Best of California - San Francisco

Best of California (Summer 2017)

Duration: 9 days Visiting: United States

Prices from {{lowPrice}}

  • Overview
  • Itinerary
  • Highlights
  • Optional experiences
  • Accommodation
  • Reviews
  • Dates & prices

The lively and glamorous cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles contrast with the rugged beauty of the Californian coast and grandeur of Yosemite National Park.

Read 'Celebrating 100 Years of The US National Parks Service' on the Insight Vacations blog

  1. Day 1

    San Francisco, the City by the Bay

    Welcome to California. On arrival at San Francisco International Airport, your airport transfer takes you to your hotel. At 18:00, join your Tour Director for a Welcome Reception with drinks and appetizers.

  2. Day 2

    Exploring San Francisco

    Spend the morning taking in the sights of the city – the bustling activity in Union Square and beautiful Golden Gate Park. Later, join your Tour Director and fellow guests for a Signature Evening with an informative walking tour through Chinatown followed by an authentic Chinese dinner at a restaurant loved by the locals.

  3. Day 3

    A Taste of California’s Wine Country

    Enter the Napa Valley in California's lush premier wine country with a visit to the Benziger Family Winery for a private tram tour. Take an up-close look at the vines and learn about the biodynamic and certified organic farming approach and history of the winery, while enjoying the breathtaking views. See the terraced vineyards and visit the crush pad, barrel aging caves and Tasting Room where you'll enjoy an exclusive tasting. Later in the afternoon, peruse the quaint shops at Sonoma's historic plaza. The evening is at leisure.

  4. Day 4

    Yosemite National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

    Travel through California's Gold Country and into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Yosemite National Park. Explore the valley floor with its spectacular waterfalls, the imposing rock formations of El Capitan and Half Dome and abundant wildlife. Enjoy your hotel, located inside the park and close to North America's highest waterfall.

  5. Day 5

    Monterey, the Cradle of History

    Drive down the Sierras and through the fertile San Joaquin Valley. As you arrive in Carmel-by-the-Sea browse the art galleries and shops on Ocean Avenue, before a relaxing drive across the Monterey Peninsula and along scenic 17-Mile Drive. Pass the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links and multi-million dollar mansions before arriving in charming Monterey. For your dining pleasure, you have a spectacular selection of local restaurants to choose from.

  6. Day 6

    Hearst Castle and the American Riviera

    Head south to La Cuesta Encantada, 'The Enchanted Hill' high above the ocean at San Simeon, for a guided tour of Hearst Castle, the grandiose estate of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Continue south through the vineyards of the Central Coast to the resort town of Santa Barbara, often billed as the 'American Riviera'. Check in to your beachfront hotel.

    Highway 1/Big Sur advisory – Travel along Hwy 1 between Carmel and Ragged Point/Hearst Castle is now restricted due to recent mudslides and bridge closures. Re-routing via US-101 may be necessary depending on conditions at time of travel.

  7. Day 7

    Santa Monica and the City of Angels

    Visit the beautiful Mission Santa Barbara and learn about the chain of 21 missions along California's El Camino Real. Then journey along spectacular Santa Monica Bay, passing through glamorous Malibu on your way to Santa Monica. Take time to stroll along the popular Third Street Promenade. Visit the stunning Getty Villa, a recreation of an ancient Roman country house. Continue on to your luxurious hotel at L.A. LIVE, the city's one-of-a-kind entertainment destination.

  8. Day 8

    The Glitz and Glam of L.A

    In the morning, spot the Hollywood Sign during your sightseeing tour, view Grauman's Chinese Theatre and stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Experience the glitz and glam of Hollywood on a private tour of the Dolby Theatre, home to the Academy Awards ceremony. Spend the afternoon at the historic L.A. Farmers Market with a Local Expert to take you through the collection of restaurants and shops for a tasting before taking time to explore on your own. In the evening, enjoy a Celebration Dinner of American comfort classics with a Southern twist at Engine Co 28, a renovated firehouse from 1912.

  9. Day 9

    Depart Los Angeles

    Your California tour comes to an end with a departure transfer to Los Angeles International Airport.




  • Hearst Castle: Ascend the 'Enchanted Hill' for a guided tour of one of America's grandest private estates.
  • Santa Barbara: Visit Mission Santa Barbara, a historic Spanish mission founded by the Franciscan order in 1786.
  • Los Angeles: Visit the Getty Villa, a recreated ancient Roman country house.
  • Los Angeles: Step beyond the red carpet. A behind-the-scenes look at the Oscars on a private tour of the Dolby Theatre.


  • San Francisco: See the cable cars, Union Square, Alamo Square and Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Sonoma: Explore the shops of this Spanish Plaza.
  • Yosemite National Park: Experience the natural beauty and wildlife. See the El Capitan and Half Dome rock formations.
  • San Joaquin Valley: Stop at a historic fruit stand.
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea: Browse the art galleries and shops.
  • Santa Barbara: Drive down State Street, view the Court House and Stearns Wharf.
  • Santa Monica: Stroll along the Third Street Promenade.
  • Los Angeles: Drive along Sunset Boulevard, see the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Grauman's Chinese Theater.
  • Scenic Drives: 17-Mile Drive past the Pebble Beach Golf Links.


  • San Francisco: Enjoy a Signature Evening with a walking tour through Chinatown, followed by an authentic Chinese dinner.
  • Napa Valley: Visit Benziger Winery for a private tram tour featuring the barrel aging caves and an exclusive tasting.
  • Monterey: Dinner with wine is available from a selection of restaurants on your Dine-Around evening.
  • Los Angeles: Spend the afternoon touring and tasting your way through the historic LA Farmers Market with a Local Expert.
  • Los Angeles: Enjoy an end-of-tour Celebration Dinner of American comfort classics with a Southern twist at Engine Co 28, a renovated firehouse from 1912.
  • 1 Welcome Dinner (WD), 8 Full Breakfasts (FB), 1 Signature Evening (SE), 1 Dine-Around (DA) and 1 Celebration Dinner (CD).


  • San Francisco: Your boutique Omni hotel is a sophisticated, urban retreat located only a short walk to Union Square.
  • Sonoma: The Fairmont is the ultimate Wine Country resort, surrounded by lush vineyards and dotted with natural hot springs.
  • Yosemite: Stay in the park and enjoy Yosemite after the crowds have left, just a short walk to Yosemite Falls.
  • Los Angeles: Located In the heart of the city and setting a new standard of luxury, the stunning JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE Hotel is the focal point of L.A.


  • An expert Insight Tour Director, at the pinnacle of their career, will guide you on your journey. Serving as your 'travelling concierge', this skilled guide will act as consummate organiser and be your 'friend in a foreign land'.
  • Enjoy the unique comfort of Insight's luxury air-conditioned 40 seat coach with extended leg room and on-board restroom. It's business class comfort.
  • A personal radio headset gives you the freedom to wander during visits to famous highlights, without missing any of your Local Expert's fascinating insights and commentaries.
  • Baggage handling everywhere, with seamless and prompt delivery to your door at every hotel.
  • Hotel and restaurant tips included - you'll never have to worry about how much to give, nor search for foreign currency. Plus we include all taxes and porterage charges at hotels.
  • Stay connected with friends and family with our complimentary coach and hotel Wi-Fi.
  • Insight Flourishes - from time to time, your Tour Director will enchant you with local tidbits, each representing authentic food or beverages unique to the destination.
  • Included airport transfers on the first and last day of your tour.

Optional experiences

Most Insight trips already include a host of bonus highlights and comprehensive sightseeing. There may also be an exciting array of Optional Experiences which will turn an already amazing experience into the trip of a lifetime! These are entirely optional and can be booked through your Travel Director/Local Representative at the commencement of your trips. Please note, many Optional Experiences are operated by independent third party suppliers, not Insight Vacations. The Optionals and pricing listed here are a guideline only and subject to change.

Golden Gate Bridge Walk & Sausalito

Stroll across the 1.7 mile span of the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge and learn how the bridge was an engineering marvel and about the people who gave so much time to build this icon of San Francisco. Arrive in the quaint seaside community of Sausalito and have time to leisurely browse the charming shops or have lunch along the picturesque bay. Your adventure concludes with a wondrous ferry cruise across the bay, passing haunting Alcatraz Island and catching an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Approx. duration: 3.5 hours

Adult Price: 39.00

Code: SFO0003



Omni San Francisco

San Francisco (Central) - USA

Complimentary Wifi

Omni San Francisco Hotel provides luxury accommodations in the heart of downtown San Francisco – the jewel of California. This beautiful downtown hotel is located right on the cable car line and is only a short walk to Union Square, the San Francisco neighborhood that has become a mecca for high-end shopping and art galleries. Omni San Francisco Hotel offers modern amenities in a boutique ambiance due to its Florentine Renaissance architecture. Built as a bank in 1926, the lobby is adorned with Italian marble, rich fabrics and Austrian crystal chandeliers. All 362 guest rooms and suites exude modern luxury and classic sophistication with plush beds, Chinese marble vanities in every bath, expansive ceilings and beautiful crown molding.

Yosemite Valley Lodge

Yosemite (Scenic) - USA

Complimentary Wifi

Yosemite Valley Lodge

Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa

Monterey (Central) - USA

Complimentary Wifi

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa is dramatically located, literally over the Monterey Bay on Cannery Row on the great Monterey Peninsula. It is the highest rated of all hotels in Monterey and for the past three years it has been rated the #1 hotel in Monterey on Trip Advisor. From the resort, you'll be able to enjoy the best of Northern California such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, historic downtown Monterey and Fisherman’s Wharf. These beautiful, 400 square foot, guestrooms offer the same plush beds and elegant furnishings you’ll only find at the Monterey Hotel & Spa.

Fess Parkers Doubletree Resort Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara (Scenic) - USA

Complimentary Wifi

The Fess Parker is everything you want for an authentic California vacation. This dramatic mission-style hotel sits on 24 beautiful beachfront acres in Southern California. Its rich amenities and extensive array of activities are perfect for any need. Lounge by the pool, walk along the soft sand beach, dine on delicious cuisine at one of five restaurants, or relax in your luxurious accommodation, one of 360 guest rooms, each including a furnished patio or balcony, high speed internet access, mini bar and personal coffee maker.

Jw Marriott Hotel Los Angeles at La Live

Los Angeles (Central) - USA

Complimentary Wifi

Discover unparalleled luxury, style and convenience when you stay at the lavish JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE. This 54-story Downtown LA hotel is within easy reach of some of the city's most popular attractions and a variety of restaurant cuisines. After an exhilarating day of exploring the city, unwind at the full-service spa, lounge at the spectacular rooftop pool. Or simply relax in your luxurious guest room, featuring contemporary decor, marble bathrooms, plush bedding and plasma TVs.

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  • 5 out of 5

    Best of California

    10/12/2016 Amanda Donald, Cardiff South, Australia

    This was my first tour with insight and it was everything I expected. The places that we visited were great it was made even better by the tour director Anand and our couch driver Theresa. The food and accomadation was excellent I would recomend this tour to onyone how want to see California.

    6 out of 7 people found this comment useful

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  • 5 out of 5


    10/9/2016 Barbara Zabor, Richfield (OH), United States

    I would definitely recommend The Best of California. the tour was everything it said it would be and more. Roomy bus, Anand and Theresa were both excellent as tour director and bus driver. Room accommodations were very comfortable and meals were delicious. Fellow tourists were very friendly. Itinerary was excellent. Thanks Insight for another wonderful trip.

    6 out of 6 people found this comment useful

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  • 5 out of 5

    the best of California

    10/9/2016 Michael Zabor, Richfield (OH), United States

    If you want to see California the best of California is your tour. Both the tour director, Anand Nachtajler and bus driver, Theresa were the best and excellent at their jobs. California had been on my bucket list for years and this tour was thorough, with comfortable seats on the bus, beautiful accommodations and excellent restaurants. Fellow tourists were very friendly. Thank you Insight, for another wonderful trip.

    2 out of 2 people found this comment useful

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  • 5 out of 5

    Great Tour

    9/30/2016 Karen Eirtle, Ocala, United States

    This tour was terrific. It included everything & more that I wanted to see & experience in California. Hotels, tour guide & bus driver were the best!

    3 out of 3 people found this comment useful

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  • 5 out of 5

    A Great Experience

    5/14/2016 Elizabeth Timmons, Mansfield, United Kingdom

    This was our first experience of a guided coach tour and we hadn't been to the US before. Any anxiety was soon removed upon meeting our host Larry, the driver Brian and our fellow guests. We soon were able to relax and completely enjoy our journey. The rotation of seats on the coach greatly assisted in promoting the camaraderie and enabled us to share experiences and learn more about our fellow travellers from other countries and other parts of the US. The itinerary was adhered to and we were confident in Larry's arrangements and grateful for his unstinting advice, always readily given. He kept us fully informed about the places we were about to visit as well as the numerous points of interest along the route. There were also treats along the way to keep us going! He worked brilliantly with Brian to ensure that the coach was always conveniently parked at both the hotels and places we were visiting. We felt confident that as well as his expert handling of the coach, Brian knew the way! Transfers to and from hotels were always dealt with very slickly; the minimum handling of cases by ourselves was greatly appreciated. The early starts took a little getting used to, but these resulted in full days of interesting experiences. We wish the Americans were more interested in tea and could offer us a kettle rather than the ubiquitous coffee making machines in the hotel bedrooms. So to any other tea lovers, our advice would be to purchase a mini travel kettle to take, along with a supply of your favourite teabags! We enjoyed all the Highlight experiences of our tour, including the Chinese and farewell dinners. A great 'Best Of California' adventure, with too many highlights to pick out just one, we enjoyed it all. We consider that if we are fortunate enough to be able to take another coach tour in the future, we would receive quality, value and customer care with an Insight Vacations Tour. Liz and Ray Timmons

    14 out of 14 people found this comment useful

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  • 5 out of 5

    Best holiday

    8/26/2014 Betty Salkeld, Grafton, Australia

    What a wonderful tour. Every day was memorable & our tour director & coach driver were very pleasant which made the trip enjoyable. Met some lovely people on the tour. Accommodation @ meals were 5 star

    15 out of 16 people found this comment useful

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  • 5 out of 5

    Awesome Holiday!!!!!!!!

    7/19/2014 Graeme Rouget, Chelsea Heights, Australia

    What a great time we had!!!! This was our first ever time overseas and our first bus tour. First of all our Tour Director Todd was the best, let's not forget our great bus driver Richard whose got us safely around. Todd had a wide knowledge of the area, always there with any help you needed, well organised, letting us know what time to be where, when to have our suitcases ready, and just a alround nice guy. We loved the first class Hotels and the well thought out destinations, we would never had been able to see so much in 8 days on our own. We met great people of all ages on the bus, good to see some Aussies travelling to see this great country, also some locals seeing this side of their country. We are already planning our next tour with Insight for next year, so look out Todd we're coming back!

    13 out of 13 people found this comment useful

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  • 5 out of 5

    Best of California review

    6/21/2014 Linda Tame, Melton Mowbray, United Kingdom

    We have used several tour companies and this was our first tour with Insight. The tour was impeccably organised. The tour guide, Larry Womack, is a Californian resident who really knows his stuff. He was pleasant and helpful at all times which made the journey go smoothly. The hotel accommodation for the most part was excellent. We could recommend this trip to anybody.

    11 out of 12 people found this comment useful

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  • 5 out of 5

    Great experience.

    5/17/2014 Sylvia Edgley, Maroochydore, Australia

    My mother and I just completed the California tour. We covered lots of terrific places and the hotels we stayed in were very central and of a high standard. Even the lodges at Yosemite were better than I expected. Larry, our tour guide, looked after us very well and was very knowledgable although sometimes it was information overload for me and instructions were repeated too many times. Richard, the bus driver, drove very safely in all traffic conditions and knew the roads well. I liked the little extra touches like bottled water every day, free snacks available and a gift of chocolates. We had a full tour but everything was so well organised and the seating rotated in fairness to all. My only criticism would be that for some reason we couldn't arrive at the hotels until 5- 5:30pm and sometimes we seemed to be just marking time. The days are full and I know most people would have preferred to be in their hotel an hour earlier. Some people have mentioned they would like a later start to the day but I think it was necessary to reach the places we wanted to see. The Napa Wine Train was a real highlight as far as food went with 5 star dining. Other included meals were quite good for the most part. I would certainly recommend this tour as a great way to see many must see locations in California. I had been to California 4 years ago and this tour showed me a few sites I missed when doing it by car. Of course there are other advantages to 'doing it yourself' but this Insight tour was a terrific way to travel. In fact my husband and I have booked an Insight Tour of Italy in September and hope it is as good as this one.

    16 out of 16 people found this comment useful

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  • 5 out of 5

    excellant tour!!!

    9/14/2013 Marilyn Taylor, Isle Of Palms, United States

    We had a wonderful experience all around. Our tour guide was very well informed and I feel as though I,ve had a crash course in all things Californian.The hotels and meals were top notch and our travel mates were fun loving Canadians and Australians. I would recommend Insight tours to anyone. 5 stars

    11 out of 13 people found this comment useful

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  • 4 out of 5

    "On the road again"

    9/7/2013 Sandra Fenton, Camp Hill, United States

    This was our first motorcoach tour and my husband and I had no idea what to expect. We are luxury travelers and big cruisers. We loved our tour director, Larry, he was so knowledgeable and helpful. We knew we were always in good hands with him. We loved our Fairmont, Intercontinental and JW Marriott hotel stays and all of our group dinners with much fun!! Our group was great - we were 2 of 4 Americans and the 36 were Australians, New Zealanders and 3 Canadians. Lots of laughs. Loved the Napa Wine Train and walking tour of Chinatown in San Francisco followed by an authentic Chinese dinner. I feel as though we really got an insiders look at California and I liked that everything was taken care of by Larry and Insight. Our constructive "suggestions" would be - more 2-night stays, especially at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and more time in Carmel and Santa Barbara (but different hotel - not Fess Parker)...and...changing the morning start times from 8:00am on bus to 8:30am or 9:00am - a bit more leisurely in the early morning...and last, but not least - getting to the hotels by 4pm - not 5-5:30pm...for a bit more downtime. That's that - very fun and I recommend!

    62 out of 64 people found this comment useful

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