Josie, I would agree that if you're not looking to spend
time in SF than staying in Santa Clara / San Jose area would
be better. If you have a 2 or 3 hour drive in you after you
land head to San Luis Opisbo ( SLO ), a nice college town
with lots of hotels/ motels right on the 101 and will save
you lots of time the next day. The trip down the 101 to LA
is much nicer and you can stop in Santa Barbara ( 100 miles
from SLO ) which is beautiful. Have lunch at La Super Rica (
Milpas street just past Cota) for the best mexican food in
America IMHO as well as most food critics and Julia Childs.
From Santa Barbara to LA is a nice ride and you can cut over
to the PCH ( coast hiway)in Oxnard easily if you want to see
Malibu and that is a great ride and will actually save you
time. From there just head down the PCH till it turns into
the 10 and you are about 3 miles from the 405 south which
turns into the 5 after about 50 miles or so. The ride from
San Jose to SB and on to SD will be about 9 hours with some
traffic and stops. Much nicer than the 5 but much slower
too. The 101 will have more speed traps than the 5 so be
careful. You can see all this easily on
http://www.mapquest.com/ just enter CA and scroll around.
When you decide let us know and lots of recommendations will
come for food and sightseeing.
Ciao, David, in wet Santa Monica