When you look into planning a road trip in the United States there is one road that will come to the top of that list, the Pacific Coast Highway. Stretching along the California coastline, you have the chance to travel through California’s major cities from San Diego to Los Angeles to San Francisco. In between, you’ll find everything from breathtaking views, wine country, cute towns, windy roads, and more. While you can just hop on the Pacific Coast Highway without a plan, you’ll enjoy the journey more if you have some plans. Make sure to consider these few things you need to know before you planning a road trip on California’s Pacific Coast Highway.
Figure Out How Long You Have & How Quick You’ll Travel
First thing is to figure out how long you have. If you’re just driving the Los Angeles to San Francisco stretch you can do it in a very long day but should take at least three to have time to explore the route. At the same time, you can spend two weeks traveling from San Diego up to Mendocino.
You may want to stay somewhere new every night or may want to set up in a few of the stops for a little longer. The major cities are worth exploring, but so are coastal spots like Monterey, Cambria, and Santa Barbara.
Pick Your Direction & How You’ll Travel Along the Pacific Coast Highway
Next, consider if you want to drive north or south? Both will take you on the same route but your views are a little different and you may want to spend some more time at the beginning or end of your drive.
Take a little time to figure out if you want to start in San Francisco or Los Angeles or all the way in San Diego. If you’re thinking of taking the road trip consider the costs of flights to all these cities as well as rental cars.
Are you renting a car? Or driving yourself to the Pacific Coast Highway? If you’re renting, figure out if it’s worth it to rent only one way. Sometimes it’s much cheaper to drive back to avoid the relocation fee.
Plan Your Itinerary For Highway 1
Now for the fun part, planning what you’ll do along the journey. As with any road trip, you won’t want to overplan, but since the Pacific Coast Highway is a popular destination you do want to book a few things along the way.
If you’re traveling in the off-season you can get away with booking your hotel once you arrive, but it is normally more expensive. Instead, when you plan ahead you have the chance to capture some deals. If it’s the busy season you won’t want to arrive to a town and have it booked out!
It is the same for key attractions. Planning on visiting Hearst Castle? You’ll want to book your ticket a few days ahead. This is the same for any tours you might want to take.
Do a little research ahead of time so you don’t have to waste time once you get to the next destination. Find a place to eat or two in each town and an activity you can’t miss. Don’t plan everything ahead but doing the research ahead of time allows you to explore more. Find some ideas on what to do along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Don’t Miss This Quintessential Pacific Coast Highway Stops
There is no right or wrong way to road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, but there are a few main attractions that you’ll want to plan into your trip.
Coastal Wine Country
From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles to Monterey to Mendocino, you’ll find some of the best of California’s wine country just off the Pacific Coast Highway. A great way to fit in another piece of California.
An architectural masterpiece that stands out in California landmarks. From its overly ornate rooms to its astonishing views, you won’t want to miss this landmark.
The best-known stretch along the drive and arguably the best view you’ll find in the States. Waves crashing below breathtaking cliffs are absolutely awe-inspiring. The Bixby Bridge is a famous landmark in the area worth a stop.
(Note: In early 2017, some of the road is closed. Make sure to check road conditions. You can always drive down from Monterey to Bixby Bridge but may need to backtrack before heading further south.)
Pebble Beach & 17-Mile Drive
The famous golf course and driving through its neighborhood is a fun way to explore the coast and forests around them. While it might not be Big Sur it’s a close second along the drive.
If you head north of San Francisco, you’ll want to make it to Glass Beach in Fort Bragg. This unique beach is made of beautiful glass stones that are like nothing you’ve seen before.
Get even more ideas on where to stop with these 60+ destinations along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Enjoy the Journey on California’s Pacific Coast Highway
Remember that any road trip, especially one as beautiful as California’s Pacific Coast Highway, is about what you find along the way instead of making it to your destination.
When planning your trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, remember to have just enough scheduled and researched but don’t hesitate to break those plans once you get started. As you plan your road trip find even more Pacific Coast Highway inspiration.