I took a $40 Amtrak ride through California, and the views were so stunning that I barely noticed the lack of Wi-Fi
I rode the Amtrak Coast Starlight for five hours from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo for $40.
The observation car, with its stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, was the biggest highlight.
Thanks to the views, I didn't miss having Wi-Fi or cell reception. I'd love to ride the train again.
I traveled five hours on the Amtrak Coast Starlight from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo.
I traveled through California by train in February. One unexpected highlight of my trip was the five-hour journey from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo aboard the Coast Starlight, an Amtrak train line that's been shuttling passengers since the 1970s.
I was only onboard for the first leg of the Coast Starlight's journey. The full route spans 35 hours from Los Angeles to Seattle. Here's what my trip was like.
The train had Superliner rail cars with upper and lower levels.
The Superliner rail cars contained coach cabins, lounges, dining cars, and sleeping cars.
I was in coach and didn't get to check out the sleeping cars, but I was intrigued by them.
The cheapest one was a roomette, and tickets started at around $700. It contained a convertible bunk bed and fit up to two people.
A family bedroom, which cost around $1,300 on the Coast Starlight, accommodated up to four people, with a bunk bed for adults and another for children.
The most expensive option was a bedroom suite, starting at $1,600. With two bunk beds and two bathrooms, the suite accommodated up to six people.
Ticket prices for accommodations in the sleeping car included the cost of meals and beverages.
Because my trip was only five hours, I went with a coach ticket.
Typically, the price for an Amtrak coach seat ranges from $100 to $150 for the entire route. My ticket for the first leg of the Coast Starlight was $40.
When I boarded the coach car, it looked the same as the ones I'd seen in other Amtrak trains I'd taken. The upper level had two seats on either side of the center aisle, with restrooms and accessible seating on the lower level.
As soon as I boarded the train, I dropped off my bags and headed to the observation car.
When I was boarding the train, an Amtrak attendant told me to drop my luggage in coach and then head straight to the lounge car.
She didn't explain why, but once I saw the lounge's expansive windows stretching from the floor to the ceiling, I was grateful for the tip.
The observation car was a standout feature. Instead of facing forward, the seats faced the windows, giving passengers spectacular views of the passing scenery.
The seats in the observation car were first come, first served.
It didn't matter how much you paid for your ticket, everyone was allowed into the lounge car. The only caveat was there were a limited number of seats, and they were in high demand.
The only downside to the train was that there was no Wi-Fi.
Cell service wasn't available for portions of the ride either.
Normally being so disconnected would bother me, but I found it a welcome reprieve. Other people around me seemed to feel the same way. One man read a book, and I overheard multiple other people start conversations with strangers.
The views were the ultimate distraction. I couldn't keep my eyes away from the vibrant landscape.
The most beautiful section was the long stretches of windswept beaches that arrived a couple of hours into the ride. Occasionally, I'd spot a surfer that looked so small against the shoreline, they put the coast's size into perspective.
The Coast Starlight offered a ton of ocean views during the first leg of the journey.
An hour before we arrived in San Luis Obispo, the train headed inland away from the ocean and deep into California's farmlands.
I overheard passengers who were traveling the entire route saying there wouldn't be another ocean view like the one we'd just seen again on the trip.
However, the views of California's greenery and farmlands were equally as picturesque.
Everyone wanted to sit on the side of the lounge car that passed the ocean, but the rolling green hills sprinkled with wildflowers displayed on the other side were just as pretty.
I didn't try the food from the café car, but I don't think I missed anything.
There was a café on the lower level that offered sandwiches, snacks, drinks, and a couple of hot items, like microwaveable pizza. I saw someone pass by with one of the pizzas, and it didn't look like anything to write home about.
The meals in the dining car, however, did look appetizing. I peeped in and saw spacious booths that could seat up to four adults.
The menu was much more appealing, with a range of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Passengers could choose between omelettes, burgers, and pastas.
Unfortunately, the dining service was only available to those with reservations in the sleeping car.
Next time I ride the Coast Starlight, I'll stay in the sleeping car and take a longer journey.
If I sprung for the sleeping car perks, I'd book a longer trip next time. I'm curious to see what the rest of the route looks like from the observation car's memorable floor-to-ceiling windows.
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