Pacific Surfliner Train, Los Angeles
I have taken the Pacific Surfliner to L.A. from San Diego twice and it has been a pleasant (and punctual) trip each time. I purchased a Business Class ticket to ensure a comfortable seat, but I can't speak to whether or not that is really necessary. From the website, it looks like the Coach seats are pretty spectacular as well.
The return ride that we took during sunset was amazing - I recommend even if you don't really have anywhere to go.
We traveled in to the Bob Hope Airport station. Take note that there are no taxis waiting here. I recommend calling Uber (I think they are in L.A.) or calling a cab while still on the train. We had to walk (more like race) to the airport taxi stand - not something you want to do on a muggy day in L.A.
I have also used the LAX Station; the Hertz rental car stand here is convenient, but don't expect the speed of stand-alone Hertz locations.
I took the Pacific Surfliner from Los Angeles to San Juan Capistrano for a stop in the Orange County. I bought my tickets online and paid US$15 for a single off-peak weekday ticket.
The Pacific Surfliner is just one of the services offered by Amtrak running from Paso Robles through San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, terminating at San Diego. Other routes and operators also have routes from Los Angeles to San Diego.
Seats are spacious and roomy. I had a window seat on the right of the train going down the coast, giving best views along the seaside. There was sufficient room for my suitcase in front of my legs.
We caught the Pacific Surfliner from San Diego to LA. It is a great way to travel and enjoy the view of the Californian coastline along the way. We travelled in the afternoon, so we had the pleasure of watching the sun setting over the water. It may take a little longer than driving but hey, it’s a very comfortable and relaxing way to travel that’s for sure. Much better than sitting in that notorious LA traffic.
A good way to get to San Diego or Santa Barbara is Amtrak (US long distance train system). Even though the US doesn't put much into its train system, this is a good way to get to relax and see the coast. Depending on what you do in San Diego and Santa Barbara it may not be necessary to rent a car in those two spots or at least you won't have to for a day or two.
Amtrak on the American West Coast is not nearly as extensive or as heavily-utilized as those on the East Coast. However, if you're planning on a trip to Santa Barbara(and I HIGHLY recommend you do), the Surfliner is a fantastic way to get there.
Booked in advance, the Surfliner is fairly cheap. You can utilize AAA discounts with two day advance bookings. My last trip was $19/one way. Not bad, eh?
The trip to Santa Barbara is just over two hours; about 40 minutes longer than by car, but traffic will often even up that disadvantage. And, what most people really like about the Surfliner is the way it clings to the coast. The train literally runs "on the beach", with bathers and surfers waving to the train as it chugs by. It's quite charming.
The train does continue past Santa Barbara, all the way to Seattle. However, if travelling North of Santa Barbara, I can't wholly recommend Amtrak. The mind-blowing scenery continues, but the train slows to a crawl, making the trek to California's Central Coast a grueling 5-6 hrs.
So, take it to SB and enjoy!
Now that you are in Los Angeles, why not visit nearby San Diego? There are many ways to go to San Diego but taking an Amtrak train (the Pacific Surfliner) is an experience in itself.
You may buy your ticket online at www.amtrak.com or at the Los Angeles Union Station. A round-trip ticket costs around $46. There are many trains in the Pacific Surfliner route. You shouldn't have a problem finding trains in either direction that closely match your schedule.
For first-timers, your adventure starts at L.A. Union Station, an important city landmark. If you have some waiting time, explore its nooks and crannies. Try to see where parts of Jim Carrey's "The Majestic" were filmed.
The train ride is quite interesting. You'll get a nice view of Southern California countryside and the Pacific Ocean. You may also be lucky and see some dolphins. If it's summer, you'll see many surfers practicing their sport.
San Diego's Santa Fe Station is an old building. It is quite compact, however, so you can see everything in a few minutes. The train station is already in Downtown San Diego so there are many things to see within walking distance. For example, you can walk to the landing where you can take a ferry to Coronado.
By the way, you can also take the Pacific Surfliner train to beautiful Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara is north of L.A. while San Diego is to the south.
take the train to & from San Diego (2 hrs, very scenic)
Rent a car and be prepared to drive a lot. LA is all about freeways and everything is 20 min away from everything else. Traffic is part of the LA experience. Assume a zen-like attitude and drive defensively. Our mass transit is a joke so don't waste your time.