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The Ultimate California Adventure

Taking in the very best of what Northern California has to offer, this is an action packed holiday in California with something for everyone; White water rafting, Stand up Paddle Boarding, Mountain Biking, hiking & then some well deserved beach time at the end.

Tailor-made Classic 2 weeks

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  • White Water Rafting on the American River
  • Water Sports & Mountain Biking at Lake Tahoe
  • Guided hiking in Yosemite
  • Hit the surf (or just the beach!) in Santa Cruz
California is the state that has it all; mountains, gushing rivers, beautiful national parks and beaches. This holiday celebrates all of the above and ensures you get the most out of Mother Nature by including some of our all time favourite activities. Starting off in San Francisco, you have a few days to recover from your flight and to experience the best that the city has to offer. The home of the original hippie movement, San Francisco has a wealth of independent restaurants and bars, as well as more touristy hot spots such as Fisherman's Wharf and the cable cars. A visit here is not complete without hiring a bike and cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge and visiting the sea lions at Pier 39.

From San Francisco, you head north to Lake Tahoe, stopping off in Gold Country along the way. Here you will go for a day's white water rafting on the American River. The rapids are class 3, so you will certainly get the adrenalin pumping. For those wanting a more sedate experience, we suggest you go gold panning in historic Placerville, home of the Gold Rush.

Your base for the next few days will be in Lake Tahoe where we recommend you hit the beach and rent some stand up paddle boards or kayaks. The coastline is very picturesque and navigating these crystal clear waters independently is the way to explore. It is quite possible to spend the entire time here based on the shores of the Lake, but if you want to speed things up a little, then we suggest a day out in the Mountains exploring by mountain bike.

From Lake Tahoe, you then head to Yosemite where you will be based in a forest lodge while exploring this awesome National Park. With one day spent hiking with one of our experienced guides, you will get well off the beaten track and away from the crowds. The rest of your time here is un-guided. We suggest some wild swimming in the valley and renting bikes to explore the valley floor.

Your holiday ends in the coastal town of Santa Cruz. The spiritual home of surfing, this is a fantastic place to hang out and wait for the perfect wave. There are plenty of places to rent surf boards or boogie boards and we can arrange lessons as well. For those not wanting to hit the waves, there are the giant Redwoods to explore just 20 minutes up the road and the world famous boardwalk with roller coasters and pirate themed crazy golf.


Itinerary in Brief
Day 1 Arrive San Francisco
Day 2 San Francisco
Day 3 San Francisco
Day 4 White Water Rafting
Day 5 Guided Mountain Biking
Day 6 Lake Tahoe
Day 7 Drive to Yosemite
Day 8 Guided Yosemite Hike
Day 9 Yosemite
Day 10 Santa Cruz
Day 11 Santa Cruz
Day 12 Santa Cruz
Day 13 Santa Cruz
Day 14 Depart

Itinerary in Full
Day 1 Arrive San Francisco
You will arrive at the airport, pick up your hire car and drive to your hotel.

Day 2 San Francisco
Today you are at leisure in San Francisco. You might want to catch a cable car up to Fisherman's Wharf and wander down to pier 39 to see the sealions. In the afternoon, you might want to go for a ferry ride in the bay. If you want to visit Alcatraz, make sure you have booked in advance.

Day 3 San Francisco
Today is another day at leisure in San Francisco. Today you might want to hire bikes and cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge. If you have the energy, we suggest cycling all the way to Sausalito, where you can enjoy a relaxing lunch with fabulous views of San Francisco across the water.

Day 4 White Water Rafting
Today is spend rafting on the American River in grade 3 rapids. You will meet with your guide and other rafters before heading to the put in spot on the river where you will have a safety briefing. You will then begin your rafting, hitting a series of gentler 2 rapids. After stopping for lunch, you will then continue downstream to tackle the grade 3 rapids.

For non-rafters, there is the option to visit Placervile, home of the Gold Rush. There is a nice museum where you can go gold panning and learn about the history of gold mining in the area.

Day 5 Guided Mountain Biking
You will spend the day today with an experienced mountain biking guide who will take you on a trail that is suitable for your abilities. Children must be aged 13 years or older to participate. Any non-riders in your family can relax at the hotel or go to one of the many beaches on the lake.

Day 6 Lake Tahoe
Today is a free day to enjoy all that Lake Tahoe has to offer. We suggest that you go to one of the local beaches and rent a kayak or stand up paddle board.

Day 7 Drive to Yosemite
Today you will drive to your hotel close to Yosemite National Park. The drive will take approximately 4 hours, passing first through Nevada before you reach Lake Mono with the bizarre salt formations. From here, the scenery keeps getting better as you reach Yosemite National Park, with some amazing views. We suggest you bring a picnic with you to enjoy at one of the many view points along the way.

Day 8 Guided Yosemite Hike
You will meet your guide in the Yosemite Valley in the morning. You will have a full day together. Depending on what your preferences are, you can either go for a day hike, or a gentler walk taking in some of the less well known areas of the park.

Day 9 Yosemite
You might want to go back into the Valley today to visit some of the famous viewpoints in the park. Glacier Point is a particularly beautiful spot with jaw dropping views of the Half Dome. Don't forget your swimming costumes, as there are several opportunities for river swimming along the way; the perfect way to cool off.

Day 10 Santa Cruz
Today you will drive down to the Pacific Coast for some beach time. There are several beaches to choose from in the area where you can sun-bathe or rent body or surf boards to play in the waves. In the evening, don't miss a visit to the Boardwalk where you can seek thrills on the rollercoasters and rides. At night, sit out on your balcony listening to the sea lions braking on the pier.

Day 11 Santa Cruz
Day at leisure in Santa Cruz

Day 12 Santa Cruz
Day at leisure in Santa Cruz

Day 13 Santa Cruz
Day at leisure in Santa Cruz

Day 14 Depart
It is about a 1 - 1/2 hour drive to the airport where you will need to drop off your hire car and then catch your flight back home.


Guide price is based on recommended accommodations. Alternative accommodations and upgrades are available. Please get in touch or click on 'alternatives' below for alternatives and upgrade options.

Our rating


Price guide

Price rating 5

- Family friendly
- Gorgeous Pool Complex
- Minutes from Lake Tahoe
- Mountain Location

Our rating


Price guide

Price rating 4

- Delightful cabin accommodation
- Forest location
- On the edge of Yosemite
- Large swimming pool

Our rating


Price guide

Price rating 3

- Superb Value
- Laid-back accommodation
- Excellent family suites

Our rating


Price guide

Price rating

- Fisherman's Wharf Location
- Nautical style decor
- Family friendly rooms


Getting there

This holiday begins and ends in San Francisco. The international airport is serviced with direct flights from several airlines including Delta, Virgin Atlantic & British Airways. Return direct flights in August will cost approx £1,100 per person.

When is best?

This holiday is best enjoyed between May - September. If you are planning on visiting during the winter months, please contact us for suggestions.


For the latest travel advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth office check

What customers are saying after travelling with Tourdust

Average Rating

based on 492 reviews


  • Fantastic holiday - I think we all really enjoyed ourselves. California is really relaxing, the people we met were lovely, and the scenery is amazing - so huge.
    flight - using San Jose airport was a joy. Out of the airport within 30 mins of landing.
    car hire - very straight forward.
    Copilot - useful. We did download Google maps too, but sometimes the GPS worked better with co-pilot than Google maps (although may have been the phone)
    Argonaut hotel - Great location, pleasant staff. Included in resort fee is discounted bike hire (if you get up fast enough to get them) - that was a bonus.
    Drive to Auburn - long! we didn't manage to avoid San Francisco rush our - our fault. But a very good idea to get there the night before the rafting, meant the rafting day was much more relaxed.
    Holiday Inn - as expected. Nice pool and breakfast was good (and cheap). We quickly learnt that it is really difficult to get food in US after about 8:30 at night, esp in less touristy spots. In n Out Burger an experience.
    White water rafting - Our fellow rafters and helmsman (Conner) were good company for the day and we had a great time negotiating rapids, jumping in the water and taking in the scenery. It was all safe without over doing the briefings. Would have been good to have some photos which were only available straight after the trip, rather than on a web site. Nearby Marshall Ward state park was good for non-rafters.
    Resort at Squaw Valley - The hotel was amazing. Beautfiul setting. Buffet breakfast in Cascades was a fabulous extravagance - a real treat.
    Mountain biking in Tahoe - tremendous. Great bikes, fantastic guide who managed to accommodate both 50+ year old parents and v fit teenage boys. And local knowledge of guide set us up for the rest of the day - recommending places to eat in Truckee and places to visit on Lake Tahoe.
    Drive from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite beautiful - well worth going the eastern route so enter Yosemite from East. The drive through the pass was amazing, definitely worth emphasizing that people should make the most of it.
    Tenaya Lodge - hotel was a little tired. But we appreciate that Yosemite was getting full by the time we booked. And in fact, it was prob a good thing we were there - as we were out of the smoke in the valley. (The Ferguson Fire began the day we arrived). Sadly after the drive through on arrival, we saw little Yosemite scenery. On the plus side, Tenaya Lodge was cooler than the valley and had less bitey insects.
    Walking in Yosemite - guide was excellent. Offered lots of options, and was very informative. Also very personable.
    Santa Cruz - great hotel. Lovely city. Organic supermarket, farmers market, Olita's on wharf - all great. The Mystery Spot was hilarious. The surf school were generous and allowed us to keep the boards for several hours after the lesson, as the waves were not that great the two days we were there.

    MissingAndrew Cooney reviewing The Ultimate California Adventure on 26 July 2018

  • The Namibia trip was fantastic!

    Self-driving was brilliant, and the chronology of the itinerary was perfect (against the flow/direction most other travelers took).

    As for specifics:

    This place was the best!
    Best service, best staff, best food, best experiences, best facilities.
    We saw a cheetah kill, leopards, and white rhino (which we were not expecting).
    If you’ve never been you should go...If I ever go back to Namibia I will revisit.

    The only (slight) disappointment.
    Maybe because it was right after Okonjima, but the service was lacking, the facilities were a bit run down, it was the only place with mosquitoes in the room with no net and no spray. Food was marginal. Not sure if there are better options in the area, though.

    Etosha Park was amazing. There was so much wildlife with so little crowds.
    The Okaukeujo Camp had the best watering hole with animals coming in at all times of the night. A great experience exclusive to the camp.

    Beautiful place. Very private. Food and service excellent.
    A nice stopping point on the drive.

    An amazing place...How they laid out and built it.
    Enjoyed exploring the grounds and the local area/sights.
    The staff was on par with Okonjima.
    2 days were perfect.

    Ivin provided us with good advice/information/recommendations along the route, along with a cell phone and cooler for the trip. The car was perfect.
    They represent Tourdust well!

    Again, another great trip you put together...Thank you!

    MissingEarl Wong reviewing Northern Namibia Highlights - Self Drive on 17 October 2018

  • We both suffered but enjoyed it immensely. Just how it should be!!!!
    Our route up the mountain, the Burguret trail is very arduous and certainly should not be used for people who are not very fit and experienced trekkers. It mainly followers animal trails through the forests and bog lands around the mountain. The Chogoria route down was great. The guide and porters were great. Wild camping means just that, really just what I wanted, but I have lived in Kenya.

    MissingJonathan Bailey reviewing Mount Kenya: Burguret Chogoria Traverse on 24 September 2018

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Speak to a specialist

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Call 855 686 7694 9am and 6pm GMT Monday to Friday

Or weekday evenings or Saturdays


Alternative Itineraries

Our itineraries are carefully designed by our experienced travel designers based on years of experience and customer feedback. For a custom itinerary tailored to you, please enquire giving as much detail as possible on your brief.

Live the Californian dream on the ultimate road trip, exploring San Francisco and the beaches of the Pacific Coast.

Tailor-made Classic 2 weeks

Families from $1,232 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for a family of four (two adults + two children under 12).

Flights are typically an additional $1,441 per person economy class from London

Visit theme parks in LA, then explore Yosemite before ending your holiday in San Francisco.

Tailor-made Classic 2 weeks

Families from $1,281 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for a family of four (two adults + two children under 12).

Flights are typically an additional $1,480 per person economy class from London

A family road trip taking in some of Western USA's biggest hitters: The Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Yosemite & San Francisco.

Tailor-made Classic 2 weeks

Families from $1,374 pp plus flights

'From Price' is the average price per person for ground arrangements for a family of four (two adults + two children under 12).

Flights are typically an additional $1,389 per person economy class from London


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