It was a breezy Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville, Florida when I tied the knot with my beloved best friend under a beautiful oak tree.
After a night of dancing under the stars, we bid adieu to our friends and family as we jumped into a vintage, green pick-up truck with two suitcases packed in the back.
Where were these suitcases and newlyweds headed? Amidst the packed bags were two plane tickets to a place one could consider “numero uno.” We were off to the Golden State. We were off to a honeymoon in California.
In addition to the incredible surf, California is home to a breadth of activity that spans from dazzling drives down State Route 1, to looming redwood trees tucked in royal green forests, to the glamorous city life of San Francisco.
As we researched each of these elements during the engagement, it became obvious our desire was to explore many parts of this beautiful state! We finally settled on the locations and chose to embark on an epic road trip through San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, Big Sur, and Yosemite National Park.
Our first stop was snazzy San Francisco. After flying into SFO (San Francisco International Airport), we took a cab to the Wyndham Cantebury where we would be staying the next 6 days.
Because of our central location, we were able to walk everywhere or hop on the old-school cable cars that run throughout the city. One of our favorite activities, and an absolute must for you outdoor enthusiasts, was renting bikes and soaring over the Golden Gate Bridge. The breathtaking view of the city and mountains was out of this world and completely worth the huff n’ puff!
We chose to continue over the bridge to a small town called Sausalito. Here, we walked down the row of boutique shops lining the coast, and grabbed some ice cream at one of the local coffee shops. As the sun began to set, we decided to give our legs a break and hopped in line to take the ferry back to San Francisco. (We absolutely recommend getting in line early though because the line fills up quickly!)
The second highlight of our time in San Francisco was taking the spooky night tour of Alcatraz Island. This island sits right outside the city of San Francisco and served as a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963. The presence of infamous inmates like Al "Scarface" Capone, and the "Birdman" Robert Stroud caused the island to be known as one of the most legendary prisons. The night tour is fantastic, but be sure to buy tickets well in advance as they are a hot commodity!
After our time in San Francisco, we picked up a rental car and headed south a short distance to the slow-paced city of Half Moon Bay. This was our splurge night as we booked the “Romantic Getaway Package” at the Oceano Hotel & Spa.
Our package included one night in a King Suite, chocolate strawberries and champagne delivered to the room, a free breakfast coupon, and a free couples massage at the Spa. Can you say HEAVEN? It was a lovely break from the hustle n’ bustle of the city and we thoroughly enjoyed the quiet, peaceful atmosphere of this sweet town.
When it was time to leave, we were thrilled to begin our descent down State Route 1. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, this highway is one of the most famous drives in the United States. Spanning just over 655 miles, State Route 1 is an incredible drive that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of California.
It was the perfect transition to our next place of exploration, the city of Santa Cruz. What drew us to this beach town was the unbelievable surfing, not to mention the adorable cottages for rent off Airbnb. My husband has been surfing since he was six years old and was on cloud nine when we rented him a wet suit for the day. His favorite spot was the break at Pleasure Point, and I was completely content watching him from the rock shelf that sits above the water.
For those of you who are still looking for adventure but are not keen on getting wet, there is also the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. This oceanfront amusement park is full of zooming roller coasters and enough carnival food to keep you on a sugar high for days!
One final note before moving on to our next stop, the Shadowbrook Restaurant in Santa Cruz was one of our favorite meals of the entire trip. It is a one of a kind joint as you must take a cable car down to this magical place that sits on the edge of a river. They have been known for “romance in dining” since the beginning, so all of you couples out there, remember to bring your wallet because it is quite a treat!
Our second to last stop on the trip brought us further south down State Route 1 to the hippy town of Big Sur. We rented a small house off VRBO and spent two nights tucked away in the mountains. It was certainly the most remote location we stayed at, so if you are looking for some peace and quiet, Big Sur is the spot for you!
Most of our time was spent outdoors hiking the lush, green state parks around the area. Our favorite hike was definitely Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park as it holds countless redwood trees spanning over 300 ft. tall and some that are over 2,500 years old!
After two days of enchanted forests, it was time to head West to our final destination of the road trip, Yosemite National Park. It is difficult to put into words the magnificence of Yosemite Valley, but it is no wonder the place has 5 million visitors each year. We encourage those who would like to make the trip to go in the Spring as this is peak waterfall season.
Our hike of choice was Half Dome as we got to see two of the most glorious waterfalls I have ever laid eyes on. It was an 8-mile hike round-trip, and this Floridian learned a huge lesson about proper footwear as I attempted to hike that beast in a pair of Nike sneakers. The shoes held up just fine up until the last two miles of down-hill trekking when I rolled my ankle. It was at this point we realized I could not put pressure on my foot, so my sweet husband decided to piggy-back me down the rest of the mountain. Did I mention I married Superman?
In the end, we were sad to say goodbye to California, but grateful for the new experiences we had. Our honeymoon kicked off some fantastic first memories as a married couple, and although we had a blast planning it, we must give credit where credit is due.
Traveler's Joy was instrumental in helping us get funds in advance, giving us additional time to place deposits on certain activities and housing that would have already been booked had we tried securing them after the wedding.
It is the perfect registry option for those couples who already have outfitted homes or who consider the best “gift” creating memories with their better half.
Traveler's Joy did a phenomenal job getting us the cash we needed in a timely manner, but also created an opportunity for our family and friends to feel a part of our honeymoon in a special way. For that, we are forever grateful.