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This 3-day Tour was a 30th wedding anniversary gift for my husband and myself, and it was the best gift ever. As it turned out we were the only ones who booked the tour for Jan. 29-31, and it was like we had booked an exclusive tour for ourselves. This meant a more relaxed schedule for us and more flexibility for stops and more opportunities for photos.
Kelly was a punctual guide from the moment she picked us at 9am at our hotel in San Francisco. She was very conscientious in giving us the details of the overall tour itself, and the itinerary for each day. Kelly was likewise a very good driver and very knowledgeable about the sights along the Pacific coastline along which our tour ran. We stopped to be awed by the hardy surfers in Santa Cruz braving the winter cold waters of the Pacific Ocean, though Kelly warned us about the dangers that sudden surf surges could cause. We stopped at a quaint roadside store to get some coffee - quite good by the way - and were surprised to learn that there were small pockets of civilization in the US which didn't have indoor plumbing!
After that we spent the good part of an hour strolling around Santa Cruz and browsing the bookshelves of a real bookstore - more books rather than novelty items. Next stop was Monterey where we marveled at the magnificent creatures of the deep, including quite a creepy octopus. I was fascinated by the corals and the fishes and even the jelly fishes. Watching these creatures gliding gracefully in the aquariums in all their magnificent colors was mesmerizing. And the food in the cafeteria was tasty too. Nice! We loved the vibe of Monterey. It was very dynamic and young and quite hip.
Day 2 had us driving towards Carmel via the 17-mile route to Pebble Beach. The houses were quite awesome in that part of the world. We got a glimpse of the Big Sur, and enough time to look around, take some pictures, and admire the dramatic meeting of sea, sky, rocks, and mountain. Because of the storms in the previous week, we had to turn back because of road closures on 101. Carmel itself was pretty, almost like the postcard version of a real town. In this case it was truly a really lovely part of the world. I enjoyed looking at the shops which offered items beyond the usual tourist souvenirs. I bought some lovely stationery from a specialty store and a Christmas trinket from a Christmas store. We also looked at the different posters of houses for sale posted at the window of the realty agents. Husband and I were quite amused at the prices at which these houses were offered. They were not for the faint of heart and for the slim of pocketbook.
The afternoon part of this day was spent in the Hearst Castle, doing a tour of the cottages and the kitchen. Again we had the luck of the draw whe it came to the guide. He was a master storyteller who combined history and romance to the usual description of house details and idiosyncracy. We would gladly visit this castle again just to hear more about the life of the Hearst family. Finally we spent the night in Cambria, very charming with stores that had names like Love Me 2 Times Thrift Shop and a restaurant which went by the name The Sow's Ear. That's where we had a delicious dinner and felt quite young again amid a clientele who mostly looked comfortably retired.
Next morning, we had coffee and Danish at Solvang. Solvang is another lovely town, with a hint of European. We ended this part of the tour in Santa Barbara where we bid a fond goodbye to Kelly. Santa Barbara was enjoying almost tropical weather, allowing us to shed the winter layers of our wardrobe for the day. The train station itself looked like a movie set, but it was a real train station and the Amtrak train which rolled in almost on the dot at 2 pm was a real train. A train ride was a very relaxing and ultra-comfortable way to get to Los Angeles to the end of our tour.
We definitely can recommend this tour to other people. My husband and I enjoyed every minute of the tour, most specially because we had it on an exclusive basis. We will always remember our 30th wedding anniversary with gladness, made memorable by these three days of meandering along the Pacific coastline from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Great scenery, good accommodation, very informative. Great small group.
Loved this tour! I wanted a trip down the coast from San Francisco that included Big Sur and Hearst Castle, and I did not want to drive it myself. Adam was a very informative guide, and the small group of 7 travelers was a fun and friendly mix of people from Turkey, Brazil, New Zealand, Seattle, and Ohio. This tour also included Monterey, Pebble Beach, Carmel, Cambria, Solvang,Santa Barbara,
and a train ride to Los Angeles where it ended. I'd definitely recommend this one!
It was an amazing trip and we can recommend it without any reservations!!!
Mark our tour guide, was very attentive and friendly, a safe driver, and ensured that we had a stress free experience. He was also very knowledgeable and fun to have around!
We were 5 woman in our group of different ages and from different countries and it was so interesting to get to know everybody, certainly a huge benefit of such a small tour group.
The tour was well balanced with beautiful coastal scenes, small villages to explore and visits to bigger cities like Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara. Wish we had time to linger longer in Carmel, a picture perfect little town. Hearst Castle was also a highlight.
The train ride to Los Angeles was a positive experience, with our luggage being taken care of, - a smooth ride!
This was a well paced, and well organized tour. The size was just right-- only 6 of us, and the tour guide was wonderful. Hotels were well located and comfortable and there was time to enjoy the stunning natural sites and shop or eat in the gorgeous coastal towns. I hadn't thought visiting an aquarium would be a high point, but the Monterrey Aquarium is something special. It was a fantastic trip!
Great tour! Staff was knowledgeable and had great stops along the way to really see the coast! Spindrift Inn in Monterey was fantastic!
Adam was a well organised and informative tour guide. The tour gave great views and insights to the coast. The vehicle was spacious and comfortable. The accommodation was comfortable and met our needs. Adam's tips for eating and drinking were spot on, we had a great time.
The trip was well planned. The hotels were very nice, especially the one in Monteray. Our guide was also very knowledgable and friendly. All in all it was a wonderful trip. Thank you.
I highly recommend this trip and with Explore California having had a great 3 days driving down the Pacific Coastal Highway. I signed up as a solo-traveller opting for the Comfort accommodation option which was more than adequate. I formed part of a group of 5 plus Mark our guide. The trip makes some great stops and Mark stopped at a few other points of interest, really nice Jam farm in Swanton and the Elephant Seals in San Simeon to name but a few. The best day was the second day visiting Carmel-by-the-sea, Big Sur and Hearst Castle with some spectacular views. Mark was a great guide, super friendly and knowledgeable of the region. This is a great way to take in the coastline with the right balance of sightseeing, relaxation and pace. Thanks also to Kelly for your correspondence beforehand, this was very helpful.
it was the best tour I did during my visit
Mark our tour guide was an excellent person
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