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Liz
Westlake

California, Pacific Coast Hwy, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara

What are the must-see stops along highway 1 between San Francisco and LA?

My friend and I are making a road trip down highway 1 in California over the course of 3 days. We want to see as much as we can! We will leave first thing on a Saturday morning from San Francisco and hope to arrive whenever on that following Monday. We need two camp sites to stay in along the way. Any suggestions on what to see, where to stop or where to camp?


12 Answers

top answer by
Shannon from Anguilla

I personally love Carmel as a stop - super quaint with great shops and eateries. Beyond that, Big Sur is a gorgeous, rugged area down the coast that feels rather untouched. You can pop in for laid back wine tasting in Paso RoblesNiner Wine Estates was great when we were there! Finally, my favorite, non-negotiable place is Santa Barbara, definitely one of California's most beautiful cities with the perfect blend of beach, luxe and community!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Carmel (city)
  2. Big Sur (city)
  3. Paso Robles (city)
  4. Niner Wine Estates (restaurant)
  5. Santa Barbara (city)
9 thanks


answered by
Derek from Oakland

Hi Liz,


Hwy 1 is a wonderful drive with LOTs of great stops. I would recommend Monterey, especially the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Further south in Big Sur make sure to stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the only waterfall on the west coast that lands directly on the beach. Continuing south I'd make time for Hearst Castle, wineries in the coastal region around Cambria and Cayucos along Hwy 46 to Paso Robles, and an evening in San Luis Obispo where you can check out The Madonna Inn -- no need to stay there, but the restaurant and rooms are quite a sight -- and the downtown, including San Luis Obispo Mission.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Monterey (city)
  2. Monterey Bay Aquarium (attraction)
  3. Big Sur (city)
  4. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (attraction)
  5. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  6. Cambria (city)
  7. Cayucos (city)
  8. Paso Robles (city)
  9. San Luis Obispo (city)
  10. The Madonna Inn (hotel)
  11. San Luis Obispo Mission (attraction)
8 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Dana

Can't help you with camping sites but the drive through Big Sur is a must.  Stop at Hearst Castle after for a tour and to check out a rich man's life long dream.

Stay around San Luis Obispo and check out the wineries.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Big Sur (city)
  2. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  3. San Luis Obispo (city)
6 thanks


answered first by
Pat from Cambria

When are you doing this? While there are sites along Route 101, I would suggest you drive down Highway 1. There is more than enough to keep you busy, from Monterey and Carmel By the Sea, to Cambria to Solvang and Santa Barbara. It will be far more scenic, cooler, the whales are migrating north now, and there are good campgrounds along the route. I would suggest checking into Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or Limekiln State Park or camp grounds at  Montana De Oro State Park. Summer is a busy time along this route so visit recreation.gov and parks.ca.gov for camping information. There is a wonderful brochure CA State Parks Map you can pick up at 50 Francisco St Suite 110 in San Francisco or visit www.calparks.org. Be sure not to miss the Elephant Seal colony just before San Simeon. There is so much to see and do you will never regret diverting your drive to the PCH. And remember, most of 101 is through central valley and temps are already in the 90s along parts of this route. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Monterey (city)
  2. Carmel By the Sea (city)
  3. Cambria (city)
  4. Solvang (city)
  5. Santa Barbara (city)
  6. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (attraction)
  7. Limekiln State Park (attraction)
  8. Montana De Oro State Park (attraction)
  9. San Simeon (city)
6 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Valerie from Los Angeles

Wow, all great suggestions!

Definitely make stops at all the places people have previously mentioned if you have the time. Some of my personal favorites are in Carmel and Big Sur. In Big Sur, check out McWay Falls. It seriously looks like Neverland from Peter Pan! Big Sur in general is truly a magical place, so I hope you can find a campsite there because I know sites fill up fast! If you're hungry at all, be sure to stop by Nepenthe in Big Sur as well. Great food and a breathtaking view! Stop by the world famous Pebble Beach Golf Course in Carmel (about a 20 minute drive from Big Sur). They also have a lovely little spa called The Spa at Pebble Beach if you would like to unwind for an hour or two before getting back on the road. 

I hope that helps and happy trails!  


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. McWay Falls (attraction)
  2. Nepenthe (restaurant)
  3. Pebble Beach Golf Course (attraction)
  4. The Spa at Pebble Beach (attraction)
5 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Manuri from Los Angeles

Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Solvang and Morro Bay are all nice cities.  Stay overnight at a small town & unwind in Cayucos to go to Hearst Castle the next day. Monterey & San Jose are also good stops on the way down.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Santa Barbara (city)
  2. San Luis Obispo (city)
  3. Solvang (city)
  4. Morro Bay (city)
  5. Cayucos (city)
  6. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  7. Monterey (city)
  8. San Jose (city)
5 thanks


answered by
Mathilde from Venice Beach

Agree with most of the above!! Do not forget Point Lobos State Reserve such a poetical & revitalizing place, it's wonderful! Better than Nepenthewhich I found really expensive for the food you eat, there is this hidden terrace (above the main road) at a hotel restaurant called Ventana Inn & Spa. The view is breathtaking, it's less crowded, the food is delicious & the price reasonable.

I would visit the Nepentheboutique though, it has a collection of jewelry I really like! (need to have a budget though :) $200++)Have fun!



Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Point Lobos State Reserve (attraction)
  2. Nepenthe (restaurant)
  3. Ventana Inn & Spa (hotel)
4 thanks


answered by
Joe

Check out Esalen in Big Sur. You need a reservation to get in but they open the natural hot springs at night for people to come in from 12 to 3am Call 831-667-3047 its truly one of a kind experience.   


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Esalen (attraction)
3 thanks


answered by
Brian from Columbus

Lots of great answers and unbelievable scenery along route 1. I've traveled the entire West Coast from San Diego to Seattle and it's amazing. Plan on stopping frequently and allowing extra time to explore small parks with beaches between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. Don't miss great small beaches like Twin Lakes State Beach (while in Santa Cruz). But my favorite scenic stop along route 1 has to be Bixby Creek Bridge, which I'm surprised no one 

mentioned. It's gorgeous. There's also a small dirt road that leads *behind* the bridge for some great pictures with the bridge with the Ocean in the background.

Other great stops: Soberanes Creek has some fantastic scenery - waves crashing on rocks.


Sand City and the Monterey State Beach just north of Monterey are a quiet alternative to the crazy touristy Monterey. There's a great hotel on the beach just north of there near Marina State Beachtoo called The Sanctuary Beach Resort

In most places, like Carmel and Monterey, you definitely need to get out and explore - walk the cliff walk around Carmel. But there's one other place not mentioned that you should drive: the 17 Mile Dr


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Half Moon Bay (city)
  2. Santa Cruz (city)
  3. Twin Lakes State Beach (attraction)
  4. Bixby Creek Bridge (attraction)
  5. Soberanes Creek (attraction)
  6. Sand City (city)
  7. Monterey State Beach (attraction)
  8. Marina State Beach (attraction)
  9. The Sanctuary Beach Resort (hotel)
  10. 17 Mile Dr (attraction)
2 thanks


answered by
Holly from California

A fun stop between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara is Pismo Beach.  Have a casual lunch at the Splash Cafe  Then on to Solvang


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Pismo Beach (city)
  2. Splash Cafe (restaurant)
  3. Solvang (city)
2 thanks


answered by
Sam

Make sure to spend some time in the Big Sur area. There are probably some great camp sites, but I don't have any details. I do know that it's gorgeous though.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Big Sur (city)
1 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Liza

If your trip is between November and February THE BEST CAN'T MISS STOP is the beach at San Simeon.  A colony of over 12,000 Elephant Seals breed there during that time.  An amazing sight and the Hearst Castle is right there.  Only 25 bucks to tour the castle (which is actually designed to look like a church).  Breathtaking panoramic views too. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Simeon (city)
  2. Hearst Castle (attraction)




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