The native | Sasha Shumarayeva takes us on a California Road Trip

Travelling is always risky business – get stuck in a touristy area and your meals are terrible as is the rest of your trip. Sasha Shumarayeva takes us on a Californian road trip like a native.

The California Pacific Drive through Big Sur
The California Pacific Drive through Big Sur

Travelling is always risky business – get stuck in a touristy area and your meals are terrible. The same can be said of sightseeing, hotels and nightspots. Travelling to a place where you know people to recommend the right places makes your stay all the more enjoyable.

Sasha Shumarayeva
Sasha Shumarayeva

Sasha Shumarayeva, 25, was born in Berkeley, California, and lived throughout California for 20 years. If you’re taking a California road trip, these are the places she recommends to hang out like a native.

Best spot for sightseeing

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most iconic drives in the world
The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most iconic drives in the world

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most iconic drives in the world and there’s just no better way to experience California than a true Cali road trip along the coast to a great playlist. Fly into Los Angeles (California’s major international airport), get a sweet rental car, stock up on snacks and drive north towards San Francisco. Some must see stops along the way include the Hollywood Hills (hike to the Hollywood sign), Santa Monica, Venice Beach (check out the boardwalk), Malibu, Monterey (head to the aquarium), Santa Cruz (ride the classic wooden roller coaster) and everyone’s favourite - San Francisco - for sightseeing and clam chowder galore. The Big Sur section of the Pacific Coast Highway hugs a national park and it is breath-taking. Stop here for at least half a day to hike in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Don’t forget to say hi to the resident elephant seals along the way.

Best place to eat

In-N-Out is basically high-quality fast food which for years was only available in California
In-N-Out is basically high-quality fast food which for years was only available in California

IN-N-OUT! I’m just starting to realise my Americanness when the first thing that comes to mind when I think of California is In-N-Out… and those glorious Mexican food trucks. In-N-Out is basically high-quality fast food which for years was only available in California. Fresh potatoes are cut right in front of you – no frozen bags here. They have traditional American milkshakes and I should mention their “secret menu” which includes grilled cheese for vegetarians and “animal style” everything. You can pretty much order any menu item “animal style”. You won’t be sorry.

Best local thing

If you’re down in Southern California stop by Children’s Pool in La Jolla to see the adorable seal pups laying on the beach and frolicking in the water
If you’re down in Southern California stop by Children’s Pool in La Jolla to see the adorable seal pups laying on the beach and frolicking in the water

If one thing hasn’t changed about me since my childhood it’s my excitement in seeing California’s resident seals and sea lions. San Francisco’s PIER 39 is covered with them. It’s an incredible sight for people in Malta where large wildlife is scarce. After the incredible, albeit stinky affair, get San Francisco’s famous clam chowder sourdough bread bowl at nearby Fisherman’s wharf. If you’re down in Southern California stop by Children’s Pool in La Jolla to see the adorable seal pups laying on the beach and frolicking in the water.

Best adventure activity

The first day of the trek through Yosemite will have you passing by massive waterfalls and up and down beautiful valleys. After camping in an upper valley, start your ascent to the daunting top of Half Dome
The first day of the trek through Yosemite will have you passing by massive waterfalls and up and down beautiful valleys. After camping in an upper valley, start your ascent to the daunting top of Half Dome

Yosemite National Park. If you’re thinking you’ve never heard of it, I’m here to remind you that you’ve seen it with Yosemite’s Half Dome and El Capitan peaks as the epic backgrounds on Mac’s operating systems. For the really adventurous, climb to the top of Half Dome (8,842 feet) for one of the most epic two-day hikes of your life. Get your permit to hike to the top at the park entrance. The first day of the trek will have you passing by massive waterfalls and up and down beautiful valleys. After camping in an upper valley, start your ascent to the daunting top of Half Dome in the early hours of the morning for an epic sunrise. Just wait until you reach the legendary cables that take you up the 45 degree backside (Don’t chicken out, it’s so worth it!). There are activities for everyone in Yosemite, with beautiful trails, rivers, waterfalls and restaurants along the valley floor as well.

Best areas to wind down and enjoy nature

The General Sherman tree is believed to be around 2,500 years old and is not only the largest living tree but also the largest living thing in the world by volume
The General Sherman tree is believed to be around 2,500 years old and is not only the largest living tree but also the largest living thing in the world by volume

In Northern California you will find the massive, ancient giant sequoias. The General Sherman tree, pictured here, is believed to be around 2,500 years old and is not only the largest living tree but also the largest living thing in the world by volume. The General Sherman tree is in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. You can park very close to this flat walking area making these big trees accessible for everyone. If you are craving more of a strenuous hike underneath these towering, majestic giants, there are many great trails in this national park. Before you head off to your next stop, make sure to drive through the “Tunnel Log”, a massive fallen giant sequoia that has a tunnel cut out which you can drive through and take one of those great cheesy vacation photos. 

Best place for a night out

The General Sherman tree is believed to be around 2,500 years old and is not only the largest living tree but also the largest living thing in the world by volume
The General Sherman tree is believed to be around 2,500 years old and is not only the largest living tree but also the largest living thing in the world by volume

There’s something special about American cinemas. It’s where it all started – Hollywood, the stars and all the glitz and glam. It’s a quirky experience to enjoy a film at one of the traditional American movie theatres. Some of them have been converted to indie movie theatres while others play the big blockbusters. You can find one of these classic cinemas in basically every major city in California. One notable cinema that tourists and locals alike adore is the Walt Disney Studio’s premiere cinema, the El Capitan Theatre. 

How to get there

There are no direct flights between the USA and Malta. A connection somewhere in Europe is required to get there. Connections are typically in Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, or Rome.

Fly into Los Angeles and rent a car and cruise your way down the Pacific Coast

Currency

The currency is the American dollar.

Best time of year to visit

California is a year-round destination, with weather that has something for everyone—from sun worshippers to snow bunnies. The best time to visit really comes down to what you want to see and do.

Much of California has a Mediterranean-like climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. On the coast, the average daily high temperature hovers around 21°C and up), but can occasionally spike to 27° C or more on hottest summer days; freezing temperatures are rare, even in winter.

Most vacationers head to California during the peak summer months (June through August); that’s when you can expect the biggest crowds at top attractions, and high-season rates at lodgings and resorts.

Visas

For people from Malta and the European Union, a valid passport and an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) document are required to travel to the USA. An ETA can be applied for online using a valid passport, credit or debit card, and email address.

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