Los Angeles

Pacific Coast Highway Travel’s travel guide to Los Angeles, including dining and accommodation options, public transport, and the city’s best things to do.

Los Angeles is a must-see stop if you’re driving the Pacific Coast Highway, with attractions ranging from Universal Studios Hollywood to the Getty Center and of course the iconic Hollywood Sign.

Our Pick of the LA Guides

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But there are also outdoor activities and beaches to enjoy, and a good public transport system if you want to get around without a car.

You can even visit the beaches by public transport, then head back into the city to enjoy the evening entertainment and its diverse culinary scene. Read on, for everything you need to know.

Los-Angeles-at-Night.jpgLos Angeles at Night

Los Angeles: A Must-Stop on Your Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

Los Angeles, often referred to as the "City of Angels," is a vibrant and iconic metropolis situated along the famous Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).

This sprawling urban hub offers travelers a diverse array of experiences, making it a must-visit stop on your Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Here's why Los Angeles is significant on your PCH journey:

Gateway to Southern California

Los Angeles serves as the gateway to Southern California, a region renowned for its beautiful coastal landscapes, pleasant climate, and cultural attractions.

Whether you drive north or south on the Pacific Coast Highway, you'll enter Los Angeles County, marking the beginning of your exploration of this diverse region. 

Los-Angeles-Airport.jpgLos Angeles International Airport (LAX) at night

One possibility, if you plan on driving the Pacific Coast Highway, is to fly into Los Angeles International Airport, then spend however long you want to in LA, then rent a car at the airport and start your road trip. That way you can drop the car back at the airport.

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Check out this Fodor's guide to Los Angeles, which also covers Santa Monica, Malibu, and Disneyland

It depends what your plans, interests, and time schedule are. It might be easier to rent a car in Los Angeles, drive north to San Francisco, and drop your car there, though you will incur a one-way drop-off charge, and these can be quite high.

Cultural and Entertainment Capital

Los Angeles stands as a true cultural and entertainment capital, renowned worldwide for its contributions to the arts, music, film, and pop culture.

As you visit this vibrant city during your Pacific Coast Highway road trip, you'll find a kaleidoscope of experiences that highlight its cultural significance. 

Hollywood: The Heart of the Film Industry

Hollywood, a district within Los Angeles, is synonymous with the global film industry. As you explore this iconic neighborhood, you can't miss the legendary Hollywood Sign that looms large over the city.

los-angeles-universal-studios-hollywood.jpgUniversal Studios in Los Angeles

Hollywood Boulevard is lined with the Walk of Fame, where you'll find the stars of your favorite actors, directors, and musicians embedded in the sidewalk. Take a tour of historic studios like Warner Bros. or Universal Studios to get a glimpse behind the scenes of filmmaking. 

Museums and Galleries

Los Angeles boasts an impressive array of museums and galleries that celebrate art, history, and culture. The Getty Center, perched on a hill with stunning architecture and art collections, offers a cultural oasis with panoramic views of the city.

los-angeles-county-museum-of-art-2.jpgThe Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) houses an extensive and diverse collection, including works from around the world.

For contemporary art enthusiasts, The Broad is a must-visit with its striking architecture and a remarkable collection of modern art. 

Live Performances and Theater

The city's theater scene is thriving, with venues like the historic Pantages Theatre hosting Broadway productions, while the Hollywood Bowl provides an outdoor amphitheater experience with world-class concerts.

Hollywood-Bowl.jpgThe Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles is home to the Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by Frank Gehry, where you can enjoy classical music performances.

Music and Nightlife

Los Angeles has been a music mecca for decades, with legendary venues like the Troubadour and the Whisky a Go Go, which launched the careers of many famous musicians.

Today, you can catch live music performances across a wide range of genres. The city's nightlife is equally diverse, with a mix of rooftop bars, underground clubs, and trendy lounges. 

Los Angeles' cultural and entertainment scene is a reflection of its diversity and creativity. It's a city where the arts and entertainment are deeply ingrained in its identity, offering travelers a chance to immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of human expression and creativity.

Diverse Culinary Scene

Los Angeles is celebrated not only for its cultural and entertainment offerings but also for its incredibly diverse culinary landscape. A melting pot of cultures and cuisines, LA's food scene is a delectable journey that caters to every palate, making it a culinary hotspot for travelers on the Pacific Coast Highway. 

Hayato-Los-Angeles-Michelin-star.jpgHayato is one of LA's Michelin-Star restaurants

Ethnic Enclaves

One of the standout features of LA's culinary scene is its vibrant ethnic enclaves. From the historic Olvera Street in Downtown, known for its Mexican cuisine, to the vibrant neighborhoods of Koreatown and Little Tokyo, you can embark on a global food tour without leaving the city.

The San Gabriel Valley boasts authentic Chinese cuisine, while the Little Ethiopia neighborhood offers rich and flavorful Ethiopian dishes.

Thai Town, Little Armenia, and countless other ethnic neighborhoods provide an opportunity to explore the world through food. 

Fodors-Los-Angeles-Disneyland-travel-guide.png

Check out this Fodor's guide to Los Angeles, which also covers Santa Monica, Malibu, and Disneyland

Farm-to-Table Freshness

Los Angeles is blessed with a year-round Mediterranean climate that allows for the cultivation of fresh, local produce. Many restaurants and eateries in the city take full advantage of this, offering farm-to-table dining experiences.

You'll also find an abundance of farmers' markets, showcasing California's bounty, and upscale restaurants that feature seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients in their menus. 

Food Trucks and Street Food

LA's food truck culture is legendary. These mobile kitchens serve up a variety of cuisines, from gourmet burgers to gourmet tacos, and often showcase innovative and fusion dishes. Exploring LA's food trucks is a delightful way to experience the city's culinary creativity. 

Iconic Dishes

While in Los Angeles, be sure to savor some iconic local dishes. Try the famous In-N-Out Burger, a regional favorite for fast food enthusiasts. For a healthier option, indulge in acai bowls and fresh-pressed juices that reflect the city's health-conscious lifestyle. 

World-Class Dining

If you're looking for a fine dining experience, LA has a wealth of world-class restaurants run by celebrity chefs. The city boasts numerous Michelin-starred establishments, offering innovative and upscale dining in a range of culinary styles. 

Providence-Hollywood-Los-Angeles-Michelin-Star-restaurant.jpgProvidence is another of LA's Michelin-Star restaurants

Los Angeles' culinary scene goes beyond the ordinary and caters to every taste, making it a must-visit destination for food enthusiasts. Whether you're craving international flavors, fresh ingredients, or inventive street food, the city offers a culinary adventure that's as diverse as its population.

World-Famous Attractions

Los Angeles is home to a treasure trove of world-famous attractions that have left an indelible mark on pop culture and the collective imagination. During your Pacific Coast Highway road trip, you'll have the opportunity to explore these iconic landmarks that define the essence of the city. 

Hollywood Sign

Los-Angeles-Hollywood-sign.jpgThe Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles

The Hollywood Sign, perched high in the Hollywood Hills, is a globally recognized symbol of the entertainment industry. It's a must-see on any visit to Los Angeles.

You can hike to vantage points like Griffith Observatory or the Hollywood Reservoir for the perfect photo op. It's a tangible reminder of the dream factory that is Hollywood. 

Santa Monica Pier

santa-monica-pier-entrance-sign.jpgEntrance sign for Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier, with its vibrant carnival atmosphere, is a beloved fixture of LA's coastal landscape. Stroll along the boardwalk, enjoy thrilling rides at Pacific Park, and stand at the official western terminus of Route 66.

Santa-Monica-End-of-Route-66.jpgEnd of the trail sign for Route 66 in Santa Monica

The pier offers stunning ocean views and a perfect place to soak in the Southern California sun. 

Griffith Observatory

griffith-observatory-849639_1280.jpgThe Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles

Griffith Observatory is not just a hub for stargazers; it's also a place for breathtaking views of the city and the stars. Perched on the slopes of Griffith Park, this iconic observatory provides a free public telescope and engaging astronomy exhibits. The view of the city from here is simply awe-inspiring. 

Venice Beach

venice-beach-skater.jpgA skateboarder at Venice Beach in Los Angeles

Venice Beach is a unique and eccentric coastal community that's a feast for the senses. Known for its bohemian spirit, the Venice Beach Boardwalk is lined with street performers, vendors, and a diverse array of shops. Don't forget to visit the renowned Muscle Beach Gym and the colorful Venice Canals. 

Getty Center

getty-centre-los-angeles.jpgJewelry at the Getty Center in Los Angeles

The Getty Center is a masterpiece of architecture, art, and gardens. It houses an impressive collection of European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. The stunning hilltop setting and serene gardens make it a cultural oasis offering panoramic views of Los Angeles. 

Universal Studios Hollywood

If you're a film and theme park enthusiast, Universal Studios Hollywood is a must. It's a real working film studio where you can experience thrilling rides and attractions based on blockbuster movies. The Studio Tour takes you behind the scenes, offering a unique look at the magic of moviemaking. 

i-love-hollywood.jpgShe loves Hollywood!

These world-famous attractions capture the essence of Los Angeles, from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to the laid-back vibes of the beach. They are not only landmarks but also cultural touchpoints that have contributed to LA's global recognition and appeal. Exploring these sites is an essential part of your journey through the City of Angels.

Accommodation

Los Angeles offers a diverse range of accommodations to suit every traveler's needs and preferences. Whether you're seeking luxury, budget-friendly options, or something unique, the city has you covered. Here's an overview of the types of accommodations available in Los Angeles:

Hotels

Los Angeles is home to a plethora of hotels, from world-renowned luxury establishments to budget-friendly chains. You can choose to stay in iconic beachfront hotels in Santa Monica or upscale options in Beverly Hills.

The city's hotels cater to various budgets and offer a wide range of amenities, including swimming pools, spas, and on-site dining. 

Motels

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Motels are a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers. You'll find a variety of roadside motels in and around the city, offering comfortable and affordable lodging options. Many motels in Los Angeles provide easy access to major highways and the Pacific Coast Highway. 

Vacation Rentals

For a more home-like experience, vacation rentals are readily available through platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo. These options include apartments, houses, and even unique properties like beachfront cottages. They are ideal for travelers seeking a bit more privacy and space. 

Boutique Hotels

Los Angeles has a thriving boutique hotel scene, offering stylish and intimate lodging experiences. These smaller, independently-owned hotels often have unique designs and personalized services, making them perfect for travelers looking for a more curated experience. 

Hostels

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Hostels are an excellent choice for budget travelers and backpackers. You can find both traditional dormitory-style hostels and newer, more upscale options with private rooms. They often offer communal spaces, making it easy to meet fellow travelers. 

Campgrounds

If you're on a road trip and enjoy camping, Los Angeles and its surrounding areas have numerous campgrounds. You can experience the great outdoors in places like Malibu Creek State Park or Leo Carrillo State Park. Campgrounds provide a more rustic and adventurous lodging option. 

Luxury Resorts

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Los Angeles boasts luxurious beachfront resorts in Malibu, upscale properties in Beverly Hills, and elegant spa resorts in Palm Springs. These high-end accommodations offer top-notch amenities, stunning views, and impeccable service. 

Unique Stays

Los Angeles also offers a range of unique and themed lodging options. You can stay in retro-inspired hotels, historic landmarks, or even themed properties like retro trailers and treehouses. 

No matter your budget or preferences, Los Angeles provides a wide spectrum of accommodations to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay during your visit to the city as you explore the Pacific Coast Highway.

Outdoor Activities

Los Angeles, a city known for its bustling urban life, also offers a wide range of outdoor activities thanks to its diverse geography and pleasant climate. When visiting Los Angeles as part of your Pacific Coast Highway road trip, consider these outdoor adventures:

Beaches

california-beach-2-malibu.jpgMalibu Beach at sunset

Los Angeles is renowned for its beautiful beaches. From the iconic Santa Monica Beach to the more tranquil El Matador Beach and the surf haven of Malibu, you have plenty of options for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports. Venice Beach is known for its lively boardwalk and street performers. 

Hiking

The city offers numerous hiking opportunities. Griffith Park, home to the Griffith Observatory, has a variety of trails with stunning views of the city.

Runyon Canyon is another popular spot with panoramic vistas. If you prefer a beachside hike, the Solstice Canyon Trail in Malibu offers a scenic coastal experience. 

Biking

Los Angeles has become more bike-friendly in recent years, with dedicated bike lanes and paths. You can rent a bike and explore the Marvin Braude Bike Trail that stretches along the coast, providing fantastic ocean views. The Los Angeles River Trail is a unique route that offers an urban cycling experience. 

Water Activities

marina-del-rey-926289_1280.jpgMarina del Ray

Whether you want to go surfing in Malibu, paddle boarding in Marina del Rey, or take a scenic kayaking trip along the coastline, Los Angeles offers a range of water-based activities for all skill levels. 

Urban Parks

Los Angeles is home to vast urban parks such as Elysian Park and MacArthur Park, which offer green spaces, picnic areas, and opportunities for outdoor relaxation within the city. Enjoy a leisurely stroll or a picnic in these parks. 

Rock Climbing

For rock climbing enthusiasts, Stoney Point Park in the San Fernando Valley provides bouldering opportunities amid impressive sandstone formations. 

Golf

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Los Angeles has numerous golf courses, including the Griffith Park Golf Courses and Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, offering scenic rounds of golf with ocean views. 

Horseback Riding

Explore the hills and canyons around Los Angeles on horseback. There are riding tours available in areas like Griffith Park and the Santa Monica Mountains. 

Botanical Gardens

Great-Blue-Heron-Los-Angeles-County-Arboretum-and-botanic-garden.jpgA great blue heron at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden and the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens offer serene environments to explore beautiful plant collections and enjoy a leisurely day outdoors. 

Los Angeles' diverse outdoor activities provide a balance to the city's urban energy. Whether you prefer relaxing on the beach, hiking in the hills, or exploring green spaces, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the Southern California outdoors while visiting Los Angeles.

Public Transport

hollywood-metro-station-los-angeles.jpgThe Hollywood Metro Station in Los Angeles

Los Angeles has a comprehensive public transportation system that provides an alternative to driving in this sprawling city. For more information about public transport in Los Angeles, see our Public Transport in Los Angeles page.

Car Rental

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Car rental is a popular choice for travelers in Los Angeles, providing the freedom to explore the city and its surroundings at your own pace. For more information about car rental in Los Angeles, see our Car Rental in Los Angeles page. 

More Information

Visit the official Los Angeles travel website
Discover Los Angeles

Other Los Angeles pages

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