunch of filming locations for the TV show Lost.
But if you’re not Lost fans, don’t worry, as there are still a bunch of island tours to make the most of.
O’ahu – Day 3
On your third and final day on O’ahu, you can’t leave without seeing Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.
This museum of sorts commemorates the surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
With your ticket, you’ll have access to various informative exhibits, as well as the opportunity to see inside an old war ship, as well as the USS Arizona Memorial itself.
You’ll spend roughly 3-4 hours seeing it all and it pays to book tickets in advance if you’re visiting at a peak time as it’s a hugely popular place to visit in Hawaii.
Getting to Pearl Harbor from downtown Honolulu is easy to do via one of the local bus services and only costs a couple of dollars to do so.
You can also join a day trip tour if you’d prefer.
Days 7-9: The Big Island
It’s time to say goodbye to O’ahu and start making your way to The Big Island for another few days of paradise and stunning spots in nature!
The only way to get to The Big Island from O’ahu is by catching a domestic flight, which takes about an hour and can be booked on a budget. Although it’s fairly easy to fly between the islands, the majority of flights connect at Honolulu.
Are you ready for the next part of your 2 week USA itinerary? Of course you are, let’s go!
The Big Island – Day 1
Once you’ve checked into your new hotel and gotten your bearings, we highly recommend a tour of Volcano National Park.
Here, you can watch active volcanoes bubble and boil away, learn more about them at the Visitor Center, walk through a lava tunnel at Thurston, hike through an active crater at Kīlauea Iki and marvel at the glow of lava from Kilauea at night (a volcano that has been continuously erupting since 1983).
It’ll take you around 6-8 hours to see all of these attractions (without rushing).
The Big Island – Day 2
Another tour that is well worth taking on The Big Island is to summit the Mauna Kea mountain in a 4×4.
Although Mauna Kea hasn’t erupted for over 4,500 years, it’s still considered to be a dormant volcano. But what’s most interesting about it is that it provides stargazers with one of the best night sky views in the world, which is why the world’s largest astronomical observatory has set up camp near the summit.
As an ordinary visitor, you have the chance to see an incredible sunset from 13,000 ft up the mountain…
And stargaze for as long as you want from 9000 ft up.
You’ll need a 4×4 in order to reach the 13,000 ft summit, but there are also plenty of tour options available too. Many of which will also include a visit to Rainbow Falls, a very pretty waterfall and another top attraction on the way to Mauna Kea.
The Big Island – Day 3
After a jam-packed couple of days seeing the best of The Big Island’s scenery, you should take a full day to get a feel for local life in one of the island’s towns.
On the Eastern side of the island, Hilo should be calling your name. There’s an airport nearby for easy access, as well as several beaches and beach parks, a Japanese-inspired zen garden, and an abundance of cafes and restaurants to choose from.
On the West Coast, another town well worth exploring is Kailua-Kona. Alongside the pretty beaches you might expect are historic buildings, such as Hulihee Palace, Mokuaikaua Church and reconstructed thatched houses at Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark.
Colourful corals can be found close to Kamakahonu Beach, while Kailua-Kona is also where you should come if you want to try one of the most expensive coffees in the world: Kona coffee.
Ask any Hawaiian local and they will tell you: “Kona coffee is the best!” In fact, they love their homegrown coffee so much that an annual festival – the Kona Coffee Cultural Festival – seeks to celebrate 200+ years of coffee heritage in Hawaii. So prized is their coffee, that a 100% Kona coffee package would frequently be referred to as 24 carats!
Days 10-12: San Francisco
From The Big Island, you’ll now hop onto a flight back to mainland USA – to complete your 2 week West Coast USA itinerary in the fog-shrouded city of San Francisco.
You can fly from Hilo on The Big Island, although this would require a short stopover at another Hawaiian airport, such as Kahului on the island of Maui, taking around 7 hours in total.
Or you can fly from the Kona District, which is a 5 hour direct flight.
San Francisco – Day 1
On your first day in San Francisco, we recommend taking it fairly easy with a quick photo opportunity at the famous switchbacks of Lombard Street, before taking a casual stroll along Pier 39.
From here, you’re in the perfect position to catch an afternoon or evening ferry to legendary Alcatraz Island.
Note: Due to the island’s popularity, you should pre-book your ferry tickets at least 3-4 months in advance of your trip.
Alcatraz Island can be found in San Francisco Bay, roughly 1.25 miles from the city – and from 1934 to 1963, it was a federal prison.
As part of your tour price, you’ll catch a 15 minute ferry to the island from Pier 33, and be able to follow a self-guided audio tour around the prison grounds and cell blocks. Alcatraz is notorious for some of its escape stories so be sure to listen out for those during the tour.
San Francisco – Day 2
Across Golden Gate Bridge, and within just 30 minutes of leaving Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, you can be at Muir Woods, where some of the most majestic Californian Redwood trees can be found.
The woods themselves have several different routes you can follow, of varying lengths. This is the perfect chance to get up close and personal with giant Redwood trees, as well as escaping the hustle and bustle of San Francisco.
There are a few companies offering tours to Muir Woods from San Francisco. We booked ours with Grayline Tours and we would certainly recommend them. Our tour guide was friendly, funny and full of knowledge. He could even tell us lots about the Eucalyptus trees we were passing on the way to Muir Woods.
While you’re in this area, your tour may also stop off at Sausalito, which is a quaint seaside city overlooking Richardson Bay and part of San Francisco Bay.
Sausalito is also home to a heavenly ice cream parlour. In fact, our tour guide told us Lapperts Ice Cream sells the best ice cream in California… quite some accolade!
On your way back to San Francisco from Sausalito, try to stop off at Battery Spencer, which is home to a superb viewpoint of the Golden Gate Bridge itself.
San Francisco – Day 3
On your final day in San Francisco, we recommend starting the morning off in Chinatown.
This is when it’ll be at its least busy, allowing you to peruse the myriad market stalls and independent shops in search of some cool souvenirs – without all the crowds.
Make sure to also admire the architecture in this area too!
From the throngs of Chinatown, you can hop on an electric trolleybus and be in a Japanese oasis in less than an hour.
The Japanese Tea Garden can be found within the sprawling Golden Gate Park, and is made up of a labyrinth of paths, ponds, sculptures and monuments, each inspired by Buddhist and Shinto spiritual beliefs.
The teahouse at the garden’s heart offers a variety of vistas, as well as the chance to try some traditionally Japanese food and drinks including Matcha tea, Edamame sandwiches, Green Tea Cheesecake and Kuzumochi.
Personally, I can’t think of a better – or more tranquil way – to while away your last few hours in San Francisco, while reminiscing about your West Coast USA adventures.
So… what did you think of our 2 week West Coast USA itinerary? Do you think the Hawaiian twist is worth the detour? Let us know what you think in the comments below…
Was this useful? Awe-inducing? Wanderlust-inspiring? Why not share it around now!