United States West Coast Travel Tips

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west coast california travel tips

The United States is a vast and diverse country, featuring two very long coastlines, one on the Atlantic Ocean’s side, including Florida, and the second along the Pacific Ocean. The East and West Coasts are quite different, either in term of culture, attractions and landscapes. The same applies to the various central US states, which have different cultural backgrounds and various geographical features.

The West Coast of the United States includes the States of California, Oregon and Washington. Please note that Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States and is on the East Coast, thus far and distinct from the Washington State.

The 3 west coast states offer a different experience, both to the local and the visitor. The California cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco offer a different experience and lifestyle then nearby city of San Diego, Lake Tahoe and the beautiful Napa Valley. As for the Puget Sound area of Washington State, including the cities of Seattle and Tacoma, it has wide open spaces and the great outdoors.

Ferry On Puget Sound Photo by Tiffany Von Arnim

Ferry On Puget Sound Photo by Tiffany Von Arnim

In this page you will find practical information to plan a scuba diving trip to United States West Coast:

United States West Coast Photos

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Where to stay?

There are hundreds of interesting places to stay and see along the US West Coast. Here are a few of the most popular:

  • Puget sound: Located at the far north of the coast, Puget Sound itself is a body of water through which ocean waters reach inland some 50 miles (80 km) from the Pacific Coast to provide all-weather ports for ocean-going ships at Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia.
  • San Francisco Bay Area: The Bay Area consists of nine counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma) and 101 municipalities. There are three major cities: San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland. Many consider the San Francisco Bay Area as the most diverse area in the United States. Not only for cultural reasons but for lifestyle and business. You will find high tech companies in the area known as the Silicon Valley, as well as, outstanding vineyards in the Napa Valley.
  • The Los Angeles metropolitan area includes Los Angeles county and Orange county. Combined the two counties have 126 cities plus unincorporated areas. Los Angeles has a dozen major film studios and some of the world’s leading amusement parks.
  • San Diego is located at the southern portion of California.

Activities and excursions in United States West Coast

There are many things to do during a stay on the West Coast of the United States. The list could be much longer, but here are some highlights:

  • Take a movie studio tour in California!
  • Watch the magic of television, or be part of it! Have you noticed that many television shows at the end say “Filmed before a live studio audience”? Plan ahead and you could get tickets to watch your favorite show. Many talk-shows include the audience, so seek out your favorite. Some game shows get their contestants from the audience.
Hollywood photo by Miguel Discart

Hollywood photo by Miguel Discart

  • Whale watching is very interesting as each year whales migrate from the Bering Sea to the waters of Mexico and back.
  • Major League sports are a massive to draw to sport fans in most of the cities on the West Coast of the United States. Indeed, whether it is for basketball, football, baseball or hockey, most of the big cities along the coast have major teams! Thus, it’s your chance to go see a match!
  • Visit Hollywood and drive past the homes of your favorite movie star.
  • Visit a winery in the Napa Valley.
  • Drive the coast for breath taking views all along the Pacific Coast Highway.
  • Surf and scuba dive in California or Washington.

Best time to visit United States West Coast

The United States West Coast is a four seasons destination. However, the destinations within the area do have vastly different weather and seasons.

On the coast the weather is about 10ºF cooler in the north than the south. Plus, greater differences can be seen in the mountains. Big Bear Lake, which is a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, is often 30ºF cooler. For example, visit Los Angeles in the winter and you can ski in the mountains in the morning and scuba dive in temperate water in the evening!

Health and Safety

The United States has excellent health facilities and health care is readily available. That being said, it is very expensive. If you required emergency medical treatment, you should call 911. There is no charge for onsite emergency treatment by EMS, however, you will be charged for transportation.

The average ground ambulance is around $1,000. Studies has show that the average air transportation is 52 miles (84 kilometers) and can cost between $12,000 and $25,000. Travelers should have a comprehensive medical insurance.

The crime rate in areas that tourist will go is relatively low, however, normal precautions need to be taken. In the major cities there are areas that should be avoided.

If you are planning an upcoming dive trip or travelling to United States West Coast, it is a really good idea to invest in travel insurance for scuba diving, because you never know what could happen and when you might need it (because accidents do happen!). I recommend this diving insurance as they offer worldwide coverage and focus on providing scuba divers a quality insurance and medical assistance service.

Where is United States West Coast located in the world?

The United States of America occupies the central portion of the North American continent with Canada to the North and Mexico to the south. The East coast is along the Atlantic Ocean and the West Coast along the Pacific Ocean. Point Arena, California, to West Quoddy Head, Maine is the greatest distance at 2,892 miles (4,654 kilometers) crossing the country. Plus, two other states, namely Alaska and Hawaii, are remotely located, away from the continental United States.

How to get to United States West Coast?

There are many airports on the west coast of the United States, but 3 of them stand out from the rest.

  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is the busiest airport on the west coast in overall passengers carried as well as the busiest international airport.
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)  and Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA) are the next busiest airports on the west coast. Both are also in the top ten for busiest US airports and top ten international airports in the US.
LAX Airport Photo by Glenn Beltz

LAX Airport Photo by Glenn Beltz

Do I need a visa for United States West Coast?

Travelers from around the world generally need a visa, or at least an electronic travel authorization, to enter the United-States. Indeed, nationals from a number of countries are eligible to enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Program. They must however apply online for to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Plus, citizens of Canada are free to enter the US with just a passport or enhanced drivers license. Citizens of Bermuda are free to enter the US with just a passport.

Finally, a visa is needed for the nationals of many countries. Thus, you should always refer to the US State department’s website and publications to know which situation applies to you. In fact the State Department has an online program to identify visa requirements.

 

Getting Around

Getting around west coast cities can be a challenge, but a challenge made easier thanks to the internet! Indeed, you will find plenty of transit apps for your mobile devices that will help you get around a lot! Google Maps, for example, will often give you a public transportation option as well as availability of ride share companies. Plus, regional rail services design for commuter use is also an option.

The road network in the United states is outstanding, and definitely a great way to travel in between cities and towns! The Pacific Coast Highway is known to be among the most scenic drives in the world! That being said, you should be aware that the distance involved are very long. For example, it’s a 17-20 hours total road time between Seattle  and Los Angeles!

Furthermore, driving in most big cities might not be efficient as lots of them have a problem with overcrowding. In fact, traffic jams in LA are a well-known “feature” of the city.

Flying may be a reasonable method of travel as it considerably cuts off travel time, and some flights can be quite affordable. Also, rail service by Amtrak is one way to see the country side. Amtrak has routes from near the Mexican border in San Diego up into Canada’s British Columbia.

There is long distance bus service as well. Recently the European bus service Flixbus has started service on the west coast.

The West Coast offers more to the visitor than you can imagine. Anyone of the areas could keep a visitor engaged for months.

Scuba diving

You will find all information about sea life, best time to visit, top dive spots, etc. in our review: United States West Coast Diving

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