Your #1 Guide for the Perfect Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

Bixby Creek Bridge

You know that feeling when you cross a dream destination off your bucket list? That’s how I felt having finally completed my long-awaited Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Not only am I gonna help you achieve the exact same, I’m sharing my top insider tips and tricks for planning the most perfect road trip ever with everything you need to know from what to expect in terms of road closures to must-see stops and where to stay and what to eat.

What You Need to Know

First and foremost, I did my Pacific Coast Highway road trip mid-February more so as a quick two-day drive from LA to San Francisco. (PCH is pretty long and I’ll get into detail about PCH versus California State Route 1 in a bit.) That being said, I only made stops that were along my way up north. Most of my guides are aimed at helping 9-to-5 travellers like myself plan weekend trips. However, I highly recommend doing this drive over a few day’s time at least so you can really enjoy the scenery. After all, what makes a road trip special isn’t rushing from point A to B, but rather, taking time to appreciate the beauties you come across!

Pacific Coast Highway vs. California State Route 1

I used to think these two were synonymous and in a way, yes they are, but PCH is only a small portion of State Route 1. While SR 1 runs along the entire Pacific coastline of California, PCH is solely that short section between south of Dana Point in Orange County and Redwood National Park. On Google Maps though, you’ll see both highlighted as Highway 1.

Pacific Coast Highway Road Closure

If you don’t already know, there was a massive landslide May of 2017 that caused parts of PCH to close. The reconstruction is an estimated $40-million project and last I’ve heard, it won’t be complete until end of summer this year. Again, like I said, I did my road trip in mid-February. For the most part we actually didn’t experience any problems driving along the coast since some sections were already fixed. The real pain in the butt was getting around Ragged Point. It’s fairly easy looping the area in-land, but it’s a much, much longer (and tedious) drive.

QuickMapSeems like that region is still currently closed off. All in all, I suggest checking QuickMap to plan your detour routes in advance.

2018 August Update: As of July 20th, 2018, the highway has reopened near Big Sur. However I still recommend doing some last-minute checks on the road condition prior to your trip just in case.

Offline Maps

Download offline Google maps. I cannot stress how important this is. There will be very limited cell service along PCH so it’s important that you download offline Google maps in advance. That or you’re going to have to do it the old school way and rely on physical maps or ask your way around town.

Not sure how to download Google maps offline? Take a look at Google Maps Help.

Looking to embark on an epic road trip adventure? The drive along Pacific Coast Highway in California, US may just be what you're looking for to satisfy your wanderlust!
Looking to embark on an epic road trip adventure? The drive along Pacific Coast Highway in California, US may just be what you're looking for to satisfy your wanderlust!

Pacific Coast Highway Stops – What You Must See!

Let’s get right into the meaty part of the post. Below are my top recommendations to add to your Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary as broken down by city/region.

Laguna Beach

Victoria BeachVictoria Beach.

Kicking off the list with the closest city to the PCH starting point, Laguna Beach is definitely a sight you do not want to miss out on.

My local LA friends may disagree, but I truly believe that this small coastal city has some of the MOST stunning beaches in all of California. I mean who isn’t wooed by turquoise waters and sandy feet? Read up on my “5 Best Hidden Beaches in Laguna Beach” post so you don’t have to be fighting for a spot on the beach with everyone else.

Other Coastal City Alternatives: Newport Beach & Long Beach. Both are gorgeous as well although depending on the length of your trip, I would probably only pick one of the three. Beaches tend to look the same after awhile too. I’d advise spicing things up and having more variety in your PCH road trip.

Los Angeles

Santa Monica PierSanta Monica Pier.

I’ve been to LA at least four times now and have nothing but good things to say. There’s so much to do in the city that I’d even suggest visiting on its own for a separate trip. Regardless, you could most certainly still squeeze this in between your Pacific Coast Highway road trip by spending a day or two here.

For more info on LA, here are some helpful guides I’ve previously drafted:


Malibu BeachRocky Beach.

Yet another beach city, but home to some of Los Angelenos’ favorite beaches – namely El Matador State Beach, which is the most famous known for its captivating rock arches.

Another popular weekend destination is Point Dume. More so a promontory than a beach but the coastal views here are simply spectacular.

New favorite place 📷

A post shared by James Bragg (@jamesbraggphoto) on

I didn’t have time to check out either of the two despite both having been on my bucket list for quite some time now. 2018 July Update: I finally crossed El Matador off my list in June. Take a peak at my new fashion/lifestyle account @themingdiaries for more pictures. Shoutout to James Brag for the Point Dume shot.

Other Coastal City Alternatives: Ventura & Santa Barbara. I’m personally not as familiar with these two, but I’ve heard great things. Ventura, especially, is a nice option if you’re looking to explore off-the-beaten path.


Rancho Guadalupe Dunes PreserveRancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve.

Prior to my road trip, I’d read up on plenty of Pacific Coast Highway road trip itineraries myself. It absolutely blows my mind how no one seemed to ever mention about the magnificent sand dunes that are here! So between me and you, Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve is a hidden gem that’s worth making a stopover.

Rancho Guadalupe Dunes PreservePerfect waves for surfing.

What’s special about these sand dunes is that they are situated right along the shore. A lot of locals come here not only to surf, but also to fish. Be sure to make your way here early in the morning because parking is extremely limited.

Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve

The reason why I even discovered this was because I was literally studying Google Maps and looking at all the parks and lookout points there are to see in case the blogs I’d read missed out on any jaw-dropping sceneries. I’ve obviously only done the PCH road trip this one time and didn’t get to visit every single attraction sight along the way. That said, I encourage you to do the same as well. Study the map a little and get to know the area you’ll be driving through!

What’s Nearby: Guadalupe is a fairly small city. Besides the sand dunes, there really isn’t much to see or do. Located a short 15-minute drive away, you will find Santa Maria, which is well-liked for its vineyards. Please don’t drink and drive, but if you’re staying in the city overnight and won’t be back on the road, by all means, a wine tour would be fun too.

San Simeon

Hearst Castle Roman Pool in Hearst Castle photographed by Justin Brown.

Hearst Castle is perhaps the number one reason people stop by in this town.

Originally named La Cuesta Encantada (Spanish for “Enchanted Hill”), this 250,000-acre land was newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst’s vision of a luxury retreat. Due to his fragile health, however, Hearst moved away from the estate and thus the project was never finished. Today, you can tour the 165 rooms that are here and admire its pristine terraces, pools, and gardens.

Hearst CastleWilliam Randolph Hearst’s private library photographed by Trey Ratcliff.

Hearst CastleIsabella’s Jewel Box photographed by Trey Ratcliff.

Tickets are $25/person for adults. I did this road trip with my dad and he’d already done the tour countless of times before. Not to mention, the exquisite Neptune Pool was being renovated hence despite having made our way here already, I figured I’d come back some other time. Note that you’ll need to park your car then take their shuttle bus to the actual castle. Make sure to reserve plenty of time for this in your schedule.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Apart from Hearst Castle, another point of interest is Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery. You can key in Friends of the Elephant Seal Gift Shop in Google Maps and this will bring you to the popular boardwalk viewing area established by the non-profit organization Friends of the Elephant Seal. It was way too crowded for us though. As a result, we ended up driving further down the road and actually found a much quieter spot. There are basically seals everywhere along the coast so you won’t miss them.

Big Sur

McWay FallsMcWay Falls.

When planning a Pacific Coast Highway road trip, one of the top items on everyone’s itinerary is probably McWay Falls. There are no words to describe how magical this secluded beach is and you’re probably dying to ask whether or not you can physically hike down to the waterfalls. The answer is no. I’ve seen people who have, but I don’t recommend disrupting the ecosystem here. (It’s beautiful for a reason.) Plus, some things are better observed from afar.

McWay Falls

When trying to find the falls, our GPS told us to turn into Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Yes, McWay Falls are technically in the park, but it’s opposite of the park gate. There are stairs you can take down and once you reach the wooden walkway, the falls will be in your view on the left.

Pfeiffer BeachKeyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach photographed by Mike Mezeul.

Pfeiffer BeachPurple sand stream photographed by Tom Grubbe. The mesmerizing color comes from manganese garnet particles that get washed down from nearby hills.

One of my biggest regrets was skipping Pfeiffer Beach. Even though this was on my list, we simply didn’t have time. Again, I urge you to spread your trip out over a few days rather than being overly ambitious and cramming everything together like we did.

Bixby Creek Bridge Bixby Creek Bridge. 

Bixby Creek Bridge Bixby Creek Bridge



Bixby Creek Bridge is another one of the must-see Pacific Coast Highway stops. Because of its unique architectural design, this is no doubt one of the most photographed bridges in California.


Calla Lily Valley

If you’re a flower lover like me, you’ll like what you see at Calla Lily Valley.

Calla Lily ValleyCalla Lily Valley Calla Lily Valley

The lilies were just starting to bloom during our mid-February visit. Therefore I would suggest coming here around first week of March for the full bloom. The lily field is also very easy to miss. There’s no real sign for it, but you’ll see a mini wooden gate. Follow the zigzag trail and the lily field will be down a flight of stairs.

Garrapata State ParkGarrapata State Park.

In terms of PCH icons, Garrapata State Park isn’t exactly one of them. Still gorgeous nonetheless with amazing coastal views and lush trails. Don’t forget to pack your hiking boots for an adventurous afternoon here.

Point LobosPoint Lobos view point overlooking Whaler’s Cove.

In addition to the two mentioned above, another destination in Carmel that you’ll want to add to your itinerary is Point Lobos, which is a relatively large area of natural reserves. Head on over to Roadtrippers for a more in-depth guide.

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de CarmeloPhoto of Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo from tripsavvy.

Adding to my unfortunate list of things I did not get to see, Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo is a charming Roman Catholic mission church – perhaps one of the most authentically restored in California. Admission is $9.50 for adults.

Carmel-by-the-Sea Carmel-by-the-SeaCute shops in Carmel-by-the-Sea. 

Carmel-by-the-SeaVibrant flowers in each and every corner.

And of course… You can’t visit Carmel-by-the-Sea and not go window shopping in Downtown.

Carmel-by-the-SeaEvery building has its own unique door full of character!


The whole city center is so lively and filled with adorable Medieval inns and shops that it’s as if you’re being transported to a different space in time. By the way, did you know that Clint Eastwood was once elected mayor of Carmel?


MontereyView along Ocean View Boulevard.

Can’t talk about Monterey and not mention the scenic 17-Mile Drive in Pebble Beach.

First thing’s first, you’ll need to know that the area is actually gated and admission is $10.25 per vehicle. We were literally driving along the coast (Ocean View Boulevard) thinking we were already doing the 17-Mile Drive until we reached the gate and realized how wrong we were hahaa.

Bird RockBird Rock.

Lone CypressLone Cypress.

Lone CypressThe Ghost Tree.

Restless SeaRestless Sea.

Restless Sea

The two most common stops people make are at Bird Rock and The Lone Cypress. Bird Rock, as the name suggests, houses shorebirds and harbor seals as well as sea lions. The Lone Cypress, on the other hand, is a 250-year-old tree that has withstood both weather and time. (It is believed to be one of the most photographed trees in the world.) There are 21 viewpoints in total and more information can be found on Pebble Beach’s online brochure.

Apart from the famous 17-Mile Drive, Monterey is known for its aquarium. I’m personally not crazy about visiting aquariums, but if this is your cup of tea, Monterey Bay Aquarium is for you.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay State BeachHalf Moon Bay State Beach.

Very small city, but it’s got enough to keep you busy for one afternoon.

Half Moon Bay State Beach

My top pick for what to see here is Half Moon Bay State Beach. The views are absolutely phenomenal and there is nothing more relaxing than listening to the music of waves crashing against shore.

Other Coastal City Alternatives: Santa Cruz. After all these fantastic PCH views, I really didn’t see anything worth stopping for in Santa Cruz. That’s my own opinion though because I have heard others who recommend paying a visit. You just might like it too.

San Francisco

Baker BeachBaker Beach.

Hawk HillHawk Hill.

Hawk Hill Lombard StreetLombard Street.

Palace of Fine Arts TheatrePalace of Fine Arts Theatre.

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

This was actually my second time here in SF. First time was with my high school band where we basically only got to see Union Square and Golden Gate Bridge. Fast forward a few years later and I still haven’t explored much beyond that. My good instafriend Caroline from Pictures & Words has an extensive list of 120+ free things to do in San Francisco. Go give that a read and oh, she’s a local so you can trust her expertise ๐Ÿ˜‰

Dining Along the Coast

Apologies if my organization seems a little odd. The reason why I’m not grouping everything together by cities is because we didn’t necessarily stop by everywhere mentioned above to eat or spend the night. So without further ado, here are my Pacific Coast Highway restaurant recommendations.

The Cliff (Laguna Beach)

Mexican food doesn’t always photograph well but I guarantee you these chilaquiles were bombbbbb.

Address: 577 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, United States
Phone Number: +1 949-494-1956
Reservation: 1-hr waitlist call ahead available; reservations not accepted
Dress Code: None
Price: $$-$$$

You can never go wrong with incredible views and delicious Mexican cuisine. Read more about it in part 2 of my “9 Best Places to Eat in LA” post.

Bottega Louie (Los Angeles)

Bottega LouieBelgian waffles served with fresh berries, Chantilly cream, and Vermont maple syrup.

Address: 700 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90017, United States
Phone Number: +1 213-802-1470
Reservation: Does not accept reservations
Dress Code: Smart casual
Price: $$-$$$

Definitely one of my new favorite LA restaurants. Great spot for weekend brunch and afternoon tea with the girls. For more info and to find out my other LA faves, check out my two restaurant guides below:

Mastro’s Ocean Club (Malibu)

Mastros Ocean ClubMastros Ocean ClubTiger prawns.

Address: 18412 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265, United States
Phone Number: +1 310-454-4357
Reservation: Preferred
Dress Code: Dressy casual
Price: $$$$

In case you haven’t noticed already, I have a thing for restaurants with a view. Again, more info can be found in my previous post “here“.

Nepenthe (Big Sur)

Nepenthe Views from Café Kevah. 

Nepenthe Smoked wild salmon, Manhattan clam chowder, and 12oz Ribeye steak.

Address: 48510 Highway One, Big Sur, CA 93920, United States
Phone Number: +1 831-667-2345
Reservation: Preferred if you’re in a large group
Dress Code: Casual
Price: $$-$$$

Finally something that I haven’t already previously recommended. Nepenthe is a collection of three restaurants/stores. You got the main restaurant – Nepenthe – that is open 365 days a year. And then there is your outdoor café – Café Kevah. Last but not least, a gift shop – Phoenix Shop.

Unfortunately, the food wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but it was decent. I’d say their main selling point is the panoramic views here. Whether you come for lunch or dinner, or even a quick coffee break, you’re in for a visual treat!

Scales Seafood & Steaks (Monterey)

Scales Seafood and SteaksOutdoor display and clam chowder sample.

Address: 30 Fishermans Wharf #1, Monterey, CA 93940, United States
Phone Number: +1 831-375-1331
Reservation: Not necessary
Dress Code: Casual/smart casual
Price: $$-$$$

Funny thing with Monterey Bay restaurants is they all have this clam chowder sample stand outside. We tried a couple but nothing really wow’ed us until we came across Scales.

Scales Seafood and SteaksNew England clam chowder, complimentary calamari, seafood carbonara (BEST I’ve ever had, no joke), and twin 6oz lobster tails.

Scales Seafood and Steaks

Now where do I even begin… The food, the service, the views… Everything was top-notch. Since we stayed at Monterey Hotel, we received a complimentary appetizer voucher, which I presented to our waiter upon sitting down. Within seconds, he brought out a plate of steaming hot calamari – before we even ordered anything at all. We were famished so this was totally perfect. (Seriously why don’t more restaurants do this and not let their customers wait on empty stomachs!? I’d probably tip better if they didn’t leave me hangry for that long hahaa.)

Overall the food was divine and because it was around Valentine’s season, they also gave me a lovely rose to take home. 10/10 would come back again. Heck writing this post makes me wanna hop on a plane over for that carbonara! (Brb, gotta wipe all them drool off my keyboard.)

New England Lobster Market & Eatery (San Francisco)

New England Lobster Market & EateryTwin tails & lobster roll with house-made chips and coleslaw salad.

Address: 824 Cowan Rd, Burlingame, CA 94080, United States
Phone Number: +1 650-443-1559
Reservation: Nada
Dress Code: Casual
Price: $$

Is it obvious that we love seafood?

This one was suggested by Papa Chen. He has been to San Francisco more times than me and each time he visits, he will stop by New England for their impeccable lobster rolls. It’s super close to the airport and apparently a local favorite. Parking in the area is very difficult to find, however, and the shop becomes quite busy during lunchtime. I’d advise coming early or in the afternoon to avoid the crowd.

Hotel Recommendations

For those who have been following my blog for awhile now, despite the fact that I usually review luxury hotels, I personally don’t care much for where I stay on road trips. As long as the accommodation is safe and clean, I ain’t picky. After all, you’re really only there to shower and spend the night.

Going in order again from where we started our road trip, below are my hotel recommendations.

JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE (Los Angeles)

JW Marriott LA LiveDeluxe guest room with 1 king bed for 1 guest, 2 nights priced at $195.54USD (~$271 CAD). Please note that I received an employee discount price from my friend.

Address: 900 W Olympic Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90015, United States
Phone Number: +1 213-765-8600
Booking Link:
Check-In Time: 4:00PM
Check-Out Time: 12:00PM
Parking: Valet parking USD $49/night

Hah. I probably just slapped myself in the face. JW Marriott is more so on the luxurious side, but keep in mind that I visited this hotel a few years ago on my first LA trip (not a road trip). If you prefer splurging for a quality night sleep, read my full hotel review “here“.

Pacifica Suites (Santa Barbara)

Pacifica SuitesTraditional suite with 1 king bed for 2 guests, 1 night priced at $273.53 CAD. Booked through

Address: 5490 Hollister Ave, Santa Barbara, CA 93111, United States
Phone Number: +1 805-683-6722
Booking Link:
Check-In Time: 3:00PM
Check-Out Time: 12:00PM
Parking: Free

Pacifica SuitesHotel lobby.

Pacifica SuitesHotel suite & bathroom.

Pacifica SuitesComplimentary breakfast at the Garden Terrace.

This was no doubt our most enjoyable stay of the entire trip. Friendly staff and our room was exceptionally big. All breakfast items are made to order and we even received a 2014 Lapostolle Merlot as a free welcome drink for being an Expedia VIP guest. (Not an expensive wine, but it’s the thought that counts? And don’t ask, I have no idea when I became a VIP guest, but I’ll take it lol.)

The Stanford Court Hotel (San Francisco)

Stanford CourtStandard room with 1 queen bed for 2 guests, 1 night priced at $280.25 CAD. Booked through

Address:905 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108, United States
Phone Number: +1 415-989-3500
Booking Link:
Check-In Time: 4:00PM
Check-Out Time: 12:00PM
Parking: Valet parking USD $52/night + tax

Stanford CourtCute keycard holder and view from room.

Stanford Court

Stanford Court is an adorable boutique hotel on Nob Hill that recently received a makeover. They are a green hotel and are pet-friendly. A lot of SF hotels are expensive and don’t necessarily have good reviews. This one, in comparison, is a great little gem with reasonable pricing.

Hotels to Avoid

Is it just me or do a lot of Californian hotels charge more than they should? I mean is the land more expensive or what? I swear we paid $$$ for crappy hotels that were really only 1 or 2-star hotels. Here are the hotels that we stayed that you should avoid:

  • Hotel Angeleno in LA
    • Although the hotel looks new and has a chic urban design look, our room’s window sill was broken and lying in the middle of the suite upon arrival.
    • Sheets had stains and tears.
    • Literally right beside the road and very noisy.
  • Monterey Hotel in Monterey
    • Friendly staff but overall sketchy vibe.
    • Hotel design is whack. We took the elevator because of our suitcases and had to walk through an endless renovation area to reach our room even though our room was literally by the stairs, easily accessible from main the lobby area.
    • Old furniture and stains everywhere.
    • Felt like an abandoned hotel that you’d see in horror movies – that’s how dated it was.

And that concludes my Pacific Coast Highway road trip guide…

Looking to embark on an epic road trip adventure? The drive along Pacific Coast Highway in California, US may just be what you're looking for to satisfy your wanderlust!
Looking to embark on an epic road trip adventure? The drive along Pacific Coast Highway in California, US may just be what you're looking for to satisfy your wanderlust!

Phewww that was a lot of information to take in all at once eh! Hopefully this will help you in preparing for the best possible Pacific Coast Highway road trip experience ever. I’ve captured plenty of video footage during this trip as well that you can find on my YouTube channel and I’ll see you next time for a brand new series on my Tulum adventures!

*Disclaimer: To my knowledge, drones are not allowed in national parks as a result I did not fly my Spark there. However, I’ve since been told that NOAA also bans drone flights pretty much all along the entire Big Sur coast/Monterey Bay due to wildlife conservation. Please note that in no way am I promoting or encouraging drone flights here. Fingers crossed my videos won’t get me in trouble because the breathtaking views here were beyond words could describe and it would be a shame not to share it. 

Bixby Creek Bridge


  1. April 9, 2018 / 1:31 am

    Wow! Wow! Wow! This has to be one of the most stunning coastal routes. I think traveling this route would take me a decade since I would have to stop so much to take pictures. Do you have a favorite spot that you stopped at? I think the Golden Gate Bridge and McWay Falls would be my favorite spots to photograph!

      April 9, 2018 / 3:04 pm

      Hahhahaa maybe a decade wouldn’t even be enough! McWay Falls was definitely a favorite for me. That and gosh… I think all of them make it to my favorites list!

  2. April 9, 2018 / 1:52 am

    Man, this is a dream road trip! We spent a couple of weeks in Northern CA last spring and wished we could get to Big Sur. Isn’t Carmel charming??

      April 9, 2018 / 3:05 pm

      Aww bummer! But I guess now you got another reason/excuse to return ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. April 9, 2018 / 2:11 am

    You’ve got really nice photographs compiled on this post alone that I could even just check the pictures without reading any single thing on the post because I was too mesmerized. ๐Ÿ˜›

    I’ve never been to anywhere in America, but this road trip is definitely something to look forward to when you can travel slowly around the Pacific. I particularly want to visit the Malibu and Garrapata State Park. ๐Ÿ™‚

      April 9, 2018 / 3:07 pm

      Thanks so much Marya! Although I do hope you took the time to read the post because I spent several hours drafting it in hopes of helping travellers like yourself plan the most epic PCH road trip possible ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. April 9, 2018 / 4:08 am

    That coast line looks insane and your photos are so damn good! The Pfeiffer bay looks like somewhere I need to visit! I would love to visit America soon, this is definitely somewhere I need to visit. Thanks for sharing such an informative post!

      April 9, 2018 / 3:08 pm

      Thanks Amber! It was basically impossible to take bad photos here. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you to visit soon!

  5. Tif
    April 9, 2018 / 4:37 am

    I would really LOvE to do this drive!! Well would love to start in LA all the way up to Seattle but I knew nothing of the landslides!! Going to SF at the end of month, super excited!

      April 9, 2018 / 3:10 pm

      Oh that’d be so fun!!!!! You’ll for sure have to at least check out Monterey or the cities nearby San Francisco. You’d be amazed at how much California has to offer!

  6. April 9, 2018 / 9:59 am

    I am a sucker for seas and oceans and beaches, so it all looks amazing to me. ButI am most attracted by the sight of Pfeiffer Beach. The colours of the sand are simply mesmerizing!

      April 9, 2018 / 3:11 pm

      You’re a thalassophile just like myself then! In that case, I highly recommend doing this road trip because you’d absolutely fall in love!!!

  7. April 9, 2018 / 3:05 pm

    The Big Sur Coast was actually where I first got into photography. I went as a kid an my mom waited for a sunset shot, back when film cameras were a thing. We had that picture developed and hung on top of our couch for years. It’s such a stunning backdrop for photography along this route.

    I think there is a significant difference between Laguna, Newport and Long Beach. Leguna has the tide pools and reefs close to shore. Newport has that impressive harbor and Balboa Island. Long Beach has the industrial harbor, aquarium and Queen Mary. Very different experiences for all three destinations.

      April 9, 2018 / 3:15 pm

      How nostalgic! And you’re totally right. The three are super different but generally still classified under the coastal city category. I just feel that if a trip is filled with too much of the same variety of activities, everything begins to sort of blur a little and lose its specialty. I’d definitely recommend visiting all three on its own separate occasion or perhaps on a longer trip even ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. April 9, 2018 / 9:56 pm

    The stops along the way looks stunning. I love the coastal views. I can definitely see how it can take a couole of days to conplete. Hopefully you will get to go back to see the things you didnt on this trip.

      April 14, 2018 / 10:29 pm

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed! And hopefully this will inspire you to embark on this road trip adventure as well!!

  9. April 9, 2018 / 11:44 pm

    Wowww! I have to do this road trip – thank you so much for this great blog post! All your pics are so beautiful – you really made me wanna book a flight right now.

      April 14, 2018 / 10:30 pm

      You’re most welcome, Martina! Thank you for the kind words and I’m so happy to hear that!

  10. April 10, 2018 / 1:25 am

    WOW! what an amazing adventure this must have been. So many different things to see and do I am a keen photographer and this looks like an incredible destination to take amazing photo’s. Great post, loved it!

      April 14, 2018 / 10:31 pm

      Omg yessss!!!!!!! The entire PCH is so photogenic. It might take you weeks to complete just because you’ll literally want to stop every 3 seconds for a photo hahaa.

  11. Lisa
    April 10, 2018 / 3:02 am

    I’m completely mesmerised by your photos! I haven’t been to the west coast of the USA for a long time, and I need to go back! The Hearst Castle and Isabella’s Jewel Box are incredible. Plus, I’m in Europe, and drastically missing the sunshine, so seeing all your photos of beaches is making me so jealous! A lovely post as always!

      April 14, 2018 / 10:32 pm

      Thanks so much Lisa! These past few months here in Vancouver since I’ve gotten home after my road trip have been gloomy too so I could for sure use some sunshine right now as well ๐Ÿ™

  12. April 10, 2018 / 3:07 am

    Love this comprehensive list! On our first trip to California, we were lucky enough to stay with relatives so we were able to take our time and see more over a few days.

    Still haven’t made it Guadalupe, Hearst Castle and the Elephant Seal Rookery though. Those are next on our list!

      April 14, 2018 / 10:33 pm

      That’s so awesome!!! I’ve found hotels in California to be expensive in general so you were lucky indeed. Hope you’ll get to revisit and check out these places you’ve missed!

  13. April 10, 2018 / 3:08 am

    Omg these images are just absolutely stunning! I’m sooo saving this for my next trip. You’re doing a great job with the guides so far btw – they’re all super informative.

      April 14, 2018 / 10:35 pm

      Aww thanks Nicola! It makes me so happy to hear that you’re enjoying my guides <3

  14. Lauren Pescarus
    April 10, 2018 / 3:50 am

    I’m completely in love with your photography (and loved the attributed work as well, awesome choices). California has, somehow, been a state that escaped me. This post definitely has made me move it up the bucket list. I’m really curious about your equipment, would you mind sharing your setup?

      April 14, 2018 / 10:41 pm

      Hey Lauren, thank you so much for the kind compliment and I don’t mind at all! I recently just got a new camera – the Sony A7R III – and been loving it. As you can probably imagine, we were rushing from points A to B then B to C so I shot on Auto for the most part. For McWay Falls, I had a tripod with me and did a long exposure versus a regular shot on Manual mode. A few other places where I was shooting against the sun, I used Manual as well. I’m still learning though so I really just played with the settings until the photo looked somewhat good ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. April 10, 2018 / 4:21 am

    You already had me at the first photo in this article! Stunning. Those beaches looks so remote and untouched, itโ€™s hard to believe theyโ€™re in CA. I cannot wait to visit Big Sur one day! I love all of your photos. This is a great list!

      April 14, 2018 / 10:41 pm

      Hehee glad I could CAPTIVATE you, Tara ๐Ÿ˜‰ Let me know if you ever have any other questions for your future visit!

  16. April 10, 2018 / 4:40 am

    I have been driving on the coastal road from San Fransisco to LA once but reading your post now makes me realised of how much I missed out! Your post is a good motivation for me to hit that highway 1 again! Thanks for a fun read and beautiful photos!

      April 14, 2018 / 10:43 pm

      You’re most welcome, Dada! And don’t worry, I’ve been there too. There’s always so much to see that it’s impossible to experience it all. Hope you’ll get to do the road trip again sometime soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Ketki
    April 10, 2018 / 5:52 am

    Wow this route is heavenly! And you have done justice to it by clicking by far the most gorgeous photos. Also love your edit idea for Los Angeles.

      April 14, 2018 / 10:44 pm

      Thank you, Ketki! I’m so glad you liked the edit because that one is probably one of my faves. Cheers!

  18. April 10, 2018 / 8:31 am

    I want to see the PCH so badly! I don’t drive so will have to figure out another way to get around. I would really like to see those amazing sand dunes in person. Hearst Castle looks great as well. I would just wander around murmuring “Rosebud…”

      April 14, 2018 / 10:48 pm

      Ahhh bummer you don’t drive. Although I’m sure you can round up some friends who could drive you – which is even better hahaa.

  19. April 10, 2018 / 8:47 am

    Your photos are simply amazing, I can’t get enough of them. They are so inspiring and want me to jump in my car and heave over to California, to drive this route. Big Sur looks stunning, the color of the water is so pretty! Hearst Castle is a treat as well, those interiors are just screaming to be visited. ๐Ÿ™‚

      April 14, 2018 / 10:49 pm

      Thank you so much, Joanna. I’m so extremely flattered and happy to hear I was able to inspire you to want to do this road trip yourself. Hope you’ll actually get to soon and let me know if you ever need any other recommendations for your trip!

  20. April 10, 2018 / 8:56 am

    As a Southern California native, I love PCH. I have family in both LA and San Francisco, so when I had a few extra days to spare, I would cruise along PCH, as opposed to taking the 5 freeway. It was pretty sad when the landslide happened, and I had actually planned a trip to Big Sur around that time and had to make some adjustments. Carmel and Laguna have to be some of my favorite stops along the way!

      April 14, 2018 / 10:51 pm

      How lucky!!! I low key want to move to LA and after doing the PCH drive, I’m even more so convinced that I should move to California. And despite the sad news, I’m sure you discovered new sceneries along the alternative route you had to take ๐Ÿ˜€

  21. April 10, 2018 / 11:14 am

    this post has skyrocketed this road trip to the top of my bucket list. it looks absolutely stunning.

      April 14, 2018 / 10:52 pm

      Thank you, Eli. Hope this will inspire you to visit!

  22. April 10, 2018 / 2:06 pm

    Iโ€™d love to drive SR 1. I actually didnโ€™t know that that was different from the PCH. Thatโ€™s good to know! Big Sur and Victoria Beach would be two must-sees for me along the way.

      April 14, 2018 / 10:52 pm

      I honestly didn’t either until I was drafting this post. Traveling really does broaden your knowledge ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. April 10, 2018 / 9:30 pm

    Your photography is honestly so amazing. Wow. Those first few photos of the Pacific Coast Highway really remind me of the part of New Zealand I’m currently living in. And that Hearst Mansion, how have I never heard of this, it looks like one of the most spectacular houses.

      April 14, 2018 / 10:53 pm

      Thank you so very much, Aimee! I haven’t been to New Zealand yet but it’s definitely on my list so I guess this is close enough for the time being hahaa. Hope you’ll get to embark on this incredible road trip someday in the future!

  24. April 11, 2018 / 1:05 pm

    This brings back so many memories for: the time I did this trip in 1998 when I knew little about the area but it was stunning. I actually had no idea about the difference between PCH and H1 though! Hearst castle looks amazing! Time to go back…

      April 14, 2018 / 10:54 pm

      Wow that was crazy long ago! I wonder how much has changed since then. Sounds like you do need a revisit ๐Ÿ˜‰

  25. April 11, 2018 / 5:29 pm

    What a fantastic comprehensive list! We drove Route 66 this fall and stayed a week exploring around Los Angeles and we cannot wait to get back and take this drive. The palm trees. The cliffs. The water. Ugh… so many things to experience. Thanks so much. Saving this one for later.

      April 14, 2018 / 10:55 pm

      You’re welcome, Angela! Glad to share my knowledge. Let me know if you ever have any questions for your future road trip!

  26. April 11, 2018 / 8:18 pm

    I did the PCH when I was 9 so I didn’t appreciate it. Definitely need to do it again as an adult! And as someone from Kelowna, BC its definitely doable in a short amount of time!

      April 14, 2018 / 11:07 pm

      Ahhh no way, what a small world!!!!! I used to study in Kelowna! And yes, you definitely need to revisit ๐Ÿ™‚

  27. Aditi
    April 12, 2018 / 12:58 pm

    Your post lures me into book a trip to the pacific coast right away. I love all the pictures and am amazed by the beauty all around. I am particularly interested in visiting these – Rocky Beach and Victoria Beach. Mission 2020! ๐Ÿ™‚ Cheers!!

      April 14, 2018 / 11:08 pm

      Happy to hear I could inspire you to visit, Aditi. Let me know if you ever need any other recommendations or have further questions for your future trip!!

  28. April 12, 2018 / 9:24 pm

    Road trips are great fun and provide such a wonderful opportunity to have an immersive experience of the places. The pacific coast highway road trip seems pure heave. Given the scenic places that you cover on this road trip, it is nothing short of epic. The list of places is amazing but the one I really fell in love was Victoria beach.

      April 14, 2018 / 11:09 pm

      Couldn’t have said it better! Victoria Beach is definitely a hidden gem worth spending an afternoon at so I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you to witness its beauties in person someday!

  29. April 13, 2018 / 4:24 am

    Oh I’ve so wanted to do this drive! We did a tiny sliver of it from Santa Cruz to San Francisco last summer. I did not know about the purple beach or the dunes! They look so amazing. And the Hearst mansion would be pretty incredible, too.

      April 14, 2018 / 11:10 pm

      Right??? Maybe now you’ll be more intrigued and motivated to actually map out your road trip and finally go hahaa.

  30. April 13, 2018 / 4:56 am

    One big – WOW! This looks amazing! I would like to do the same road drip. And I would definitely stop in LA for some longer time. And that Guadalupe – Oh my God! I can imagine myself spending my whole day there and not moving at all!

      April 14, 2018 / 11:12 pm

      Omg that’s exactly what I wanted to do. The weather is so nice there. Sunny but not too hot because you get that sea breeze. Simply perfect!

  31. April 13, 2018 / 12:45 pm

    I’ve been lucky enough to do some amazing coastal drives around the world but just from the collection of pictures it’s really enticing me to do a pacific coast trip – I do agree that Laguna beach will definitely be a place I would stop, nd LA and Malibu haha – Ok , ok I’d stop at them all lol – I don’t think I’d want to leave

      April 14, 2018 / 11:17 pm

      Hahhaa you’ll probably need at least a month to see everything!!! Let me know if you ever need any other recommendations if you do decide to do this road trip later down the line ๐Ÿ˜€

  32. Nicola
    April 13, 2018 / 6:17 pm

    I would love to do this road trip one day! I knew there were beaches along the way but I don’t think I realised just how many stunning, beautiful, secluded gems there were. McWay falls looks absolutely incredible as well!! This was a very inspiring read.

      April 14, 2018 / 11:17 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Nicola! Glad to hear I could be of inspiration <3

  33. April 14, 2018 / 1:41 am

    Insanely gorgeous pictures! I have been to the West Coast but I regret not having done the Pacific Coast Highway by road back then. Laguna Beach and Malibu are so high up on my bucket list for the next time that I am there. Hearst Castle, I have not heard of but it looks amazing, especially the Roman Pool inside. I did not know there are such lovely sand dunes in Guadalupe! McWay Falls is gorgeous too. What an incredible road trip.

      April 14, 2018 / 11:19 pm

      Wait until you see the Neptune Pool! It’s under construction atm but hopefully by the time you make it back in California, it will be filled because it will blowwwwwwww your mind. Highly recommend a visit!!

  34. April 14, 2018 / 8:31 pm

    Absolutely beautiful pictures! I’ve done this trip too many times to count, and each time I find something new to enjoy. I love the beaches in the Laguna Beach area, but still have yet to make it to Victoria Beach. My favorites on Hwy 1 are Laguna Beach, Big Sur & Carmel. Such a beautiful coast!!!

      April 14, 2018 / 10:47 pm

      I’m incredibly jealous you’ve gotten so many chances to do this road trip! Can definitely see why those three are your favorites because I think those are mine too ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. April 14, 2018 / 9:12 pm

    Excellent post! I was a surprised at how much I liked Hurst Castle when we did this trip. It seems like a silly stop, but I just loved the location. Have you done the North end as well (SFO to YVR)?

      April 14, 2018 / 10:46 pm

      Hey Jen! That’s awesome to hear!! I’ll be looking forward to my future visit. Oh and I’m from YVR actually hahaa but it’s never dawned on me to do any road trip past Oregon. Guess I’ll have to put that up on my list now.

  36. April 15, 2018 / 2:44 am

    I have heard about PCH from friends who stay in the US, always wanted to go. The pictures are gorgeous and strengthens my resolve to go there now. This post is very comprehensive, I am sure people will find it very useful.

      April 22, 2018 / 8:21 pm

      Thanks Suman, so happy to hear that! Let me know if you ever have any further questions for your future trip!

  37. April 15, 2018 / 12:36 pm

    It looks super nice in the hotel. I would love to go on this road trip

      April 22, 2018 / 8:30 pm

      Hahaa that’s because I didn’t upload the photos of the bad ones we stayed at ๐Ÿ˜‰

  38. April 15, 2018 / 10:47 pm

    Oh, my. What an exquisite place! This gotta be added to my bucket list as well. And by the way, incredible pictures.

      April 22, 2018 / 8:29 pm

      Thank you so much, Nikhila! Glad to hear I could inspire you to wanna pay a visit!

  39. April 17, 2018 / 11:59 am

    The photos are so inviting and I am definitely saving this guide. I love road trips and I think this is by far my favorite on the Pacific coast. I will inform friends in the US who are looking for amazing road trip routes.

      April 22, 2018 / 8:29 pm

      Thanks Gemmiz! I’m a road trip lover myself too and I guarantee you will enjoy this one. Cheers!

  40. April 21, 2018 / 12:42 pm

    What a great blog post! So detailed! I loved San Fran when I visited many years ago but I feel like I have missed out not visiting Carmel on Sea – it looks so lovely!

      April 22, 2018 / 8:28 pm

      It’s lovely indeed! You’ll have to pay a visit next time you’re back in the area again!!

  41. April 21, 2018 / 12:50 pm

    One. Your photos are INSANE. How did you edit them? What camera do you use? These are amazing!! Two, this is a great guide and thank you for including the road closures. We were thinking about doing this road trip and I didn’t even think of the detours we would have to take.

      April 22, 2018 / 8:27 pm

      Aww thank you, Lorial! I just upgraded my camera to the Sony A7R III and I edit with Lightroom. Happy to be of help with the road closure knowledge and let me know if you ever have any further questions for your trip! ๐Ÿ˜€

  42. April 21, 2018 / 2:34 pm

    So much detail in this post! The perfect guide for this trip, thanks for sharing and I agree with your small tip regarding searching the Google maps.. hidden gems are everywhere!

      April 22, 2018 / 8:26 pm

      Right!? Who knew studying maps could be so fun and rewarding hahaa.

  43. April 21, 2018 / 9:59 pm

    Wow! This is very detailed and informative. Appreciate your efforts in putting this together!!! I wouldve never known there’s an offline verson of Google maps. And good thing there’s a Marriott hotel there. I guess i am all set. All I need to do is convince my hubby. Lol. By the way, Your photos are breathtaking – makes me want to go there right now!

      April 22, 2018 / 8:24 pm

      Aww thank you Carmen! Glad you liked my photos and found my guide helpful. I’m sure convincing the hubby would be an easy job considering how STUNNING the coast is!

  44. April 22, 2018 / 3:13 am

    Wow! If your intention was to spark the reader’s wanderlust with this post, you certainly have done so! Would you believe it that we are in SFO in early June this year, and now I am really regretting not having time to do this drive. What with Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Napa and SFO city, the 2 weeks are already packed ๐Ÿ™

      April 22, 2018 / 8:23 pm

      Bummer! There’s always so much to see and too little time though so maybe next time. Sounds like you already got an exciting trip planned!!!

  45. April 22, 2018 / 11:01 am

    This is the perfect lengthier itinerary for exploring this part of the country! I really want to do this trip. So far I’ve only seen Monterey, San Francisco, and LA from a cruise ship and it gave me a great taste of each place. Now, to go back for more! Lovely photos!

      April 22, 2018 / 8:22 pm

      Thanks Lauren! Hope you’ll get to see the rest of California soon! ๐Ÿ™‚

  46. April 22, 2018 / 11:07 pm

    Your photos make me wanna book a flight now and do this road trips. Everything looks gorgeous. Thanks for sharing this itinerary, very useful. Sending it to my friend in Cali and hopefully we can do this road trip too.

      April 24, 2018 / 5:27 pm

      Aww thanks girlie! That makes me happy to hear. Let me know if you guys have any further questions!

  47. April 23, 2018 / 2:03 am

    There are so many place names that I recognise but haven’t been to. Hearst castle looks really interesting. and its filled with such opulent detail. This looks like a great trip and one that I would love to do someday.

      April 24, 2018 / 5:28 pm

      I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for you, Janine. I think you’ll really enjoy the drive!

  48. Renata -
    April 23, 2018 / 4:10 am

    I’ve been there twice, but your first picture alone makes me want to go back right away. I loved artsy Carmel and enjoyed Monterrey a lot – for Steinbeck, but mainly for the aquarium.

      April 24, 2018 / 5:42 pm

      Oh I didn’t know Steinbeck had ties to Monterey! Will defs have to give his stories a read now.

  49. April 23, 2018 / 7:21 am

    as a native Californian who is getting ready to move back to California after nearly 8 years abroad I can tell you this is soooo high on my list! I’ve only done this drive as a kid and so badly want to do it ASAP when I move back! I just recently drove Hwy 1 from Pescadero to Santa Cruz and that is so beautiful as well. Can’t wait to check off these SoCal spots when I drive it!

      April 24, 2018 / 5:45 pm

      Wow that’s awesome, Gabby! Seeing the same scenery eight years later is an experience in itself and I’m definitely excited for you! Happy adventuring ๐Ÿ˜€

  50. April 23, 2018 / 10:05 pm

    I have heard so many things about the US Coasts but haven’t read any of them with so great passion as now. Pacific Coast Highway looks terrific and I would love to drive along it. Seeing that Rocky Beach, that would be my favorite place.

      April 24, 2018 / 5:47 pm

      Hahhahaa I’m glad you could feel my love for this drive through these words on a screen. It’s honestly such a beautiful coast and you’d absolutely love it!

  51. April 24, 2018 / 7:11 am

    I am really in love with this Pacific Coast Highway road trip, very informative. So much to do with these beautiful destinations. I should visit them someday and enjoy every minute from this road trip. I really love all of the photos, impressive guidelines.

      April 24, 2018 / 5:48 pm

      Thanks Ghia! So happy you enjoyed the guide. Let me know if you ever have any questions when you do get to visit ๐Ÿ™‚

  52. April 24, 2018 / 1:52 pm

    We did this in 2009 but only missed Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls and the Dune Preserve! And there was no road repair. We did it by RV and camped along the way!

      April 24, 2018 / 5:49 pm

      How fun!!! I’ve always wanted to rent an RV for a road trip. I mean… just think of all the hotel costs you’d save! Sounds like you need a revisit to check out the places you’d missed!

  53. April 24, 2018 / 4:44 pm

    What a fantastic and thorough post! The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the top roadtrips I want to do. So I’m book marking your post ๐Ÿ™‚ Love all your recommendations and photos, and all that food. Thank you!

      April 24, 2018 / 5:49 pm

      And thank you, Arienne! Glad to be of help and don’t hesitate to reach out if you ever have any further questions for your future trip!

  54. April 24, 2018 / 8:57 pm

    A wonderfully comprehensive post here. I have only visited San Francisco and Los Angeles separately, but have never travelled up and down the coast. But your post makes me want to know do this. I love beaches – all beaches – so this looks like an incredible journey that I would love. Armed with my camera of course, to capture those beautiful sunsets.

      May 17, 2018 / 3:51 pm

      You’ll definitely have to give this road trip a go! Especially since you love beaches, you’d enjoy the drive even more. You won’t regret it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  55. August 18, 2018 / 10:07 pm

    Wow. That sure looks like a great road trip. It kinda reminded me of the great ocean drive in Australia. With hills one side and the turquoise of the ocean on the other. Amazing views. Can’t imagine a better road setting than this!

  56. April 1, 2019 / 3:22 am

    Definitely sounds like a great time! Iโ€™d love to do a solo trip like this someday!

  57. November 14, 2019 / 12:16 pm

    We live in the SF Bay Area and often head down the Pacific Coast Highway on long weekendsโ€“ yet no matter how often we take this road trip, itโ€™s always a delight. I really enjoyed reading your post which is packed with helpful tips and tricks to make the most of the experience. Youโ€™re absolutely right about doing last minute checks regarding highway closures before heading out on this trip. Hearst Castle is stunning and a must-see for its amazing architecture, attention to detail and gardens. Thanks for sharing this post โ€“amazing photographs as well!

  58. October 13, 2020 / 10:42 am

    I loved reading your post. Extremely detailed. Just follow this guide and it will be a fantastic trip.

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