The 450-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway between San Francisco and Los Angeles is one of the most scenic, iconic and breathtakingly beautiful road trips I've ever been on. The whole drive is full of the Pacific Ocean, sandy beaches, rocky shorelines, cliffs and redwood trees.
This particular road trip has been on my bucket list for quite some time and I'm proud to say it's finally been checked off. Last week my best friend, Paige, flew into town for my birthday, we rented a car and hit the road for our Pacific Coast Highway road trip down Highway 1. We broke the road trip up into two days so we weren't rushed to see everything. Here are the must see stops along Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
** means we didn't stop in the locations, but I wanted to give you the option to stop there!**
If you haven’t spent much time in San Francisco, I highly suggest spending one to two days to explore the city. If you're visiting for the first time, make sure to check out the what not to miss below.
Don’t Miss: The Golden gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Warf, Alcatraz, Union Square, Riding In A Cable Car, The Painted Ladies, Sausalito.
** Santa Cruz: This is your typical beach town. This isn’t a “must stop” for me, but if you want to get out of the car, stretch your legs and ride some rides then stop at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.
Take the scenic 17-Mile Drive that runs through Pacific Grove to Pebble Beach. The views are killer and it’s totally worth fantasizing about the houses and beautiful views. If you’re a golfer, then definitely stop in Pebble Beach for a bite to eat or to scoop up something from the gift shops. We stopped and ate at The Bench where we enjoyed a glass of Rosé and lunch outside overlooking the ocean and the 18th hole.
** Carmel-by-the-Sea: This is a short little drive from Pebble (next town over) but is such a cute little quaint seaside town with cute cafes and shops.
This is a must stop for a quick photo opp. Fun fact: This bridge is the most photographed bridge along the Pacific Coast because of it’s concrete design and location. I mean…how gorgeous is that view!! To get both sides of the bridge, you can take the little dirt track on the opposite side of the road for a better photo of the bridge and the ocean - chances are you’ll have it all to yourself!
This is one of the most well-known areas of Highway 1 and can definitely be an overnight stop if you’re looking for that. Big Sur has stunning coastline views but also has some of the best hikes, waterfalls and hidden beaches. Note: You will loose all service for a couple hours so make sure to screenshot your maps or make any calls before you loose service.
Don’t Miss: McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach during sunset, Ventana Inn, Post Ranch Inn
**Hearst Castle Some will tell you that it’s a “must see,” while other will tell you to skip it. I went with my family when I was younger so we decided to skip it because we didn’t want to pay an entry fee.
Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo
Oh the charm! Our final ‘pitstop’ on the drive (aka our sleeping quarters) before LA. There are few words to say about this place because you’re mind will be so blown. So you really just have to experience it yourself. If you’re passing by, I highly suggest making it an overnight stay or pop your head in for a drink (or no drink).
More on the Madonna Inn tomorrow...
Santa Barbara is a beautiful place for shopping, surfing, dining and wining (see what I did there!)). But since we were driving, we couldn’t partake in any of the award-winning wineries. So we drove by the beach, thru the main street then headed back on the road after a quick pitstop at In-N-Out - you can't have a road trip without a cheeseburger, animal style.
WooHoo...you made it! We ended our Pacific Coast road trip along the coast in Santa Monica, then spent 2 extra days exploring Los Angeles.
What's on your bucket list? Have you ever done the SF to LA scenic drive down Highway 1? I'd love to know in the comments below...
Keep scrolling to see more of our photos from our road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles...
I've never seen someone so excited to be at a golf course ! :-)
These are Elephant Seals that we spotted on a beach near San Luis Obispo. These are interesting animals, indeed!