The basic need to get from LA after visiting my friend to San Diego for work led to a great discovery and experience- taking the train. I had looked up Amtrak’s route to San Diego and knew it would get me there, but didn’t know what incredible views I’d see along the way. I’d driven from LA to San Diego before and seen the beautiful drive on I-5 along the ocean, but the train ride was even a degree higher and a bit more enjoyable than being stuck in a car. I shouldn’t be too supervised because train riding is really in my blood. My grandparents would take Amtrak’s Empire Builder every year from Chicago to Portland to visit us and were very serious train riders in general.
The highlight of the trip was of course the views and there are many pics below, but first some logistical details. The Pacific Surfliner runs from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara to LA and then through Orange County onto San Diego. In LA the train stops at Union Station downtown. Since I hadn’t been there before I wanted to be a bit mindful of time, but I really wish I had a chance to take a picture of the outside (but there is a link to a pic here). Union Station is a classic train station with soaring ceilings and beams and historical features.
The cost of fare from LA to San Diego is $37 and you can upgrade to Business Class for $19 more. Business Class comes with assigned seating (coach isn’t assigned), larger seats and extra legroom, plus complimentary drinks (including wine) and snacks. I did business class to make sure and get a seat on the side facing the ocean, plus the extra space. Everyone on the train has Wi-Fi, restrooms, and a snack car, which along with being able to get up and walk around makes the trip much more enjoyable than being in a car. At 2 hour and 55 minutes the train isn’t very much longer than driving in the car and especially in LA traffic at times could probably be quicker!
Once you hit Orange County the train goes through a lot of the towns with nice areas around the train station, but the best part comes when you hit the ocean (after being in-land) around San Juan Capistrano as you head south along the coast. After San Clemente Camp Pendleton takes up most of the land and there isn’t much development along the coast. It’s very pristine and sometimes you are literally feet away from the ocean! Even when you get back to “civilization” there still are a lot of great views and vistas of the ocean. The trip ends at San Diego’s Santa Ana Station (which is also a beautiful historical station) near San Diego’s Marina and Gaslamp Quarter. Check out the pics of the trip below!
If you need a way to get between LA and San Diego I would definitely recommend the Pacific Surfliner train for its ease and gorgeous views! An alternative is the Metrolink Orange County line which goes from LA to Oceanside. If you’re trying to get to San Diego you’ll need to transfer in Oceanside to the Coaster however. That route is cheaper, but I went for the convenience of a direct route. Regardless both take the same route so make sure to sit on the right side coming from LA or on the left coming from San Diego (the ocean side!).
Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner Route- http://www.amtrak.com/pacific-surfliner-train