Fly during the daytime to make the most of your first evening in San Francisco. On arrival, check into the St Regis, San Francisco, your home for the next few nights.
Discover Alcatraz Island, one of San Francisco's most notorious sights. Formally the Nation's highest security prison, today the island is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Northern California. Make your way down to Pier 33 to board your ferry to Alcatraz Island. Experience a personally narrated boat tour around the island and a guided tour from the dock to the main prison building before enjoying the Alcatraz Cellhouse Tour.
Immerse yourself in the bustle of San Francisco and see all the sights. Take a ride on the historic cable cars and visit the sealions of Fisherman’s Wharf, along with many waterfront restaurants and shops. In the evening, see the North Beach neighbourhood, otherwise known as San Francisco’s Little Italy. Here you can dine in one of the many Italian restaurants or seafood joints before heading back to your hotel.
It’s time to leave San Francisco in favour of Yosemite National Park. Here you’ll find an incredibly varied landscape. Behold dramatic waterfalls, bizarre rock formations, thick forests and looming peaks. Enjoy two nights at the chalet-style Tenaya Lodge, nestled deep within the park. To discover Yosemite’s lofty views, journey to the edifice of Half Dome, the granite wall of El Capitan or the banks of the Merced River.
Explore Yosemite National Park with a local naturalist guide, enjoying a hiking route customised to your interests and abilities. Gaze at majestic cliffs, giant sequoia trees and plummeting waterfalls as you learn about the region's geography, wildlife, and ecology. Budding photographers can tailor the tour to focus on the park’s most photogenic features. For lunch, enjoy a picnic in a pristine natural setting before returning to your lodge for an afternoon at leisure.
As you head back to the coast, check out the former Gold Rush town of Mariposa before joining world-famous Pacific Coast Highway. The route soon leads to Monterey Bay, a national marine sanctuary where you’re likely to see dolphin and other sea-dwelling creatures. Your hotel is the impressive Carmel Valley Ranch, just inland from the popular seaside town of Carmel.
The most dramatic section of the Pacific Coast Highway awaits, where the road hugs the coastline along rugged cliffs, the ocean crashing below. Here you have ample opportunity to stop for photos or to simply admire these spectacular scenes. On arrival, you can spend an afternoon exploring Hearst Castle, former retreat of the newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst.
Drive through Santa Barbara and Malibu to reach the incomparable city of Los Angeles. You'll stay at the Montage Beverly Hills Hotel for the next two nights. Hone your West Coast style at the neighbourhood’s designer stores and take a jaunt along Mulholland Drive. The road snakes through the Hollywood Hills and offers amazing views over the city. Culture vultures can experience a private tour of a film studio or a performance at the show-stopping Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Designed by famed architect Richard Meier, the iconic J. Paul Getty Museum is a must-see for any visitor to Los Angeles. Enjoy an insider’s view of special exhibitions which aren’t usually available to the public. Collection highlights include Medieval manuscripts, Renaissance paintings, Baroque sculpture, Impressionist masterpieces and an unrivalled photography collection. The site also features a magnificent central garden as well as sweeping views from its hilltop perch in the Santa Monica Mountains.
After the excitement of Los Angeles, recharge in the desert oasis of Palm Springs. Here you can enjoy PGA-accredited golf courses and Native American wellness spas. Take time to explore the city’s fabulous mid-century architecture, or head out into the surrounding desert landscape. You can visit the San Andreas Fault or the otherworldly Joshua Tree National Park, home to thousands of spiky yucca palms and famously starry skies.
Last but by no means least comes San Diego. With fascinating military ports and a rich downtown area known as the Gas Lamp Quarter, this city is the perfect conclusion to an informative and action-packed trip. Visit San Diego Zoo, tour the Old Town or simply explore the local area and relax by the beach.
Return to the airport for your overnight flight back to the UK, maximising your time in California.