Pacific Coast Highway: California (One Week)

Roll the windows down and take of America's most epic road trips...

  • 32
  • 13:33
  • 613 mi
  • $117
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Created by KaelynSturgell - June 1st 2016

Picture it: Driving down the scenic California coast, in the awesome car of your choice, windows (or top) down, blasting your favorite tunes…sounds like the perfect road trip, right? Well, the Pacific Coast Highway, formally known as California State Route 1, is the ultimate road trip route. It’s designated an All-American road for its scenic views, and it packs one heck of a path that takes you past some pretty rad attractions and places. Here’s a guide to the must-see spots while road tripping the PCH!

Photo of Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa
4.1

2802 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA, US

Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa

Only in California would something like "artisan water" from a historic site fly. Whether you visit Carlsbad Mineral Water Spa for a soak in their mineral water baths, or you're just picking up some water (it's 70 cents per gallon) it's definitely a unique place to stop. The mineral water is alkaline, and is said to be the most healthful mineral water in the world (actress Shailene Woodley is a fan).

1
34mi 00h 38m
Photo of Moro Ridge
4.3

Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA, US

Moro Ridge

1

After getting refreshed pull over at Laguna Beach's Moro Ridge. This hike along a canyon ridge has picnic areas and epic views of the coast (on a good day, you can see clear to Catalina Island!). Plus, the canyon is home to tons of adorable rabbits, which are always fun to watch.

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58mi 01h 14m
Photo of Wayfarers Chapel
4.8

5755 Palos Verdes Dr S, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, US

Wayfarers Chapel

2

The next stop is Rancho Palos Verdes and the Wayfarers Chapel. Built by the son of Frank Lloyd Wright, who was named Lloyd Wright, this chapel is a great example of the "organic architecture" for which both the Wrights were so well known. It enhances the already-stunning landscape of the California coast with lots of wood and glass.

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36mi 00h 45m
Photo of Santa Monica Pier
4.0

200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA, US

Santa Monica Pier

3

Then finish up your day at the historic Santa Monica Pier. Take a spin on the historic carousel, sit at the soda fountain, see some fishy friends at the aquarium or just enjoy the beach and the people-watching. This is probably the most iconic and historic pier along the coast! From the rollercoaster and Ferris wheel to the arcade, and the signs noting that it was the official end of Route 66, there's tons of old-school fun to be had here.

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20mi 00h 33m

7401 S Birdview Ave, Malibu, CA, US

Point Dume State Beach

4

Once you reach Malibu, pull over at Point Dume State Beach. Here, you can spot dolphins, explore tidepools, and swim in the relatively calm water...or just sit on the beach and soak it all in!

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30mi 00h 42m
Photo of Channel Islands Beach
4.5

3900 Pelican Way, Oxnard, CA, US

Channel Islands Beach

5

The next town you'll reach is Oxnard. Here, the harbor at Channel Islands Beach has a marina, shops, attractions, and tons more. You can just hike along the shore, find a place to rent kayaks, or book a tour out to the awesome Channel Islands National Park.

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9mi 00h 14m

668 Harbor Blvd, Ventura, CA, US

Beach House Tacos

6

Nothing says "PCH" quite like fish tacos. Beach House Tacos in Ventura is a walk up window by the pier that serves cheap meals, and even has mimosas and beer.

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28mi 00h 30m
Photo of Santa Barbara Maritime Museum
4.5

117 Harbor Way Ste A, Santa Barbara, CA, US

Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

7

From old ships, the fishing industry, and lighthouses to displays on sailor tattoos, scuba diving, and surf artists, the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum covers every aspect of beach living. Plus, it's right on the marina, so the ambiance is perfect.

8
3mi 00h 07m
Photo of Santa Barbara Auto Camp
4.4

2717 De La Vina Street, Santa Barbara, CA, US

Santa Barbara Auto Camp

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8

The coolest hotel in Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Auto Camp, isn't even a hotel! These old-school Airstreams have been artfully decorated ad fully tricked out. Think, full kitchens, complete bathrooms with clawfoot tubs, and beds to fit a family...all done up in simple retro awesomeness. Seriously, you might be too busy Instagramming everything to get any sleep.

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6mi 00h 12m

5735 Hollister Ave, Goleta, CA, US

The Habit Burger Grill

9

Forget In 'n' Out! The Habit Burger Grill makes a truly crave-worthy charburger. And not just that, but you can order it "Teriyaki Style" with pineapple and grilled onions, or "Santa Barbara Style" with cheese and avocado. Don't forget sweet potato fries, onion rings, and a rich malt to complete the meal.

10
15mi 00h 18m
Photo of Gaviota State Park
3.9

10 Refugio Beach Rd., Goleta, CA, US

Gaviota State Park

10

While in Goleta, visit Gaviota State Park. The consistently mild weather and lovely beach make this park worth a visit. It's also got hiking, boating, camping, and plenty more to see and do. And, it was a filming location for the movie "Sideways!"

11
31mi 00h 35m
Photo of Palmina Wines
2.0

9th St, Lompoc, CA, US

Palmina Wines

11

Once you reach Lompoc, prepare for some serious wine-tasting. The laid back vibes at Palmina Wines make the experience of tasting their outstanding varietals (which they pair with cheese, charcuterie, bread, and olive oils) even more incredible. They do lots of European (mostly Italian) wines, and get their grapes from vineyards across the county.

12
21mi 00h 26m

135 E Clark Ave, Orcutt, CA, US

Kay's Orcutt Country Kitchen

12

You won't find a better place for breakfast/lunch along the route than Kay's Orcutt Country Kitchen in Santa Maria. This quaint little cafe serves scrambles and omelettes as well as burgers, sammies, and more, along with booze and other refreshing beverages.

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28mi 00h 31m
Photo of Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove
4.5

364 N2nd St, Pismo Beach, CA, US

Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove

13

During the winter, majestic Monarch butterflies come to Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove to wait out the cold weather. Scientists aren't sure what keeps the beautiful butterflies returning to this location each year, but between November and February, the place is filled with hibernating Monarchs.

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13mi 00h 17m

1001 Higuera St, San Luis Obispo, CA, US

Firestone Grill

14

If you're not tired of eating fish tacos, sweet. If you are, don't stress, Firestone Grill in San Luis Obispo serves up BBQ ribs, tri-tip sandwiches, burgers...and yes, fish tacos, too.

15
35mi 00h 43m
Photo of Fiscalini Ranch
5.0

Off Highway 1, South on Windsor, Cambria, CA, US

Fiscalini Ranch

15

Next you'll reach Cambria. The PCH bisects the Fiscalini Ranch preserve, which features some of the best hiking in the area. A total hidden gem, you can see wildflowers, forests, and dramatic ocean views from the 400-foot bluff. Several well-maintained and short-ish trails offer plenty of ways to experience the ranch.

16
9mi 00h 15m
Photo of Hearst Castle
4.5

750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon, CA, US

Hearst Castle

16

With natural scenery as fabled as that of the California coast, is it any wonder that one of America's richest newspaper moguls chose to build his legendarily opulent estate here? The Hearst Castle in San Simon is actually a collection of luxurious mansions built by William Randolph Hearst between the 1920's and the 1950's. Here, he entertained the most fabulous movie stars and other members of the social elite at the time. Today you can tour the buildings, which are kept up by the California State Park Service. Tickets might seem pricey at $25 a pop for adults, but once you see the massive, gorgeous pool, you'll realize that it's worth it.

17
15mi 00h 19m
Photo of Ragged Point Inn & Restaurant
3.9

19019 Highway 1, San Simeon, CA, US

Ragged Point Inn & Restaurant

17

Dinner with a view is required when driving through Big Sur, and the menu at Ragged Point Restaurant befits the million-dollar view. Consomme, filet, and creme brulee make for a meal that's just a lovely as the scenery.

18
10mi 00h 16m
Photo of Treebones Resort
4.4

71895 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA, US

Treebones Resort

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18

Since those views of the coast are one of a kind, finding a place to spend the night immersed in nature isn't a half bad idea. Splurge for a yurt with a view at the Treebones glamping resort; a yurt is basically a pimped out tent with a queen bed, a deck, and running water. Or, if you're feeling extra adventurous, book a stay in their human nest. I seriously can't make this up.

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24mi 00h 33m
Photo of Esalen Hot Springs
3.2

55000 Highway One, CA, US

Esalen Hot Springs

19

When you need to unwind and unplug, visit Esalen Hot Springs. This retreat has hot springs with incredible views...and they open them up to the public, but only between 1AM and 3AM. Book online and make the trip up to soak in the mineral rich waters and stunning views of the night sky!

The best time to travel the Pacific Coast Highway: It should be noted that June, July and August are particularly foggy months. If you're looking for a time of year with the clearest views and best weather, October is generally the best time to road trip down the PCH. Also, the summer months can get very crowded at many of the attractions along the route, plus since it's high tourist season you'll experience higher rates at hotels and longer waits at restaurants (many of which are also seasonal and closed in winter).