10 Great Stops Along California's Pacific Coast Highway

ROAD TRIP! The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Here are our favorite scenic stops that will make this road trip the experience of a lifetime.

1. San Diego

Photo Courtesy of Visit California

Before hitting the road for an epic California adventure, soak up a little city life in San Diego. Food enthusiasts will adore the readily available fresh seafood, authentic Mexican cuisine, and farm-to-table dishes. With museums, a world-renowned zoo, and beautiful waterfront areas, there is literally something for everyone to enjoy in this perpetually sunny city. 

2. Huntington Beach

Photo Courtesy of Visit California

You can't drive by miles and miles of gorgeous coastline without wanting to dip your toes in the water at least once. Huntington Beach is a quintessential California beach town. It's laid-back, cool, and full of surfers. If you've ever dreamed of riding a wave, here's your chance! 

3. Santa Monica

This city is a shopper's paradise. From pedestrian-only streets lined with name-brand stores to quaint art galleries and designer boutiques, Santa Monica is the place to shop. There are also plenty of cafes and beachside restaurants to revive you after a marathon day of shopping. 

4. Santa Barbara

Tucked between the ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, Santa Barbara has the feel of an elegant European city. Stunning Spanish Colonial-style architecture gives the city a bit of Old World charm. Downtown Santa Barbara is the perfect place to shop cute boutiques and then eat dinner alfresco. 

5. Santa Ynez Wine Country

Who's ready for a glass of wine? Perfect! Because next you're headed to the Santa Ynez wine country, where the diverse weather makes ideal growing conditions for a wide variety of grapes. Bonus: If you purchase a pass from the Santa Ynez Wine Country Association, you get a discount on wine tastings at 14 local wineries. 

6. Big Sur

Photo Courtesy of Visit California

Get your camera ready and plan plenty of time to stop and snap pictures along the way. The Big Sur stretch of the Pacific Coast highway has some of the most scenic elements of the entire trip, including the dramatic Bixby Bridge. Another pull-over worthy photo opp is at McWay Falls.

7. Carmel-by-the-Sea

This town eats, sleeps, and breathes art. Writers, sculptors, painters, and musicians find inspiration in the natural beauty of the area and the creative collaboration with other artists. Visitors to Carmel are treated to dozens of art galleries, unique boutiques, creative restaurants, and charming inns. 

8. Asilomar State Beach

Photo Courtesy of Visit California

Just north of Carmel, take a detour off Highway 1 to experience the pure beauty of a California beach at Asilomar State Beach. It will be a walk on the beach you'll never forget. If you're looking to extend your escape at the coast, the state beach has cozy cottages and rustic lodges available for overnight accommodations at the Asilomar State Beach Conference Grounds.

9. Santa Cruz

You'll feel like a kid again at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Family-friendly attractions include classic arcade games as well as laser tag, mini golf, and thrill rides. Get away from high-energy games with a sky ride above the boardwalk that enjoys unparalleled views of the mountains. Embrace the city's go-with-the-flow vibe and, if you hit the right night, stay for an outdoor movie on the beach or a free live music event. 

10. San Francisco

Photo Courtesy of Visit California

It's time to get out of the car and stretch your legs. One of the best ways to see the city (and learn stuff you won't hear anywhere else!) is on a walking tour. San Francisco City Guides offer free daily walking tours. Afterward check out one of San Francisco's trendy eateries along Valencia Street and catch a show in the theater district. The city is your oyster! Oooo … oysters, you should definitely try those, too.



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