Coast Starlight vs Pacific Surfliner

Pacific Surfliner in Del Mar, California

The Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner are California’s two coastal Amtrak routes. Both provide stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and stop in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. But that’s where the similarities end. The Pacific Surfliner route is much shorter than the Coast Starlight and can be used to commute between cities in Southern California (and to reach Disneyland). It’s a great option for viewing the coastal scenery if you have limited time.

On the other hand, the Coast Starlight is an overnight, long-distance train that travels between Los Angeles and Seattle. There’s more variety in scenery, including views of the Cascade Mountain Range, and you’ll have the option to book private accommodations on the train (roomettes and bedrooms). However, the Coast Starlight does not travel to San Diego (or any destination south of Los Angeles), so you’ll need to book tickets on the Pacific Surfliner to travel to and from most of Southern California.

See below to learn more about these two Amtrak routes.

Coast StarlightPacific Surfliner
Route Length1,377 miles351 miles
Travel Time35 hours9 hours
FrequencyDailyMultiple trains per day
Type of TrainSuperlinerSurfliner
Sleeper CarYesNo
Sightseer LoungeYesNo
Dining OptionsCafé for coach passengers, traditional dining car for sleeper car passengersCafé
States on the RouteCalifornia, Oregon, WashingtonCalifornia
End-of-the Line StationsLos Angeles and SeattleSan Diego and San Luis Obispo
Popular StopsLos Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Eugene, Portland, SeattleSan Diego, San Clemente, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Burbank, Ventura, Santa Barbara
LandscapesPacific Ocean, Cascade Mountain Range, Columbia and Willamette rivers, agricultural valleysPacific Ocean, agricultural valleys
Best SceneryPacific Ocean, Cascade Mountain RangePacific Ocean
National ParksChannel Islands (via Oxnard)
Crater Lake
Olympic (via Tacoma and Seattle)
Mount Rainer (via Tacoma)
Channel Islands (via Ventura and Oxnard)

More Information

Top photo credit: Caitlin Wolfard