Ultimate Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip 2023 [+Must-See Stops]

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The Pacific Coast Highway, also called Highway 1, is one of the most scenic drives in the world and it’s located right here in California. This iconic route stretches over 600 miles along the Pacific Coast, offering stunning views of the ocean, mountains, and forests.

Whether you live on the West Coast or are a first-time visitor, a Highway 1 road trip is an unforgettable experience that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. I promise it will be one of the most memorable trips you ever take.

» Enjoy your road trip with these 46 Best California Road Trip Songs.

Bixby Bridge on the Pacific Coast Highway at sunset
Pacific coast highway road trip

To make the most of your Pacific Coast Highway road trip, careful planning is essential. You’ll need to decide on your route, budget, and travel dates, as well as book accommodations and rental cars in advance. Pre-planning is the key to a fantastic trip, trust me.

With the right preparation and some insider tips (we’ve got all you need to know right here), you can enjoy a stress-free road trip along this breathtaking coastline.

In our ultimate guide to the Pacific Coast Highway, we’ll cover everything you need to know to plan your journey, from the best stops and attractions to travel tips and insider secrets. It’s a long read, so be prepared.

Travel Planning Guide

🚙💨 Where should I book my rental car?

Renting a car is one of the best ways to get around in California, no matter where you’re visiting. Public transportation can only get your so far, even in big cities. I always rent with Discover Cars, which checks the prices of all major rental car companies, so you get the best rates.

🛌 What’s the best way to book my accommodations?

For hotels and vacation rentals, Booking.com or Expedia.com are the best sites, but you can also book through TripAdvisor. If you’re considering renting a house instead, don’t forget to also check VRBO, which is often cheaper than Airbnb.

🧳 What do I pack for California?

Head to the our California Packing List or Disneyland Packing List to get all the info on packing.

✈️ What’s the best site to buy flights to California?

For finding cheap California flights from around the world, I recommend Skyscanner. I’ve also had pretty good luck with Kayak.com.

Best Time For a Highway 1 Road Trip

pacific coast highway
Pacific Coast Highway South of Carmel (Photo by GTC)

Planning the perfect road trip along Highway 1 can be a daunting task, but choosing the right time to go can make all the difference. Here are some factors to consider when deciding on the best time to take your road trip.


California is known for its mild climate, but the weather along Highway 1 can be unpredictable. The best time to take the road trip is during the summer months from June to August, when the days are long, and the weather is warm and dry. However, be prepared for crowds and higher prices during this peak season.

If you prefer cooler weather, consider traveling in the spring or fall when the crowds are smaller, and the weather is still pleasant. Keep in mind that the weather can be foggy and chilly in the mornings and evenings, especially because this whole route hugs the coast.


This is a very popular road trip, and the towns you pass through are also very popular destinations for locals, so the crowds can be overwhelming during peak season. It’s worse in the summer, obviously.

In the spring or fall the crowds are smaller. You’ll have more space to enjoy the scenic views and attractions along the way. I sort of prefer the shoulder season because it’s so peaceful (and less expensive), but you don’t get as much wonderful sun and seasonal produce, so summer do have it’s benefits.

Pacific Coast Highway with the Santa Monica Mts

Events and Festivals

California is home to many events and festivals throughout the year, and some of them take place along Highway 1. If you’re interested in attending any of these events, plan your road trip accordingly. For example, the Monterey Jazz Festival takes place in September, and the Big Sur International Marathon takes place in April.

In early November is the Big Sur Food & Wine Festival. In June is the Gilroy Garlic Festival. There are always things going on, so be sure to do some Googling to find things you might like.

Road Conditions

Highway 1 can be affected by road closures and construction, especially during the winter months. Before you start your road trip, check the road conditions and weather forecast to ensure a smooth journey, especially around Big Sur, which is often the most affected.

If the stretch of Highway 1 between Cambria and Monterey is closed, you will miss one of the best parts of the trip and have to drive inland along 101 instead. It’s not a deal breaker, but pretty darn close, as far as I’m concerned. If you find that this stretch is closed when you want to go, I highly encourage you to reconsider.

Starting Your Journey in San Francisco

Lombard Street in San Francisco
Lombard Street in San Francisco

San Francisco is a bustling city with a unique charm that makes it a must-see destination for any traveler. I always recommend starting your journey in San Francisco, because it’s a fun place to start and it’s also an easy place to start.

It’s easy to fly into San Francisco from almost anywhere in the world. You can easily rent a car there, take a few days in the city to explore and get acclimated (especially if you’ve flown a long way to get there). Before embarking on your road trip, take some time to explore the city and all it has to offer.

Here’s our full guide to San Francisco. We have tons of info on this city, including what to do in 2 days, 50 fun things to do, great bakeries to hit up, and more.

Must-See Views of San Francisco

San Francisco is famous for its stunning views, and no visit is complete without checking out some of them. Here are the ones we recommend:

  • Golden Gate Bridge: No trip to San Francisco is complete without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge. Take a walk or bike ride across the bridge for breathtaking views of the city and the bay.
  • Alcatraz Island: Take a ferry to Alcatraz Island for a unique perspective of the city and a glimpse into its history.
  • Twin Peaks: For panoramic views of the city, head to Twin Peaks. On a clear day, you can see as far as the East Bay and Marin County.
San Francisco Bay

Where to Stay in San Francisco

San Francisco has a variety of accommodations to suit any budget or preference. Here are a few options to consider:

Hotel NameLocationPrice Range
Argonaut Hotel (see on Trip Advisor)Fisherman’s Wharf$350
Staypineapple (see on Trip Advisor)Union Square$170
Hotel Emblem (see on Trip Advisor)Downtown$180

Where to Eat and Drink in San Francisco

San Francisco is a foodie’s paradise, with a diverse range of cuisines and dining experiences to choose from. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Fisherman’s Wharf: For seafood lovers, Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-visit. Try clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl or fresh Dungeness crab. Our favorites are Boudin Bakery, Cioppino, and Fog Harbor Fish House.
  • Chinatown: San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest in North America and offers a variety of authentic Chinese cuisine. Our favorites are Capital Restaurant and China Live.
  • Napa Valley: If you have time, take a day trip to Napa Valley for a wine tasting experience. The region is known for its world-class wines and picturesque vineyards. You have to eat in Yountville where Thomas Keller has his French Laundry. We like the less expensive Bouchon Bistro. I also love Bottega.

With so much to see and do in San Francisco, it’s easy to see why it’s a popular starting point for a Highway 1 road trip.

Exploring Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea

Monterey Fisherman's wharf
Fisherman’s Wharf

On this road trip, you won’t want to miss the charming towns of Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Here are some must-see attractions and recommendations for your visit. Read our full guide for more things to do in Monterey County.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

One of the top draws in Monterey is the Monterey Bay Aquarium. This world-renowned aquarium is dedicated to research and conservation to preserve wildlife in the waters offshore.

You can easily spend a few hours marveling at the marine life on display, including sea otters, jellyfish, and even sharks. Be sure to check out the Open Sea exhibit, which features a 90-foot-long window that gives you a stunning view of the ocean.

Cannery Row

Cannery Row in Monterey
Cannery Row (Photo by GTC)

This historic street (where you’ll find the aquarium), once home to a bustling sardine canning industry, has been transformed into a vibrant and lively area filled with shops, restaurants, and entertainment. Visitors can stroll along the waterfront and take in the stunning views of Monterey Bay, or explore the many boutiques and galleries that line the street.

Visit the Beaches

Lover's Point Beach
Lover’s Point Beach (Photo by GTC)

Monterey is known for its stunning coastline and beautiful beaches. Here are some of the best beaches in the area that you should visit:

  1. Asilomar State Beach – This beach is known for its scenic beauty and is popular for surfing, kayaking, and beachcombing.
  2. Carmel Beach – With its white sand and turquoise waters, Carmel Beach is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. It’s a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
  3. Lover’s Point Beach – Located in Pacific Grove, Lover’s Point Beach offers stunning views of the Monterey Bay and is a popular spot for swimming, kayaking, and scuba diving.
  4. Del Monte Beach – This long, wide beach is perfect for a leisurely stroll or a game of beach volleyball. It’s also a popular spot for windsurfing and kiteboarding.

Scenic 17-Mile Drive from Monterey to Carmel-by-the-Sea

The 17-Mile Drive from Monterey to Carmel-by-the-Sea is a scenic one that takes you along the coastline. Along the way, you’ll pass by stunning beaches, rocky cliffs, and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Stop at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve for some hiking and wildlife spotting.

Carmel-by-the-Sea Wine Tasting

There are some really great wineries in Carmel-by-the-Sea and thus great places to go wine tasting. We like to park the car and just walk around the cute little town, stopping in at any tasting room that sparks our interest. Wrath Wines specializes in small-lot Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and offers a cozy tasting room with outdoor seating. Caraccioli Cellars is known for its sparkling wines, which are made in the traditional method, as well as its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Scheid Winery
Scheid Winery (Photo by GTC)

Where to Stay in Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea

There are plenty of options for accommodations in both Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea. We prefer to stay in Monterey because we like staying at the Intercontinental The Clement on Cannery Row. You might also like can stay at the Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, which offers stunning ocean views and easy access to the aquarium.

In Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Cypress Inn is a charming boutique hotel that’s pet-friendly and centrally located. We also like Carmel Mission Inn. No matter where you stay, it will be a locally-owned boutique hotel, and also quite expensive.

Carmel beach
Carmel Beach

Where to Eat and Drink in Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea

When it comes to food and wine, Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea have plenty of options. In Monterey, head to Fisherman’s Wharf for fresh seafood and ocean views. Go to Crabby Jim’s for clam chowder or Abalonetti Bar & Grill for a sit down meal. It was one of the first restaurants in the area. I also like Domenico’s of the wharf.

In Carmel-by-the-Sea, visit the famous Hog’s Breath Inn, which was once owned by Clint Eastwood. You can’t skip the freshest of fresh oysters from A.W. Shucks, and Portabella is a cute Italian spot while you’re wine tasting downtown.

Discovering Big Sur

Bixby Bridge
Bixby Bridge (Photo by GTC)

For me, Big Sur is the absolutely highlight of the whole road trip. This stunning stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway is known for its rugged cliffs, turquoise waters, and towering redwoods. Your camera will get a work out in this area. It’s pure heaven.

Bixby Bridge

One of the most iconic landmarks in Big Sur is the Bixby Bridge. This stunning bridge spans across a deep canyon and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Whether you’re driving over it or stopping to take photos, Bixby Bridge is a must-see spot in Big Sur.

Pfeiffer Beach

Another must-visit spot in Big Sur is Pfeiffer Beach. This secluded beach is known for its purple sand, towering rock formations, and stunning sunsets. While it can be a bit tricky to find, Pfeiffer Beach is well worth the effort.

Pfeiffer beach

Big Sur Bakery

If you’re looking for a delicious meal or a sweet treat, be sure to stop by Big Sur Bakery. This charming bakery serves up fresh bread, pastries, and wood-fired pizzas. It’s the perfect spot to grab a bite to eat before continuing your Highway 1 road trip.

Where to Stay in Big Sur

Big Sur Lodge
Big Sur Lodge (Photo by GTC)

If you’re looking for accommodations in Big Sur, you’ll find a variety of options. From cozy cabins, like Post Ranch Inn and Big Sur Lodge, to luxury resorts like the stunning Ventana Big Sur. There are also some campgrounds in the area, but it’s unlikely you’ll be doing any camping on a long road trip.

Where to Eat and Drink in Big Sur

In addition to the Big Sur Bakery, there are plenty of other great restaurants and bars to check out in Big Sur. Some popular options include the Nepenthe Restaurant which is perched up on a cliffside, the Sur House in the Ventana resort, and the Big Sur Roadhouse.

San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach
Pismo beach sign (Photo by GTC)

San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach should definitely be on your road trip itinerary. These two destinations offer a range of attractions and activities (see more on San Luis Obispo and more on Pismo Beach), from exploring the quirky Madonna Inn to watching elephant seals bask in the sun at Piedras Blancas.

Madonna Inn

The Madonna Inn is a must-visit attraction in San Luis Obispo. This iconic hotel is known for its unique decor, with each of the 110 rooms featuring a different theme. From the rock waterfall showers in the “Caveman Room” to the pink floral wallpaper in the “Love Nest,” the Madonna Inn is a feast for the eyes. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, it’s worth stopping by to explore and snap some photos.

Pismo Beach

Pismo Beach is a charming coastal town that offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. You can stroll along the pier, go surfing, or rent an ATV to explore the sand dunes. If you’re visiting during the winter months, be sure to check out the monarch butterfly grove, where thousands of butterflies gather to hibernate.

Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas

A short drive north of San Luis Obispo is the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. Here you can observe these massive creatures as they lounge on the beach and bellow at each other. The best time to visit is during the winter months, when the elephant seals come ashore to breed and give birth.

Elephant seals on the beach

Where to Stay in San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach

In San Luis Obispo, the Madonna Inn is a popular choice for its unique decor and central location. We also stay at the Apple Farm quite often.

In Pismo Beach, the Inn at the Pier is our first choice because it’s right in town and walking distance to a lot of restaurants. The SeaCrest Oceanfront Hotel is also great with stunning views and easy access to the beach, but it’s further outside of town.

Where to Eat and Drink in San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach

Tri Tip Sandwich
Firestone Grill Tri Tip Sandwich (Photo by GTC)

Both San Luis Obispo and Pismo Beach offer a range of dining options to suit all tastes. In San Luis Obispo, try the wood-fired pizzas at Blast 825 Brewery or the farm-to-table cuisine at the creekside at Novo Restaurant & Lounge. And best for last, get a tri tip sandwich at Firestone Grill. It’s the best tri tip sandwich you’ll ever have.

In Pismo Beach, you have to go to Splash Cafe for clam chowder, even if there’s a really long line (it moves fast). I’ve had a million clam chowders in my life and this one blows me away every time. You can also grab a cocktail at sunset at The Rooftop (in the Inn at the Pier), then go to dinner with a view at Oyster Loft.


Lompoc wine ghetto
Lompoc wine ghetto (photo by GTC)

After leaving Pismo Beach, you’ll drive south along Highway 1 into Lompoc. There is a great area with wineries to visit, called the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. If you fancy a stop at some tasting rooms, give yourself a few hours to explore this area.

The Wine Ghetto has several boutique tasting rooms to choose from. Most are open Friday to Sunday, but some are also open Thursdays and Mondays.

Santa Barbara and Ventura

Santa Barbara, California
Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara and Ventura are the next two notable destinations along the route. I’d recommend staying more time in Santa Barbara. There are tons of great restaurants, things to do, and wineries to visit.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a charming city that boasts stunning Spanish-style architecture and picturesque beaches. It’s the perfect place to relax and soak up the California sun. If you like, try one of these food tours or wine tours. Here’s our suggested one-day itinerary.

Some of the top attractions in Santa Barbara include:

  • Stearns Wharf: This historic pier is a must-visit spot in Santa Barbara. It offers stunning views of the ocean and the city, as well as plenty of shops and restaurants to explore.
  • Old Mission Santa Barbara: Often referred to as the ‘Queen of the Missions,’ it was founded by Padre Fermín Lasuén in 1786, as the tenth of what would later become 21 missions in California.
  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden: This 78-acre garden is a paradise for nature lovers. It features over 1,000 species of plants, as well as hiking trails and stunning views of the Santa Ynez Mountains.


Ventura Beach
Ventura Pier

Ventura is a laid-back coastal city that’s perfect for surfers and beach lovers. It’s home to some of the best beaches in California, as well as a really nice pedestrian-only Main Street with lots of great restaurants, cocktail bars, and breweries.

Here are some of the top attractions in Ventura:

  • Ventura Pier: The Ventura Pier is a must-visit spot in the city. It’s one of the longest wooden piers in California and has great views, plus it’s surrounded by a gorgeous beach. It’s the perfect place to take a stroll, watch the sunset, go fishing, eat tacos (Beach House Tacos) or grab a beer (MadeWest Brewing).
  • Channel Islands National Park: If you’re looking for a unique outdoor adventure, head to the Channel Islands National Park. It’s home to five stunning islands that offer hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing opportunities.
  • Ventura Harbor Village: This waterfront village is full of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon or evening.

Where to Stay in Santa Barbara and Ventura

There are plenty of accommodation options in Santa Barbara and Ventura, ranging from budget-friendly motels to luxury resorts. Here are some of the best places to stay in each city:

Where to Eat and Drink in Santa Barbara and Ventura

Lure Fish House
Lure Fish House (photo by Go Travel California)

Both Santa Barbara and Ventura are home to some of the best restaurants and bars in California. Here are some of the top places to eat and drink in each city:

Exploring Los Angeles

Los Angeles skyline

With its iconic beaches, trendy neighborhoods, and world-class dining scene, Los Angeles will likely be a longer stop on your road trip, especially because it’s surrounded by other great places, like Santa Monica and Malibu.

In Los Angeles, we like to do some day hikes, see all the sights, check out some of the free museums, and pop over to Disneyland, if time allows. Check out our 2-day Los Angeles itinerary to get started.


After Ventura, before you head inland toward Los Angeles, you’ll come into Malibu, a picturesque coastal city known for its beaches and celebrity homes. This is one of the most gorgeous stretches of the Pacific Coast Highway. Stop at Zuma Beach, Point Dume, or Malibu Lagoon State Beach. If you’re a wine lover, visit one of the many wineries in the area, such as Malibu Wines or Rosenthal Wine Bar & Patio.

Santa Monica

After Malibu, before you head inland toward Los Angeles, there’s Santa Monica, a beachfront city known for its iconic pier and boardwalk. Take a stroll on the pier, ride the Ferris wheel, and enjoy the beach. If you’re looking for a more active experience, rent bikes and ride along the beach path to Venice Beach.

Santa Monica
Santa Monica Pier

Where to Stay Near Los Angeles

I prefer not to stay in Los Angeles when doing this road trip, because the whole thing is about the highway. You should stay somewhere on the ocean! For me, the best spot in this area is Santa Monica. I like Shore Hotel, which is directly across the street from the pier.

If you really want to stay in Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills Hotel is especially posh, but the Beverly Hilton is also great for much less.

Where to Eat and Drink in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is known for its diverse dining scene. For a classic LA experience, head to In-N-Out Burger or Pink’s Hot Dogs. For a trendy dining experience, check out The Butcher’s Daughter or Gracias Madre, in West Hollywood.

If you’re looking for a rooftop bar with a view, check out Perch or The Rooftop at The Standard. There are also tons of great restaurants around the Crypto.com Arena, like The Original Pantry Cafe, Katsuya, and Fogo de Chão.

South of LA

Dana Point Overlook
Dana Point Overlook (Photo by Go Travel California)

If you want to continue heading south along the route, you’ll come into Long Beach and Huntington Beach next. Then it’s on to Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and Dana Point. This is the official end of the Pacific Coast Highway. At Dana Point, you will have to get on I-5 in order to continue south to San Clemente, Oceanside, and San Diego.

I definitely recommend making it all the way to Dana Point. I love that town and there are so many outdoor-oriented things to do, like hiking along the bluff.

But, just because the road ends doesn’t mean you have to stop there. If you haven’t been to San Diego, I would definitely recommend continuing on.

» You might be interested in the Best Stops on an LA to San Diego Drive.

San Diego

old town san diego
Old Town San Diego (photo by Go Travel California)

At the end of the route is San Diego. This is also a great place to start your road trip, especially if you’re wanting to continue north past San Francisco into Northern California. If you want to start here, just visit everywhere we just mentioned in reverse.

If you started in San Fran, however, this will be your last stop on the route. This vibrant city has a thriving craft beer scene, friendly surf breaks, and 65 miles of trails to hike in the 1,200-acre Balboa Park. There’s also the world-famous San Diego Zoo, if that’s your thing.

San Diego

Make sure you check out the following:

  • Balboa Park: This 1,200-acre park is home to 17 museums, multiple gardens, and the San Diego Zoo.
  • Old Town: This historic district is a great place to learn about San Diego’s past and enjoy some delicious Mexican food.
  • Gaslamp Quarter: This downtown neighborhood is known for its nightlife, restaurants, and Victorian architecture.


Coronado is a beautiful coastal city located just across the bay from downtown San Diego. Known for its stunning beaches, charming downtown area, and historic landmarks, Coronado is also home to the famous Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian-style beachfront resort that has been a popular vacation spot since the late 1800s.

Visitors can also explore the historic downtown area, which is filled with unique shops, galleries, and restaurants. The beaches in Coronado are some of the best in the area, with miles of pristine sand and crystal-clear waters.

La Jolla

Seal and sea lions at Point La Jolla
La Jolla Point (Photo by Go Travel California)

La Jolla is a picturesque coastal town is known for its stunning beaches, sea caves, and wildlife – especially the sea lions and seals that bask on the rocks. Make sure you check out the following:

  • La Jolla Cove: This beach is a popular spot for swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
  • Children’s Pool: This beach is known for its seal colony.
  • La Jolla Playhouse: This Tony Award-winning theater is located on the campus of UC San Diego.

Where to Stay in San Diego

Hotel NameLocationPrice Range
Hotel Indigo (see on Trip Advisor)Downtown San Diego$220
Hotel del CoronadoCoronado Island$500
Hard Rock Hotel (see on Trip Advisor)Gaslamp Quarter$320

Where to Eat and Drink in San Diego

San Diego is known for its diverse food scene, from Mexican street food to gourmet seafood. Some popular spots to check out include:

Northern California

Why isn’t this section at the top, you might be asking. Well, not that many people have all the time in the world for a huge Pacific Coast Highway road trip that spans the entirety of California. Most people will do the route between San Francisco and San Diego, which is about a 10 hour drive, straight through. With traffic, you’re looking at 14-16 hours, and that’s without any stops.

So the reason I added this section to the bottom is just in case you decide you want to tack this on to the start or end of your trip, depending if you go south or north.

Northern California is a place of stunning natural beauty, quaint towns, and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. Here are some of the top places to visit in Northern California:

Sonoma County / Napa

Sonoma Vineyard

Even if you don’t drive all the way north, you’ll probably want to make the 1-hour jaunt north of San Francisco to check out Sonoma and Napa. They are both great wine regions with differing styles of wine. There are tons of wineries to visit in each. Along with these main towns, you’ll also want to see Healdsburg, Geyserville, Guerneville, Calistoga, St Helena, and Yountville.


No trip to Northern California is complete without a visit to the Redwoods. These towering trees are some of the tallest in the world and are truly awe-inspiring. You can explore the Redwoods by foot, bike, or even horseback. Some popular spots to visit include Redwood National and State Parks, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and Avenue of the Giants.

Mendocino and Mendocino County

Mendocino is a charming coastal town with a rich history and plenty of things to see and do. You can stroll through the town’s picturesque streets, visit local art galleries and shops, or take a hike along the Mendocino Headlands. Mendocino County is also home to some beautiful wineries and vineyards, so be sure to stop by for a tasting.

Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg glass beach
Fort Bragg Glass Beach

Fort Bragg is a small town with a big personality. It’s known for its stunning coastline, rugged cliffs, and unique attractions like the Glass Beach, where you can find colorful sea glass. You can also take a ride on the historic Skunk Train or visit the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.

Where to Stay in Northern California

There are plenty of options for accommodations in Northern California, from quaint bed and breakfasts to luxurious resorts. Some popular choices include:

  • The Inn at Newport Ranch: This stunning property offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by redwood forests.
  • Brewery Gulch Inn: This charming inn is located in Mendocino and offers cozy rooms and delicious breakfasts.
  • The Stanford Inn by the Sea: This eco-friendly resort is located in Mendocino and offers a variety of rooms and suites, as well as a vegan restaurant.

Where to Eat and Drink in Northern California

Northern California is known for its fresh, local cuisine and excellent wines. Some top spots to check out include:

  • The Ravens: This vegan restaurant is located at The Stanford Inn by the Sea and offers delicious farm-to-table cuisine.
  • Little River Inn: This historic inn offers a variety of dining options, including a fine dining restaurant and a casual pub.
  • North Coast Brewing Company: This popular brewery in Fort Bragg offers a variety of beers and delicious pub fare.

Overall, Northern California is a must-visit destination for anyone planning a road trip along Highway 1. Whether you’re looking for stunning natural beauty, charming towns, or delicious food and wine, Northern California has something for everyone.

Planning Your Ultimate Highway 1 Road Trip

Pacific Coast Highway

When planning your ultimate road trip, there are a few things to consider to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey.

Gas and Rental Car

Since Highway 1 is a long stretch of road, it’s important to plan for gas and rental car expenses. Gas prices can vary depending on location but one thing you can be sure of is that it will be expensive. In 2023, gas prices hover around $4.50-$6.00 a gallon. You might consider renting a fuel-efficient car to save money on gas.

Travel Tips

To make the most of your Highway 1 road trip, here are some of our top travel tips to keep in mind:

  • Pack light and bring comfortable clothing and shoes for hiking and walking. Some of the big cities are more fancy than others, but remember that this is California where most people wear flip flops and shorts year round. You don’t have to be dressy most of the time, and you’ll likely feel out of place if you are.
  • Bring a camera or smartphone to capture the stunning views along the way. A tri-pod and a selfie stick would be a bad idea, either.
  • Check the weather forecast before leaving and pack accordingly. Layering is the best way to go. It can be very hot in one area and chilly just a few minutes away.
  • Bring snacks and water to stay hydrated and energized. You won’t always want to stop on the longer stretches between cities, so it’s good to have a refillable water bottle and snacks along.
  • Be mindful of wildlife and follow park rules and regulations. Never park off road. Pack out whatever you’ve packed in. Don’t feed the wildlife or trample the wild flowers.

By following these tips, you can plan the ultimate Highway 1 road trip and create unforgettable memories.

Bixby Bridge
Bixby Bridge (Photo by GTC)

Pacific Coast Highway FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions and answers to help you plan your trip.

What is the Pacific Coast Highway?

The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1, is a scenic road that runs along the coast of California, from Dana Point in Orange County to Leggett in Mendocino County. It’s a popular route for road trips, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and access to many attractions and destinations along the way.

How long does it take to drive the Pacific Coast Highway?

The Pacific Coast Highway is approximately 655 miles long, and the driving time can vary depending on your route and stops. If you’re driving straight through without stopping, it could take around 12 hours. However, most people take several days to a week to complete the trip, allowing time for sightseeing and exploring the many attractions along the way.

Can you drive the Pacific Coast Highway in an RV?

Yes, you can drive the Pacific Coast Highway in an RV, but there are some restrictions and challenges to consider. Some parts of the road are narrow and winding, with steep grades and tight turns, which can be difficult for larger vehicles. It’s important to plan your route carefully and be aware of any restrictions or limitations on RV parking and camping along the way.

What are some must-see attractions along the Pacific Coast Highway?

  • There are many must-see attractions along the Pacific Coast Highway, including:
  • Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
  • Hearst Castle in San Simeon
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey
  • Bixby Bridge in Big Sur
  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in Big Sur
  • McWay Falls in Big Sur
  • Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur
  • Elephant Seal Rookery in San Simeon
  • Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in Carmel

What are some tips for driving the Pacific Coast Highway?

  • Here are some tips for driving the Pacific Coast Highway:
  • Plan your route and stops ahead of time
  • Drive during daylight hours for better visibility and safety
  • Take breaks and stretch your legs often
  • Be prepared for narrow, winding roads and steep cliffs
  • Watch for wildlife, such as deer and sea lions, on the road
  • Bring a camera to capture the stunning views
  • Check the weather forecast before you go and be prepared for changes in weather

» Looking for more inspiration along the route? Check out all our guides to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Diego. Find the best beaches in Monterey, waterfalls in Southern California, and national parks.

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Ultimate Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip 2023 [+Must-See Stops]

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