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Most Scenic Stretch of California Coast: Highway 1

Updated: Jul 11


Pacific Coast Highway 1: California Dream

PCH scenic drive along the California Coast


Pacific Coast Highway 1 (PCH) is one of the most famous roads in the United States, and for good reason. With stunning landscapes, charming cities, and unique attractions, it is the perfect destination for an unforgettable road trip.


In addition to San Francisco and Los Angeles being excellent cities to tour and discover, the journey between the two along Highway 1 is a spectacle in itself. The view is stunning, and some stops are mandatory to enjoy the landscape. Be careful not to get distracted and miss one of the countless curves on this seaside road.


Running along most of California's beautiful coastline, from San Francisco to San Diego, the road hugs over 900 kilometers (600 miles).


We took this route by car, but a motorcycle can be an excellent option. We saw several groups on the roads. Find below our California Coast road trip itinerary, from San Francisco to Los Angeles! Join us on the Pacific Coast Highway scenic drive!




Monterey and Carmel-by-the-sea are charming cities along Pacific Coast Highway 1


Monterey:


Don't miss the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the most captivating aquariums in America for its interactive exhibits and grand presentation of marine life.


Cannery Row is a lively street anchored by the Monterey Aquarium. It has restaurants, hotels, shops and art galleries.

Pacific Coas Highway Beach

Leave early one morning to travel the 17-mile drive by car or bike (saving admission). Some typically Californian landscapes and beaches with cliffs and rocks are simply stunning.


Take the opportunity to stroll along Pebble Beach and stop at the Lodge at Pebble Beach for shopping, eating and, why not, a round of golf at the most famous course on the west coast.

Carmel


Bixby bridge - scenic Pacific Highway

Carmel is an incredible European-style villa. It has inspired and attracted artists and celebrities, such as Clint Eastwood. Above a white sand beach and traditional rocky cliffs, Carmel has hundreds of shops, restaurants, wine tastings, and art galleries.


More expensive but much more charming than Monterey! Choose one of the two cities to spend at least one night.


The Highway: a scenic drive


Continue until Point Lobos State Park - Its beauty is breathtaking, a place where you can escape to the serenity of nature.

Continue to Point Lobos State Park. Point Lobos is a nature reserve with stunning scenery, beaches, cliffs, and forests. The place is a breathtaking beauty where you can escape to the serenity of nature.


On your way, don't miss the PCH bridge, Bixby Creek in Big Sur, an iconic architectural landmark on scenic Highway 1. It is approximately 18 miles south of Monterey and Carmel-by-the-Sea.


This bridge was completed in 1932 and remains one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges globally, stretching 714 feet in length. One of the prettiest pacific coast highway views! Not to mention Bixby Creek Bridge red wine: a cabernet sauvignon worth trying. 


Love it or hate it, Hearst Castle is a must-see on Highway 1. Hearst Castle is an opulent mansion built by media mogul William Randolph Hearst.


Be careful with your arrival time. The last guided tour group (mandatory) leaves at 4 pm. Visit the small museum next to the starting point, where groups gather to be taken by bus up the hill.


You will also find an IMAX cinema showing a special Hearst Castle documentary. You can choose between several tours:


Tour 1, the overview of the castle. Recommended for first-time visitors. You walk through the gardens to the main house, La Casa Grande, to visit the rooms on the lower level. At the theater, a short home movie of Hearst and some of his famous friends gives you a glimpse into life at the castle during the 1930s.


Tour 2 visits the rooms, kitchen, and swimming pools. The Roman-style indoor pool has over half a million Italian mosaic tiles and large amounts of gold leaf. It took over five years to complete.


Tour 3 visits the guest wing of the castle, an inn, and the swimming pools.


Tour 4, offered in summer only, does not go to the main house but focuses on the property's gardens.

Leaving there, go straight to San Luis Obispo to spend the night.



San Luis Obispo


In the middle of the Central Coast Wine, lies this charming university town with affordable,


friendly locals. The street is lined with trees and features many boutiques, great restaurants, and the History Center Museum.


Solvang


The next day, take the route to Solvang. Founded in 1911 by Danish teachers, it is located in the Santa Ynez Valley. The city preserves the culture and architecture of the European country.


Beautiful city with tree-lined streets, modern shops, and good restaurants. Have lunch there before continuing your trip.


The Last few km from Los Angeles:


As we cruise down Highway 1, let's take a moment to look inland at the majestic Santa Barbara Mountains. This hiker's paradise offers stunning vistas and a tranquil escape from the coastal crowds


Before arriving in Los Angeles, have lunch in Malibu, a haven for artists (we suggest the wonderful Japanese Nobu). Malibu is known for its white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and celebrity homes.


Visit Getty Village. It is a replica of a Roman villa from the 1st century BC and houses a collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art. The villa was built in 1974 by media mogul J. Paul Getty and is one of the most visited museums in California.


Venice Beach is unlike anywhere else. Well known for its street artists and vibrant atmosphere. Venice Beach is a melting pot of countercultures, street art, Californian tans, and a dash of madness.


Jugglers pirouettes alongside souvenir sellers. Musicians fill the air with melodies. Bodybuilders show off their muscles at the legendary Muscle Beach.


And when you arrive in Los Angeles, don't forget to go to Santa Monica. A true "urban" beach in the Los Angeles area.


Enjoy ocean views strolling along the beautiful Santa Monica Pier and have fun at Pacific Park. Visit the Third Street Promenade shopping district and Santa Monica Place mall.


To make the most of Highway 1 scenic drive, continue until San Diego. The city beckons travelers with its endless sunshine, stunning beaches, and vibrant culture - a place where relaxation and adventure collide.


What is the most scenic part of the Pacific Coast Highway?


Well, there are controversies. Some would say Big Sur, others Bixby Creek Bridge! Why not the Golden Gate? I think they are all beautiful, each with a peculiar charm. Leave your opinion in the comments!


Conclusion


Pacific Coast Highway 1 is a road trip you'll never forget. With stunning landscapes, charming cities, and unique attractions, it is the perfect destination for an unforgettable adventure.


Which one is the most beautiful road? Pacific Coast Highway or the Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West, Flórida? You tell me!


If you're looking for a trip combining natural beauty, culture, and history, Pacific Coast Highway 1 is the perfect choice. Embark on this memorable California Coast road trip!


Plan your Perfect trip in some clicks


Get ready to embark on your perfect trip with a few clicks! Everything you need to plan your adventure right here at your fingertips:


  • Search and book your ticket at Expedia












  • Find the right luggage. I always recommend Samsonite for superior quality.






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