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San Diego to Santa Cruz via Malibu

driving   /   2 days   /   no pets   /   no RV

San Diego to Santa Cruz road trip planner

Here's a sample itinerary for a drive from San Diego to Santa Cruz. If you're planning a road trip to Santa Cruz, you can research locations to stop along the way. Make sure you check road conditions to double check the weather. Traveling with a dog or cat? Find pet-friendly stops. Camping along the way? Search for RV campgrounds. Find the best hotels, restaurants, and attractions based on the most talked about places recommended by Trippy members.

customize this trip
 Day 1

10:00 am  start in San Diego
drive for about 3 hours

12:51 pm  Malibu
eat at Nobu Malibu
stay for about 1.5 hours
and leave at 2:21 pm
drive for about 2 hours

4:17 pm  Solvang
stay for about 1 hour
and leave at 5:17 pm
drive for about 1 hour

6:26 pm  San Luis Obispo
eat at Firestone Grill
stay overnight at The Madonna Inn
leave the next day around 9:00 am

day 1 driving ≈ 6 hours
find more stops

 Day 2

9:00 am  leave from The Madonna Inn
drive for about 55 minutes

9:55 am  Hearst Castle
stay for about 2.5 hours
and leave at 12:25 pm
drive for about 1 hour

1:39 pm  Big Sur
stay for about 4 hours
and leave at 5:39 pm
drive for about 1.5 hours

7:04 pm  arrive in Santa Cruz
eat at Gayle's Bakery & Rosticceria

day 2 driving ≈ 3.5 hours
find more stops

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Where should I stop along the way?

Malibu  (66 answers)
    Malibu Beach  (44 mentions)
    Zuma Beach  (22 mentions)
    Point Dume State Beach  (14 mentions)
    Malibu Country Mart  (12 mentions)
    El Matador State Beach  (12 mentions)
    restaurants around Malibu:
        Nobu Malibu
        Paradise Cove Cafe
        Malibu Seafood
        Geoffrey's Malibu
        Malibu Farm Cafe
    questions about Malibu:
        Places to eat in Malibu?
        Lunch recommendations near Getty Villa - Views? Kid Friendly?
        Wine tasting in Malibu?

Solvang  (46 answers)
    Firestone Vineyard  (3 mentions)
    Fess Parker Winery  (3 mentions)
    R Country Market  (2 mentions)
    Blackjack Ranch  (2 mentions)
    Saarloos And Sons Tasting Room  (2 mentions)
    restaurants around Solvang:
        Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafe
        Olsen's Danish Village Bakery & Coffee Shop
        Industrial Eats
        Panino
        Petros
    questions about Solvang:
        What to do in Solvang... good places to stay, eat, etc.

San Luis Obispo  (122 answers)
    Bishop Peak  (4 mentions)
    San Luis Obispo Mission  (3 mentions)
    California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo  (3 mentions)
    Edna Valley  (2 mentions)
    F. McLintocks Saloon and Dining House  (2 mentions)
    restaurants around San Luis Obispo:
        Firestone Grill
        Novo Restaurant & Lounge
        Bello Mundo
        Splash Cafe
        Avila Valley Barn
    hotels around San Luis Obispo:
        The Madonna Inn
        Madonna Inn Resort & Spa
        Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort
        Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa
        Seacrest Beach Resort
    questions about San Luis Obispo:
        Lodging
        Exploring SLO in March to scout moving there - what should I check out?
        What is your favorite restaurant in San Luis Obispo?
        Where to stay outside of San Luis Obispo for Cal Poly graduation

Hearst Castle  (101 mentions)

Big Sur  (203 answers)
    Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park  (22 mentions)
    McWay Falls  (16 mentions)
    Pfeiffer State Beach  (9 mentions)
    Pfeiffer Beach  (6 mentions)
    Andrew Molera State Park  (5 mentions)
    restaurants around Big Sur:
        Nepenthe
        Post Ranch Inn
        Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant
        Coast Gallery & Cafe
        Big Sur River Inn
    questions about Big Sur:
        Whats the best hike in Big Sur? Best beach?
        First-come, first-serve camping sites in Big Sur?
        how far is the drive to sequoia national aprk


Where's the best place to eat in Santa Cruz?

Need some recommendations on somewhere to get food?

Trippy members suggest Gayle's Bakery & Rosticceria, which was mentioned 3 times.

Here are some more restaurants people talk about:

Want to research more popular restaurants in Santa Cruz? Click the blue button below.




What are some things to do in Santa Cruz?

This section could be endless, so rather than trying to suggest every local activity or attraction, we'll leave it open-ended.

These are some of the places people talk about on Trippy:

The Mystery Spot  (4 mentions)
Santa Cruz Beach  (4 mentions)
Seabright State Beach  (3 mentions)

Of course, Trippy is the perfect place to ask questions because there's an entire community of travelers talking to each other and sharing tips and advice. Trippy is where you can get answers personalized for your tastes, budgets, trip dates & more!

For example, here are some questions people have asked about Santa Cruz. Click on any question to see answers from the community!

profile  Drew from Angelika Film Center & Cafe asked:
Activities during reunion in santa cruz  (4 answers)

profile  Allysia from Boston asked:
What are some must places to go to in Santa Cruz, CA  (2 answers)

profile  Paul from Redmond (Washington) asked:
Are there any good restaurants in Santa Cruz?  (2 answers)

profile  Lily from asked:
Names of beaches that aren't so crowded  (1 answer)

profile  Eddie from Bronx asked:
Best Things To Do In Santa Cruz?  (1 answer)

Click the button below to explore more questions and answers related to Santa Cruz.




Do I really have to go back home?

Yes, even this step is optional, because if you're on vacation who wants the trip to end? It's okay, you can start planning your next trip!

Want to plan the trip back? Get the reverse directions for a Santa Cruz to San Diego drive, or go to the main page to plan a new road trip.

You can also compare the travel time if you're flying or driving by calculating the distance from San Diego to Santa Cruz. Or get a full San Diego to Santa Cruz flight plan.

Don't forget about exploring your own hometown with a staycation. You can also find some cool day trips or get away for a weekend. Maybe try typing in a faraway location like London, Hong Kong, or Sydney, and get inspired for your dream trip around the world.

And if you know San Diego well, please help your fellow travelers and answer their questions about San Diego!





At a Glance
without making any stops
total driving distance is 478 miles
driving time of 8 hours, 21 minutes
256 San Diego travel answers
66 Malibu travel answers
46 Solvang travel answers
122 San Luis Obispo travel answers
203 Big Sur travel answers
85 Santa Cruz travel answers





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