How to do a California Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip the Right Way

Let’s start within the good ol’ US of A! Last Thanksgiving break we took a road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway with Grant’s brother. Exploring within your own state can be a cost-effective and convenient way to travel. Especially when your state is not your home state and it is California which is HUGE! We started in Laguna Beach and the PCH all the way to San Francisco in 3 days.

1st Stop: Malibu

Pepperdine: A beautiful college with stunning views and a big lawn. Great spot to throw a frisbee or just take some pics!

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe: It’s right on the sand and a great vibe. You can drink out of pineapples and they have a delish calamari dish served in a jumbo martini glass!

Neptune’s Net: Awesome seafood joint. It’s very casual…like half gas station, half restaurant. and a big biker spot! Grant highly recommends trying food from both the cooked side and the raw bar.

2nd Stop: Santa Barbara

Stearns Wharf: Grab a coffee or ice cream and stroll along the pier. The backdrop of the mountains, palm trees, and beach is stunning!

Palace Grill: A MUST DO! Great ambiance, amazing food and drinks! It came highly recommended to us and did not disappoint. The Louisiana style cuisine was amazing but it was the experience and service that sealed the deal.

American Ale : There was a long wait at Palace Grill so we grabbed drinks here next door. Prohibition style craft cocktails and such.

IHSP Hostel: This was our second time staying here. It is a very affordable hostel. We opted for the private room both times. Not too shabby!

Grant and Rachel in Santa Barbara

3rd Stop: San Simeon

Elephant Seals: Literally a stop on the side of the road, but you don’t want to miss these guys. They are massive and entertaining! I love the California sea lions and water mammals in general so this was a check off the bucket list!

Hearst Castle: I usually like my tours self-guided but this guided one was still great! The castle has a Gatsby vibe and a very cool story. Check out the zebras near the road on your way up!

4th Stop: Big Sur

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: A MUST SEE. Incredible. Pictures don’t do it justice. The waterfall and turquoise water is simply stunning. We were fighting sunset so we didn’t get to hike but the drive alone is awesome. We stopped several times just to take in the gorgeous coastline.

Nepenthe: Kind of a pricey spot but the patio view is worth it. Time sunset and happy hour just right and you will be glad you did!

Camping: I sadly don’t remember the name of our campground but it was great! We camped under the redwoods and stars. Seriously magical. Until we thought we were getting attacked by a bear. Turns out it was just a raccoon but it’s a good story!

5th stop: Carmel by the Sea

Carmel: It is a quaint, walkable town. We had breakfast at the Carmel Bakery, yummy croissants!

6th stop: Monterrey

The Cannery District: Lots of shops and restaurants. It is kind of touristy but has some interesting history. We didn’t get a chance to visit the aquarium but I have only heard great things!

7th stop: Marshall / Tomales Bay

Hog Island Oyster Farm: It is kind of a far drive past San Fransisco to get to Marshall. Or maybe it just seemed that way after driving all day. Honestly, I’ve had better oysters but the scenery was beautiful and it was a unique experience eating the daily catch right where they are farmed in Tomales Bay. If you make a reservation you can sit on picnic tables by the water while you shuck and roast oysters. At those tables you can BYOB and snacks! They fill up fast (we didn’t get one) so book early! There are a few other casual seafood restaurants lining the road as well.

8th stop: San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge: We have visited SF several times and we had a flight to catch so we only had a few hours to spend. Our PCH Road Trip concluded with a California classic, sunset on the Golden Gate Bridge. To read more about why we love this city, check out our SF blog post here.

For more information on California, grab this Lonely Planet guide book.

California Dreaming,


Inspired Recipe: Peanut Butter Chocolate Trail Mix Granola Bars by Super Healthy Kids

What’s more granola than going camping in NorCal? These delish bars. YUM. They seriously taste like dessert. Bonus points: They’re no bake and sneak in some flax seed!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Trail Mix Granola Bars

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