Making the most of my J1 visa

Eimear describes her road trip of a lifetime along the West coast of America

Written by Eimear Nolan


After spending the summer in Santa Barbara working hard (on a beach) and living rough (two-bed apartment for 9 girls) five of us decided to spend our last three weeks on a West Coast road trip.

We rented a car and made our way through San Diego, Huntington Beach, San Francisco, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Grand Canyon and Las Vegas.

San Diego

Our road trip began when we went to Sunny San Diego and discovered all it had to offer.

Make sure to go to all of the amazing beaches including Mission beach, Pacific beach and La Jolla cove. We loved exploring the Gaslamp district which was in the centre of town and the ‘Old town” on the outskirts which looks like a movie set from a western movie! Coronado Island is also an amazing place and beach to sit and watch the sunset while enjoying an ice-cream or an ice-cold cocktail!

Huntington Beach

We went to Huntington beach the weekend of the surf open which I would highly recommend if possible. There was a fantastic buzz and atmosphere around the town and a big surf and skate board festival on. There was a big skate park to go and watch the competitions or seating areas on the beach if you wanted to see the Cali surfers catch some waves. Also on the beach were lots of stalls with games, food, face-painting and free goodies! There were BBQ pits around the beach and lovely shops around the town!

San Francisco

An amazing city where there is so much to see and do. Firstly we walked all around the piers and to famous pier 39 where there are lots of tourist shops, restaurants and bars. We then decided to rent bikes and cycle across the Golden Gate bridge which was amazing and so scenic. There was a gay pride festival when we were there and everyone gathered in Dolores Park for fun, games and a parade through the town. Unfortunately, we did not get to go on the Alcatraz Prison tour as we were unaware that tickets sell out months in advance so if you are planning to go, make sure to book your tickets!


If you like exploring, nature and scenic places this is the spot for you. Again, be sure to book accommodation or camping grounds before you go as it books up extremely quick. Yosemite is a massive national park with numerous hikes, fields, trails and waterfalls. We stayed up in the mountains in a camp called white wolf which was basically 2 beds in a gazebo. There are ‘bear boxes’ outside your tent which you must lock up all of your food in so as the wild creatures do not come to the camp in the middle of the night. It gets very cold in the night so bring lots of layers but as soon as the sun comes up you will be back in your shorts again! We did the “mist trail” which was about a four hour round hike up past nevada and vernal water falls and has breathtaking views from the top. We also drove to the top of the half dome which was amazing. As for food there are not many shops so we survived on making s'mores, bagels and beans on an open fire for 3 days, so go prepared!

Lake Tahoe

We stayed in a cabin in Zephyr cove for four days which had great atmosphere. The lake was so nice to swim in and we also did various boating activities. We drove about an hour to Emerald bay where the only island on the Lake lies and you can kayak out to and explore the mini land.

Grand Canyon

The grand Canyon is so big that we decided to go to see the horseshoe bend and the antelope canyon. It was so scenic driving through the Grand Canyon and the places we went to see were amazing tourist attractions. I would definitely recommend booking a tour of the antelope canyon it is down a canyon slot and when the light shines through you feel like you’re in a painting.

Las Vegas

One of our favourite parts of the trip, when we were driving into Vegas we felt like we were in a movie. Bright lights, loud music, big buildings, water fountain shows and massive hotels, it had everything! To finish off our road trip we decided to stay in Caesars Palace which was incredible. There are mini replicas of famous cities within Vegas including London, New york, Venice and more. We happened to be there for the Conor McGregor fight and the atmosphere and Irish people were amazing. There is so much to do in the city from shopping, drinking, gambling, swimming, sunbathing and even going on a roller coaster around a hotel you will never be bored!

It was an amazing roadtrip and I would highly recommend each place that I have visited! I loved it so much that I am planning to return do it all again and discover more this summer!

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