red rocks canyon landscape and desert in foreground at arches near moab in utah usa

The Best Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary

Discover the Natural Beauty of Utah on a road trip across the state’s most popular National and State parks.

Click here for detailed directions

Summary (click the red pins for directions) :

Salt Lake City to Moab- 230 miles (370km) đź“Ť  

Moab to Goblin Valley- 100 miles (160km)đź“Ť 

Goblin Valley to Capitol Reef- 60 miles (100km) đź“Ť

Capitol Reef to Escalante- 70 miles (110km) đź“Ť

Escalante to Bryce Canyon- 50 miles (80km) đź“Ť

Bryce Canyon to Zion- 70 miles (110km) đź“Ť

Zion to Las Vegas- 160 miles (260km) đź“Ť

740 miles (1190km) in total

Tags: Travel guide, Drop-off at another location, Scenic Driving

Witness some of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet. Follow the trails along red rocks, squeeze between narrow canyon slots, and hike in a river. This adventure-packed guide will take you on an epic Utah road trip through the best of what this state has to offer, before finishing off in Las Vegas.

This travel guide takes you on a road trip starting in Salt Lake City in the northern part of Utah. Then, head south to Moab and explore Canyonlands, Dead Horse Point, and Arches National Park, where you can make the most out of a 4×4 car.

Drive down the Scenic Byway 12, hike in the spooky canyon slots in Escalante, take in the otherwordly view at Bryce Canyon National Park and continue along the Scenic Drive in Zion National Park, all before a grand finish in Las Vegas over in Nevada.

Planning- Before You Leave

Before setting off on your Utah National Parks road trip, be sure to read through the information below.

Which National Parks are in Utah?

“The Big 5” in Utah refers to the state’s 5 national parks, all of which are covered during this road trip. These are the National Parks in Utah:

  • Arches National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Zion National Park

What’s more, the following state parks and monuments are also included in this road trip itinerary in Utah.

  • Dead Horse Point State Park
  • Goblin Valley State Park
  • Escalante Petrified Forest
  • Grand Staircase National Monument

All of the parks above are covered in this Utah road trip itinerary!

How long does it take to complete this road trip?

The total distance of this Utah road trip is below 750 miles. Rentalmoose recommends dedicating at least 5 days for this road trip.

Consider that you will be stopping at viewpoints and overlooks a lot, especially on the Scenic Byway 12 and the Scenic Drive in Zion National Park.

In order to be able to see each spot thoroughly, spend a few extra nights in Moab, and add an overnight stop in Zion National Park.

When is the best time to visit Utah?

The best time to visit Utah is between April and May or September and October. That’s when the weather is pleasant, attracting many tourists in the National Parks.

If you choose to visit in winter, keep in mind that some of the parks may be closed and the roads may not be accessible.

On the other hand, the heat does get unbearable in the peak of summer.

Road trip extensions

Your American adventure doesn’t have to end in Las Vegas!

Why not extend the trip to sunny California? Drive down the Big Sur, see the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco and more! Click here for our California road trip itinerary, you don’t want to miss it!

You can also choose to extend the trip to see spectacular natural beauty in Nevada. Visit Death Valley National Park, Yosemite National Park, and Great Basin National Park during our Nevada road trip. Click here for the road trip itinerary to Nevada.

Salt Lake City is just a few hours away from Yellowstone National Park over in Wyoming. Click here for our road trip guide to Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and extend your trip to Wyoming.

Why should I book a rental car in Utah?

Driving through Utah is an absolute dream for any road trip fanatic. The panoramic landscapes along the scenic routes are simply unbeatable. What’s more, if you rent a 4×4 you can explore some of the world’s finest offroading trails that are otherwise inaccessible.

Remote parts of Utah are best accessed with a private vehicle, not to mention the ability to alter your itinerary without any limits that can only be achieved when traveling by car.

For extra peace of mind during your road trip, Rentalmoose recommends adding excess coverage when booking your rental car. Once you’ve picked up the car, don’t forget to take photos of the vehicle to qualify for a 50% discount from the excess coverage fee.

Can tourists drive in Utah? 

Tourists are allowed to drive in Utah using a foreign driving license as long as they are at least 16 years old, and the license covers the type of vehicle they are driving. It is recommended to get an International Driving Permit if your driving license is not in English. 

Furthermore, some car rental companies may require foreign tourists to obtain an International Driving Permit, it’s best to check the company policy before booking your rental car.

Don’t know how to obtain an International Driving Permit, how much it costs, or what countries require you to have one? Check out this blog post to find out all you need to know about IDPs.

When you begin driving in Utah, you will quickly notice that the locals don’t stick to the speed limit too strictly, mainly around freeways.

Keep in mind that the police can still pull you over, even if you are caught going just a few miles per hour over the limit.

If you do happen to get stopped by the police during your Utah road trip, be sure to stay calm. Put both hands on the steering wheel, avoid sudden movements, and present your license when the officer tells you to do so. 

Driving under influence, or DUI in short, is a serious crime in the US. Police enforce drink-driving related rules very strictly. Do not drink and drive, offenders can even land in prison.

The US has right-hand side traffic.

Now that you’re all set, let’s dive into your Utah road trip itinerary!

Salt Lake City


Salt Lake City’s Temple Square. Photography by WikiImages.

Welcome to the largest city in the state! Your Utah road trip begins here, for maximum convenience pick up your rental car directly at the Salt Lake City International Airport when you arrive.

Browse through car rental companies that support airport pick-up via Rentalmoose. Once you’ve got your rental car, it’s time to explore the city.

What can you do in Salt Lake City?

Salt Lake City may not be on every traveler’s bucket list, but the town’s fun attractions scattered around the region’s natural beauty and a unique downtown area might just surprise you. 

Temple Square

Be sure to drop by Temple Square, a complex that hosts over 20 attractions related to Christianity right in the heart of the city.

Although the Temple itself is closed for renovation until 2024, the majority of the attractions are still open!

Admire the monumental church, or step inside the Tabernacle where you can attend the weekly choir rehearsals every Thursday night at 7:30 PM.

History fans can visit the Church History Museum, open between 9 AM and 9 PM on weekdays and 10 AM to 6 PM on Saturdays. The museum is closed on Sundays.

The Great Salt Lake

When in Salt Lake City, you can’t skip visiting the Great Salt Lake itself. Drive up to Antelope Island and enter the State Park, where visitors can hike down numerous scenic trails, watch the spectacular lake views or spend the night at one of the secluded campsites.

If you’re looking for a unique way to see the island while getting a bit of exercise, consider renting a bike with Antelope E-Bikes. Apart from bike rentals, the company offers guided cycling tours. Check their website for more information.

Park City

Get your skis on and drive up to Park City, a winter getaway just half an hour away from the city. Park City is home to two major ski resorts lined with slopes for both skiers and snowboarders.

If you’re visiting outside of the winter season, head to the Canyons Golf Course.

Pretty Bird Chicken

When you get hungry, head over to Pretty Bird Chicken in downtown Salt Lake City. The eatery, often considered the best places to eat out in the city, is known for its signature fried chicken.

Rentalmoose order tip: Try the juicy Sando fried chicken sandwich.

What are the best hotels in Salt Lake City?

Spend the night at The Grand America Hotel, an elegant property right in the heart of Salt Lake City. The classy rooms feature retro decor and balconies. Guests can relax at the indoor and outdoor pools, work out at the fitness center or dine at the restaurant.

A car park is available at an extra cost.

Traveling on a tighter budget? Consider checking in at The Carlton Hotel. The charming, historic property is located near the heart of the city. The moderately-priced hotel features cozy rooms and free wifi.

Once you’ve explored Salt Lake City, it’s time to start your car and begin your Utah road trip! The first leg is a 4-hour drive to Moab.

Next: Moab, 3 hours 50 minutes



Arches National Park. Photography by Adam Derewecki.

Your Utah National Park road trip begins! Drive southeast from Salt Lake City for roughly 4 hours until you reach Moab, a small town in the south of the state which is home to some of the best national parks in Utah.

What is there to see in Moab?

Moab Museum

To be honest, Moab in itself may not be the most interesting town in the world. If you’re very curious about exploring it, drop by the Moab Museum where you can learn about the region’s local history through a variety of fascinating exhibitions.

The recently renovated museum welcomes visitors all week except Mondays.

Arches National Park

The natural beauty around Moab can’t be missed. Be sure to visit the monumental Arches National Park (photographed above), the park should land on any Utah National Park road trip itinerary.

A 7-day admission fee costs only $30 per vehicle and can be paid either when entering the park or online prior to your visit. Current fees can be checked on the official website.

Dead Horse Point State Park

Don’t miss the breathtaking view from the Dead Horse Point State Park, just 40 miles away from the city. Admire the landscapes that truly look out of this world, observe as the Colorado river twists between the canyons all from 2000 feet above.

Visit the viewing point when the sun sets and illuminates the red rocks in magical colors. Capture the incredible landscapes and post your photos online #Rentalmoose for a chance to win a Rentalmoose discount or even a rental car free of charge!

The park is open daily between 6 AM and 10 PM, a 3-day admission pass costs $20 per vehicle as of 2020. Click here to learn more about the fees.

Canyonlands National Park

Another absolute must-see near Moab is the Canyonlands National Park. Inside, make sure to see the Island in the Sky where you can get the best views and hike around scenic trails.

Don’t miss the 100-mile (160km) White Rim Road. This trail is one of the best driving roads in all of the US.

Similarly to the Arches and Dead Horse Point parks, there is a fee to enter the Canyonlands National Park. A 7-day admission pass costs $10 per vehicle and can be paid directly upon entrance.


The White Rim Road in Canyonlands is not for the faint-hearted. Photography by Mike Goad.

Did you rent a 4×4 for this trip?

If you came to Moab in a 4×4 or another kind of off-roader, be sure to explore the backroads and trails around Canyonlands National Park.

Some of the drives are a lot more challenging than others, but spectacular views are guaranteed no matter which trail you pick. You can find more information on offroad driving around Moab right here.

Moab Adventure Center

Adrenaline junkies can explore the area’s fascinating landscapes while getting exercise. You can book a mountain bike tour with Moab Adventure Center and cycle around the Dead Horse Point, Arches National Park or the La Sal Mountains.

Moab Adventure Center also offers river rafting if you would rather get wet. Check their website for details on available activities and pricing information.


The region is a popular glamping (luxury camping) destination. If you’re not familiar with glamping, or you’re not a fan of it for any reason, spend the night at Under Canvas Moab to change your mind.

The property features well-equipped tents within Arches National Park, a spectacular secluded setting and complimentary parking. As the name may suggest, glamping does come at a hefty price tag.

Hotel Moab Downtown

Check-in at Hotel Moab Downtown for traditional, budget-friendly accommodation. The 2-star hotel features a retro interior and a heated outdoor pool. Exceptional service and a convenient location with a view of La Sal Mountains make this property one of the top picks in town.

A car park is available at no extra cost.

Next: Goblin Valley State Park, 1 hour 40 minutes

Goblin Valley


Goblin Valley State Park photographed by Steppinstars/

Drive northwest from Moab, then hop on the I-70 and take the exit 149 to get on route 24. Roughly an hour and a half after departing from Moab, you will reach the Goblin Valley State Park.

What can you see in Goblin Valley?

Goblin Valley is one of the most fascinating parks in the country, perhaps even in the entire world. Afterall, where else can you see crazy rock formations like the one in the photo above? Once you’re inside the Goblin Valley State Park, you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled to another planet. It is truly spectacular!

Thousands of unique-looking rocks (nicknamed the goblins) are waiting for you. Drive till the end of the Goblin Valley Rd, drop off your car by the campground and explore on foot. Hikers can stick to the existing trails, such as the Carmen Canyon Trail or the Curtis Bench Trail.

Are you looking for that extra adventurous touch? Get off the official trails and discover the natural beauty on your own.

Did you know that Goblin Valley is one of the best spots for stargazing on the entire planet?

The dark skies are free from light pollution and provide stunning views at night, as long as there are no clouds. Regular stargazing-related events are hosted within the park, such as full moon hikes or telescope tours guided by the park’s rangers. Click here to check out the upcoming events.

You probably noticed a trend among parks in this part of the United States: none of them can be accessed for free. Goblin Valley State Park is no different, a 2-day admission pass costs $15 per vehicle. You can find detailed fees for other types of vehicles and camping fees on the park’s official website.

Goblin Valley State Park is open all week between 6 AM and 10 PM.

Next: Capitol Reef National Park, 1 hour

Capitol Reef


Photography by Sos8_6 via

As you set off from Goblin Valley, you will begin the most scenic part of the journey. Route 24 will take you between red rocks, across valleys, and through countless twists and turns constantly overlooking the spectacular landscapes.

Is Capitol Reef worth visiting?

The number of parks in Utah might be overwhelming for some travelers, to the point where you might be wondering whether they are worth seeing or not. Trust me, Capitol Reef National Park is most certainly worth a visit!

As you’ve probably guessed by now, travelers visiting Capitol Reef need to pay an admission fee. A 7-day entry fee to Capitol Reef National Park costs $20 per vehicle. 

The Scenic Drive

Make sure you drive down the Scenic Drive, a picturesque paved road just below 8 miles in length. Don’t get fooled by the seemingly short length and dedicate around an hour and a half for the entire drive, as there are many spots worth visiting along the way.

Keep in mind the Scenic Drive costs an extra $20 on top of the park’s entry fee.

Offroading in Capitol Reef

If you happen to be in Capitol Reef in a 4×4, you can head to some thrilling offroad trails around the park.

One of the most scenic routes is the 68-mile Burr trail. The first section of the road stretches from the town of Boulder and is paved and smooth for nearly 20 miles. The rest of the trail is a natural surface backroad, though most passenger cars should be able to handle it unless there is rain.

Of course, it is highly recommended to drive down the Burr trail in a 4×4.

Are you more experienced in offroading?

If you’re looking for a slightly more challenging trail, consider driving down the Blue Benches. Although nowhere near as extreme as some of the other trails in the park, this 20-mile loop is perfect for intermediate offroad fanatics. There are a couple of river crossings along this trail, though they are only around 1-2 feet deep.

You can find all trails in Capitol Reef National Park using the online trail finder. Sort trails by difficulty, location, and trail type. Did you find a trail that’s worth mentioning in this travel guide? Comment below and let me know!

Capitol Reef will surely keep you busy all day, that’s why Rentalmoose recommends spending the night here before continuing further.

Cougar Ridge

Consider checking in at the Cougar Ridge, a luxury ranch just minutes south of Torrey. Guests can choose to stay at the prestigious lodge, filled with facilities such as a bowling alley, theater room, a spa, and a hot tub.

You can also choose to stay in the Casitas, equally luxurious buildings lined across the property.

Austin’s Chuckwagon Motel

If you’re traveling on a tighter budget, spend the night at Austin’s Chuckwagon Motel in Torrey. The cozy motel features rooms, cabins, and suites, as well as an outdoor pool and a well-equipped store.

A complimentary car park is available.

Next: Escalante Petrified Forest, 1 hour 40 minutes



Photography by Mike Goad.

Byway 12 Scenic Drive

The most scenic drive of your adventure begins as soon as you get on Byway 12 in Torrey. The route is considered one of the best picturesque drives in the country, perhaps even on the entire planet.

Follow it for less than an hour and a half until you reach the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park. There are countless viewpoints along the way that overlook spectacular landscapes, be prepared to spend more time driving down Byway 12.

What can you do in Escalante?

Hiking through canyon slots

The region is best known for the thrilling natural hiking trails through canyon slots.

Rentalmoose recommends hiking along the Zebra Slot Canyon Trailhead and the Spooky Gulch. Squeeze through the tight gaps between the stones, and enjoy the views from a unique perspective.

Whether you’re a hiking fan or not, a walk through the slots is an unforgettable experience. However, it’s not recommended for travelers suffering from claustrophobia.

Grand Staircase National Monument

Don’t miss the Grand Staircase National Monument. Although nowhere near as popular among tourists as the canyon trails, the monument is most certainly worth a quick peek at the very least.

Hike along the routes or explore the landscapes from the comfort of your car while following the offroad trails. Like most natural surface trails in this part of Utah, paths around the Grand Staircase might become inaccessible during heavy rainfall, even in a 4×4.

There is no admission fee for the Grand Staircase National Monument.

Escalante Petrified Forest State Park

When passing Escalante, be sure to drop by the Escalante Petrified Forest State Park.

The park is home to some of the finest petrified wood in the world. Hike along the trails through the petrified forest until you get to the shores of the crystal-clear Wide Hollow Reservoir. Here, you can wander around the campground, go for a refreshing swim, rent a canoe or observe petrified dinosaur bones and shell fossils at the nearby visitor center.

Admission to the park costs below $10 per person for a day pass.

Next: Bryce Canyon National Park, 50 minutes

Bryce Canyon


Is this the surface of another planet? Bryce Canyon photographed by Ton W.

Follow the Scenic Byway 12 for almost an hour. Turn left onto Route 63, right before the Bryce Canyon Resort. Continue along Route 63 until you reach Bryce Canyon National Park.

What is there to see in Bryce Canyon?

Main Viewing Points

First, get a good look at the otherworldly landscapes from the four main viewpoints: Bryce Point, Inspiration Point, Sunset Point, and Sunrise Point. Each of the viewing points opens up to breathtaking natural beauty of countless hoodoos (spiral rock formations), valleys, and local flora.

For the absolutely best experience, visit the points when the sun sets or rises. You can also hike the Rim Trail between the Sunset and Sunrise Points.

Keep in mind that you need to purchase a 7-day pass to enter Bryce Canyon National Park. The admission costs $35 per vehicle as of 2020 and includes all occupants in a single vehicle. You can pay directly when entering the park. Find detailed information on current fees here.

Next, follow the 18-mile main road that will take you along further viewpoints and hiking trails. You can find a map of all the trails and walking routes on this website.

Stone Hearth Grille

For dinner, drive over to the Stone Hearth Grille a few miles east of Tropic. The charming restaurant serves juicy local steaks as well as other delicacies, such as scallops or grilled swordfish. Best of all, you can enjoy your meal while admiring a panoramic view of the park from the restaurant’s outdoor terrace.

Open daily between 5 PM and 9 PM.

Best Western Plus

In the evening, check-in at the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon. The property features luxurious rooms, an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a bicycle rental.

A complimentary car park is available, too.

Quality Inn

Travelers on a slightly tighter budget can stay at the Quality Inn. The Western-themed hotel features mountain view rooms with complimentary WiFi access, a breakfast buffet, and a free car park.

Next: Zion National Park, 1 hour 20 minutes



Photography by Egor Shitikov.

Head south on Route 89, leaving behind Bryce Canyon National Park. Don’t worry, as what’s coming up ahead may very well be even more spectacular. Turn onto the Mt Carmel Highway (UT-9 W) and continue along another one of the most spectacular drives in the United States.

What is special about Zion National Park?

Not many tourists know that Zion is the first National Park in Utah! The main attraction is the spectacular Zion Canyon, begin your tour of the park there.

The Narrows

Head down into The Narrows. The narrowest part of the Zion Canyon is home to the popular 16-mile hike in the Virgin River, where travelers can choose to walk either from the bottom up or the other way around.

The most popular starting point of the hike is the Temple of Sinawava, you can get off the shuttle bus essentially next to the river.

The Observation Point

Get the best panoramic view of the spectacular landscape from the Observation Point. You will have to hike for roughly four miles along The Weeping Rock Trailhead to reach the viewing point.

The trail begins at The Weeping Rock, which is the 7th stop for the free shuttle bus. The hike is fairly steep and can be very exhausting, but the rewarding view is absolutely worth the effort.

Scenic Drive

Before you leave, make sure to drive down the 54-mile Scenic Drive. The drive starts at Mt Carmel Junction (if you’re coming from Bryce Canyon, you most likely entered the park from here) and continues up to the I-15 on the western tip.

The scenic drive is a must, not just for the driving enthusiasts, as the scenery is simply extraordinary. Rentalmoose recommends saving the drive for last, as you can continue to Vegas directly from the western end of the Scenic Drive.

During the high tourist season, private cars are banned from the park’s main roads. In that case, you will need to drop off your car at one of the car parks near the gates and take the complimentary shuttle to Zion’s attractions. Click here for more details on the park’s shuttle system.

Zion National park is open all year long. Opening hours depend on the season, check current operating hours here. A 7-day admission pass to Zion National Park costs $25 per vehicle and can be purchased directly upon entrance.

Next: Las Vegas, 2 hours 30 minutes

Las Vegas


An American muscle car and a view of the Sin City during sunset. Isn’t this the perfect way to conclude this adventure? Photography by Kevin Schmid.

Depart Zion National Park and head southwest towards Las Vegas, leaving Utah behind. Remember to set your watch an hour back, as Vegas is in a different timezone. After taking in the natural beauty of Utah, it’s time to party your heart out in the city of sin.

What can you do in Las Vegas?

Fremont Street Experience

We have all heard of the Vegas Strip, but did you know the city has another go-to entertainment street right in the center? Don’t miss the Fremont Street Experience, the busy street is lined with flashy casinos, hotels, eateries and is packed with endless entertainment.

Watch the street from above as you zoom past on the Slotzilla zipline, go gambling inside the casinos or step inside one of the restaurants and take in the vibrant vibe.

Red Rock Canyon

The first things that come to your mind when you think of Las Vegas are probably the intense nightlife, gambling, and resorts. If you need to catch a break from all the craziness, consider heading out to the Red Rock Canyon.

Relax and enjoy the natural landscapes of the Mojave Desert as you drive down the 13-mile scenic drive, stopping along to stretch your legs at over 25 different trails that can be explored.

A day pass to the park costs $15 per vehicle. For more information on ticketing, click here.

Speed Vegas Race Track

Adrenaline junkies should visit the Speed Vegas racetrack. Choose from a variety of exciting cars, such as the Lamborghini Huracan, Porsche 991 GT3 RS or even a Baja Truck, and lap the race track!

You can also ride shotgun with a professional instructor instead. Check the Speed Vegas website for available packages, pricing, and terms and conditions.

Las Vegas is packed with so many attractions that it would take forever to list them all. Check out The Ultimate California Road Trip travel guide, where I mention some of the best places to visit in Las Vegas, including the famous Strip.

The Twist by Pierre Gagnaire

The number of restaurants in Las Vegas is quite overwhelming, and picking the best place to eat can be a challenge. If you’re looking for the best fine dining experience in town, book a table at the Twist by Pierre Gagnaire at the Waldorf Astoria. It’s the world-renowned chef’s first and only restaurant in the United States.

Indulge in delicious French cuisine while admiring spectacular views of the Strip from the 23rd floor.

The restaurant is open until 10 PM all week except Sundays and Mondays.

Caesars Palace

Luxury seekers have plenty of 5-star hotels to splash out on during a trip to Las Vegas. Consider checking in at the Caesars Palace Hotel & Casino along the Strip.

The glamorous hotel, often featured in Hollywood blockbusters, offers prestigious rooms and suites, as well as a wide array of facilities and activities for guests, such as a spa, pools and world-class dining.

The ideal location along the Strip, among with the countless facilities and world-class service all make the Caesars Palace the perfect choice in town.

The Golden Nugget

Naturally, most travelers will want to save their money for the casinos and live shows in Vegas as opposed to splashing out on a hotel. In that case, consider booking a room at the Golden Nugget.

The famous hotel is all you can expect in Vegas: a flashy facade, plenty of onsite activities and a casino, of course. Step outside the hotel and explore the busy Fremont Street, or relax at the pool.

Did I mention the hotel pool has a shark tank? What’s more, guests can ride a waterslide through the shark tank!


Your American adventure doesn’t have to end here! Read the Ultimate California Road Trip travel guide, and continue your journey onwards to the Grand Canyon, San Diego, and the Pacific Coast Highway. Combine the two trips into an epic road trip through the western US.

If you choose to finish your trip here, drop off your car directly at the McCarran International Airport. You can browse through car rental companies that support drop-off at another location and airport drop-off via Rentalmoose.

Don’t have a car you can take on your National Park road trip? No problem!

Don’t forget to book your rental car via Rentalmoose for your next adventure. On our platform, you can find the top rental companies at the best price, along with tens of curated travel guides around the globe. Get your car from Rentalmoose!

We plant a tree for every booking made with our platform.

Post your pictures from your National Park road trip online using #Rentalmoose! Our favorite ones will be featured in the upcoming blog posts.

wooden pier at secluded sandy beach and calm blue ocean in key west florida during sunset

The Sunshine State- Florida Road Trip Itinerary

Pristine beaches, vibrant cities, and prestigious resorts all prove that you can’t go wrong with a road trip in The Sunshine State. Read this travel guide to plan your dream Florida road trip.

Click here for detailed directions

Summary (click the red pins for directions) :

Miami to Key West- 170 milesđź“Ť $6 Toll

Key West/Miami to Daytona Beach- 430 milesđź“Ť $25 Toll

Daytona Beach to Orlando- 60 milesđź“Ť $5 Toll

Orlando to Tampa- 90 miles (145km)đź“Ť $5 Toll

Tampa to Naples- 170 miles (274km)đź“Ť  

Naples to Everglades National Park- 90 miles (145km)đź“Ť 

Everglades National Park to Miami- 30 miles (48km)đź“Ť 

1040 miles (1674km) in total

Tags: Travel guide, Florida, Beaches

This travel guide takes you on a road trip across the Sunshine State starting in the bustling city of Miami. Drive south across the scenic Florida Keys to the Southernmost Point in the Continental US before making your way up north to Daytona Beach, a city known for its motorsport heritage and “The World’s Most Famous Beach”.

Then, enjoy an adventure-packed day at one of Orlando’s theme parks and head to the state’s west coast, stopping in Tampa and Naples. After a night in a prestigious resort, admire the world’s biggest reptiles in Everglades National Park and return to Miami.

Planning- Before You Go

Here is all you need to know before you set off on your unforgettable Florida road trip!

How long does it take to complete this road trip?

This Florida road trip is a little over a thousand miles in total. As there is a lot of driving ahead, Rentalmoose highly recommends going to Key West on a day trip from Miami.

As you get on the road, spend at least two nights in Orlando and Naples respectively.

In order to get the most out of each destination, allocate at least 7 days for this exciting road trip around Florida.

When is the best time to visit Florida?

The best time to go on a road trip in Florida is anywhere between late November through the middle of May, when the average temperature during the day is around 20-25 Celsius (68-77 Fahrenheit).

Keep in mind that the tourist season tends to peak between late December and May.

If you want to avoid the biggest crowds consider booking your trip outside of said months.

Why book a rental car in Florida?

Scenic driving roads, well-developed infrastructure, cheap petrol, and a large distance to cover all make a private car the perfect means of transport for a road trip in Florida. Not to mention the freedom to alter your itinerary on the go that can only be achieved when traveling by car.

Miami has a wide variety of rental cars from numerous companies available for pick-up directly at the airport. Alternatively, you can always go on a Florida road trip in your own car.

Find the perfect rental car for you via Rentalmoose, whether that means a budget-friendly hatchback, a large comfy SUV, or an exciting drop-top muscle car.

For extra peace of mind during your road trip, Rentalmoose recommends adding excess coverage when booking your rental car, just in case anything happens during your Florida road trip.

Once you’ve picked up the car, don’t forget to take photos of the vehicle using the Rentalmoose app to qualify for a 50% discount from the excess coverage fee.

Can tourists drive in Florida? 

Absolutely! Tourists with domestic driver licenses issued outside of the US may drive in Florida without an International Driving Permit for up to one year.

However, some car rental companies may require extra documentation, be sure to check with the company prior to leaving to make sure what paperwork is necessary. 

Are you looking for more information about International Driving Permits? Read this blog post to find out when you need an IDP, how to obtain it, and more! It will surely come in handy for your other road trips.

Remember to keep your passport with you when driving in Florida, as it is required for identification alongside your foreign driver’s license.

If you do happen to get stopped by the police during your Florida road trip, be sure to stay calm. Put both hands on the steering wheel, avoid sudden movements, and present your license when the officer tells you to do so. 

Be careful not to pass the speed limits when driving in Florida! If you’re caught going just 6MPH (~10km/h) over the limit, you can be fined around $150 (137 EUR).

Driving under influence, or DUI in short, is a serious crime in the US. Police enforce drink-driving related rules very strictly. Do not drink and drive, offenders can even land in prison.

How do toll roads work in Florida?

Keeping up with all the toll roads in Florida can get tricky, especially for tourists and short-term visitors. Most rental companies will automatically add any toll fees to your credit or debit card, that way you won’t have to worry about paying the fees in cash, it’s best to contact your rental company to make sure.

Paying by cash? You can check the SunPass Toll Calculator for the most recent toll fees.

Florida, like all of the United States, has right-hand side traffic.

Now that you’re all set, it’s time to begin your exciting Florida road trip!


miami beach skyscrapers city skyline and water in foreground during colorful sunset in florida. See this coastal city during a Florida road trip

Photography by MustangJoe.

Welcome to Miami, one of the most famous cities in the entire world! For maximum convenience, pick your rental car up directly from Miami International Airport as soon as you arrive. Find companies that support airport pick-up via Rentalmoose.

What is Miami best known for?

Miami is one of the world’s most popular getaways, and after a day in town it’s easy to see why. The city’s pristine coastline and miles of sandy beaches are absolutely perfect for sunbathing, swimming, watersports and diving. Once dusk falls, you can head to the heart of Miami Beach and indulge in one of the planet’s most exciting nightlife scenes. What more could anyone ask for?

Miami Beach

Cross the bridge from mainland Miami to Miami Beach and enter the city’s tourist and nightlife hotspot. Drive down the spectacular Ocean Drive, lined with all sorts of bars and restaurants.

Try to find an on-street parking spot as you make your way down to South Beach, arguably the best (or at least the most popular) beach in town.

You may be out of luck on weekends or during the holiday season. In that case, drop off your car at this car park along Collins Avenue.

Expect to pay up to $5 per hour for parking in South Beach.

Art Deco Historic District

After relaxing by the ocean, go for a stroll in the Art Deco Historic District. The neighborhood is known for its picturesque architecture and is loved by photographers. Admire the colorful buildings or take part in an insightful walking tour.

Looking to gather even more knowledge about the architecture of Miami Beach? Visit the Art Deco Museum situated along Ocean Drive.

Enjoy a trip back to the 80s when you visit The Anderson. This trendy neighborhood bar offers artful drinks and a casual, welcoming vibe. The 80s-inspired interior makes for a perfect backdrop for your insta pics, too.

Where to party in Miami

A trip to Miami wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the city’s vivid nightlife scene. What is the best club in Miami? Which club do the celebrities visit?

The best spot to party in Miami has got to be the vibrant Club Space. Get on the dance floor at The Terrace at Space or have fun at a live concert at The Ground downstairs. 

If nightclubs are not your thing, consider heading to a beach club instead. Visit the world-class Nikki Beach Miami for an unforgettable, exquisite beach club experience.

Sunbathe on the day beds, order a delicious lunch, or simply sip on a cocktail while listening to the music and admiring the Atlantic Ocean.

Where to eat in Miami

Once you get hungry, make your way to Pura Vida Miami. The cozy restaurant features some of the best healthy dishes in town and beautiful, bright decor. Open daily from 7 AM to 10 PM.

Try local, fresh seafood at The River Oyster Bar. The venue, considered one of the best eateries in town, offers a wide selection of seafood dishes. An absolute must-try is the stone crab, a regional delicacy.

The best hotels in Miami

Luxury travelers will find themselves in paradise, as there are countless prestigious hotels and resorts scattered all around Miami.

If you can’t take your pick, consider booking a room at The Miami Beach Edition. The 5-star beachfront hotel features rooms and suites with either ocean or city views, and a selection of luxurious facilities including a pool, a nightclub, a fitness center, and an open-air cinema.

There are plenty of attractions in Miami to splash out on.

If luxury accommodation isn’t your main priority, Urbanica The Meridian Hotel might be the perfect fit for you. The stylish hotel features well-equipped, modern rooms as well as an outdoor pool and a unique decor, all at a price tag that won’t break the bank.

Once you’ve spent enough time in Miami, head south towards the scenic Florida Keys. It’s the first driving segment of your Florida road trip!

Next: Key West, 3 hours 30 minutes $6 Toll

Key West

wooden pier near clean sandy beach palm trees and calm blue ocean in key west florida. See it on a road trip with Rentalmoose

Photography by Don Stelmaszek.

Here it is, the first leg of your Florida road trip!

Make your way down to Key West along one of the most scenic driving roads in the entire country. The Overseas Highway is a mix of bridges connecting tiny islands (Florida Keys) that makes for absolutely spectacular views.

As Key West is below four hours away from Miami, Rentalmoose recommends making a separate day trip there before setting off on your road trip up to Daytona Beach.

Is Key West worth visiting?

Absolutely! Unlike most of the Sunshine State, Key West may not be popular for its beaches. It still is worth at least a quick visit, at least to drive down the scenic Florida Keys. Here is why you should visit Key West.

The Southernmost Point of the Continental United States

Begin your Key West adventure with a photo by the Southernmost Point of the Continental US, located at the corner of Whitehead Street and South Street.

The iconic spot is a must-see when in town, and is situated just 90 miles north of Cuba. Post your photos online using #Rentalmoose to stand a chance to win a Rentalmoose discount or even a free rental car!

Ernest Hemingway’s Home

Find out about the region’s most famous artist, Ernest Hemingway. The artist’s Key West Home is situated within the Old Town and is open to visitors daily between 9 AM and 5 PM.

Inside, guests can find all kinds of Hemingway memorabilia. As the house does tend to get crowded, it is highly recommended to visit around the opening time or late in the afternoon. Guided tours are available, too.

Mallory Square

Don’t forget to pay a visit to Mallory Square, a vibrant seafront plaza in the heart of Key West’s Historic District.

Mallory Square is especially worth visiting right before the sun sets, as the Sunset Celebration takes place every evening.

Watch as the street performers try to catch tourists’ attention, grab a snack at one of the eateries and admire the magnificent sunset.

As Key West is situated less than a hundred miles north of Cuba, Rentalmoose recommends trying out Caribbean and Latin cuisine.

One of the best Caribbean eateries in Key West is Bien, a cozy restaurant a short walk away from Mallory Square. Pick from a selection of affordable sandwiches and seafood.

Next, it’s time to drive up north to Daytona Beach!

Next: Miami and then Daytona Beach, 7 hours 20 minutes $25 Toll

Daytona Beach

wide sandy beach small waves clean blue water and hotels in background in daytona beach florida

Daytona Beach photographed by Paul Brennan.

Depart Miami and head north towards Daytona Beach, a city most praised for its motorsport heritage and home to “The World’s Most Famous Beach”. If you’re driving from Key West, the journey will take around 7 and a half hours.

What can you do in Daytona Beach?

The famous Daytona International Speedway

When in Daytona Beach, you can’t skip the Daytona International Speedway. The iconic track has become the city’s symbol and is a fascinating attraction no matter if there are ongoing events.

Petrolheads can purchase tickets to one of the races that take place on the track, check the official event calendar for more details.

Even if there are no events, visitors can take part in guided tours of the speedway and explore the Motorsports Hall of Fame museum.

Daytona Lagoon

Adrenaline junkies, as well as families with kids, can spend a day at the Daytona Lagoon waterpark. Dare to ride down the thrilling slides or relax in the gentle Lazy River.

No matter how old you are, you will find a fun attraction in this waterpark.

Do you prefer “dry” attractions?

Head to the park’s dry section, where you can find go-karts, an arcade, laser tag, and much more.

The World’s Most Famous Beach

Don’t forget to visit the beach itself, dubbed the “World’s Most Famous Beach”. The 23-mile long, wide beach used to be the racing ground for motorsports in the early 1900s.

Today, tourists can follow in motorsport pioneers’ footsteps and drive their own cars across the beach, as long as the weather allows it.

You can always go for a dip in the ocean, stroll along the beach or head to the busy waterfront pier filled with eateries and bars.

When you get hungry, head to Caribbean Jack’s waterfront restaurant, one of the favorites in Daytona Beach. Head to the stunning outdoor deck, where you can have a delicious Caribbean lunch while enjoying panoramic views of the ocean.

The next stop on your Florida road trip is a city known for its theme parks and a vibrant art scene.

Next: Orlando, 1 hour $5 Toll


walt disney and mickey mouse partners black and gold statue in crowded walt disney world orlando theme park

Disney World in Orlando photographed by HenningE.

Orlando is home to some of the best theme parks in the country that successfully steer most tourists outside of the city itself. That’s why Rentalmoose suggests exploring at least a bit of the city as well as the famous theme parks during your Florida road trip.

Orlando’s famous theme parks

Walt Disney World has indubitably become a symbol of Orlando, and not paying it a visit is essentially like going to New York City without seeing Times Square or the Statue of Liberty.

Park guests can choose from 4 theme parks and 2 water parks within the massive complex, as well as countless shops and restaurants on the premises.

If you would rather go to a different theme park, consider spending the day at Universal Studios Orlando instead, where you can pick from two theme parks and a water park to spend your day. 

What is there to do in Orlando except for theme parks?

Kennedy Space Center

Don’t forget to visit the Kennedy Space Center outside of the city, where you can learn all about NASA and the US space programs, both past and present. Visitors can admire rockets and explore interactive exhibitions, or even go on a tour guided by astronauts.

If you’re lucky, you can even catch a rocket launch live. Check the launch schedule here.

The Orlando Museum of Art

Head to the Orlando Museum of Art to get a break from all the theme park craze.

Guests can pick from a selection of temporary and permanent art collections presented at the venue. Learn about the region’s underrated local art scene.

Open until 4 PM all week except Mondays and holidays. Purchase your tickets to skip the queues right here.

The Mall at Millenia

Shopping freaks shouldn’t miss The Mall at Millenia. The large shopping venue is Orlando’s go-to spot for the best luxury and upscale goods. The entire complex is indoors, making it perfect for a rainy day.

Getting hungry? Consider going to Prato for lunch or dinner. Although not exactly regional, this restaurant offers a modern interpretation of traditional Italian cuisine, with a truly delicious outcome. Some specialties include Italian meatballs, a selection of pasta and pizza, of course.

Luxury seekers will most definitely enjoy their stay at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando. The picturesque 5-star resort features spacious rooms and suites with balconies, as well as luxurious amenities such as 3 heated outdoor pools, a golf course, and countless activities in the resort’s scenic surroundings.

Traveling on a tighter budget? Consider checking into the affordable Surestay Plus International Drive. The 3-star hotel offers cozy rooms, as well as facilities such as an outdoor pool and a bar.

The next leg of your exciting Florida road trip is a drive down to the west coast of the state!

Next: Tampa, 1 hour 20 minutes $5 Toll


two modern glass residential skyscraper buildings and three green palm trees on a clear summer day in tampa florida

Photography by Chalo Garcia.

Leave Orlando and make your way to the west coast of Florida. After around an hour and a half, you will arrive in Tampa, the biggest city in the Tampa Bay area.

Where to go in Tampa?

Busch Gardens

Tampa’s most famous tourist attraction is the Busch Gardens park. The park is a combination of theme park roller coasters and rides, an exotic zoo and live performances.

Adrenaline junkies will find themselves at home, as the park is famous for its adventure-packed roller coasters.

There is also a wide selection of kiddie rides, water rides, animal viewing platforms and a night safari that welcomes guests in the evenings.

More details on the live performances and shows can be found here.

The Tampa Theatre

Art enthusiasts should definitely visit The Tampa Theatre for a unique cinematic experience.

Rentalmoose loves one-of-a-kind art venues. That’s why I consider the Astor Film Lounge a must-see when in Berlin, read about it in The Heart Of Central Europe travel guide.

Similarly to Berlin’s Astor Film Lounge, the Tampa Theatre is a glamorous movie palace in the heart of the city. Catch the latest Hollywood production or travel back in time when you watch a timeless classic from the fifties. The cinema’s decor makes for an unforgettable vibe.

Check the current film schedule here.

Ybor City

Head to the historic Ybor City, the neighborhood is the center of Tampa’s Latino community. Learn about the district’s history at the Ybor City Museum, or stroll around the area during a guided tour.

Columbia Restaurant

In the historic Ybor City neighborhood, even the foodies can get a taste of the local heritage. Go for lunch at the Columbia Restaurant, Florida’s oldest continuously-operated restaurant.

The eatery has been serving guests for over a century and is the city’s favorite Latin food heaven.

Rentalmoose order tip: Try anything from a wide range of regional delicacies, including what could very well be the best Cuban Sandwich in the entire state.

Next: Naples, 2 hours 30 minutes


wooden pier atop blue wavy ocean during sunset in naples florida

Naples Pier photographed by Waldo Malan.

Continue south along the west coast until you reach the upscale city of Naples, a must on any Florida road trip itinerary. The city’s beach is often ranked as one of the best in the state, don’t miss it!

What is Naples known for?

The Naples Pier

Begin with a visit to the Naples Pier (pictured above). The pier, located just a stone’s throw away from downtown, is a picturesque spot perfect for a sunset stroll, people-watching or simply relaxing after a lengthy drive.

You should be able to find an on-street parking spot for below $3 per hour, pay at the nearest parking meter.

Naples Beach

Walk down from the pier and turn onto Naples Beach, repeatedly ranked as one of the best beaches in the state.

Go for a swim in the breathtaking emerald-green Gulf of Mexico, stroll on the pristine white sand, soak up the sun (remember to put on sunscreen!) or watch the local fishermen as they fish from the historical Naples Pier.

Make sure you stay to watch the sunset, too!

Tin City of Naples

Go for a unique shopping spree at the waterfront Tin City of Naples, a selection of quirky locally-owned shops and eateries. Visit one of the many businesses selling clothing, jewelry, toys and all sorts of accessories.

Open Monday through Saturday until 9 PM and Sundays till 5 PM.

Enjoy a Cuban meal at the Van Van Cuban Cafe, located along Tamiami Trail in the north of the heart of Naples. Choose from a selection of Caribbean dishes on either the lunch menu or the all-day dinner menu.

Rentalmoose order tip: Don’t know which Cuban dish to pick? Give the Ropa Vieja a try, it’s a shredded flank steak covered in tomato sauce.

Where to stay in Naples?

For your night in Naples, consider checking in at the Inn On Fifth. The stylish hotel features elegant, well-equipped rooms and suites, as well as luxurious amenities such as a spa, an outdoor pool and an ideal location in the heart of Naples.

Naples’ upscale and prestigious reputation is reflected in the town’s hotels and resorts. However, it certainly does not mean that Naples has zero affordable accommodation options. Travelers on a tighter budget can stay at the Gulfcoast Inn. The 2-star hotel features spacious rooms and a heated outdoor pool and is conveniently located just a few blocks away from the local beach.

Rentalmoose insider tip: Spend the night in Fort Myers, a city less than an hour north of Naples. The average hotel price is lower than in Naples, and the city is equally beautiful.

Next: Everglades National Park, 1 hour 30 minutes

Everglades National Park

alligator crocodile reptile hidden in yellow leaves swimming in water in everglades national park florida

Photography by Skeeze.

As you make your way back to Miami on the eastern side of the state, be sure to drop by the Everglades National Park. The most popular National Park in the Sunshine State, and one of the iconic symbols of the United States, is home to fascinating wildlife such as alligators and crocodiles. You don’t want to miss it during a road trip in Florida.

Iconic airboat tour

Arguably, the best way to explore the Everglades wetlands is on a guided airboat tour. There are various tour operators to choose from, Rentalmoose recommends going with Coopertown Airboats. The operator has been welcoming guests since the 1940s and has earned its reputation as the go-to Everglades airboat operator. Get a first-hand look at both crocodiles and alligators during a private airboat tour.

Go for lunch at the Coopertown Restaurant following your airboat tour. Inside, you can enjoy Floridian delicacies, including alligator tail and frog legs. Incredible and welcoming service is included with every order. 

Cycling in Everglades National Park

You can rent a bicycle through Flamingo Adventures and explore Everglades’ best cycling trails. The detailed biking guide around Everglades can be found on the park’s official website.

Next: Miami, 30 minutes


For maximum comfort, Rentalmoose recommends dropping off your rental car directly at Miami International Airport when you finish your Florida road trip. Car rental companies that support drop-off at MIA can be found via Rentalmoose.

Don’t have a car you can take on this Florida road trip? No problem!

Don’t forget to book your rental car via Rentalmoose for your next adventure. On our platform, you can find the top rental companies at the best price, along with tens of curated travel guides around the globe. Get your car from Rentalmoose!

We plant a tree for every booking made with our platform.

Post your pictures from your Florida road trip online using #Rentalmoose! Our favorite ones will be featured in the upcoming blog posts.

busy hollywood boulevard lots of tourists in front of chinese theatre on a sunny day in hollywood california

The Ultimate California Road Trip Itinerary

The ultimate road trip around California, Nevada, and Arizona.

Click here for detailed directions

Summary (click the red pins for directions) :

Los Angeles to Santa Barbara– 100 miles (160 km) đź“Ť 

Santa Barbara to Monterey– 230 miles (370 km) đź“Ť

Monterey to San Francisco– 120 miles (190 km) đź“Ť

San Francisco to Yosemite & Death Valley– 520 miles (840 km) đź“Ť

Yosemite & Death Valley to Las Vegas– 130 miles (210 km) đź“Ť

Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon– 130 miles (210 km) đź“Ť

The Grand Canyon to San Diego– 450 miles (720 km)đź“Ť

San Diego to Los Angeles– 120 miles (190 km) đź“Ť

1800 miles (2900 km) in total

Tags: Travel guide, Long Trip, USA, California

Planning- Before You Go

What is the best road trip in the Western US?

North America’s West Coast is one of the world’s most iconic hotspots for an epic road trip. There are tons of attractions across California, Nevada, and Arizona. 

The best California road trip begins in Los Angeles, going along the Pacific Coast Highway up until San Francisco. 

Then, continue south-east through Yosemite and Death Valley until you get to Las Vegas. After a memorable night in Vegas drive, a stop at the Grand Canyon is an absolute must. Later, head back to Los Angeles through San Diego.

The length of this California road trip is just below 2000 miles, or 3000 kilometers, in total.

How much does a California road trip cost?

There are a couple of factors worth considering when budgeting your ideal California road trip. A rental car in California can cost as little as $40 per day. 

Gas prices in the US, compared to Europe, are rather affordable. California, Nevada, and Arizona have some of the highest prices in the US at roughly $3 per gallon (a gallon is 3.785l), which equals to about $0.79 per liter. 

Current gas prices can be found here.

The average daily cost for a California road trip that includes a rental car, fuel, accommodation, food and beverages, and attraction tickets will be around $200.

Of course, the prices will rise depending on the amount of luxury you desire during the road trip.

How long does it take to complete this California road trip?

This ultimate California road trip is rather long, at around 2 000 miles (3200km) in total.

The route is divided into segments between 100 and 520 miles (160km and 840km) each, there is a lot of driving ahead. 

In order to have enough time to discover each of the stops along the way, Rentalmoose recommends dedicating 7 days for this road trip at the very least.

Don’t forget to take a look at our guide on renting a car in California before setting off.

When is the best time to visit Western USA?

The US West Coast is famous for its beaches and sunny cities. If you want to be able to go for a swim in the Pacific Ocean, it is best to visit between June and August. The weather is still more moderate between April and June as well as September and October.

panoramic view beautiful secluded california sandy beach and wavy ocean surrounded by green hills on a clear day. See the beautiful coast of California during a california road trip
Sandy beach in Big Sur, right off the Pacific Coast Highway

Why should I book a rental car in the US?

 The United States of America is perfect to be discovered via a rental car. The country is full of beautiful, scenic driving roads and well-developed road infrastructure, making it ideal for a road trip.

Petrol is cheap compared to Europe, the US has the absolute perfect conditions for a rental car.

For extra peace of mind during your road trip, Rentalmoose recommends adding the excess cover when booking your rental car.

Once you’ve picked up the car, don’t forget to take photos of the car to qualify for a 50% discount from the excess coverage fee.

Road Trip Extensions

Why not extend your road trip even further? Consider adding a few days to your road trip and driving over to explore the scenic states of Nevada, Utah, or Colorado.

As far as extensions go, consider adding a day to spend some time at the Joshua Tree National Park.

Can tourists drive in the USA? 

Yes! Tourists are allowed to drive in the United States using a foreign driving license as long as they are at least 18 years old, and the license covers the type of vehicle they are driving. 

It is recommended to get an International Driving Permit if your driving license is not in English. For more info regarding IDP’s, check out this blog post.

While driving around California, you will soon realize that practically nobody follows the speed limits strictly. Going 5-10 MPH over the limit is common on freeways, for example.

Keep in mind that the police can still pull you over, even if you are caught going just a few miles per hour over the limit.

If you do happen to get stopped by the police during your trip, be sure to stay calm. Put both hands on the steering wheel, avoid sudden movements, and present your license when the officer tells you to do so. 

Driving under influence, or DUI in short, is a serious crime in the US. Police enforce drink-driving related rules very strictly. Do not drink and drive, offenders can even land in prison.

The US has right-hand side traffic.

Now that you’re all set, it’s time to dive into this exciting California road trip itinerary!

Los Angeles

los angeles city skyline view at night time. See the city of angeles during a California road trip

Photograph from

Your California road trip begins in one of the most iconic travel destinations in the world, known as the city of angels. 

I recommend picking up your rental car directly at the LAX Airport and driving into town. If you are planning to stay in LA for a few days consider renting your car a day before leaving the city, as Los Angeles is infamous for notorious traffic jams. 

What is LA famous for?

Los Angeles, specifically Hollywood, is the heart of the American film and entertainment industry. Begin your US adventure with a drive to Hollywood, where you can spend some time at the Hollywood Boulevard, stroll down the Walk of Fame or drive up the hills to get panoramic views of the city.

What are the best attractions in Los Angeles?

Universal Studios Hollywood

Adrenaline junkies can enjoy a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood. This attraction first opened in the 60s as a studio tour, a first-hand look at real film sets for Universal Studios productions. 

The studio tour has gained lots of popularity over the years and has developed into a full-size adventure-packed theme park, filled with roller coasters and rides for all ages. 

The iconic studio tour still remains as one of the highlights of the park. Admission tickets start at $109 and can be purchased here.

Santa Monica Pier

Don’t forget to visit the famous Santa Monica Pier. You have probably seen it at least once in a Hollywood blockbuster or TV show. 

The pier is one of the vibrant hotspots of LA. Park your car and stroll along the vivid pier, go inside one of the restaurants, enjoy a hot dog, or ride the rollercoaster (tickets between $5 to $10 per ride). 

You can use the Spot Angels app to find the cheapest car parks in the area. After the Santa Monica Pier, walk over to the next attraction.

Venice Beach

You will find Venice Beach just a 30-minute walk away from the pier. The neighborhood is known for its artistic atmosphere, luxury shops, and delicious restaurants. 

Walk along the sandy shore, sunbathe or go for a dip in the Pacific Ocean.

Perry’s Cafe

You can also grab a bite at one of the beachfront eateries. Our top pick here is Perry’s Cafe– the best spot for burgers right on the beach. You can rent a bike here, too.

Juicy burgers served right on the beach at Perry’s Cafe in Venice Beach.

What are the best hotels in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles is packed with attractions worth visiting, I highly recommend staying at least one night in town before departing further. Spend the night at the Hollywood Roosevelt,

It’s one of the best and most famous hotels in town. Once home to the Academy Awards Gala, the Roosevelt is a 4-star hotel with various bars, a pool, and a perfect location on Hollywood Boulevard.

A more affordable alternative within Hollywood is the BLVD Hotel and Suites. The venue offers rooms and suites just a 10-minute walk away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

After a good night’s sleep, it is time to begin one of the best road trips of your life!

Next: Santa Barbara, 1 hour 50 minutes

Santa Barbara

santa barbara whitewashed buildings and tile rooftops and green palm trees with ocean in background california

Santa Barbara. Photo by Lela Khajadourian from Pixabay.

The next highlight of the trip begins as soon as you set off from Los Angeles. The route to Santa Barbara is the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway, arguably the best driving road in the US, and an absolute must-visit for your California road trip.

There are lots of panoramic views guaranteed along the way, leave LA in the morning to make sure you have enough time to discover them all. 

Is Santa Barbara worth visiting?

Santa Barbara is one of the most scenic cities in this part of the United States. It is certainly worth a visit during your road trip! The region is known for its beautiful landscapes, great weather, and local wineries. 

Stearns Wharf

Stearns Wharf is the perfect point to begin exploring Santa Barbara. Explore the vivid pier lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, and cafes. 

If you are craving local seafood, look no further. Head inside the Shellfish Company, a delicious eatery where you can enjoy grilled shrimp, crabs, and various fish. Click here for the menu.

Arroyo Burro County Park

For a relaxing hike, visit the Arroyo Burro County Park. The park is perfect for a barbecue, jogging along the shoreline, or hiking along one of the trails. You can also go for a swim in the Pacific, it’s a quieter setting than Venice Beach.

After some time in Santa Barabara, continue the road trip over to Monterey.

Next: Monterey, 5 hours 10 minutes


monterey canning company big red building and two pedestrian crossings with people on a clear summer day in california

Photography by Travis Wise.

Take the scenic Pacific Coast Highway for another 250 miles. The drive takes roughly 5 hours to complete, there is a faster route that will save you an hour but it’s a lot less interesting (directions here). 

The Pacific Coast Highway may seem familiar, it’s a very popular filming location for Hollywood movies. Iron Man, Fast and Furious along with many others were all filmed here.

This section of the California road trip will take you along the famous Big Sur. Tell your passenger to get the camera, you’ll be taking lots of photos along the way! There are many pullouts where you can stop by and take in the panoramic coastal views. The Big Sur is hard to miss, just follow the coastal highway.

beautiful ocean cove in california surrounded by green hills and calm water in california

What is there to do in Monterey?

Monterey Car Week

Petrolheads may have heard about Monterey, as the town is home to the Monterey Car Week. Thousands of exotic cars flood the city every summer, from modern supercars to some of the rarest, multimillion-dollar classics. 

There are various events throughout the week, with a grand finale being the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance.

Laguna Seca Raceway

Another highlight for automotive enthusiasts is the Laguna Seca Raceway. The track is a historic motorsport venue that hosts races such as the MotoGP. 

You can find the event calendar here. Adrenaline junkies can even lap the track in a formula car with the Allen Berg Racing School.

The 17-Mile Drive

One of Monterey’s best attractions is the 17-Mile Drive. The beautiful coastal road will take you along monumental cliffs, mysterious forests, and at the doorstep of prestigious resorts and villas, right by the Pacific. What better way to end the day than with a spectacular, scenic drive?

 The admission costs around $10 per car and can be paid directly at the gate. If you spend over $35 at Pebble Beach Resorts restaurants, entrance is free of charge.

Monterey Harbor

Don’t forget to visit Monterey Harbor and the city’s waterfront area. Cannery Row features some of the town’s best dining and shopping venues. Head into the Chart House, a delicious seafood restaurant that offers great views of the surroundings.

Where to stay in Monterey?

Sophisticated travelers will enjoy a stay at The Lodge at Pebble Beach. The luxury 5-star lodge provides a good balance between prestige and immaculate natural beauty. The stay includes luxurious amenities such as a golf course, spa and wellness center and a beautiful seaside pool.

Another good overnight stop in Monterey is the Carmel Valley Ranch. The 4-star ranch is the perfect getaway known for its stunning location and panoramic views, as well as a beautiful golf course, a pool, and spacious suites. Free parking is available.

Next: San Francisco, 2 hours 20 minutes

San Francisco

red golden gate bridge monument in san francisco with fenced path in foreground seen during sunset

Photography by Pexels.

Drive along the Pacific Coast Highway one last time until you reach the home of the Golden Gate Bridge, steep streets, and some of the best seafood in the world. Without a doubt, this is San Francisco. It’s an absolute must-see point on any proper California road trip.

What to do in San Francisco?

Lands End

Visit Lands End park for the best views of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Hike the trails along the rocky cliffs, explore the Sutro Baths ruins, or photograph the eerie Historic Shipwrecks. Keep an eye on the ocean, if you’re lucky you might just spot a whale!

The admission is free of charge.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island once served as a fort, a military prison, and a federal prison. It has been transformed into a museum that can be explored by visitors curious about Alcatraz’s rich history. 

The Island can only be accessed by boat (tickets here). Tours begin at Pier 33, your rental car can be left by a parking meter for up to 4 hours (tours typically take around 2 hours).

The parking meter rates are between $2 and $3.5 per hour. On busier days, try this multi-story car park across the street for around $25 per day.

Chinatown district

One of the most recognizable spots in San Francisco is the city’s famous Chinatown district.

It is, in fact, the biggest Chinatown outside of Asia.

Stroll along the streets lined with exotic shops and restaurants and indulge in the district’s one-of-a-kind vibe.

Enter the area via Grant Avenue to see the iconic Dragon Gate.

san francisco yellow 3 story home on a crooked street with two cars in the front and iconic tram route

After a day of exploring the city, treat yourself to dinner at the Waterbar, one of the best seafood restaurants in town. Delicious food aside, the venue offers absolutely breathtaking panoramic views of the Oakland Bay Bridge. Click here for the menu.

Stay the night at the Via Hotel in South Beach. The stylish boutique hotel is conveniently located near restaurants, cafes, and shops. AT&T Park is across the street. Valet parking is available at an extra charge.

After a memorable night in San Francisco, your road trip route will continue inland towards spectacular National Parks.

Next: Yosemite & Death Valley, 11 hours

Yosemite & Death Valley

death valley national park panoramic view of dry hills on a clear day, seen from artists drive scenic drive. Death Valley National Park is a must on any california road trip.

Death Valley National Park.

The longest segment of this road trip is the drive from San Francisco to Las Vegas, which takes about 11 hours to complete. 

Two of the region’s most popular National Parks are along the way: Yosemite and Death Valley, and Rentalmoose recommends making a stop at both of them for at least a short visit. Afterall, a California road trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Yosemite.

Can you drive your car into Yosemite National Park?

Yes, most roads within Yosemite can be accessed via your rental car! Some of the roads are closed in winter (others may require tire chains in snowy conditions), so it is certainly best to visit during the summer. 

Getting around in Yosemite and Death Valley might be tricky due to low, or sometimes non-existent, phone service.

What’s more, GPS may not always be up to date in terms of road closures, it’s best to check the official website for current conditions and closures.

Does Yosemite National Park have an entrance fee?

Yosemite is not free to enter. The park has had an entry fee since 1913, as of 2020 Yosemite National Park admission costs $30 per car.

What to see in Yosemite and Death Valley National Parks?

 Both of the parks are famous around the world, begin with a visit to Yosemite’s most popular highlight, the Yosemite Valley.

Observe the monumental mountains surrounded by dark pine trees, photograph the picturesque waterfalls, and hike around the trails spotting local wildlife along the way.

There can be heavy traffic within the valley, especially on weekends, so it is recommended to leave early in the morning to avoid crowds. There are various parking zones within the park, and you will be directed to the one with the most spots.

Before setting off for Death Valley, don’t forget to visit the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. The grove is home to over 500 giant sequoia trees, the largest group in all of Yosemite. There are limited parking spaces available by the grove, it is best to visit on weekdays or early in the morning.

Death Valley is roughly 4 hours away along the 395, though if you are visiting outside of the summer there will likely be road closures. In that case, the journey is around 8 hours along the CA-99.

As of 2020, the admission fee for the Death Valley National Park costs $25 per vehicle for unlimited, 7-day access.

Once you’re inside the park, head towards the Badwater Basin first. The large salt flat is located below sea level and remains one of the hottest spots in the nation. Be sure to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun, especially in the summer.

Next, drive along the Artists Drive, a 9-mile long scenic one-way driving road that will take you through breathtaking scenery. If you’re a Star Wars fan, some of the spots may look familiar, as parts of “A New Hope” were filmed in the area.

Before departing for Vegas, be sure to get a good panoramic view of the park from higher ground. Visit Zabriskie Point, the park’s most popular lookout, to get a perfect perspective of Death Valley. 

death valley sandy bright hills on a clear sunny day

Where to stay in Yosemite and Death Valley?

There are various lodges and hotels between Yosemite and Death Valley parks, there are two particular lodges recommended by Rentalmoose.

The Ahwahnee Hotel is located inside the Yosemite Valley. It is hands down one of the best places to stay in the area. The lodge was what inspired Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel, a location used for The Shining. The Ahwahnee is a historic, atmospheric hotel that offers rooms and suites with retro decor and luxurious amenities.

The Oasis at Death Valley is the perfect overnight stay for sophisticated travelers visiting Death Valley. The resort consists of two hotels: The Ranch and The Inn. The Inn is a more prestigious and pricey alternative. The resort includes luxurious amenities such as a pool, spa, and wellness center and a golf course.

Next: Las Vegas, 2 hours 30 minutes

Las Vegas

the strip in las vegas seen at night aerial view of fountain show and large hotels in nevada

Photography by Young Soo Park from

What should you not miss in Vegas?

The Strip

Las Vegas, often called Sin City, comes alive once dusk falls. Any road trip to Vegas couldn’t possibly be complete without paying a visit to the famous Las Vegas Strip

The boulevard is lined with numerous casinos, hotels, restaurants and nightlife spots. The Strip itself is filled with tourists from around the world, street performers and promoters for local venues. Hate it or love it, the Strip is unarguably the top spot to visit in Las Vegas. 

The High Roller

If you want to get panoramic views of the city, visiting the High Roller is an absolute must. The enormous Ferris wheel is the go-to spot for city views from above. There are also open-bar cabins where you can begin your unforgettable night in Sin City.

World-class nightlife

Most tourists that come to Las Vegas want to experience the city’s vivid nightlife scene. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of bars, casinos, and clubs to go to every night of the week, it may be hard to choose where to start. 

One of the city’s favorites for clubgoers is the Marquee Nightclub, located inside the Cosmopolitan. If you’re looking to get the party started during the day, head to the Marquee Dayclub. Check the official calendar for upcoming events in both venues.

The Hoover Dam

The city can be overwhelming even for the wildest party animals. Visit The Hoover Dam to get a break from all the Vegas craze. The monumental dam is open for visitors daily from 6 AM to 6 PM and is a 40-minute drive away from the Strip. Rentalmoose recommends visiting the Hoover Dam on your way to The Grand Canyon, as the dam is located along the way.

Once you’re ready to jump right back in the city’s insanity, head for lunch to the Heart Attack Grill. As the name suggests, this restaurant is as crazy as food in Vegas can get. The unique hospital-like decor elements, amazing service, and a silly menu will surely make dining here a memorable experience.

Chunkier travelers who weigh 350 pounds and above can even eat for free.

Looking for more attractions in Vegas? Check out the Rentalmoose Utah Travel Guide, where you will find must-do activities in Sin City that haven’t been mentioned here. Stroll down the Old Strip, find out which hotel features a waterslide through a shark tank and more!

Click here for the guide.

What are the best hotels in Las Vegas?

Similarly to nightlife spots, picking the right hotel in Vegas can be hard as there are lots of attractive options to choose from. One thing’s for sure, you can’t go wrong with The Venetian. The luxury 5-star resort consists of two towers, a large casino, pools, and all kinds of luxury amenities you can think of. If you’re willing to splash out completely, go for one of the prestigious suites.

A more budget-friendly alternative with a great location along the Strip is The Luxor Resort & Casino. The hotel’s pyramid shape may seem kitschy and over-the-top, but isn’t that what Vegas is all about? The Luxor is a 4-star resort that offers attractive amenities such as a pool. Of course, there is a casino on the premises. 

Next: The Grand Canyon, 4 hours 30 minutes

The Grand Canyon

the grand canyon clear day red rock and tree in foreground on a clear day panoramic view

Soon after departing Las Vegas, you will enter the third state on this epic road trip: Arizona. The Grand Canyon is less than 5 hours away from Vegas.

Similarly to Yosemite and Death Valley, there is an entrance fee to get inside the Grand Canyon. As of November 2020, the admission fee for an unlimited, 7-day pass costs $35 per car. Current admission fees can also be found on the park’s official website.

Which side of the Grand Canyon is best to visit?

Begin by heading to the Mather Point along the South Rim, the most popular spot to get an amazing view of the canyon. You can grab a coffee or rent a bike at Grand Canyon’s Coffee Shop. There are four large parking areas nearby, leaving your rental car shouldn’t be an issue even on busy days.

Later, drive along the South Rim until you get to the Historic Village. Learn about the history of the area while enjoying architecture dating back to the 1900s. There are more stunning viewpoints in this part of the South Rim, too.

Next, head east until you reach Desert View. The lookouts in this part of the park offer great views of the Colorado River. The Desert View Watchtower is a historic structure built in 1932, tourists can climb atop the tower for the best views or visit the interior to learn about the local history and purchase souvenirs at the gift shop.

panoramic view of the grand canyon red rock and trees in foreground on a clear sunny day

Next: San Diego, 8 hours 30 minutes

San Diego

blue ocean waves coming to san diego shore with short cliff and bright buildings and palm trees during sunset in california

Photography by Mmorris76 from

After visiting Grand Canyon National Park, it is time to head back to sunny California. During the 9-hour drive to San Diego, you can make a detour and stop at the Joshua Tree National Park.

What to see in San Diego?

Balboa Park

Visiting Balboa Park is a must when in San Diego. Inside the park, you can find San Diego’s world-famous zoo, a vivid botanical garden and historical Spanish buildings that have been transformed into museums. There are various free car parks throughout the park.

La Jolla

La Jolla is the city’s trendy seaside district with upscale homes, restaurants, and cafes. Head inside one of the sea-view restaurants to taste delicious cuisine, swim in the Pacific or sunbathe at the La Jolla Cove.


After a long day, head to the Embarcadero harbour-front, next to downtown San Diego. The seaport village is a vivid area lined with local shops, eateries, and cafes. Stroll down the marina, feel the ocean breeze or spot the yachts parked in the port.

Once you get hungry, head to Nico’s Mexican Food on Newport Avenue. The restaurant has been blessing Ocean Beach with delicious Mexican cuisine from the 80s and is one of the best spots in town.

Rentalmoose order tip: If it’s your first time in San Diego, you absolutely need to try the California Burrito.

Where to stay in San Diego?

La Jolla is home to numerous trendy hotels and resorts, Estancia La Jolla is one of the popular choices for tourists in the area. This 4-star hotel is located in a beautiful Spanish Colonial building surrounded by colorful gardens, a spa, and a large pool.

If you’re on a tighter budget, consider spending the night at San Diego Downtown Lodge. The budget-friendly lodge features free parking and a great location in the heart of the city.

Next: Finish the trip in San Diego or head back to Los Angeles, 2 hours


Rentalmoose recommends dropping off your rental car directly at the airport for maximum comfort. If you decide to end your journey in San Diego, make sure you book a rental that supports drop-off at a different location.

Don’t have a car you can take on a road trip? No problem!

Don’t forget to book your rental car via Rentalmoose for your next adventure.

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