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Top Stops Along The Pacific Coast Highway


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Linnell Marmolejo



The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1, is one of the most scenic and iconic road trips in the world. Spanning over 600 miles, this breathtaking coastal route runs along the western edge of the United States, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs, towering redwoods, picturesque beaches, and vibrant coastal towns.


Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or a photography enthusiast, the Pacific Coast Highway has something for everyone. From the bustling city of San Francisco to the lively beaches of San Diego, this road trip is a journey of awe-inspiring beauty and unforgettable experiences.


As you embark on this epic coastal adventure, you’ll encounter a myriad of attractions and stops along the way. From charming seaside towns and world-class wineries to coastal hikes and wildlife encounters, each stop adds its own unique flavor to the journey.


Join us as we take you through some of the top stops along the Pacific Coast Highway. From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, get ready to discover the best of the West Coast and create memories that will last a lifetime.


San Francisco

Your Pacific Coast Highway adventure starts in the vibrant city of San Francisco. Known for its iconic landmarks, memorable cable cars, and diverse culinary scene, San Francisco offers a wealth of attractions for visitors to explore.


Start your visit with a stroll along the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, where you can take in breathtaking views of the city and the sparkling bay. Visit Fisherman’s Wharf, a bustling waterfront area, and indulge in some fresh seafood while enjoying street performers and sea lions at Pier 39.


No visit to San Francisco is complete without exploring the colorful neighborhoods of Chinatown and North Beach. Immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, try delicious dumplings and fortune cookies, and visit historic sites like the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.


If you’re a nature lover, make sure to visit Golden Gate Park. This sprawling urban oasis is home to lush gardens, serene lakes, and world-class museums, such as the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences.


For a taste of San Francisco’s famous food scene, head to the Ferry Building Marketplace. Here, you can sample local artisanal products, grab a gourmet sandwich, or browse the many shops offering artisanal chocolates, cheeses, and wines.


Before you hit the road, don’t forget to take a ride on one of San Francisco’s historic cable cars. These charming modes of transportation offer a unique way to navigate the city’s hilly streets and provide stunning views along the way.


As you leave San Francisco behind, get ready for the next leg of your Pacific Coast Highway adventure, where the stunning coastal views and scenic landscapes await you.



Continue your journey down the Pacific Coast Highway and make a stop in the picturesque coastal town of Monterey. Known for its rich history, breathtaking coastline, and abundant marine life, Monterey offers a delightful mix of natural beauty and cultural attractions.


Start your exploration at Cannery Row, a vibrant waterfront street lined with charming shops, restaurants, and historic buildings. Immortalized by John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name, Cannery Row offers a glimpse into Monterey’s sardine canning industry past.


Next, head to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the world’s best aquariums, located right on the Pacific Ocean. Marvel at the diverse marine life on display, including playful sea otters, graceful jellyfish, and majestic sharks. You can even participate in interactive exhibits and feedings.


If you’re a nature enthusiast, don’t miss Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. This pristine coastal park boasts dramatic cliffs, secluded coves, and abundant wildlife. Take a leisurely hike along the trails, and keep an eye out for seals, sea lions, and even migrating whales during the right season.


For a taste of Monterey’s history, visit the historic adobe houses of Monterey State Historic Park. Explore buildings that date back to the Spanish and Mexican eras, offering a glimpse into the area’s rich cultural heritage.


If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, make your way to Fisherman’s Wharf. Indulge in fresh seafood dishes while enjoying panoramic views of the bay. Don’t forget to try the local specialty, clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl.


Before leaving Monterey, take a scenic drive along the 17-Mile Drive. This iconic coastal route offers breathtaking views of rugged coastline, pristine golf courses, and the famous Lone Cypress tree. Keep your camera ready as you navigate through this picturesque stretch of road.


Monterey is a place where history, nature, and coastal charm converge, offering a perfect stop along your Pacific Coast Highway journey.


Big Sur

As you continue your adventure along the Pacific Coast Highway, prepare to be mesmerized by the breathtaking beauty of Big Sur. Nestled between the Santa Lucia Mountains and the rugged coastline, Big Sur is a stunning stretch of land that captivates the hearts of all who visit.


Start your exploration at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Hike through lush trails, crossing picturesque bridges and uncovering hidden waterfalls. The park also offers camping facilities, allowing you to spend the night under the canopy of ancient redwood trees.


One of the most iconic spots in Big Sur is Bixby Creek Bridge. This striking architectural marvel spans across a deep canyon, providing endless photo opportunities with the sparkling blue ocean as the backdrop. Stop here to capture the grandeur of the landscape.


For a truly magical experience, head to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and witness McWay Falls. This enchanting waterfall cascades directly onto the sandy beach below, creating a postcard-perfect scene that will leave you in awe.


Art lovers will appreciate the Henry Miller Memorial Library, a unique cultural space dedicated to the American writer and his associates. Explore the collection of books, attend a live music performance, or immerse yourself in the tranquil garden surroundings.


As you drive along the rugged coastline, you’ll encounter numerous scenic viewpoints offering panoramic vistas of cliffs plunging into the turquoise waters below. Make sure to stop at Nepenthe, a famous restaurant nestled among the redwoods, where you can enjoy a delicious meal while basking in stunning ocean views.


Immerse yourself in the artistic ambience of Big Sur by visiting the Esalen Institute, a renowned retreat center and hot springs destination. Take a soak in natural hot spring baths overlooking the ocean, indulge in a massage, or participate in a yoga or meditation session.


Big Sur’s natural wonders and artistic atmosphere make it a must-visit stop along the Pacific Coast Highway. Revel in the majestic landscapes and embrace the serene vibes that have inspired artists, writers, and dreamers for generations.


Santa Barbara

As you continue your journey along the Pacific Coast Highway, make a stop in the idyllic coastal city of Santa Barbara. Known as the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara beckons with its Mediterranean-inspired architecture, pristine beaches, and laid-back atmosphere.


Start your exploration by visiting the Santa Barbara Mission, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Discover the rich history of the Franciscan mission, stroll through the beautifully manicured gardens, and admire the stunning views of the city below.


Next, head to the vibrant downtown area, where you’ll find a wealth of shops, art galleries, and sidewalk cafés. State Street is the main thoroughfare, offering a mix of upscale boutiques, unique local stores, and delicious dining options.


For a taste of Santa Barbara’s coastal beauty, head to Stearns Wharf. This historic pier offers panoramic views of the coastline, as well as seafood restaurants and unique souvenir shops. Take a leisurely stroll along the wooden planks and watch the sailboats glide by.


Nature lovers shouldn’t miss the opportunity to explore the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. This 78-acre botanical wonderland features an array of native California plants, blooming wildflowers, and peaceful hiking trails that allow you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the region.


If you’re a wine enthusiast, indulge in a tasting experience at one of Santa Barbara’s renowned wineries. The region is known for its exceptional vineyards and produces some of the finest wines in California. Take a scenic drive to the Santa Ynez Valley, where you can visit award-winning wineries and enjoy breathtaking views of rolling vineyards.


For a glimpse into Santa Barbara’s architectural charm, visit the iconic Santa Barbara County Courthouse. This stunning Spanish Revival-style building features beautiful tiled murals, a panoramic tower offering sweeping views of the city, and peaceful sunken gardens perfect for a leisurely stroll.


Santa Barbara’s pristine beaches are a highlight of any visit. From East Beach to Butterfly Beach, you’ll find stretches of white sand and turquoise waters perfect for sunbathing and swimming. Consider renting a bike to explore the coastal bike path and enjoy the refreshing ocean breeze.


With its perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural attractions, and coastal charm, Santa Barbara is a must-visit stop along your Pacific Coast Highway adventure.



As you continue your journey along the Pacific Coast Highway, make a stop in the glamorous beach town of Malibu. Known for its stunning coastline, celebrity homes, and laid-back vibes, Malibu offers a unique blend of natural beauty and upscale living.


Start your exploration by visiting the iconic Zuma Beach. With its wide sandy shores and crystal-clear waters, it’s the perfect spot to relax, sunbathe, or take a refreshing dip in the ocean. Take a leisurely stroll along the shoreline and take in the breathtaking views of the Pacific.


If you’re a surfer or want to learn, head to Surfrider Beach. This legendary surf spot is famous for its consistent waves and attracts surfers from all over the world. Even if you’re not a surfer, watching the surfers catch waves is an exhilarating experience.


For a taste of Malibu’s natural beauty, explore the scenic trails of the Santa Monica Mountains. Hike to Escondido Falls, where you’ll find a stunning 50-foot waterfall, or take in panoramic views of the coastline from the Sandstone Peak trail, the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains.


Malibu is home to some of the most incredible beachfront properties, and you can catch a glimpse of them by taking a drive along Pacific Coast Highway. Marvel at the architectural masterpieces and celebrity homes that line the coastline, and imagine the luxurious lifestyle that exists within.


When it comes to dining, Malibu offers a plethora of options. Indulge in fresh seafood at Malibu Seafood, a local favorite that serves up delicious fish and chips, clam chowder, and grilled seafood platters. For a more upscale experience, book a table at one of the beachfront restaurants and enjoy stunning ocean views while savoring California-inspired cuisine.


Make sure to visit the iconic Malibu Pier, a historic landmark that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. Take a leisurely stroll along the pier, watch the surfers catch waves, or try your hand at fishing. Enjoy the stunning views and embrace the laid-back ambiance that epitomizes Malibu.


As your time in Malibu comes to an end, you’ll leave with lasting memories of pristine beaches, breathtaking sunsets, and the captivating allure of this beachside paradise.


Santa Monica

Located at the western end of the Pacific Coast Highway, Santa Monica is a beachside city that offers a perfect combination of sunny beaches, lively attractions, and a vibrant coastal atmosphere. Known for its iconic pier and bustling downtown district, Santa Monica is a must-visit stop on your Pacific Coast Highway journey.


Start your exploration at the Santa Monica Pier, a historic landmark that boasts an array of attractions and entertainment options. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel for panoramic views of the coastline, enjoy thrilling roller coaster rides, or try your hand at classic carnival games. Don’t forget to grab a snack at one of the food stalls and savor some traditional boardwalk treats like funnel cakes or cotton candy.


Adjacent to the pier is the bustling Third Street Promenade. This pedestrian-only street is lined with an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and street performers. Enjoy some retail therapy, dine at one of the many outdoor patios, or simply soak in the lively atmosphere as you explore the vibrant street.


For a taste of the local food scene, head to the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Held several times a week, this market showcases a wide variety of fresh produce, artisanal goods, and gourmet treats. Meet friendly farmers, sample local delicacies, and gather ingredients for a picnic on the beach.


Speaking of the beach, Santa Monica Beach offers the perfect opportunity to soak up the California sun. Spread out your towel on the sandy shores, take a dip in the refreshing ocean, or rent a bike to explore the famous beachfront bike path. Make sure to catch the sunset, as Santa Monica Beach offers breathtaking views of the fiery sky painting the horizon.


If you’re looking for cultural experiences, visit the renowned Getty Villa. This stunning museum is dedicated to ancient art and houses a vast collection of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan artifacts. Explore the intricately designed gardens, admire the art exhibits, and gain insight into the civilizations of the past.


Before you bid farewell to Santa Monica, take a leisurely stroll along Ocean Avenue, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the ocean and the city’s iconic palm trees. Stop for a refreshing drink at one of the trendy rooftop bars or grab a bite to eat at one of the chic restaurants that line the street.


Santa Monica’s laid-back beach vibes, lively attractions, and stunning coastal beauty make it a highlight of any Pacific Coast Highway adventure.


Los Angeles

As you continue your road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll arrive in the bustling metropolis of Los Angeles. Known as the entertainment capital of the world, Los Angeles offers something for everyone, from iconic landmarks and cultural attractions to world-renowned dining and vibrant nightlife.


Start your exploration of Los Angeles with a visit to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Walk along the star-studded sidewalks and spot the names of your favorite celebrities, or visit the TCL Chinese Theatre, where you can see the handprints and footprints of Hollywood legends.


No trip to Los Angeles is complete without a visit to Griffith Observatory. Located in Griffith Park, the observatory offers stunning views of the city skyline and the iconic Hollywood sign. Explore the exhibits, gaze at the stars through telescopes, or take a hike in the adjacent park.


For art enthusiasts, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is a must-visit. With its extensive collection spanning diverse cultures and time periods, LACMA is a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces. From ancient relics to contemporary installations, there’s something to captivate every art lover.


To experience the vibrant culinary scene of Los Angeles, head to Grand Central Market. This historic food hall is a food lover’s paradise, offering an array of international cuisine and artisanal products. Sample tacos, try unique fusion dishes, or indulge in some delectable desserts.


If you’re a fan of the great outdoors, take a trip to Griffith Park. This expansive urban park offers hiking trails, picnic areas, and even a zoo. Take a hike to the iconic Griffith Observatory or enjoy a leisurely horseback ride through the park’s scenic trails.


For a taste of the local beach culture, visit Santa Monica or Venice Beach. Stroll along the lively boardwalk, watch street performers, or simply soak up the sun on the sandy shores. Don’t forget to explore the Venice Canals, a charming neighborhood reminiscent of its Italian namesake.


Los Angeles is also known for its world-class shopping. From iconic luxury brands on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to the trendy boutiques on Melrose Avenue, you’ll find plenty of shopping destinations to satisfy your fashion cravings.


As the sun sets, embrace Los Angeles’ vibrant nightlife by visiting the Sunset Strip. This famous stretch of Sunset Boulevard is lined with legendary clubs, live music venues, and trendy bars. Enjoy a night of entertainment and revel in the city’s buzzing energy.


Los Angeles is a city of dreams, where the glamour of Hollywood meets the charm of diverse neighborhoods. From star-studded attractions to cultural destinations, this lively city has a unique vibe that will leave a lasting impression on your Pacific Coast Highway adventure.


San Diego

As you near the end of your Pacific Coast Highway journey, make a stop in the beautiful city of San Diego. Known for its pristine beaches, year-round perfect weather, and vibrant cultural scene, San Diego offers a delightful blend of relaxation and excitement.


Start your visit by exploring the historic Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Step back in time as you wander through the streets lined with preserved adobe buildings, visit museums showcasing the city’s rich history, and indulge in authentic Mexican cuisine at one of the many restaurants.


No trip to San Diego is complete without a visit to Balboa Park. This sprawling urban park is home to numerous museums, gardens, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Spend a day exploring the park, immersing yourself in art, culture, and nature.


For beach lovers, a visit to Coronado Island is a must. Take a walk along the iconic Coronado Beach with its pristine sands and views of the historic Hotel del Coronado. You can also rent a bike and explore the island or enjoy a picnic at Spreckels Park.


The vibrant neighborhood of Gaslamp Quarter is a hub of entertainment and culinary delights. Enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many trendy restaurants, explore the unique shops, and experience the lively nightlife scene with its bars and clubs.


If you’re a fan of marine life, don’t miss a visit to SeaWorld San Diego. Get up close and personal with captivating marine animals, enjoy thrilling rides, and watch spectacular performances by killer whales, dolphins, and sea lions.


To experience the natural beauty of San Diego, head to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. Hike along the scenic trails, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the iconic Torrey Pines cliffs. This protected reserve is a tranquil escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.


Be sure to visit the USS Midway Museum, located on the aircraft carrier ship of the same name. Explore the ship’s deck, visit the interactive exhibits, and gain insight into the history of naval aviation.


Before you leave San Diego, take a relaxing stroll along the Embarcadero, where you can enjoy views of the harbor, visit the Maritime Museum, and watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean.


San Diego’s laid-back atmosphere, scenic beauty, and diverse attractions make it the perfect end to your Pacific Coast Highway adventure. Whether you’re enjoying the beaches, exploring the cultural sites, or indulging in delicious cuisine, San Diego offers a memorable experience that will leave you longing to return.



The Pacific Coast Highway road trip is an unforgettable adventure that takes you along the stunning coastline of California. From the bustling cityscape of San Francisco to the laid-back beaches of San Diego, each stop along the way offers its own unique charm and experiences.


Whether you’re seeking natural beauty, cultural attractions, or culinary delights, the Pacific Coast Highway has it all. Discover the iconic landmarks of San Francisco, explore the charming coastal town of Monterey, marvel at the breathtaking landscapes of Big Sur, immerse yourself in the beachside glamour of Malibu, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of Santa Monica and Los Angeles.


Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy scenic drives, hike through lush forests, relax on pristine beaches, and indulge in delicious cuisine. From seafood feasts to farm-fresh produce, the culinary offerings of the Pacific Coast Highway are as diverse and exciting as the destinations themselves.


Whether you have a week or a month to explore, this road trip allows you to customize your itinerary and create your own unique experience. Take your time to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the coastal landscapes, visit the hidden gems, and embrace the laid-back vibes that have drawn travelers to this iconic route for generations.


The Pacific Coast Highway road trip is not just a journey of breathtaking scenery – it’s a journey of self-discovery, connection with nature, and exploration of the vibrant cultures that make up the diverse fabric of California. So pack your bags, hit the open road, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime as you embark on the unforgettable Pacific Coast Highway road trip.