Road Trip Tips: Pacific Coast Highway
The Pacific Coast Highway is highly regarded as one of the most scenic drives in the world. Stretching from the northern border of California all the way down to San Diego, experience hours of stunning coastal views, gorgeous forests, and plenty of fun stops along the way.
1. Redwoods state park
Home to the tallest trees in the world, the Redwoods State Park is a must-see on this road trip. Some amazing places to see include Muir Woods National Monument which is a small park with stunning hikes, Humboldt Redwoods State Park where you can drive along the avenue for views of the giant trees, and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park which simultaneously offers views of the Pacific coast and forest.
2. San Francisco
There’s plenty to do in San Francisco. Take pictures with the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, hit up Fisherman’s Wharf for amazing clam chowder, or head to the infamous Alcatraz Island. Still want more of this quirky city? Take a ride through the streets on a cable car, grab some coffee in Union Square, or walk down the crazy winding road on Lombard Street. Check out these boutique hotels if you plan on staying a few days to see the area.
3. Santa Cruz
Located along the central coast of California, this coastal town is a great place to stop during your road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway. The boardwalk is known as one of the best seaside amusement parks in the country filled with tons of rides including roller coasters, carousels and more. Walk along the wharf to see the sea lions and enjoy fresh seafood at one of the many restaurants in the area. Looking for hotels in the area? IVH has you covered.
Monterey is yet another gorgeous coastal town you need to add to your list of stops on this road trip. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is coined as one of the best aquariums in the U.S. and is something you won’t want to miss while you’re here. It’s home to tons of beautiful animals including sea otters, penguins, jellyfish, sharks, and thousands of other marine life. Historic Cannery Row is another popular place to visit in the area. Not only is it filled with the multicultural history of immigrants who came from Europe and Asia to work in the canneries and fisheries, but if you do a little exploring you might find some secret beaches nearby.
Planning on staying the night? Check out these hotels in Monterey.
5. Big Sur
Big Sur is the perfect stop to get out, stretch your legs, and more importantly snap some photos. The seaside cliffs looking over the coast offer breathtaking panoramic views. Some beautiful lookout spots include McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach, and Ragged Point. If you want to spend more time exploring the area, relax at the cliffside hot springs at Esalen Institute which overlook the ocean.
6. Santa Barbara
If you’re looking for one more stop before getting into LA, Santa Barbara is the place. Visit the downtown area to grab a bite to eat and enjoy the Mediterranean style buildings that feature white stucco and red tile roofs. Visit the botanical garden, relax on the sand at one of the beautiful beaches nearby, or if you have time check out a wine tour. Staying the night? Book your stay at a local boutique hotel.
7. Los Angeles
While L.A. may be a little bit off the direct path of PCH, it’s worth the stop. Los Angeles has tons to do and see. Stop by the Griffith Observatory for panoramic views of the city and Hollywood sign. Take a stroll on the Hollywood Walk of Fame or hit up Sunset Boulevard to check out tons of shops and restaurants. Here are some great boutique hotels in the area.
Beaches, beaches, and more beaches. Laguna is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in California. 1000 Steps Beach is a local favorite where you will find a beach shaded by a canopy of trees at the bottom of 223 steps. When the tide is low, explore the cave on the south end of the beach. There are also some amazing hikes in the area with beautiful trails that end with stunning ocean views. Crystal Cove State Park has some moderate trails that will allow you to take in all of Laguna’s picturesque scenery. After your hike grab drinks and brunch at the Beach Comber Café while enjoying views of the ocean. If you plan on staying overnight, here are some great hotels nearby.
Carlsbad is the perfect place to stop before getting into San Diego. It’s home to tons of fun attractions such as Legoland, the Sealife Aquarium, and the Legoland Waterpark. If you’re looking to kick back, head to the state beach to relax on the sand and have a picnic. Another popular nearby attraction is the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch. Here you can see close to 50 acres of Giant Tecolote Ranunculus flowers, which offers a wonderful photo op. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, check out these local boutique hotels.
10. San Diego
San Diego is the second largest city in California, so one can imagine all the fun things to do in the bustling city. Sea World and the famous San Diego Zoo are a must, especially if you’re with the kids. Make your way to Balboa Park and explore all that it has to offer including museums, art venues, gardens and more. Craving some bona fide Mexican food? Old Town San Diego has tons authentic Mexican restaurants and is full of history and other attractions. If you still have time, tour the USS Midway which gives you the experience of a day in the life of a crew member on a naval aircraft carrier. Stay local in San Diego to make the most of your experience.