There are few more revered entries on a traveler’s bucket list than road tripping down the Pacific Coast Highway. This of stretch of 659 miles of coastline that extends south along California is the stuff dreams are made of, and driving it for yourself is one of the best travel experiences you can have in the US. Here’s your guide to taking on the PCH in style - and loving every minute of it.
Start In San Francisco
You could easily spend weeks just in San Francisco, but on this adventure, it’s only your beginning. Before you hop in the car to take on the PCH, spend some time soaking in San Francisco’s unmatched ocean views. (The Presidio and the Embarcadero are two great spots for this.) Be sure to explore Chinatown’s fantastic food offerings, and don’t forget to grab tacos in the Haight! Then it’s time to get behind the wheel to officially start your big drive.
Marvel At Big Sur
This iconic stretch of the PCH is known for its striking cliffs, forests, and expansive beach. The steep twists and turns on this section of the drive can be stressful for the more neurotic among us, but you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful beach and a sunset view you’ll never forget. If you’re into hiking, Big Sur is also a great place to lace up your boots. If you want to spend more than just one day in the area, you can also stop by nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey, two of California’s most famous beach towns.
Rejuvenate At Pismo Beach
Another day, another beach that only belongs on a postcard. Pismo State Beach is an ideal place to pull over and put your feet in the sand, take a walk or run on the beach, and - if you take your trip in the winter - see thousands of migrating monarch butterflies. Pismo is well loved by campers, so if you’re interested in sleeping under the stars on your trip, this is a great place to do it.
Let Your Hair Down In Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara is one of the most cherished cities in Southern California, and it’s easy to see why. The vibrant city boasts some of the best food in SoCal, a gorgeous harbor, and a laid back attitude you’ll want to carry with you on the rest of your journey. It’s a great way to unwind after all the miles you’ve logged.
Energize In LA
Your next stop is Los Angeles, whose fast-paced energy is sure to feel like a big shift from the low-key beach towns you’ve been spending your time in. If you only have a day or two in LA, pick a few neighborhoods that stand out to you to hang out. Enjoy the famous pier in Santa Monica, or the hippie vibes and sunset views of Venice. If you’re looking for something a bit more quiet, kick back in Malibu or Manhattan Beach.
Celebrate In San Diego
You made it! As your final stop on your PCH trip, San Diego is the place to toast to another fantastic adventure for the books - but first, the beach. Mission Bay, Ocean Beach, and Pacific Beach are all wonderful waterfront spaces to while away an afternoon. When you’re ready to wander beyond the shores, spend some time wandering the Gaslamp Quarter and Seaport Village. If you’re feeling extra young at heart, head to the San Diego Zoo to get up close and personal with wild critters.