Pacific Coast Highway: Where to Stop on Your Road Trip

I have driven the entirety of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) through California twice and many sections multiple times. One of the questions I am most often asked is “What is the best place to stop along Pacific Coast Highway?” This question led to the creation of this post, in which you can learn about some of my favorite stops. I have also included a guide for taking a seven-day journey on PCH yourself, history of this highway and my recommendations for food and hotels. Lastly, if you would prefer to browse a map of posts I have made on PCH stops, you can see that as well. Hopefully, this helps when you plan your trip, and don't forget to let me know what places I have missed in the comments. Update May 2017: A few parts of Big Sur are closed due to damage from landslides and weather. Be sure to check on the conditions before driving through the area as it is possible that it will not reopen in 2017. If you have to go around, consider going to Pinnacles National Park which is an interesting stop. Here is my guide on it.

24 Best Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) Stops

Here is my list of my twenty five favorite stops on PCH from South to North. Click on the image to learn more about the stop.

Queen Mary

This historic boat right in the harbor of Long Beach is a must stop as it has been wonderfully preserved to keep the boats history.

Venice Beach

One of my favorite spots for people watching, this boardwalk and beach is a crazy area to explore for a few hours.

Point Dume

One of the most beautiful places in all of Southern California, the small hike up to Point Dume is not something you will quickly forget.

Point Mugu State Park

This state park has a lot of nice hiking, especially for a Southern California. Check out the Sycamore Canyon trail for amazing views.

McConnell’s Ice Cream

While all of State St is fun, especially for shoppers, McConnell's ice cream is a spot I stop at on pretty much every road trip through the area.

La Purisima Mission State Park

This is a fantastic example of California’s mission history. The mission here is wonderfully recreated and it gives you a great taste of early California life.

Monarch Butterfly Grove

When the butterflies are actually here (Nov - Jan) this spot can’t be beat. There are literally tens of thousands of butterflies in this small grove.

Pismo Beach / Splash Cafe

The boardwalk and beach here are beautiful. Add to that the surfer culture and the amazing clam chowder at Splash Cafe and you have an easy recommendation.

Madonna Inn

This eclectic hotel is my favorite spot to stay on PCH. Every room is different and the men's bathroom has a fountain urinal.

Morro Rock

Morro Rock is overpowering and beautiful when you head up PCH near Morro Bay. This is a great spot to watch the sunset or to kayak in the bay.

Hearst Castle

Most people know what Hearst Castle is but it truly is a unique spot to visit and one that is easy to recommend. It will take at least a half day but you will be blown away by it all.

McWay Waterfall

California’s waterfall that falls directly onto the beach has been seen in photos all over the world, so you should make a point to stop at it.

Pfeiffer State Beach

This may be my favorite beach in all of California. It has a massive rock with an arch, purple sand when it rains and a small parking lot that always makes it feel secluded.

Bixby Bridge

One of the most photogenic spots on PCH, Bixby Bridge will take your breath away. It is a quick stop but one you will remember.

Monterey Aquarium

Probably the best aquarium in the entire United States, Monterey Aquarium has so much to look at you will be overwhelmed, in a good way.

Giant Dipper Roller Coaster

Right on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, this fantastic old wooden roller coaster from 1924 is something that you really should ride while driving up PCH.

Natural Bridges State Beach

Santa Cruz has a lot of great spots and great food places, but Natural Bridges State Park is one of my favorites by far. This beach has a beautiful rock arch about 20 feet out in the water and is a great spot for sunset.

Palace of Fine Arts

European architecture in the heart of San Francisco, Palace of Fine Arts is one of my favorites spots for photography in the city.

Golden Gate Bridge

What do I really need to say about this bridge? Of course you have to visit it while on PCH as it is one of the most iconic spots in all of California.

Muir Beach Overlook

Another often skipped but yet beautiful quick stop, this overlook provides a awesome birds eye view of the coastline.

Hog Island Oyster Company

If you like oysters then you don’t need any more information, if you don’t like them then you need to try them here, fresh out of the water and mind-blowing good.

Point Arena Lighthouse

This 60 foot tall lighthouse right out on the cliffs is a great spot for views and for learning more about the lighthouses that used to dot the California coastline.

Glass Beach

The beach where people threw trash and the ocean turned that trash into smooth pieces of glass. It is a crazy spot to see.

Chandelier Drive Thru Tree

Right where PCH ends is the Chandelier Drive Thru Tree in the town of Leggett. No trip down Highway 1 is complete without a photo of your car going through it.

 Pacific Coast Highway eBook

In May of 2016 I completed an eBook guide for Pacific Coast Highway. This eBook takes my recommendations, adds more details and packages it into a format (PDF) that you can take with you on your favorite device and use offline. It is currently for sale here for $4.99 and it includes a scavenger hunt you can do on your drive that will get you a poster I created highlighting my favorite stops.

Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) Road Trip Day Guides

In this section, I break down the days on PCH and what you should do during each leg of the drive. These guides will help you spend about 7 days driving up the coast of California.

Continue the Journey

Interested in continuing up to the Oregon state line or even all the way up to Seattle, check out these other posts I wrote to help make the most of your journey.

Oregon & Washington Coast Stops

Map of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) Stops

Zoom in and out to look at the map and find spots for your trip. Click the icons to see what the stop is. The map automatically updates whenever I post along the route.

Food on Pacific Coast Highway

Here are a few of my favorite places for food on Pacific Coast Highway.

  • The Crab Cooker in Newport - Fresh shrimp cocktails and seafood. Review here
  • Schooner or Later in Long Beach- A great stop for breakfast, get there early as the wait can be long. Order "The Mess". Review here
  • Neptune's Net in Malibu - Seafood sampler and tacos with optional frozen yogurt after. Review here
  • Spencer Makenzies in Ventura - You must have the Ahi Pockets, you simple must.
  • Johnny's Tacos in Ventura - Awesome deep fried crispy tacos at this tiny Mexican place.
  • Tupelo Junction in Santa Barbara - Amazing stop for breakfast, I recommend the Crab Cakes or Pumpkin Waffle. Review here
  • Santa Barbara Seafood Company in Santa Barbara- The onion rings are to die for, as are the oyster shots and great Cioppino, right on the pier. Review here
  • Mcconnells Ice Cream in Santa Barbara - A must stop in Santa Barbara, try the Churros Con Chocolate and the Salted Carmel.
  • Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo- Simply my favorite place for clam chowder, it is amazing. They have locations in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. Review here
  • Black Cat Bistro in Cambria- Very high end dinner spot, but amazing food if you are a foodie like me. Order anything with scallops. Review here
  • Linns Bakery in Cambria - You must go here for the Olallieberry pie, it is fantastic and not a fruit you see often.
  • The Little Chihuahua in San Francisco - Try the fried plantain burrito for something totally unique. Open late. Review here
  • Brenda's Soul Food in San Francisco - One of my favorite places in all of California, try the shrimp and grits and the crawfish beignes. Review here
  • Mama's in San Francisco - Another amazing breakfast spot, but you have to get there early it is small and gets so packed. Get the Eggs Benedict. Review here.
  • Hog Island Oyster Company - Fresh Oyster right out of the water, pretty much the only way to eat them. Review here.

This area will continue to expand.

Where to Stay on Pacific Coast Highway

This is not a definitive list of where to stay but here are some of the great state parks you can camp in (arranged from South to North) and hotels at the end.

Camping

Hotels

Here are my suggestions. I have either stayed at all of these myself or they have been recommended to me by people I trust. These links are affiliate links so if this post was helpful consider booking a hotel through one of these links.

  • Los Angeles
    • It is hard to recommend a hotel here as the city is so big and there are so many great options. Browse this list and pick one that is in your budget and location.
  • Santa Barbara
    • Canary - Located super close to State St, it is a beautiful hotel with a great location. Can be more expensive though.
    • Hotel Milo - A cheaper option which is walking distance from the pier. Santa Barbara is just an expensive place to stay in general.
  • Pismo Beach
    • SeaVenture Beach Hotel - A fun little hotel right on the beach with a unique style and only a 10 minute walk from downtown Pismo Beach and the pier.
  • San Luis Obispo
    • Madonna Inn - One of my favorite hotels on this entire drive, its super eclectic and fun.
  • Cambria
  • Big Sur
    • Big Sur River Inn - Fun little hotel, and a cheaper option in Big Sur. Rooms are nothing to write home about but a super fun vibe and a great location.
  • Monterey
    • InterContinental - Beautiful hotel that is right on Cannery Row and many rooms look out over the ocean.
    • Cannery Row Inn - Cheaper hotel with a good location at the end of Cannery Row.
  • Santa Cruz
    • Ocean Pacific Hotel - A no frills hotel with a fantastic location. Walking distance from the famous pier but you can rent bikes form them as well.
  • Half Moon Bay
    • The Ritz Carlton - If you can afford it then of course this is the place to stay. It is one of the most famous hotels on the entire drive as it sits out on the bluffs looking over the bay, but of course it is far out of my price range. If you are not staying here I would stay in Santa Cruz or push onto San Francisco.
  • San Francisco
    • Like Los Angeles, there are so many hotels here and most are fantastic, I would just browse this list and see what is in your price range.
  • Mendocino
    • Hill House Inn - Beautiful old hotel that I stayed at and recommend. The hotel itself is historic and it is a 5 minute walk from the main downtown street.
  • Eureka (past the end of PCH but a good town if you visit Avenue of the Giants)
    • Carter House Inn - If you are looking for a historic place to stay than the Victorian style of the Carter House Inn is a winner. However, it is a more expensive option.
    • Eureka Town House - This is another no frills cheap hotel, but it has a fantastic location near the old town so it is a good spot to stay.

History of Pacific Coast Highway

Construction of the Pacific Coast Highway, California State Highway 1, started in the 1920's as a planned 1,400-mile link between the Mexican and Canadian borders. The road now runs nearly continuously from San Juan Capistrano in Orange County in the south to United States Highway 101 near Leggett in Mendocino County in the north.

The highway might not exist today had a single determined Malibu landowner prevailed in her long struggle to enjoin Los Angeles County from starting it. Since at least the 1890s, a primitive carriage road had run the rocky coast north from Santa Monica only to end at a barrier at her property line. A formidable opponent, in 1906 she forced the Southern Pacific Railroad to run its tracks around rather than through Malibu to reach Santa Barbara.

In 1907 when the county proposed to extend the coastal road through Malibu, she challenged the county’s exercise of eminent domain and stalled it for years. The court in 1923 finally awarded title of the Malibu right of way to the government and $107,289 to the tenacious challenger as compensation.

Construction of California Highway 1 was piecemeal; the first part completed was the central segment that passes through Big Sur. This is probably the most famous for its scenery. Authorized in 1919 by a state bond measure and constructed over 18 years with some labor from San Quentin prison inmates (paid 35 cents per day), it opened in 1937. Although popular for its scenic beauty, the Big Sur segment can be hazardous. Landslides and erosion have caused several closures for repairs.

The rugged terrain of the 100-mile Big Sur segment of California Highway 1 between Carmel and San Simeon required construction of 32 bridges. The first, small timber structure over Salmon Creek about 19 miles north of San Simeon opened in 1928. The Bixby Bridge about 13 miles south of Carmel, completed in 1932, was the most difficult to build. Its deck, 356 feet long and 260 feet high, rests on two concrete abutments fastened to sheer cliff walls at a point 140 feet above the ground. The National Register of Historic Places lists seven concrete arch bridges between Point Sur and Carmel.

In 1925, construction began to extend Route 60 between San Juan Capistrano and Oxnard farther north to Ventura. At Point Mugu, the construction cut a path through the coastal mountains, creating Mugu Rock in the process. Then, in 1931, work on Route 56 progressed south from Cambria to San Luis Obispo.

A 1933 expansion of the state highway system extended Route 56 southward from Pismo Beach through Guadalupe and Lompoc to Las Cruces and northward along the coast from Carmel through Santa Cruz to San Francisco. Part of this segment between Pacifica and Daly City suffered major earthquake damage in March 1957 and unfortunately became unusable.

Several segments north of San Francisco completed the Pacific Coast Highway: one from the Golden Gate to Valley Ford in Sonoma County, a second from Jenner to Westport in Mendocino County, and a third from Westport northeast to Leggett, where California Highway 1 now joins United States Highway 101.

The Pacific Coast Highway and its segments have had numerous names and numbers. The Big Sur segment was initially the Carmel–San Simeon Highway or Route 56. The Highway 1 designation first appeared locally in 1939. After construction and joinder of all segments, the official designation of California Highway 1 followed in 1964.

Route 56 along Big Sur became California’s first state scenic highway in 1965. In 1966, Lady Bird Johnson led an official ceremony at Bixby Bridge as the federal government designated the California Highway 1 as an All-American Road.

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  • this is such a great list! I’ve only done a couple of these.. hope to do more. 🙂

    • Thanks! This list is missing a lot of Northern California stops that I hope to change soon!

  • also thanks for the leo carillo state park post.. we went and it was awesome!! we didn’t quite find the cave, but we plan on going back soon.

    • No problem, this is one of my favorite places. Thanks for all your blog comments as well!

  • Josh, I came across your blog today and I love it. Thanks so much for such great information.

    • Thank you for the comment I am glad you found me!

  • Zamorales

    Your blog is wonderful! I’m in Colorado and I’m planning a 7 night camping trip down the PCH with my two kids and this is so helpful! Well, really 6 nights camping with one night at the Madonna Inn of course. 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment! That sounds like an epic trip, especially with a night at the Madonna Inn!

  • Carlyn

    Aloha Josh! Your blog is amazing and it totally amps me up for my honeymoon roadie this July! We will be going up, then back down the PCH in 2 weeks… Any suggestions for a little taste of everything? ( We will be stopping in Valencia to visit some of my family, and in parts of NorCal to visit his)… I’m a bit overwhelmed with trying to plan up an itinerary…. There’s so much I want to do and see… one other thing is a day at of course, Disneyland since He’s never been! Help!

    • For me personally, my favorite area is the Big Sur coast, so if you are outdoorsy then that is a great place to spend a couple days. Its hard to just pick a couple spots though as there is so much good stuff on that road! Also, consider a night at the Madonna Inn as well since there are so many fun rooms to chose from that are all super unique!

  • Carlyn

    … Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  • Thanks for the comment and I am glad you liked the post!

  • Paul Fitzpatrick

    Josh, I am thinking of doing a road trip on my own from Sonoma to LaJolla via the PCH in mid-july. Have not camped since the boy scouts, but am thinking of
    investing in equipment and doing it. If I want to drive there and back
    with some speed, but not make myself crazy, how much time do you think I
    need? I would like to see the Salk Institute, some beaches, maybe the best missions, and maybe one of the
    Channel Islands… and maybe go to the Gamble House in Pasadena. Does that sound like a lot?

    • Its hard to say how much time you will need, the addition of the channel islands is the most time consuming thing you have stated. Doing that takes most of a day in and of itself to go to the closest island. I would suggest that you drive down Pacific Coast Highway then back up the 5 as the 5 is much faster drive and you can take more time driving down the coast to see things. The drive on the 5 from Pasadena takes about 6-7 hours to San Francisco so you can plan on a day for that drive then just adjust the time accordingly. Hopefully that helps!

  • tara

    do you by any chance have the stop list in a printable form?? my family and I are planning on driving the coastal highway from san fran to la in about 2.5 weeks. we are coming from ohio and just looking for a lot of things to do in the week we will be in California. I would love to get this list to add to our folder of things we are doing. thanks.

  • Maritza Cruz

    im planning a trip this weekend 7/26/14. places to eat with my family. this is going to be the first we drive PCH. I want my girls age 16, 13 to remember this trip. please adivse

  • Paul S

    Hi Josh, I will be driving from Carmel to Long Beach with time for a one night stop over on-route can you suggest an area? I have been tinnking about Santa Maria or going as far as Santa Barbara, thanks. Paul

    • I would probably say Santa Barbara would be a good spot over Santa Maria. It is a really fun town to explore as well! The hotels will be much more expensive there though so that is something to consider.

  • grandma of 6

    Hi Josh, my husband & I are thinking about driving up the coast we just bought a new 5th wheel it’s 38 feet long, will the beaches allow large 5th wheels?

    • I apologize, I am not sure of the answer to this question. If you contact the beaches you want to stop at beforehand I am sure they will let you know if they can accommodate a 5th wheel.

  • Stacey

    Wow thank you so much for posting this! My husband and I decided to do a road trip from San Francisco to San Diego over Christmas. We live in Salt Lake City and are not familiar with places to see in CA. Thank you for the valuable information, I’m sure we will be referring back to this many times!

    • No problem, I am going to be adding a lot of updates to it over the next month so check back!

  • Kristin Langlais

    I love your blog Josh, great job! Thanks for sharing your trips!

    • Thanks for the comment, glad you like the blog!

  • Sally

    Hi Josh! Driving from San Fran to LA…Any thoughts on the best/most fun hotels? We have two young boys. 🙂

    • The most fun is for sure the Madonna Inn as it has a lot of crazy things to see and the rooms are all different with random things like rock showers and such. It is fun to look at all of the rooms on their website. You could also consider Victoria’s Last Resort in Cambria as well as it is another fun and unique hotel. Let me know if you have more questions!

  • Mom from Florida

    Josh- Thank you for doing this blog. We are flying into San Francisco and going to the Redwoods National Park and on up to Oregon. Is there any part of the California Pacific Coast highway north of San Francisco that we should not miss?

    • Thanks for the comment and I am glad you enjoyed the blog! This page should be updated with a lot more spots up that direction soon. I would recommend Avenue of the Giants and Fern Canyon (if you have a car that can get you there). You can find both of those spots by searching the blog. Have fun!

  • Nick

    Hi Josh my Wife and I will be driving from Santa Monica to San Fransisco and would like to do it over to days could you recommend a half way point to stop over night.This will be our first time in the US fling in form Australia (driving on the correct side of the road will be a challenge in its self). We a on a time limit so only have the one night. Cheers Nick

    • If you are looking for a fun place to stay I would consider Madonna Inn. Also if you are doing it in two days you might not want to drive PCH above Madonna Inn as it is a road that you cannot go very fast on and it would probably be hard to make it all the way to San Francisco from there. That is just my two cents though. You could go further then San Luis on the first day and stay somewhere in Big Sur too, it just depends on how much driving you want to do! Hopefully that helps

  • Daryl

    Carmel by the sea is one of the most charming and beautiful areas and well worth a stop, park, and walk the beach or the paths along it. It is residential but the homes are part of what makes this place unique. And the town and area have great places to hike, to eat, and stay.

    • Agreed, Carmel is an amazing place to spend some time!

  • janebloggs

    Hi Joshua – my husband and I will be flying into san francisco and out of san diego and doing a road trip between – we are looking to do self catering – we are from South Africa. Can you recommend any absolute must see places – we aren’t into the big city thing. Dates are 21 May to 17 June.

  • MJ

    Hi Josh, we are planning our first big family trip from May 6-16. We are flying from Toronto Canada to San Diego and will be staying a couple of days there then making our way up to San Fran for the last 2 nights. Now what happens in between we dont know yet but I would appreciate some input on where to stay and things to see. I saw some of the comments you posted below and I will certainly check them out. I have 2 boys 12 & 16 so keeping them entertained will be the key.

    • Thanks for the comment, I would say to check out the posts here in this blog as they will give you a good idea of what is on that route. Places like Big Sur, Santa Cruz and Malibu / Santa Barbara all have a ton of fun things to see and explore. Let me know if you have specific questions about anything!

  • Nina

    Hi Josh! I did the PCH drive with my family when I was a kid and I’m taking my husband now for his first CA experience! We will be leaving SF early morning and spending two days along the coast to end in LA. What’s a good halfway point town or area to stay the night? Thank you in advance!

    • I would say you might want to consider Cambria or San Luis Obispo. Two days is a really fast trip though as you would have to be driving past places like Big Sur really fast. If you can get another day you would have a more fun trip. If not, the Madonna Inn is a fun place to stay near that area. Hope that helps!

  • Lauren

    Josh, Thanks for all this amazing info! My husband and I will be coming to San Diego in May. I’m really hoping to be able to drive the PCH while we’re there, but we will only have 48 hours or less to make the drive. Because of this, I’m thinking of flying into San Francisco, renting a car, and driving South to San Diego. Based on your experience and knowledge, do you think this sounds do-able? I’m thinking the drive itself is totally do-able, but would that leave us time to actually sightsee/hike/eat and enjoy the trip? Can you recommend a more condensed / time saving route that would allow us to hit all the “must see’s” along PCH but also skip the other stuff to save time? My main question is just “Can we even do this (and enjoy it) in less than 2 days?” Thanks a bunch!!

    • I would say that two days is really pushing it and if you drove PCH you probably would not be able to stop at much at all in that time period. Especially if you drove the Big Sur coast which is windy and slow so it can take a half day itself. You may opt to just skip the first portion of PCH and head down Highway 101 as this drive will be much faster and connects with PCH near Santa Barbara so you do get some time on PCH. Hope that helps and let me know if you have more questions.

  • Annette Valliere Diaz

    Hi Josh I will be going to CA in June flying into SanFransisco on Saturday and needing to be in the LA area on Wednesday evening. I will be renting a car and would like to travel the coast and see a little of SanFransisco. What are your thoughts?

    • That should be enough time for a quick trip. I would spend Sat / Sun in San Fran then drive down to Monterey and stay a night, spend the next day driving through Big Sur and taking it in then stay in San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara and spend the next day driving to LA. At least that would be my recommendation, let me know if you have more questions!

      • Annette Valliere Diaz

        Thanks for the info
        Anything on the top of the list for San Fran ?

        Sent from my iPad

        Annette Diaz, Realtor
        Beaches and Backroads Realty
        401-441-8559, cell
        401-491-9890, office

        • I love eating at Brenda’s Soul Food, one of my favorite food spots in all of CA. Palace of Fine Arts is a fun place to explore, as are the Mosaic Steps and Alcatraz if you have the time.

          • Annette Valliere Diaz

            Thanks Josh for that info. I have taken your suggestion on staying in Monterey and San Luis Obespo. Any suggestions on what to see on our way down? I will also be going to Hollywood for a day. I will be by myself and was wondering what you knew about day tours. I would prefer not a large closed in bus but maybe an open van or something on that idea. Thanks

          • I would just check out my day guides for the trip on this page and see what looks the best to you. There are so many fun spots all along the way but it would depend on what you are most interested in, hiking, history, etc. PCH is an amazing adventure!

  • Crys

    HEy JOSH! Thank YOU so much for making our adventure to California a pile of epic memories! We got to the PCH from LA taking the Topanga Canyon Road. When we got to the corner of Topanga Canyon and PCH, we found a little treasure. It was an adorable, quaint family-owned store called Malibu Feed Bin. A farm and plant store, they had chincillas, lizards, chickens, turkeys, plants, yard ornaments, gifts,etc. as well as farm supplies. We needed a pen for our Geo-Cashing. A lovely, friendly mother and daughter there waited on us, happily gave us a pen and told us about more Geo cashing places. An old pickup truck full of farm dogs pulled up while we were there, charming. Right next door was a sort of outdoor gift/plant/decor store. Malibu Feed Bin is at 3931 Topanga Canyon Blvd
    Malibu, CA 90265
    Thanks again!
    Crys and George, New Kent, VA

    • Thanks so much for the comment! I am glad the blog helped you to enjoy your time in CA! I really appreciate the tip as well, I will be sure to add that to my list!

      • Crys

        Our pleasure! You helped us and we wanted to pay it back a bit. This place seems to fit nicely in your collection of suggested off-the-beaten-trail, unusual places, We are already planning next year’s trip. We did NOT spend enough time on the PCH!

  • Terri Jordan

    Hi Josh…I have been studying your blog and it has been SO helpful!! My family is planning a trip next month to drive the PCH from San Fran to San Diego. My husband, myself and two daughters 14 and 16. We are spending the first 2 nights in Half Moon Bay to explore San Francisco and going horseback riding on the beach. On through Big Sur and staying at the Madonna Inn for one night. I have two nights left before spending a night in San Diego and flying out. Any suggestions as to where to stop for a couple of nights. I was thinking Malibu or Long Beach? Thanks!

    • I would suggest stopping in Malibu if you can find a spot to stay. Malibu is amazing with pristine beaches, seafood shacks and hiking trails. It would be a great place to explore.

      Glad the blog has been helpful!

      • Terri Jordan

        Sounds good………looking forward to a great trip. Thanks!

  • Carla Michelle G

    Hi Josh!!
    I must tell you this is one of the most comprehensive guides I’ve come across and I thank you! We’re planning a trip from Las Vegas to LA and up the PCH to San Francisco at the end of June/beginning of July. This helps tremendously and makes me even more excited to hit the road!! 😉
    Thank you thank you thank you! <3

    • Thanks for the comment, its comments like these that keep me writing! I am glad you enjoyed the post and I hope that you have a fantastic trip!

  • Hannah

    Hi Josh, this is a great blog, and really useful for us. We are coming from the UK at the end of this month, arrive in LA (after doing vegas) on afternoon of 28th, and then need to be in san fran early evening 1st July. Do you think this is enough time? We planned a night in LA, and two stops along the way, santa Barbara and big sur, were my top choices. If you have any better suggestions would greatly appreciate them if not too much trouble! Thank you! 🙂

    • This may be pushing it for time as two days would not allow you to see much on the drive (the drive goes slow along a lot of the spots because of a two lane road and lots of bends). You may be able to make it work but I don’t think you would be able to see much as I would estimate it to be at least 10-12 hours of just driving time to make it San Francisco via PCH. That being said you could always do the Big Sur coast then head onto a main highway to go up to San Francisco or something like that to make it work. Let me know if you have more questions!

      • hannah

        Great thanks Josh – we actually decided to add an extra day/night on the trip along PCH to give us more time!!! We’re staying overnight in Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach and Carmel by Sea then onto San Fran via santa cruz! thanks again for your help!

        • No problem, it is always better to have more time on this fantastic drive! Have fun and let me know what your favorite stops were!

  • MadHatterz

    Thanks a ton for the info, you have no idea how helpful it is to come across this

    • No problem, I am so glad you enjoy the site!

  • Nyree

    Josh – I came across your blog last year and it was SO helpful while planning our PCH roadtrip. We had SUCH a great time that when I came across a cheap flight to OC, I had no choice but to book it! I’m looking forward to more eclectic, fun, and unique adventures this summer! Thank you!

    • Thanks for the comment and I am so glad the site was helpful for your drive! So fun you are making the trip back as well, let me know what your favorite stops are!

  • Lizzyn5

    I went back and forth between your blog and another Google to plan my honeymoon in less than an hour. Looking forward to eating at Neptune, staying at the Madonna Inn, and checking out the hiking spots. Thank you!!!!

    For readers planning a trip, I did extensive research and tried my best to use my reward discount sites; had I not found this blog, I may have missed the hidden gems. I have no doubt it will be well worth stepping outside of “rewards” and listen to this guy (:

    • So glad the post was helpful and I hope you love your trip!

  • Michelle Franzen

    Good Morning,my husband and I are taking a road trip on our motercycle from Portland to San Francisco driving on the coast line.Are there any spots along the way that you would recommend we see?

  • Tall One

    Josh-This is great information, thank you for putting it together. In Aug. we will be driving down PCH from San Fran. We will have 2 days, one to drive down stay overnight and then one to drive back up to SF. We want to make some stops to visit sights along the way (McWay, Ewoldsen, Hearst not sure what else). With out rushing past everything, what town would you recommendation to stop for the night. I’m not really sure how much time it will take to drive down the coast and we have no predetermined destination, so we are game for any recommendation. Thanks in advance for your help.

    • If you are going to try and get all the way through Big Sur then I would recommend stopping for the night in Cambria. It is a fun little beach town right past Hearst Castle. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  • justcommenting

    Hi! This is the best blog I have found on PCH . I’m thinking of taking my twin 16 yr olds and 12 yr old on a PCH adventure. Fly to LA and drive north to San Francisco. I think would feel safer driving north and have that extra lane between us and the cliffs. I’m still up in the air if this would be fun for them. I figure 5 days rent an SUV and use your blog to guide us. Do you think the views are as good if driving north? How long without stops would that take? I’m assuming 1-2 days in LA then drive for 1 overnight along route then 1-2 days in San Fran? Does that sound realistic?
    Thank you!
    Amber Keller

    • I would think your kids would love it, it’s such an amazing drive with so much cool stuff to see! If you drove without stopping I think it is about 10 hours to drive minimum so you probably wouldn’t want to do it in one day as that would not be very fun. The views are just as good North to South though so no worries about that. I would suggest taking 3 days for the drive if you can as it gives you a lot more time to explore. Hope that helps!

  • Lisa Bennett

    Hey Josh! Doing this Saturday! My question is how long would it take to drive from Muir Forest to Hearst Castle?

    • Sorry for the delay in my response! I would plan on at least 5 and a half hours of straight driving, if you go via PCH. That is a good drive and it goes slow with the turns of Big Sur.

  • Awesome article. Heading for LA to SF in a couple weeks with my gf. Any other pointers, tips or resources? Thanks!

    • Take your time, take lots of pictures and have fun exploring!

  • Ryan

    Josh, two good college friends and I took a road trip after graduation this past May and relied heavily on the advice in your article. Bless you sir. We only had a week to make it from south LA to SF, but the sights you suggested were right on the money.

    The Big Sur day was incredible and probably our favorite day of the trip (no cell service from AT&T, US Cellular, or Verizon carriers for nearly the entire day until pulling into Monterrey probably helped us enjoy the scenery more). We left from Pismo Beach that morning, catching what hindsight and eventual consensus would reveal to be the most beautiful stop of our PCH trip – Hearst Castle. Granted, we went into the tour with pretty low expectations (it was morning, we’d spent quite a bit of time in the car by this point driving from Iowa and all, it cost 3 broke college kids $25/person, and we really just wanted to get to the Big Sur. Add to that the fact that none of knew who William Randolph Hearst was and I think you can excuse our lack of enthusiasm), but Hearst Castle was truly beautiful. Go see it for yourself and prove me right. That’s all I have to say about that.

    Again, thank you so much for putting this guide together. It was well planned out and deciding the next day’s activities in the evenings at our hotels made for a much more structured, enjoyable, and unforgettable road trip.

    • Thanks for the comment! I agree I need to get to Hearst Castle and visit it, I appreciate your recommendation!

  • David Hankinson

    Hi Josh – we’ll be arriving in San Francisco from Australia in October, then doing a road trip to Texas. We’d originally planned to drive from SF to Las Vegas with a one night stop in Mojave via the inland (Sacramento) route, but your blog has made me re-think. Can you recommend how far south to drive along PCH before striking inland for our overnight stay in Mojave. Also, how many hours would it take to get to Mojave vie the PCH? Any advice welcome.

    • Thanks for the comment. It depends on how much time you have. It is hard to do a lot of fast driving on PCH in one day as it has a lot of curves and slower areas. My favorite part is Big Sur so you could try and drive down to the bottom of that area then head over to the Mojave. I doubt you could do that in one day though as it would probably take you at least 7 hours to drive from the base of Big Sur to Mojave. Hope that helps!

  • David Hankinson

    That should read Fresno, not Sacramento.

  • Ceylan Guzekin

    Hi Josh. My husband and me would be visiting US, for two weeks by mid September. We would be directly flying to LA from Istanbul, Turkey, thousands miles away..! As we arrive, we plan to stay at our friend’s house in San Diego for2 nights and then leave for enjoying CA coastal drive way driving up to San Francisco. We have a red eye flight from Sf to NY on September 20th. ,2015 this leaves us full 5 nights for the amazing journey.
    Do you think this is good enough time to drive the whole way up to SF.?Where would be the worth stops for stay over in this short period, so that we get advantage of the legendary Route 101.And any other suggestions as we drive along. Your return would be more than welcomed for two foreigners, WHO do not have any idea about the area. Your blog is incredibly beneficiary, by the way. Looking fwd from hearing you.
    All the best, Ceylan

    • Five nights should be a good amount of time to take the trip and take it at a good pace. I would recommend checking out my day guides as they will help you figure out what to see each day along the way. You can see the 5 day guides from Dana Point to San Francisco in the above post. Let me know if you have any more questions!

  • FL Kim

    Hi Josh,
    I’m from FL and am used to driving on flat roads. Does it matter which direction I begin my PCH trip ( Northern Cali to southern Cali or vice versa). I’m concerned about the curvy and hilly roads. Thank you!

    • Thanks for the comment! I would say that it probably doesn’t matter too much what direction you decide to take. There are a lot of curvy roads along this drive, especially North of San Francisco and on the Big Sur coastline so you will be getting a lot of curves both directions. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  • roby

    Hi Josh,
    I’ll be travelling in February, from Argentina, with my daughters (11 and 9 years old) is there some place you recommend to avoid or not to be missed?
    I was planning on staying two nights along PCH, but our schedule is very flexible.

    Excellent blog!

    • What part of PCH will you be traveling on?

      • roby

        Thanks for caring Josh.
        We’re heading San Diego from San Fran. At some point we’ll detour to Las Vegas and Grand Canyon and then continue southbound. We love outdoor activities, hiking, whale watching, etc.
        Cheers!

        • Just make sure you drive on the Big Sur coastline. That is probably the most beautiful part of the entire trip and it is much before you would head to Vegas and the Grand Canyon probably. There is a lot of great hiking, views and beaches to see there. Let me know if you have other questions!

  • Chelsea

    Hi Josh! Thank you for your blog, it has been extremely helpful! My boyfriend & I are doing a short trip from San Diego to Santa Cruz next week for Thanksgiving. We are hoping to hit San Diego –> Solvang –> Pismo Beach –> Paso Robles –> San Simeon –> Cambria –> Big Sur –> Santa Cruz … We only have Wednesday to Sunday to travel. Do you have recommendations on if this will give us enough time or places we should add/take off from our list? We also have been looking for free campsites since all the campsites on reserve america seem to be filled for these days. Any suggestions or advice would be great! Thanks again in advance 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment, sounds like a fun trip! As much as I love Paso Robles, it is out of the way if you are trying to stay on Highway 1 so it might not be your best bet. As far as camping, I am not sure what to recommend as it is really tough to find places to camp during that time period since it is a popular time of the year. You could always call the campsites day of and see if anyone cancelled but it might be tough to find a spot.

  • Thanks for the comment and for sharing some of your favorite parts!

  • Nancy

    Hi Josh, Your blog is just terrific. My husband and I are going to drive from Illinois to LA, site see the area, then fly to Maui for five days or so, then back to LA to drive up the coast to San Francisco. We are planning to take this awesome super trip in September when I retire.
    I have been fortunate to have taken this trip up the coast several times (at least 4). However, all the trips were before I was 16 years old ! Since it has been well more than a “few” years since I have been there, unfortunately, I only remember the beauty and the memory of it being my very favorite trip(s). Now I would like to share this with my husband of 41 years as our retirement celebration. He has never been to California. We want to explore and make new memories, together.
    Since you continue to up date this wonderful site, I thought I would reach out to you for advice.
    Once we leave LA, it sounds like we should plan on taking at least 2 nights(maybe 3 ?) to drive up to SF ? Will we need reservations for a place to stay? I’m concerned after a day of driving and sight seeing that motels, lodges, etc will be filled, leaving us to scramble to find a place to rest.
    I’m not sure where we should plan to stop for the night during this trek up the coast.
    Any advice you can offer sure would be appreciated.
    Thank you for all the work you put into this blog for our pleasure ! We’re so looking forward to this celebration trip!
    Nancy
    P.S. I don’t tweet or facebook, so I’m not sure this is going to get posted or answered !!

    • Nancy, thanks for the comment and that sounds like a fantastic trip! I would recommend you take three nights if you are able to as you will love being able to spend more time at some of the places. I would recommend driving from LA to Pismo Beach / Cambria area the first day, then spending most of the second day exploring the Big Sur coasts, ending in Carmel or Monterey, then on day three make the trek into San Fransisco. As far as whether you should book in advance, I think that is easier and less stressful, especially if you know what city you plan to be in. Let me know if you have other questions!

  • Alex

    Great blog. Am I able to print the map with all the suggested stops that you provide?

    • Thanks for the comment, there is not a printable version at this time but I am working on a easier to take with you version.

  • Wanderer

    Hey Josh great blog, I am planning to use it on my trip I am planning in feb, drive from LA to Sfo.. my question was if Feb was a good time to make this trip

    • Thanks for the comment! It may be a little cold and rainy on the drive depending on our weather, but it is not a busy time so you should be able to see a lot of the sites without a lot of visitors! Let me know how it goes!

  • Smeeta

    Josh, this is so awesome! You have not only laid out such a nice plan but also done it in a way that is consumable. Thank you! I am heading there in 2 weeks and wanted to ask if you’d recommend a cooking class to take? I have been doing that on my trips and it really brings it home.

    Any recommendations? Both of us are vegetarians 🙂

    I’d love to hear from you!

    Cheers and thanks again!
    Smeeta

    • Thanks for the comments and the kind words about the guide! You stumped me on your question though, I have never been to a cooking class along this drive so I have literally no idea what to suggest! Let me know if you find a good one though.

      • Smeeta

        Will do! Again, thanks for such wealth of information here and I cannnnnnnnnot wait to experience it!!! Cheers!!

  • Rob Rushing

    THIS is a really cool blog. I enjoyed reading it and taking tips. We will be making a trip down the Pacific coast next month and this is PACKED with useful tips. The only suggestion I might make to the author would be to collaborate with the mentioned restaurants & lodging businesses so that perhaps you can work out a collectively beneficial deal. Beneficial to us (your readers) by offering coupons to said locations to save us money on our trips, beneficial (to you, Josh) because you can work out an “affiliate marketing” sort of deal with these places and thereby earn a commission off of each referral, and lastly, beneficial (to them) because they would draw more business.

    -Robert Rushing-
    https://www.instagram.com/mrandmrsrushing/

    • Thanks for the comment and the great suggestion! I will look into doing that.

  • Melissa Zorich Ranck

    Hi Josh. I’m enjoying reading your blog and Facebook page. I’m planning a road trip with my family of 5 for my 50th birthday. I live in Huntington Beach so I will be going from HB with our first stop in Ventura. I see after each day you list a place to stay; are these trips just one night stay because most hotels require 2 so I was a little confused (which is easily done)

    • Yes, most of the time I only stay one night. Which hotel in the list had a 2 night minimum? I know that can happen during busy times but I will update the post if there are some that have that always.

  • Jayna69

    Hi Josh ! My husband and I traveled the PCH back in December starting in LA and ending in Carmel.Needless to say, we are madly in love with CA! Would like to recommend a few places we stopped at along the way. First is Carpenteria, just loved the small town atmosphere, a restaurant called The Palms where you cook your own steak, and we stayed at Best Western, which in my opinion, is the best place to stay in any town ! Next would be Solvang which is a great Dutch themed town we stumbled upon chasing a pancake house ! Could go on and on about Solvang. Carmel is divine. Loved Cali so much we returned in Feb. ,this time we drove from Oakland up to Leggett, drove through the tree (amazing), Golden gate bridge, outstanding, fisherman’s wharf, loved it ! Glass beach, half moon bay, a must see at FW is an arcade with games dating back to late 1800’s, and you can play/view them ! A huge shout out to The Whitcomb Hotel, very , very nice for the price, luxurious and affordable. Honorable mentions go to Pizmo beach, Cambria’ s Mariner’s Inn, Lom-Poc, Bubba Gumps in San Fran. I recommend the PCH so much, we will be doing it again, for the 3rd time in 5 months at the end of April, this time starting in San Diego ! I can hardly contain myself !

    • Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment, you provided a ton of great information in it that I am sure other readers will find valuable as well and are making me want to drive it again!

  • chris

    Hi Josh, my fiance and I are planning a PCH trip sometime in September/October. We will be driving south from the Oregon state line to San Francisco. Any recommendations?

  • J from Korea

    Hi Josh! Love all the tips and details of your blog!! It’s very helpful as I am planning to do the PCH trip from SF to SD with my bf. I’ll be hitting some of the spots you mentioned, but one place I’ve heard good things about wasn’t on your list. Have you been to Point Lobos State Reserve? If you have, is there any reason you left it out as I’d rather visit places that are more worth it, since we only have a week to do the entire trip. Thanks!!

    • I have not had a chance to check it out myself, which is why it wasn’t included. I have heard a ton of good things though so let me know what you think if you go!

  • Brenda

    Hi Josh, In June, I am planning on taking the family of four (older teens) on vacation. We have never been to California before. I was thinking of spending 7 days, flying into San francisco, renting a car, and driving down to San Diego. Is one week enough time? Is it best to drive the route north or south along the coast?

    • Awesome! That sounds like a great trip, I am sure you will have a blast! 7 days is a good amount of time as it lets you really take your time on the drive and see all the sites you want to see. Of course I am sure there will be more you want to come back and explore but at least it will give you a good taste. I don’t personally have a preference between driving it South or North, either way is great.

      • mARKjOHNSON

        I’m thinking of doing the same thing! I’m writing a brief, APA format tutorial essay about an adventure we’d love to do for an MBA I’m starting Monday. We need some citations for the paper so here I am. This is a really neat blog. Once I finish this MBA I’m thinking this might be a graduation present to myself

        • Thanks for the comment, a trip on PCH is a great MBA present for sure!

  • Jason H Miller

    Hi Josh! Thanks for all of this great information. My wife and I are celebrating our birthdays in July with this trip. We are planning to start in LA and finish 10 days later in Marin County and plan to use many of your suggestions. Couple of questions…would you take the time to visit the Channel Islands NP? Is four nights in Big Sur too many (plenty to do?) Thanks!

    • Channel Islands are beautiful and one of the least visited National Parks in the entire USA. If you have the time and you like hiking/walking around then one of the islands can be a great place to explore for a half day. For Big Sur, it totally depends on what you like to do. If you plan to do a lot of hikes or just sit on the beach for a day and relax then that is probably a good amount of time to not be rushed but if you not too into hiking and such you may want to spend less time there and another night or two in an area that is more your style (Carmel, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, etc). Hope that helps and let me know if you have more questions!

    • Rika

      4 nights in Big Sur is way too long. You can see what there is to see (beautiful scenery!) in a day.

  • Laura

    Hi Josh! We live in SC and have not traveled CA. Our son is working at JH Ranch in northern CA this summer and we want to fly out in July and drive the PCH and end up in Etna, CA to visit him for a few days at the end of our trip. We will then drive to Sacramento (closet CA airport to Etna) Sunday to fly home to SC on Monday. I am excited to have found your blog, and I am just starting to explore it. We have from a Saturday to a Friday to get from wherever we fly into to Etna. Since our trip has 2 purposes (driving PCH and seeing our son), I find this planning a bit overwhelming as no suggested PCH routes end up near or in Etna. 🙂 Would you suggest we fly into LA? My first step is to buy our plane tickets. Any suggestions you could make would be great.

    • Thanks for the message! Yes, LA would probably be the best spot to fly into for that itinerary. Sorry, I have neve been to the Etna area so I don’t have many suggestions around there. I am sure the drive up that way along PCH would be great though as it would let you complete the whole PCH drive and you can just head over to Etna when you reach Eureka probably.

  • Felipe Gutierrez

    Hi Josh! Amazing blog, Thanks for all the pointers. One question though, is there nothing worthy to visit from Eureka to Portland? I’ll be doing San Diego to Seattle with my girlfriend in a few days and we’ve been browsing around getting ideas. Your blog is, by far, the best website we’ve visited so far, so thanks for that. First time in the west coast for these two Colombians by the way.

    • There is a ton of great stuff I am sure, unfortunately my content only goes to the California border. Hopefully, one of these days I will get up there and complete the drive to Seattle! Let me know if you find some good stuff, and you can read about Eureka to Oregon border on my site as well.

  • Riki

    Hello Josh, Thank you for the amazing blog. Really helpful in planning our trip. We are driving SF to LA and we are pretty limited time wise. Are there any parts of the coastal drive we could skip and take a faster route without feeling like we missed out on anything?

    • Thanks for the comment! It is hard to suggest a spot to skip since it is all amazing, but I would say the only spot I would not skip is Big Sur if you time allows it. That is the most amazing part of the drive and a part you do not want to miss, so I would skip other parts of Highway 1 above it just to make sure you have time to drive it.

  • Melody Lowe

    OMG..We just got home from doing the PCH trip. Thanks so much for all the info! We followed your stops and got most of them in. We flew into LAX got in the car and started driving. We went over to Sequoia National Park, then Yosemite, cut over to Redding to see the Sun Dial Bridge, then up to see the Redwoods, then started down the coast back to LAX. What an amazing trip,,,we had no reservations anywhere, so where we were at each evening is where we stayed. (We did stay at the Madonna Inn in the “Traveler’s Yacht Room”) ! Again, thanks for posting all the info, it was great!

    • Thanks for the comment, that sounds like an amazing trip! What were your three favorite spots? Glad the site was helpful!

    • Brenda Gow Solis

      Did you have any trouble finding places to stay? My husband and I are heading that way the first week of August. Driving from NM. We have about 10 days. We don’t want to commit to areas so we wanted to “fly by the seat of our pants.” 🙂

      • During the summer it can be more difficult to find spots in some of the busy towns that are not really expensive. You may consider at least booking like an outline of a few places you know you will be at then filling in the in-between days with wherever you want to stop.

        • Brenda Gow Solis

          Thank you for the tip! Will do just that.

  • Terry Dengler

    Hi Josh, we are thinking of flying into Portland and driving down to Redwood National Park then to San Francisco or Los Angeles. We’d like to do this in 6 or 7 days, is that practical?

    • Thanks for the comment! Yes, this is totally doable. You will need to consider where you want to spend the most time as you will be rushed, especially if you wanted to get to LA, but you can see a decent amount in 6-7 days. At least enough to make you want to come back and see more 🙂

    • Rika

      I’m not the expert here, (Josh, love your blog!) but I would recommend not trying to go all the way to LA in that amount of time. Instead spend more enjoyable time on experiences in the beautiful areas you will encounter north of there: wine country, San Francisco, Carmel, San Luis Obispo, etc. Perhaps go as far south as Santa Barbara. I love LA’s art museums but don’t see any other reason to go there. Terrible traffic and too many people!

  • Crystal G

    My boyfriend and I are doing PCH for our vacation in October, except we’re doing a long drive from Temecula to Samuel P Taylor State Park and then working our way south. Thanks for all the great ideas! I actually used this post to convince him this was what we should do.

    • No problem, glad I was able to help 🙂

  • Verda Napier- Barrett

    Hi Josh my daughter, granddaughter and myself are planning a road trip we are driving from Vegas to go up the coastal road for a few days any ideas of what is a must see?

    • Big Sur is my favorite area of the drive, but it depends on how much time you have and how far you are planning to go.

  • Tricia Wright

    Wanting to plan a motorcycle trip via the PCH for mid July – Flying in form Memphis, TN-Guessing should fly to LA and start there – Where do you recommend heading from there if we have 6-8 days allowed for travel once there? Would be renting motorcycles, so would need to return at end of trip.

    • Thanks for the comment! In that amount of time I would probably recommend driving slowly over like 3 days to San Fran then spending some time around that area, maybe even heading over to Yosemite then heading back. That would be a lot to do but it depends on how much you want to see and how fast.

  • Karen Kerwin

    Thanks for your posting. My friends and I are going on a road trip in late October from Orange County north to Point
    Arena. Is there a print friendly link for your coast road trip guide?

    • There isn’t a specific print friendly link, but check out the ebook as it is a great way to take my recommendations with you on iPad / iPhone when out of service.

  • Lauren

    Hi Josh,

    We are planning a week long trip around a 3 day conference in San Diego. We are in San Diego from Sunday until Tuesday. We plan to leave wed morning and hit the road. We eventually fly out of San Fran the following Monday. We know we want to hit wine country for at least a day. If you had wed, thurs and Friday to explore, what towns should we plan to hit as our over night destinations?

    This is the first week in oct.

    Thank you

    • I always recommend Big Sur as it is a beautiful spot you will really want to experience. Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz are cool as well with lots of unique food and attractions. You can also consider spending the day in Paso Robles which is a fun up and coming wine country, depending on what you are looking for. Hope that helps!

  • Michael

    We are coming to CA for the first time as tourist at the end of September. We are wanting to fly into San Fran, stay a few days, then head north on Highway 1. We’re planning on 10 days, not counting flying days, of sightseeing. Would you recommend flying home to OKC from Portland or coming back to San Fran?

    • Thanks for the comment, that sounds like an epic trip! I would probably recommend flying home from Portland as that allows you to take your time up the coast and not have to rush back!

  • nemi

    Hi Josh! Just found your blog and love it! We are planning a trip to California next year. It will be our very first trip to the west coast. It will be my husband and our two teenage sons (17,14). We are wanting to do San Francisco but not sure how many days to spend there? The plan is to fly out on 6/30 or 7/1 and fly back on 7/9. We know for sure we want to spend the 4th of July in San Francisco, and would like to go up north on to Yosemite, Muir Wood, The boys have mentioned going to where we can drive the car through a tree? (Have not looked into that yet) Would you recommend heading North as soon as we get there on 6/30 or 7/1 and then just make our way to the city for the 4th? or start in the city and then go north on the 5th? We will only be using a car for the north part as we have read online we don’t need a car for the city. Would doing a multi city be better? Ugh so confused and because we have never been don’t even know where to start :-/. Any advice would be appreciated!

    • Thanks for the comment! I think both ways are great, but since you want to spend the 4th in the city then it may be best to get out of the city first then come back for the 4th and spending a few days there after. There is a lot to see in Cali so you will need to plan what you care about the most in order to make the most of your time there. Also, the drive thru tree is in Legget, which is North of San Francisco as well. Let me know if you have more questions!

  • Liz Amelia

    GREAT BLOG!

    • Thanks, I appreciate it!

  • Gwen Nguyen Mcalister

    Hi Josh, I have been to California at least a dozen times, but my teenager boys (age 18 and 20) have not been back since they were babies. We are flying to LAX, driving to Orange County to visit relatives and do a little sight seeing, then driving up north to Carmel via PCH 1. We are planning to leave on Sunday mid morning, stop by Malibu, Santa Barbara, Cambria, Big Sur, and arrive at Carmel on Monday. I wonder where along the way should we spend the night to break up the long drive/trip and is 2 days adequate to appreciate this scenic drive. We will be in California for 12 days (4 days in Orange County, 2 days to drive, 2 days in Carmel, sight see in Sausalito, 2 days in SF visiting relatives, and 2 days in Redwood National Park). Is this too ambitious an itinerary? Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

    • Thanks for the comment! Obviously, the more time you have the better as you will be less rushed since California is so big. With the 2 days you are thinking of making the drive I would probably try to get to San Luis Obispo / Morro Bay area the first night (about 3.5 hours from LA). That way you can spend a decent amount of time in Big Sur the next day without having to rush through it. Let me know if you have any other questions!

  • Deanna Clawson Kriesman

    I bought your ebook but it will not download. So frustrating.

  • marisa

    Hello, so i am moving to LA from Portland and Im trying to turn my drive down into a fun little road trip. We will be camping the whole way and probably just staying at first come first serve sites. If there were 3 must see things for you on that trip what they be? Ive lived in SF so I’ve done that already. I was thinking camping in Yosemite one night but thats as far as Ive gotten. And I only have 4 days sadly. Any tips would be great. Thanks, Marisa

    • I would spend some time in Yosemite for sure as it is amazing! Other than that it is hard to beat the other national parks. You can try Lassen, Sequoia, Kings, Canyon, etc as those all have a wealth of places to explore.

  • Mike McKinsey

    Glad I found this. We are looking at coming out next year. We want to probably fly into San Francisco and go North and South on the PCH. We will have about 8 days. We have been told to avoid fire season, but have also been told early in the year it can be very foggy. Looking for some advice on when is the best time to come. Oh, we also want to do the PCH in a convertible.
    Thanks!

    • Awesome! This year has been pretty bad for fires, but normally I recommend the spring or fall. It can be foggy but sometimes even the fog provides great photos. The summer is the most busy so you have great weather then but there is also a lot more people. Hope that helps!

      • Mike McKinsey

        Thank you so much. We are probably going to look at the last part of April. Do you think the weather will be warm enough for a convertible?

        • It is hard to tell as that is a little early in the season so it could still be a little cooler. Can always put it up if it is cold in the mornings though!

  • Stephen Gilbert

    Hi Josh, brilliant website! We are doing pacific coast highway in September from San Fran through to Vegas. We are only in LA for 2 days though. We wanted to see Universal Studios but given we are only there for 2 days and have never been to LA before what would you suggest we do given that Universal will be a full day. PS: we have no kids and are both 40 so not sure universal is for us anyway but are interested in the studios more so than the theme park. Any advice would be appreciated as we are indifferent either way!
    Thanks!

    • It is hard to provide recommendations cause LA is so big and it really depends on what you care about. There are a bunch of great museums like LACMA and The Broad, all od the history on Hollywood Blvd and of course the Griffith Observatory. Check out this post I wrote on some of my favorite LA spots which should provide some ideas. http://californiathroughmylens.com/los-angeles-guide

  • Lorraine

    Hi Josh, great information regarding PCH road trip which I’m currently planning. I’m on a fixed income would you be able to ballpark the cost of this 6-7 day road trip? I would be sleeping in hotels.

    • Unfortunately it would be really hard to do this as it depends on where you stay, time of year, whether you eat out or fast food, etc. I tend to assume that hotels on the cheap end will still be over $100 so if you add that with gas and food it can get pretty pricey. Camping is the best option for trying to cut down on costs, as is avoiding staying in the tourist cities like San Fran, Santa Barbara, etc. Hope that helps!

  • Nice work on the video, looks like you had a blast!

  • Amy

    May I post my itinerary and ask whether you think it is doable in the time frame that I have? Thank you!

    • Thanks for the comment, if you want to email me that would probably be the best. Josh (@) CaliforniaThroughMyLens.com

  • Jody

    Hi Josh!
    I don’t think my first comment went through for some reason. Anyway, I’ve been searching PCH and found this page! SO much information and so informative, thanks so much! I love that you actually answer the questions asked. I love all the readers comments, everything has been so helpful. I was hoping you or the readers could tell me the best way to do this road trip coming from SLC. I only have about 4-5 days. I’ll be leaving Tuesday and need to be back late Sunday for work on Monday. II’m doing this for my BD next week. I’ve really enjoyed reading all the comments and searching through all of your articles. Thanks again!
    Jody

    • Thanks for the comment and glad you liked the post! Where are you flying in and out of?

      • Jody

        I’m back! 😉 It was amazing! Thank you so much for all of your info. I missed some places I wanted to visit but there’s now way to see it all! It was a long drive back though :/

        • Thanks for the comment! So glad you had fun and yes I agree it is never fun to drive back after an awesome road trip!

          • Jody

            Ya it was hard driving away from the ocean. My plan was to just make a short post. It’s impossible!

    • M b

      I have about 5 days too in November. How was your trip and how did you manage your time?

      Thank you for sharing!
      Mike

      • Jody

        Hey M b,
        My trip was amazing! Are you driving or flying? If you’re flying you will obviously have a lot more time. I just found points of interest for the area I was in. Day 1- I drove to San Fran from SLC. (About a 10 hour drive) Before I got into SF I pulled over for the night. Since I had been to SF before I just started the drive from there. I stopped at a couple of beaches for pics, stopped in Pescardaro at the light house, They have a hostel there too if you need a place to stay. (I pulled over for the night). I was doing this on the cheap. Saved a ton by using rest stops or the side of the road. Lots of people have the same idea too.
        Day 2- Santa Cruz/Manresa State beach. I would have stayed there if I had more time. They had an amazing beach and walking trails, even a KOA. It seemed like it was out in the middle of nowhere. Later on that day I stopped at Moss Landing and Cannary Row in Monterey. Moss landing was a great place! Monterey also has Pacific Grove. It’s a great walkway with awesome views of the ocean. That night I stopped in Carmel for a little bit. The beach there is awesome! I’d been there before but it was cold with costal fog. I drove to Seaside and spent the night in a motel about 6 mi from Carmel.
        Day 3- I went back to Monterey to Pacific Grove. I missed it the day before. SInce the beach was cold in Carmel, I did the 17 mi drive. Glad I did. Lots of pics here too. I think it’s about $20.00 to get in. After that I kept going and drove through Big Sur. You have to stop at Nepenthe restaurant. It’s at the top of the hill and overlooks trees and the ocean. Even if it’s just or a drink, sit outside for the view. I continued my drive through Big Sur but missed the last 1-1/2 hours of it! I got great sunset pics though. Make sure you plan for that drive, it takes a long time especially if you are pulling over a lot.
        Day 4-I pulled over just outside of San Simeon for the night. I woke up to crashing waves I didn’t even know were there, it was amazing… then I went to the Hurst Castle, about $20.00 to get in. They don’t start tours until about 9 so that took up a lot of the day. Really interesting though. and pretty! I stopped for pics at beaches and went to Moonstone Bay and Morrow Bay. I suggest stopping at these beaches. I stopped at St Luis Obispo (Not sure if I spelled that right) I was told to go here. I didn’t stay long, I looked at the mission they have there and bubble gum alley. :/ (Just what it says, bubble gum in an alley, weird) later on I stopped in Solvang. It’s a cute little Danish town by Santa Barbara. It was dark when I left there. There was a cool parking spot right by Ventura bay. Tons of cars, trucks, RV’s were stopped there. I would stay there and wake up to the beach. I was out of gas by that time and just pulled over at a rest area.
        Day 5- Drive home. — sorry this is so long but it was all so great, I had to share it all. I really liked Santa Cruz/Manresa State Beach, Monterey, and Morrow Bay. I hope this helps.

        • Thanks for such an awesome comment. I enjoyed reading about your adventure and it brought back a lot of great memories for me as well!

          • Jody

            THank YOU Josh. I got a lot of places to stop from this blog. Missed out on a lot but I’m happpy with what I was able to see in the amount of time I had.

          • That’s ok, more reason to come back 🙂

  • Rebecca Furgason

    Hi Josh. Thanks for your blog. My husband and I are recreating our honeymoon 35 years later. The first honeymoon was cut short when we totaled our car in Thousand Oaks, CA and had to fly back home to Seattle. We still love to drive and love road trips. We are using your blog as a guide to see all the spots we missed 35 years ago.

    • Thanks for the comment and I am so glad the blog was helpful for such a fun adventure! Let me know what your favorite spot is!

  • Sheryll Williams

    Hi Josh! LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog. We used it as a guide for our trip along the Northern CA Coast line – we drove from Cresent City to just north of San Francisco. We took four days to leisurely drive down the coast. We traveled with our dog, so we had to be mindful of where we could go with her. Tree of Mystery was VERY welcoming to our dog, Sydney. She road the Sky Trail and walked around in their store. They also gave us a military discount. It was fun seeing the largest single piece totem pole in McKinleyville! The Fisherman Statue in Eureka was bigger than we had expected. Wish we could have seen it at night, too. Loved all the big beautiful homes there. We decided to drive through the redwood tree in Myers Flat instead of Leggett – Leggett appears to be a bit smaller – Myers Flat is considered to be a “natural” opening. Loleta Cheese is diffidently worth the short drive off of 101. Beautiful country-side! We stayed in the Surf Motel in Ft. Bragg – not fancy, but friendly staff, clean room, beautiful gardens – with our dog. Ate at Cucina Verona – enjoyed butternut squash lasagna and grass fed burger – relaxing atmosphere, great staff, felt good to have a nice sit-down dinner. It appeared to us that Ft. Bragg shops close at 6pm (maybe only during the winter months??). While eating an early dinner, we watched lots of people walking around the town. Point Arena is a must stop!! I think some people were stopping at the very first booth, thinking that they needed to pay there, but drive on through to the lighthouse. We took the tour and worth the money. Tallest climb-able light house on the west coast – friendly staff – great walking path along the coast line. Ate at the Palm Grill, best fish tacos that we’ve ever eaten! Located where you turn to drive towards the light house. I did not realize how curvy Hwy 1 was going to be! Huge cliffs, no guard rails, but stunning views! Take it slow, pull off on the overlooks, take your time! Be amazed at God’s creation! Thank you for taking your time in writing this very helpful travel blog. May you continue having safe travels!

    • Thanks for such a great comment Sheryll! I loved reading about your trip and living vicariously through the comment! I am so glad the blog was helpful and I hope it inspires more adventures for you in the future!

  • I can not comment about other places but yeah I have visited Monterey. Cannery Row has many good hotels for food and also for accommodation. If you have time you can also visit many other good places in Monterey like Monterey Bay Aquarium, Museums, Art Gallerias etc.

    • Thanks for the comment, I agree that Cannery Row is a great place to stop!

  • Brittany

    Hey Josh,
    I am planning a trip for July with my husband and will be year and a half old daughter. There’s so much I want to see but is there anything that might be to much for her? I don’t want to hike 4 miles carrying her. But I also want to see as much as we can in the two weeks we will be on the trip.

    • Thanks for the comment. I would say that it depends on how much hiking / activity you have done with her. Most of the recommendations in this guide are “get out and see” type things that don’t require too much walking but I am happy to provide more information if there are specific activities you are looking at and you would like to know how difficult they are.

  • shawn abbott

    hi josh, loved reading your adventures along the CA coast. I am coming in May, likely LAX, to see my son swim OW Nationals at Lake Castaic, but wanted to spend a few days at beach before event 5/19-21. Can rent a VRBO small place right by Malibu Beach Inn/Pier, or stay in Oxnard at Embassy suites Mandalay. Can’t do a lot of stairs/steep hikes, but would love to know best scenic drives, and/or wildflower areas that time of year. Seafood recommendations? So trying to decide if being right by pier in Malibu will be more/less crowded than huge beach/sprawling busy resort in Oxnard. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Thanks for the comment, Malibu / Santa Monica area is usually one of the most busy as it is a very popular spot for people living in LA. Oxnard and Ventura are generally less busy then Malibu. The drive from Santa Monica to Oxnard is a great one as you are along the beach a good amount of the time and you will be able to see a lot of beautiful views. There are a couple seafood spots along that drive, my favorite is probably Neptunes Net but you can hardly go wrong. Hope that helps!

  • Jacqui Whitmore

    Hi, brilliant web page & blog Josh, I’ve picked up lots of tips – thank you! We have today booked flights end og July to San Francisco from the UK, traveling down to San Diego, then flying back to the UK from LAX. We have 13 nights to travel the PCH; we thought spending 3 nights in SF, 3 nights in San Diego, 3 nights in LA. Where do you suggest between SF & SD? thanks Jacqui

    • I would recommend spending some time on or near the Big Sur Coast. That is the most beautiful part of the drive for me so you don’t want to rush it. Also, the town of Santa Barbara is a very popular one right on the beach with shopping, food and adventures, so you may choose to spend a night there as well. Hope that helps!

  • Tim Wright

    My family has a trip planned to California in two weeks, and part of our trip was a drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles. We had planned a couple of days to make the trip with brief sightseeing stops along the way, however, with the weather issues, mudslides, and a downed bridge, I’m a bit uncertain as to what we can do and the easiest way to make the best of things. As best as I can tell, Hwy 1 is closed from Big Sur State Park to Ragged point. Would we do well to drive through Monterey, go south as far as we can, and then turn around and come back up the highway over to 101, go south, and then come back up towards Ragged point? Is this too much to try to handle in two days? I had everything semi-mapped out before these issues arose, but now I’m not quite sure how to handle things. Any advice?

    • I would say this is probably a lot to handle in two days for not a lot of payoff. Maybe try to pick either the North or the South and then stop at a few other places like Point Lobos (if it is open) near Carmel or even Pinnacles National Park (if you want to check out a small cave) which is off Highway 101. You could also consider visiting Hearst Castle if you are into things like that, or checking out the rock at Morro Bay.

      • Tim Wright

        So would driving to 1 to Carmel and then going over to the 101 south and then going back to 1 at hwy 46 be worthwhile? I hate that we’re not getting to see the best part of the drive on 1 through Big Sur, but I was hoping to catch as much as possible. Hearst Castle is definitely a possibility. I had several things mapped out, but I’m afraid they may all be in the section that is closed. Hearst Castle might be the first thing we could do after the road closing which takes out everything from Bixby Bridge to Piedras Blancas.

        • The road to Bixby Bridge from Monterey is open I believe, but not much past that. If you do that though stop by Point Lobos as it gives you some of those beautiful coastal views. Ya the towns along the 46 /1 like Cambria and Morro Bay are pretty places to see as well.

  • Mike McKinsey

    We are looking at coming in mid October and traveling South on the highway from San Francisco to San Diego over several days. This time of year, do you think we would be okay not having hotel reservations each night. We would like to take our time and feel our way around and stay longer if we want to if we find a town that we really like. What do you think? Would be be able to find nice lodging without making reservations before hand?

    • I would consider booking the San Diego and San Francisco hotel as those can fill up any be busy, but generally you are ok to book hotels along the way if it is not holiday weekends or anything

  • VT

    Hello,
    I am planning a 5 day trip on this drive in mid August. Will I be able to complete all 600 + miles? How is the road condition?

    • Big Sur will most likely not be open, there was just another landslide recently that is going to make the clean up a lot longer. If you go around Big Sur you could always consider going to Pinnalces National Park as well. http://californiathroughmylens.com/pinnacles-national-park-guide

      • Sue

        I’m heading that way next week and just spoke to both of the hotels I booked and the woman in Monterey said we could still go south into Big Sur to see some of it. She said the route is open even crossing Bixby creek bridge. My trip has been doomed. I wish I knew all of this was going to happen. Tioga Pass isn’t going to be open either and I’ve already altered my plans once because of that. Is it true that some of Big Sur can still be visited if travelling south from Monterey?

  • Jean

    I am headed to San Francisco in October and staying in sana rosa for a week. What are the must sees? We want to do some wineries but also want to see the coast and some of the beautiful country side/parks that California has to offer.
    Thanks,
    Excited tourist!

  • Leukemia survivor family trip!

    I’m planning on taking my family from Central Oregon coast down to LA area later this summer. This is a trip I’ve always wanted to do and now that life has been dangled in front of me it’s time to take the trip! I only have a week. We plan on taking the interstate back so that will be fast and want a couple days to visit family in LA. What do you suggest we hit for sure on this road trip?

    • Thanks for the comment! If you are planning on driving down the coast and back in one week that might be a little tough. I would recommend seeing Avenue of the Giants though if you go that far North, also spending some time in San Fran is great and even though Big Sur is closed you can still see Bixby Bridge which is fun. Hard to make too many suggestions though with that time period. Do let me know if you have any questions on any of the stops though as I am happy to help!

  • Yiset Rubio

    Hi Josh!
    My parents, my 8 yr old kids, my husband and I are traveling to CA at the end of July. Our trip begins in LA and we will fly out of SF 8 days later. We we’re planning on traveling all the way up the PCH but due to the closures that won’t be possible. What are the recommended spots that we should stay overnight at? Already booked first night in LA and last night in SF. Would like places that would appeal to kids and 60 yr olds as well. Mist haves on this trip are…seeing a waterfall, redwoods and going to a winery with nice views.

    Any info would be greatly appreciated!
    BTW…great blog

    • Thanks for the comment, check out this post for some of my recommended hotels along the way. If you want to see the redwoods I would recommend Muir Woods (http://californiathroughmylens.com/muir-woods-bohemian-grove-trail) which is north of San Fran and has some big trees. Also, there are some great wineries in the Paso Robles area (http://californiathroughmylens.com/unique-wineries-paso-robles) that you can explore. Its a great approachable wine area in CA. For the waterfall, there are not a ton on the drive since Big Sur is closed unfortunately so that one might be a little tough without doing some hiking. Hope that helps and let me know if you have any other quesitons.