The best part of a vacation is spending your time away however you want. You can choose to be leisurely or spontaneous at every turn. Consider one-way car rentals: these trips offer travelers the option to fly into one city, enjoy the perfect freedom of the open road, and fly out of their final destination city without looking back. You don’t have to worry about returning the car to its original location, which is why booking a one-way car rental is one of the best ways to explore the U.S.
Car Rental Tips: Explore Popular One-Way Rental Routes
Consider renting a convertible for this route, especially if you love the smell of the ocean and the feeling of wind in your hair. To avoid heavy traffic, head south on U.S. Highway 1S from Miami early on a Friday or Saturday morning. There’s plenty to see and do along the way.
Make your first stop about 63 miles south of Miami at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. Founded in 1963, it was the first undersea park in the U.S. The park’s coral reef is among the most diverse of all the living reefs in the world. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can get an underwater view by booking a scuba diving, snorkeling or glass bottom boat tour through the park.
Drive another 65 miles south before jumping on the Seven Mile Bridge, which connects all the Keys. Be sure to visit the Turtle Hospital on Marathon Key. The Turtle Hospital helps rehabilitate injured sea turtles with hopes of returning them to their natural habitats. Stop by for a guided tour of the facilities, where you’ll even get to feed the turtles. Continue driving 47 miles west towards Key West.
When you get off U.S. Highway 1 in Key West, grab a bite to eat at Pepe’s Café, the oldest restaurant in the Keys. Established in 1909, Pepe’s is well known for its Key lime pie. Locals say the perfect balance of tartness and unmatched creamy texture make their pie recipe among the best in the Keys.
For the mildest weather, schedule your visit during the winter months.
Los Angeles to Seattle
If you’re taking this scenic route, try to travel during the day so you don’t miss the views.
Drive 133 miles north of Los Angeles on U.S. Highway 101 and you’ll see Los Padres National Forest. With 1,257 miles of hiking trails and well-maintained campgrounds, it’s the perfect stop for some outdoor adventure. When you get back on the road, Avila Beach Pier is only 112 miles up the coast. It’s a picturesque place for a stroll or to cast a fishing line.
About 29 miles north of Avila Beach is the Brown Butter Cookie Co. Nestled on Ocean Avenue in Cayucos, it’s a bakeshop famous for its brown butter sea salt cookies. Grab some for the road before heading to the historic Hearst Castle. Stay for a tour to see the rare and ancient collection of art, or grab a bite to eat in the Visitor Center.
Another 64 miles north on State Route 1 will bring you to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. One of the country’s favorite vacation destinations, Big Sur boasts beautiful waterfalls, majestic redwoods and rich wildlife. To experience the wildlife after dark, consider camping out. Or, for luxury accommodations, check out Post Ranch Inn or Treebones Resort. Whether you’re in the mood for a daytime adventure or a relaxing overnight stop, Big Sur is a must-see.
Drive another 445 north on I-5 to experience views of Mount Shasta from the surrounding valley. Snap some pictures before jumping in your car and heading 279 miles northwest to Cape Blanco State Park, where the lighthouse is open from April through October. Cape Blanco is the westernmost point in Oregon and offers more than eight miles of trails with breathtaking ocean and forest views.
Make one final stop in Cannon Beach, called one of the world’s most beautiful places by National Geographic magazine, to enjoy the seaside town and walk along the beach. From there, Seattle is only another 199 miles northeast.
Seattle to San Francisco
Brimming with natural beauty, this route offers much to see, so plan to make more than a few stops along the way on 1-5 South.
Make your first stop about 200 miles southwest of Seattle at Cape Disappointment State Park. Don’t be fooled by the dreary name, though. The park boasts two miles of ocean beach, two lighthouses and eight miles of hiking trails. Explore the beach and enjoy views of the Pacific Ocean, Columbia River, North Head Lighthouse and Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.
Be sure to stop in Brookings, Oregon, about 354 miles south of Cape Disappointment. Brookings is touted as part of the state’s Banana Belt, known for its mild, warm weather. The climate also provides a flower-friendly environment for Brookings’ Azalea Park, which features 33 acres of native azaleas and is the site of the Azalea Festival held annually on Memorial Day weekend. If you’re staying overnight, book a room at the Hampton Inn Eugene.
Just 199 miles south of Brookings on U.S. 101 is Drive-Thru Tree Park, home of the famous Chandelier Tree, a 276-foot redwood tree with a hole in its base large enough for you to drive a car through! Another 54 miles will put you in beautiful Mendocino, California. The Mendocino Coast is well known for its serene, sandy beaches and redwood forests—perfect for an impromptu picnic lunch.
From Mendocino, you’re only about 154 miles outside of San Francisco. When you finally cross the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll know you’ve arrived at your destination.