Once a year, Erica and I go on a leisurely trip to relax, explore and scout possible new locations for future Manini travels. (Yes, we may do a US trip!) With our busy schedules of putting on our first guided trip to Puerto Rico and Erica planning her wedding, it just made sense to have 2017’s adventure be an epic California road trip as it is in the US and just simpler to plan. So, we booked a beautiful teal blue 1979 Volkswagon Westfalia camper van for 12 days, bought our plane tickets, organized a tentative itinerary and invited our friends Caitlin (who also happens to be my sister) and Kelley to join us for a fabulously vintage road trip!

California Road Trip Teal Volkswagen

Day 1: Arrival

Traveling from Hawaii can have its drawbacks when it comes to the time difference and you almost always have to fly red-eye overnight. So I had the privilege of arriving at 5:00 am only to sit and wait for Caitlin and Erica’s flight to arrive around 10 (unfortunately the van place did not open until noon). I tried calling around to book a hotel room for the morning to try and rest up but everywhere was booked, so I sat in baggage claim for 5 hours watching Netflix. (Can’t say that’s the first time I have ever wasted 5 hours on Netflix)

After our happy reunion we rolled our luggage out to try and find the shuttle to take us to Costa Mesa in order to pick up the van and we ran around like a bunch of idiots for 20 minutes because we were so busy chatting and catching up that we kept aimlessly wandering without direction. Finally we located the shuttle pick-up about 50 feet from where we walked out of the doors the first time (oops) and they advised us it would be a 15-20 minute wait. ONE HOUR LATER, we were finally on our way to meet Bertie. (Oh, that’s the name we gave the van).

Upon arrival to the van rental facility, we filled out some paperwork, went over our itinerary with the owner of the company and he was nice enough to take us over to a large map of California he had hanging on his wall and advised where to go and where not to go as it wouldn’t be worth our time. After he walked us through the do’s and don’ts of care for this older vehicle (she definitely has some quirks), we were off. I started off driving and I would compare it to a newborn giraffe learning how to stand. It was awkward and shaky and I definitely didn’t look as cool as I had bargained when we first made the decision to rent the vehicle! After a few miles I got the hang of it and we were movin’ and groovin’.

California Road Trip Map of Lake Tahoe

First stop, food. We were SO hungry due to the length of time it took to get a shuttle and pick up the van so that was priority #1 and I HAD to have Chipotle. (FYI, there are no Chipotles in Hawaii. I know, tragic.) It was the best burrito of my life! We then went to grab Kelley from her friend’s house as she rode the train up two nights before. Finally, we were off and the road trip had officially started!

If you know anything about vintage VW vans (which we did not) they don’t have a lot of pickup so what was supposed to be a 4 hour drive to our campsite just south of  Yosemite turned into a 6 hour drive and we pulled in well after dark. We stayed at Sierra Meadows RV Park and it was great. Easy to find, the sites were marked and well maintained. After hooking up our vehicle so that we could get our heater going (it was COLD) and washing up for the night we all crashed very quickly.

Day 2: Yosemite

California Road Trip Yosemite Falls

After some morning yoga (thanks to Kelley Snyder Yoga), we dressed and set off for Yosemite National Park. The drive to Yosemite itself was exquisite full of large mountains and rock formations and winding, turbulent rivers. We were in awe the entire time. We had to stop a couple of times to grab photos like this one.

California Road Trip Yoga on a River

It was well into the afternoon when we reached Yosemite Falls since Bertie couldn’t go faster than 30 miles per hour uphill so we quickly changed into our hiking gear and set off wandering wherever our feet took us! Sometimes it is nice not to have a plan and to just enjoy what you are experiencing in the moment. We knew we wouldn’t have time to go all the way up the trail to Yosemite Falls so we enjoyed it from afar (the water was raging so it was incredible even from that vantage point) and hiked a little ways up the Yosemite Falls trail. The scenery was incredible and it ran along a river so it didn’t take long for one of us to get naked for a dip in the water. (Somehow that always seems to “happen”) The brave soul this time was Kelley. While she claims it was refreshing I had to pass as I was still quite chilly even after hiking and I absolutely HATE walking in wet shoes but let me say, she was a BABE under that little waterfall!

When the sun got lower in the sky, it was time for us to have a fun little photo shoot in front of the falls!

California Road Trip Yosemite Falls Girls Laughing
California Road Trip Teal Volkswagen

We then proceeded to drive to our campsite at Zephyr Cove on Lake Tahoe. This again took us longer than predicted because of how slowly we had to drive and the temperature continued to drop. We were afraid of putting the heat on because of how fragile the vehicle was so I suffered in silence as we drove into the night with a draft coming in from the windows that didn’t seal properly. It’s all part of the charm, right?!

Day 3: Lake Tahoe

California Road Trip Girls Posing

Our Day didn’t start as planned (and neither did Bertie) but on the bright side we had a great lunch over at the Zephyr Cove Restaurant while we waited for the tow truck. It was very cozy and the meals were delicious.

Later in the day after we got everything back on track, we headed over to Kings Beach on the California side of Lake Tahoe and it was freakin’ GLORIOUS. The water was so clear and beautiful, the boulders were huge and the back drop of mountains was stunning. There was still snow on the ground and it was the first time I had ever seen snow on sand. It seemed surreal. We could have spent hours walking and exploring the trees and rocks at the edge of the water or just sitting taking in all the sights and fresh smells of the clean air. But alas, our bodies informed us that once again we were hungry! So off to find some Mexican food we went! We settled on a tasty little joint called Taco’s Jalisco thanks to the suggestion of Jamie at Avant Werks in Truckee, California. It was here I had my first ever California Burrito. Yep.

California Road Trip Lake Tahoe

Stay tuned for our next installment of our California Road Trip Diary!

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California Road Trip Pinterest Pin

About Sam

Manini girl Sam is our travel curator and sustainable travel expert. When she isn't busy with Manini stuff, she's enjoying the mermaid life in Hawaii, taking long walks on the beach with her pup and boyfriend, scrubbing teeth, or improving her skills in graphic design.

Join the discussion 22 Comments

  • Ha says:

    I really love road trip! I hope to do it one day soon :D. I’ve never been to the States, but would love to do this trip firsly when I get there!

  • we are planning a san fran to san diego trip this summer, so I look forward to reading along. I also didnt realize there is no chipotle in hawaii! I dont eat there often, but it is nice that its close by!

  • Girls had fun! 🙂 I liked the yoga picture.

  • Leigh says:

    I didn’t know you could rent vintage vans like that – how fun! Except driving that slow might kill me, lol!

  • Emily says:

    This sounds like the ultimate road trip Yosemite and lake Tahoe are two huge places on my list!!

  • Sara says:

    A trip down the California coast is my dream! The camper van is so cute as well as such a good way to get around. Did you find the rental of the van expensive?

    • It was great but the van broke down on Day 3 haha so we ended up in a Hyundai Sonata for the remainder of the time. The camper van was approximately $2300 for 12 days and sleeps 4. It helps save on sleeping accommodations but we found that we were spending A LOT of money on premium gas and we had to refill SO many times just in the two days. I also wouldn’t recommend the van company that we went with because we have had a lot of problems with the owner not refunding us after the van broke down.

  • Jewels says:

    I absolutely adore all of the pics in this article. But the ones with you and your friends make me happy! Looks like it should be an ad for road trips with the girls! Thanks for sharing your detailed itinerary! I would love to take a similar trip.

  • Michelle says:

    Oh my goodness, your ride is the cutest thing (I’m obsessed with the color mint)!!! I seriously have to do this with my best friend, looks like you had a fantastic time. Love how road trips lead to deeper conversations and connections with those experiencing it with us.

  • Rimsha says:

    Absolutely in LOVE with all of your photos! I’m a HUGE fan of road trips so I had a lot of fun reading this post. Can’t wait for the second instalment!

  • Livi Bee says:

    Now, if this isn’t the ultimate cali experience, I don’t know what is!! Cruising the streets of Cali in that old Volkswagen van is so california-ish! Reading this article makes me want to take a road trip now! Lake Tahoe has been on my list for quite some time!

  • Esperanza says:

    I love this post!! Looks like you ladies had such a fun time. Also, your photos are beautiful! 🙂

  • Aarti Kamath says:

    Your pictures are fab! They talk a lot on their own!.. Looks like you had fun at Yosemite :)….Well written post.

  • Bri says:

    I used to live in Oakhurst (which is at the entrance to Yosemite National Park) so these pictures bring back lots of memories for me! This sounds like it was quite the trip!

  • Lauren says:

    We are currently road tripping the USA and it is so huge! We are regretting not spending more time in Yosemite 🙁 however, your photos have helped me to get over that ha ha. Thanks for sharing.

  • LC says:

    I have wanted to go on a road trip through California since reading a Babysitters Club Super Sitters book where the girls split into two groups and went on various road trips across the States. And in my head, it always looked like your photos! I like the fact you guys make an effort to go on a yearly trip together and 100% yes you should do a US trip in the future. There’s nothing like exploring your own soil!

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