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The Pacific West Coast

The Pacific West Coast

“Come As You Are” – Nirvana (1987, Washington)

Learn more about the states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.

Big cities

Los Angeles City scape night sky

Los Angeles

State: California

Population estimate: 4 million

What it’s known for: Hollywood 

Regarded as the center of the film and television industry, you can find the Hollywood Walk of Fame, movie studios, and streets full of lookalikes. 

Locals love: Korea Town

An incredibly diverse neighborhood in LA, Korea Town is rich in culture, cuisine, and late-night fun.

Portland sky line

Portland

State: Oregon

Population estimate: 650.000

What it’s known for: Hipster culture

The city’s unique diversity, its specialty shops and cafes, and its booming business has been attracting young people from all over the country.

Locals love: The Japanese Gardens

When in need of a relaxing day, stop by the five beautiful Japanese-themed gardens, each with its own unique style.

Seattle Kerry Park Skyline

Seattle

State: Washington

Population estimate: 730.000

What it’s known for: Global companies

Have you heard of Starbucks, Amazon, Microsoft Windows, or Boeing Aircrafts? We thought so. But you may not have known that they all call Seattle home.

Locals love: The ID

Short for “the International District”, the ID is full of history and culture, delicious food, and street performances. 

Honolulu

Honolulu

State: Hawaii

Population estimate: 336.000

What it’s known for: Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach

Diamond Head is a dormant volcano located near the world-famous Waikiki Beach.

Locals love: Ala Moana Shopping Center

This is the largest open-air shopping center in the world. With an average annual temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, who wouldn’t want to be outside?

Juneau lake

Juneau

State: Alaska

Population estimate: 32,000

What it’s known for: Golden Rush

Atlanta is home to the world’s most beloved soda, Coca Cola. Visiting the factory is more than just a tour. With a large tasting room, you can try more than 50 different international and domestic Coke products.

Locals love: Mount Robers’ Tram

This tram ride will take you to the top of Mount Roberts for a bird’s-eye view of the city and surrounding landscape.

Road Trip Worthy

Big Sur - Carmel-by-the-Sea and San Simeon, California

Big Sur is the name given to a section of California State Route 1 (Pacific Coast Highway), which winds from the coastal city of Carmel-by-the-Sea down to the city of San Simeon. What makes this road unique are the beautiful cliffs that drop down into the Pacific Ocean on one side and the mountainous landscape on the other. This contrasting scenery provides impressive viewpoints. 

 

This narrow, winding two-way road has some of the best spots in California to enjoy a sunset over the Pacific. It is no surprise that it has been a popular location for films, commercials, and even YouTubers, all trying to capture the natural beauty on camera. 

 

We recommend renting a car or hiring a bus service to drive through Big Sur. Also, make sure to stop at some of the many viewpoints where you can take in the marvellous scenery. We recommend starting in Carmel and driving south to Simeon, as this will place the stunning (maybe a bit scary) drop-off on your passenger side. Keep in mind that if you have a fear of heights, this part of the journey may not be as fun for you. 

Hana Highway - Maui, Hawaii 

Located on the beautiful island of Maui, Hana is the name given to the highway going from the city of Kahului to the eastern town of Hana. This winding road is 103 kilometers long and passes some of Maui’s natural treasures. Here are some of the biggest tourist attractions found on this road:

 

 

1. Waterfalls – The opportunity to see lush tropical rainforests with stunning waterfalls jutting out is one reason to pull to the side of the road. Don’t forget to snap a picture. 

 

 

2. The flora and fauna – One of the most biodiverse islands of Hawaii, this road allows you to be surrounded by incredibly rare flowers, trees, and animals that inhabit more than 15 different climate zones on the small island! 

 

 

3. Waianapanapa State Park – Located along the Highway, this natural treasure includes lava-blackened beaches, perfect turquoise water, and wonderful sea creatures.

Sailing Stones at Racetrack Playa - Death Valley, California 

Think of the most desolate place on earth; that is where you should go. To get here, you actually have to cross Death Valley—the name says it all. The reward, however, is huge. In a section of this immense desert, you will be able to see rocks that have “moved” and left a trail in the sand behind them. 

 

Scientists have truly scratched their heads for decades trying to explain how these rocks “move” from one place to another. Oddly enough, this is due to several climatic factors that create the perfect conditions for the rocks to “float” on the ice formed from the below freezing temperatures.

 

Racetrack Playa has been used on Instagram and by travel pages to show the incredible sights available in the valley. But Death Valley is actually home to a wide range of natural landmarks which have turned this abandoned patch of the United States into a hub for photographers and tourists in search of something completely out of this world. Not surprisingly, areas of Death Valley have been compared to landscape seen on Mars. 

Skiing in the Pacific West

You may have a desire to go to California or the West Coast because of its impressive beaches, wonderful temperatures, sunsets, and surf culture. But don’t forget that it is also home to some of the best skiing resorts in the country. If you are passionate about skiing or snowboarding you cannot miss out the following:

 

1. Crystal Mountain: We start our tour about two hours north of Seattle, Washington, on Mount Rainier. With slopes for all levels, you can get that rush of adrenaline from the expert slopes through trees and steep falls or choose the intermediate rolling hills such as Lucky Shot. This is the largest ski resort in Washington although it only has a few hotels and cabins and a simple taco truck for food. Bu there’s no better way to end the day than eating a delicious taco! 

 

2. Mount Bachelor: Continuing south to Oregon, you have Mt. Bachelor. This is a dormant volcano, so all your slopes down begin above tree level. As you wind down the slope, you begin to pass more and more trees, making it a more technical option and recommended for high-level skiers. Mt. Bachelor also stands out as it does not have any lodging options at the actual resort. You can, however, stay in the small town of Bend, about 20 minutes away. Most housing options come with a free shuttle to and from the resort making this a convenient choice.  

 

3. Heavenly: Perhaps the most iconic resort of them all, Heavenly technically shares territory with Nevada, which can make for an interesting night. You can begin your day with a ski session, taking the lift to the mountain range belonging to California. But then you can end your night at a casino (on the Nevada side of the resort). Another fun fact about Heavenly is that most of the slopes have views of Lake Tahoe, one of the most impressive lake formations in all of California. Be sure to not miss out.

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - Indio, California

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival is a world-famous music festival held in Indio, California. The spirit of diversity is perfectly seen every year with a wide selection of artists chosen as part of the annual lineup. Criticized heavily these last couple of years for becoming too “mainstream”, it is still the place to be if you are a big music fan. 

 

You will no doubt walk by celebrities, Instagram models, and popular YouTubers as they go to have the time of their life. Be sure to buy your tickets well in advance because they will run out quickly. No one wants to miss out on all the fun and being around the amazing musical talent at this event.

Big Sur – Carmel-by-the-Sea and San Simeon, California

Hana Highway – Maui, Hawaii 

Sailing Stones at Racetrack Playa – Death Valley, California 

Skiing in the Pacific West

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival – Indio, California

Words & Expressions to Know ​

  • Hella: Used in Northern California to replace “really” or “very.”
    • “The movie was hella good.”

  • Mahalo: A common way to say “thank you” in Hawaii.
    • Person A:  “Here is your coffee.”
    • Person B: “Oh, mahalo!”

  • The Industry: This refers to the entertainment business in Southern California.
    • “So, you work in the industry?”
 
Turtle beach Mahalo Hawaii

Regional Cooking

The Pacific West is a culinary melting pot; it is easy to find local ingredients mixed with imported spices from Mexico and many Asian countries. Native ingredients include berries, wild fish, and wild animals such as moose or deer. You can find the best sushi rolls in the city of San Francisco thanks to its large Japanese population, or pick a treat from one of the many food carts all around a city like Portland. This fusion of fresh produce and imported spices with a focus on simplicity is quite unique to the United States. It doesn’t really matter what you order, it will most likely be delicious.

A few popular dishes that you can’t miss are:

  • Hawaiian Plate: When in Hawaii, there is one thing you must try—a plate of Hawaiian food. This comes with a scoop of rice with kalua pork on top and on the sides: 
    • pork or chicken lau lau (wrapped in leaves)
    • pipikaula which is dried beef, 
    • and lomi salmon.

To top things off, it comes with a helping of poi (a taro fish) with some kulolo pudding made from coconut. Delicious! 

 

  • Taquerias: If you are feeling less adventurous we suggest making your way to any taqueria—or taco shop— in California for a delicious fish taco (meat tacos are available too, of course). Widely regarded as one of the healthiest states, California takes care of the basics in their cuisine having fresh ingredients all year-round such as avocados, fish, and vegetables. All these ingredients make their way to your stomach with a strong mix spices and flavors.  

 

 

Hawaiian Plate

Taquerias

Attractions

Denali National Park, Alaska

Inmensity. This is the word you might think of if you decide to visit Alaska’s gem. Denali is the highest peak in all of North America, standing at an impressive 6,190 meters. If that does not seem big enough, the size of the park is bigger than the entire state of New Hampshire. Visiting Denali can be a full experience and should be planned as such. Camping is the best option to be able to be surrounded by forests, lakes, and rivers. 

The best times to visit the park—to avoid the crowds—is mid-March to mid-June, as well as the month of September. An insider tip is to check the weather forecast beforehand to avoid storms or bad weather. Although it may seem like the most extreme location so far, it is completely worth the visit as the surrounding ecosystem is one of a kind and cannot be seen anywhere else on the planet. 

Universal Studios Hollywood – Los Angeles, California

Why not visit the place where you can actually experience all your favorite films? Universal Studios has created a dream for all ages. You can go on rides that recreate your favorite films, such as Jurassic Park, The Simpsons, and Men in Black. A trip here is a full day of fun, sun, and excitement for anybody that loves Hollywood movies. This amusement park offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience you can’t miss if you are planning to visit Los Angeles. 

The year-round pleasant weather also makes this tourist attraction very popular. You can go at any time of the year and spend the entire day with your friends or family eating, drinking, and being a part of movie history. Be sure to book in advance as Universal Studios is one of the best amusement parks in the state of California.

Venice Beach – Los Angeles, California 

Few beaches are as famous as this one. Featured in countless movies and TV shows (probably best presented in the classic “Baywatch”), Venice is more than just a long sandy beach with crystal clear water. 

The Ocean Front Walk is a wonderful place to walk, take in the sunshine, and experience the eccentric vibe that has made this beach a cultural attraction. Full of street artists, bodybuilders, tattoo shops, and musicians, it is impossible not to fall in love with this unique location. 

But your trip doesn’t have to end in Venice; you can continue your stroll up to the Santa Monica Pier. Eat some shrimp at Forrest Gump’s Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant, or admire the sunset as you ride the ferris wheel. You can end your evening with live music on the pier, a hot dog, or playing games at an old arcade. This is a must-visit tourist attraction because this entire section of LA is a fascinating place to experience the California spirit and culture. 

Climate

Alaska

Famous for its winter weather, it has an average winter temperatures of 3 degrees below zero. By contrast, its summers are milder than most people think, with an average temperature of 17 degrees Celsius. This is often great weather for camping or hiking activities. Additionally, days are extremely long during the summer months with the sun shining an average of 18.5 hours a day. 

 

California, Oregon, and Washington

Along the Pacific Coast, the weather is somewhat similar—warm and sunny summers. Average temperatures in the south of California are usually warmer to those in the north of Oregon or Washington (24 degrees Celsius compared to 20 degrees). 

In contrast, winters are much colder in these northern areas compared to the much milder temperatures in California. The northern states of Oregon and Washington average 3 degrees Celsius, while California averages a temperature of 9 degrees Celsius. 

 

Hawaii

In Hawaii, you can count on two things: 

  • Summer (or Kau), lasting from May to October, has an average temperature of about 29.5 degrees Celsius. 
  • Winter (or Ho’oilo),  from November to April , has an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius. 

Yes, Hawaii has some incredible weather, but conditions are still tropical. This means you can expect instant downpours at any moment, sometimes only lasting minutes and other times lasting hours. 

 

Hawaii coast beach

Our Preferred Universities

We would like to present a list of our favorite universities located in the Pacific West Coast.  We have taken into consideration factors such as the quality of the education, the ratio of students/teachers, % of international students on campus, work on campus opportunities, etc.. 

Alliant International University San Diego

Alliant International University

Most significant Rankings: academically ranked #577 (among +4,000 universities) in the U.S. 

Number of students: 1.194

Statistics after graduation: the median earnings 6 years after graduation is $59.500/ year. 91% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.

Insights and Advantages: Alliant International University boasts a 14:1 student – teacher ratio. This allows professors to meet the individual needs of each student. In a recent poll, 88% of Alliant students said their professors care about their students’ success.

Santa Barbara City College, California

Santa Barbara City College

Most significant Rankings: academically ranked #1148  (among +4,000 universities) in the U.S. 

Number of students: 6.509

Statistics after graduation: the median earnings 6 years after graduation is $36.800/ year. 82% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.

Insights and Advantages: Santa Barbara College’s student body has been described as diverse and outgoing. This kind of atmosphere is perfect for international students. There are also numerous programs available to begin your academic endeavors. The 4 most popular majors include: Liberal Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences, Communications and Psychology.

University of Alaska Fairbanks

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Most significant Rankings: #215 in National Universities and #121 in top public schools

Number of students: 6.718

Statistics after graduation: the median earnings 6 years after graduation is $38.700/ year. 85% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.

Insights and Advantages: UAF, Alaska’s top teaching and research university, is home to seven major research units: the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station; the Geophysical Institute; the International Arctic Research Center; the Arctic Region Supercomputing Center; the Institute of Arctic Biology; the Institute of Marine Science; and the Institute of Northern Engineering.

University of Hawaii at Manoa

University of Hawaii at Manoa

Most significant Rankings: #157 in National Universities,  #127 in best college athletics and #2 in Best Colleges in Hawaii

Number of students: 12.881

Statistics after graduation: the median earnings 6 years after graduation is $45.800/ year. 90% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.

Insights and Advantages: the University of Hawaii at Manoa is a choice destination for students and faculty all over the world. Located on the Island of Honolulu, the university features a beautiful campus with some of the most unique research opportunities in the country.  The National Science Foundation ranked UH Manoa 45th among 395 public universities for Research and Development (R&D) expenditures in fiscal year 2014.

Lone Mountain Campus University of San Francisco

University of San Francisco

Most significant Rankings: #96 in National Universities, #32 in most diverse universities, and #1 in best location in California.

Number of students: 6.845

Statistics after graduation: the median earnings 6 years after graduation is $62.300/ year. 91% of the students are employed 2 years after graduation.

Insights and Advantages: at USF there are many fields of study available, nursing being the most popular as the university has one of the best nursing schools in the country. 

The University of San Francisco is also very dedicated to their students’ academic satisfaction. A recent survey showed that 92% of students agree that professors put a lot of effort into teaching their classes.