Trip Date 05/26/2018
Posted On 08/04/2018 16:31:18
Destinations | California | Los Angeles | Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour | Los Angeles Bus Tour | Long Layover at LAX
We had just over 30 hours in Los Angeles, California between disembarking a cruise ship and flying home. For convenience, we reserved a hotel near LAX which allowed us to take a $20.00 per person ship transfer to the airport. We then had access to the free round trip shuttle between LAX and our hotel. As we have visited the LA area on multiple occasions, we knew that we didn't want to deal with a rental car (due primarily to crazy traffic and parking fees). The big question we needed to answer was "What should we do with our time?"
This post is for you if you have between 24 and 72 hours (or even more) in the Los Angeles area, you want to avoid renting a car and are not interested in spending your time in the area's theme parks! Read on to determine if the Los Angeles StarLine Tours HOHO (priced at $49.00 - $72.00 per adult) might be a good option for you and your travel companions.
StarLine Tours Hop-On Hop-Off Los AngelesWith two connector routes linking some LAX area hotels (primarily on Century Boulevard) to loads of sightseeing attractions in and around Los Angeles, the StarLine Tours Hop-On Hop-Off is worth your consideration. Before answering the question as to whether or not the 24-hour, 48-hour or 72-hour tickets are worth the cost, you must really evaluate your sightseeing goals and the time that you have available.
The primary HOHO tourist routes include:
- Green Route: Marina Del Rey, Venice & Santa Monica
- Orange Line Connector: LAX Area Hotels to Fisherman's Village & Waterside
- Purple Route: Downtown Los Angeles, Olvera Street, Chinatown & Fashion District
- Red Route: Hollywood, West Hollywood & Beverly Hills
- Yellow Route: Santa Monica, Brentwood, Westwood, Beverly Hills & Century City
The open-top double-decker buses offer prerecorded commentary on all of the above lines excluding orange which serves primarily as a connector. Upon boarding their first bus, passengers are given a pair of wired earbuds and a route map. Each seat has a plug with both language and volume selection knobs. In addition to English, the narration along the journey is available in 8 languages including Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish. Other than the repetitive "welcome" commentary following each bus stop, the recording was well done. It was interesting, easy to understand and had a combination of historical and humorous information.
Tickets for the HOHO can be purchased online or upon entrance to your first bus. Unless you have access to a discount code, there is really no benefit to purchasing tickets in advance. Bus drivers take cash or credit cards and your ticket will be valid for your purchased number of hours from the time that you board your first bus. Interestingly enough, we were not charged sales tax when we purchased tickets on board, however tax was added when we considered an online purchase:
- 24-hour ticket: $49 adult / $30 child
- 48-hour ticket: $64 adult / $40 child
- 72-hour ticket: $79 adult / $50 child
All routes (except for the connector routes) make a full loop, however passengers can board at the first stop of the route, one of the transfer stops or any other stop in between. With over 70 stops near tourist sights (in addition to the hotel stops), there is an excellent variety of places to visit. Passengers also have the option of sitting on the bus for the entire loop listening to the narrative and viewing sights from the open-top.
Transportation from LAX or Universal Studios Area HotelsIf you will be lodging in an LAX area hotel or a hotel in the Universal City area, one of the benefits of the HOHO are the three bus routes which provide service walking distance from many hotels to the primary tourist routes. From the Hilton Los Angeles Airport where we stayed, the closest stop was just one block away.
Orange Line ConnectorThe Orange Line Connector provides service from LAX area hotels to Fisherman's Village & Waterside. We boarded at about 1:25 PM on Friday afternoon and after several stops to pick up passengers, we arrived 20 minutes later at Fisherman's Village in Marina del Rey. We strolled around outside passing by the boats (and yachts), shops and restaurants before it was time to continue on the departing green route.
Just over five hours later, we hopped back on board the orange line at Fisherman's Village for the return ride back to our hotel. We caught the last bus of the evening at 7:00 PM and arrived back at the hotel just as scheduled.
Grey LineThe Grey Line provides morning service only from LAX area hotels to Hollywood with return service in the evening. The two departures for service to Hollywood start at 7:30 AM and 8:30 AM and arrive at Dolby Theatre 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours later (depending on traffic). The evening return service to LAX area hotels departs from Dolby Theatre at 6:30 PM and 7:00 PM.
On Saturday morning, we rode the first outbound bus and arrived in Hollywood 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Since our ticket was only valid until 1:25 PM (and we wanted to be at the airport by 3:00 PM), we needed to get creative for our return back to the hotel since the grey line was not an option.
Blue Line ConnectorThe Blue Line Connector provides all day service between three stops in Universal City (Universal Studios CityWalk, Hilton Universal and Sheraton Universal) as well as Warner Brothers Studio to Dolby Theatre. While I wouldn't recommend using the HOHO for your transportation to Universal Studios, if you plan to stay in a hotel in the area and wish to supplement your theme park visit with the HOHO, it can be a good option with transportation to Hollywood beginning at 9:00 AM daily. The last return from Hollywood back to Universal City leaves Dolby Theatre at 6:30 PM.
Green Route: Marina Del Rey, Venice & Santa MonicaOur actual sightseeing began on Friday afternoon when we boarded the Green Route in Fisherman's Village and headed toward the Santa Monica Pier, passing Venice Beach on our way. We left the bus at the Santa Monica Pier stop (in front of Palisades Park) so that we could walk the length of the pier. In one hour, we had plenty of time for soaking in the surroundings of the famous pier with its many stores, restaurants, carnival rides, street performers and, of course people watching.
Transferring between the green and yellow routes was very easy - the stops were across Ocean Avenue from each other. After completing a full yellow route loop, we were ready to ride the last part of the green route loop back to Fisherman's Village. Timing was critical at this point, as we needed to be back at Fisherman's Village before the last grey line left for the LAX area hotels at 7:00 PM.
The outbound and inbound roads of the green route were actually only one block apart. As we were closer to the ocean on our return, we had somewhat better beach views as we rode back to Marina del Rey.
Yellow Route: Santa Monica, Brentwood, Westwood, Beverly Hills & Century CityThe official start of the Yellow Route is in Beverly Hills, however since you can hop on anywhere, we did just that! With our time constraints on Friday afternoon, we had enough time to ride the complete yellow route starting at the green route transfer point, however had no time to hop off for any sightseeing. The good news was that, with the open-top, we had a decent view of some noteworthy places including The Beverly Hilton, Rodeo Drive and the iconic Beverly Hills shield.
As we neared Ocean Avenue, the transfer point, we enjoyed the break from the narration that was filled with beach music - too bad it wasn't earlier in the day as the music made us want to spend some time at the beach!
Red Route: Hollywood, West Hollywood & Beverly HillsWith our 30 minute early arrival at Dolby Theatre on Saturday morning, we had time to see some of the handprints, footprints and signatures immortalized in concrete in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre (previously Grauman's Chinese Theatre).
As the time neared 9:00 AM, we boarded the Red Route for a tour around Hollywood. Of the three tourist routes that we had the opportunity to travel, the red route had the largest number of sites that could be seen from the bus in only two hours including:
- Sunset Strip, home of clubs where some Hollywood legends got their start;
- Santa Monica Boulevard, a part of the famous Route 66;
- the silver (not red or yellow) fire hydrants in Beverly Hills;
- Beverly Wilshire Hotel which gained notoriety from the movie Pretty Woman;
- Rodeo Drive;
- La Brea Tar Pits;
- Melrose Avenue;
- Capitol Records; and
- the intersection of Hollywood & Vine.
We realized that we could ride the first half of the red route again to transfer to the yellow route. Then, after riding about 1/2 of the yellow route, we would have just enough time to transfer to the green route before our 24 hours was up. This creative route would give us another chance to view some of the sights and bring us closer to the hotel where our luggage was waiting for us. But first, we had one more hour to spend walking a part of the 15 block long Hollywood Walk of Fame where we tried to find the stars for people recognized in more than one category.
Bottom Line: Is StarLine Tours Hop-On Hop-Off Los Angeles Worth the Price?Based on our sightseeing goals and time available, a 24-hour ticket was perfect for us - but it is definitely not perfect for everyone. Here's a few observations to help you decide if the HOHO meets your needs:
- Traffic in the Los Angeles area can be just plain awful. A big benefit to the HOHO is that no one in your group has to drive, therefore allowing everyone the opportunity to enjoy their time without fighting traffic.
- Parking in Los Angeles is not cheap (and spaces can be difficult to find). If you are considering driving during your visit and you want to see multiple sights, make sure to add the cost of parking and fuel to the cost of your rental car to compare to the price of the HOHO.
- The 72-hour ticket breaks down to less than $26.50 per adult per day, and is by far the best value (if you have three days available). At $32.00 daily, the 48-hour ticket is not too far behind in value. Considering the benefits, either of these two tickets is likely a good value for most smaller travel groups.
- While the 24-hour ticket served our purposes (provided transportation from our hotel, avoided anyone having to drive, and gave us a refresh of many tourist sights that we had previously seen), I would not recommend it to most travel groups due to the limitations on what you will have time to see. You'll end up having to plan how to use your 24 hours more around what your time will allow than around what you really want to see. (It's even more difficult to get a great one day value when your 24 hours is split over two half days as you will need a connector bus both at the start and end of each of your days. Instead of planning your trip around the connector bus schedules in the morning and evening on one day, you'll need to ride four connectors.)
Tips for Riding the StarLine Tours Hop-On Hop-Off Los AngelesHere's a few tips for making the most of your day aboard the Los Angeles area HOHO buses:
- When you board, make sure to get a route map (and, of course, earbuds). While you can track the buses on the your smart phone with live tracking, we didn't find the times to be all that accurate. For example, our first green route bus left 13 minutes before the scheduled time on the tracker. We had a second experience where the time was blank indicating that there were no more buses for the day, yet that was inaccurate.
- The temperatures in Los Angeles (especially on the top deck) can be cool, and it can be windy. Make sure to bring a jacket along. If you have long hair, consider pulling it back or putting it in a pony tail so that it is not blowing in your face all day long.
- If you can get back to Fisherman's Village, but can't make it the rest of the way to an LAX area hotel before your ticket expires, we were able to request a Lyft for less than $12.00 for the 15 minute ride.
- On the three routes that we had an opportunity to ride, I noticed that most sites were somewhat concentrated, so if you can, sit on the right side of the bus when on the yellow and red routes. On the green route, when traveling to Santa Monica Pier choose a seat on the left, but when leaving the pier, you are better off on the right.
- Although the narrative mentions seeing the famous Hollywood sign up on the hill, prepare yourself with the knowledge that it is difficult to see from the bus due to the distance and area buildings.
- Each of the stops were just long enough to load and unload passengers - except for the official first stop of each line. In an effort to stay on schedule, we noticed that we paused longer at the first stops of each line listed in the brochure.
- Although it is recommended that you choose two routes maximum (excluding connector buses) for a 24 hour period, it is possible to travel on more routes. The downside of riding more than two routes is much less time to hop off of the bus to explore. (We were able to ride three routes, however our only time off of the buses was at the Santa Monica Pier and the Hollywood Walk of Fame area, plus a few minutes at Fisherman's Village before almost missing our bus!)
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Los Angeles Points of InterestWhich of the points of interest below are you most excited about seeing, or if you've seen them all, which would you recommend to others for their first visit and why?
- Venice Beach
- Santa Monica Pier
- Beverly Hills
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