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Los Angeles, San Francisco

Two places to stop and sleep from Santa Monica to San Francisco?

What 2 places would you suggest two 60 year old travelers stop for over nights on a drive from Santa Monica to SF- first time visitors-moderate budget (under $300 per night). Spending 4 days in Santa Monica-2 days drive-3 days in SF.

6 Answers

top answer by
Josh from Baton Rouge

I would suggest only stopping one place as the drive isn't that long even if you follow the Pacific Coast Hwy the entire way.

Also, if you are saying you are driving 2 days, it would seem to me that that would mean you would only need one night stay i.e. Santa Monica -> (drive day) -> Stop overnight -> (drive day) arrive at night in San Fran.

As for where to stay, you must go to Carmel.  It is an amazing little town, with wonderful scenery.

When you are leaving Santa Monica and heading toward Carmel, I would suggest taking I-5 North for a decent ways before cutting over to the PCH.  Check out this map as a general route guide:

Happy travels!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Pacific Coast Hwy (attraction)
  2. Carmel (attraction)
4 thanks

answered first by
Marie from San Francisco

Drive the PCH, it may take you longer but it's the most beautiful route! Spend some time in Malibu Beach, maybe Trancas Beach (I'm biased as I lived there when I was attending Pepperdine).

Santa Barbara is also majestic and not so far away from Malibu.

.. And Monterey or Carmel.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Malibu Beach (attraction)
  2. Trancas Beach (attraction)
  3. Santa Barbara (city)
  4. Monterey (city)
  5. Carmel (attraction)
3 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Dee from California

Oh my.  Do NOT take Highway 5!  How dreadful, boring, out of the way.  All of the other suggestions have been great, it simply depends on what you want to see and do.  Carmel is charming, but Monterey is more active is your want a bit more sightseeing and history.  Other than that, just pick a beach and enjoy!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Carmel (attraction)
  2. Monterey (city)
2 thanks

answered by
Anna from Athens

As other people who replied I suggest taking the Pacific Coast Highway up to San Francisco, as it's more scenic! For first stop/sleep I suggest the San Luis Obispo area. My friends and I spent the night at Cayucos and more specifically at the Cayucos Beach Inn. I think we spent around $150 for a 4 person room (but hey that was back in March). Morro Bay also has many options for accomodation.

The next stop/sleep should be at Carmel, as it's going to take you a while to get from San Luis Obispo to Carmel. This is the most interesting part of the Pacific Coast Highway. You can stop at Hearst CastleJulia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (Mc Way Falls) and of course Big Sur. Arrive in early evening in Carmel, have dinner, spend the night there and then drive up to SF. I don't have suggestions for Carmel as we did the Cayucos-SF trip in one go without spending the night somewhere.

Here are some suggestions about stops along Big Sur:

and here are some suggestions about Malibu

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. San Luis Obispo (city)
  2. Cayucos (city)
  3. Morro Bay (attraction)
  4. Carmel (attraction)
  5. Hearst Castle (attraction)
  6. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (attraction)
  7. Big Sur (city)
2 thanks

answered by

Check out the Madonna Inn Resort & Spa as a place to stop off your fist night if you want something cool and unique past Santa Barbara but before Morro Bay. It is also before Paso Robles which has some good wineries if you want to go wine tasting along the way (drive safe!). The next night could be spent in Big SurSanta Cruz or Half Moon Bay but unfortunately I don't have any specific hotels to mention in those destinations.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Madonna Inn Resort & Spa (hotel)
  2. Paso Robles (city)
  3. Big Sur (city)
  4. Santa Cruz (city)
  5. Half Moon Bay (city)

answered by
Fritzi from San Francisco

I highly recommend you drive Route 1 all the way.  As you leave Santa Monica, the stretch of Route 1 going north to Carpinteria and Ventura is beautiful.  By all means stop at Santa Barbara which has a walkable downtown.  Spend the night in Morro Bay, scenic, good restaurants, affordable hotel rates.

Next morning, you will drive Big Sur.  Stop for lunch at Nepenthe or Post Ranch Inn.  Be sure to take in the 17 Mile Dr along Pebble Beach.  There is a small charge, but it is worth it.  All the stops are gorgeous.  CarmelMonterey and Pacific Grove are next.  Fishermans Wharf has many view restaurants with seal lions barking below.

As you continue up Hwy 1., you will pass Santa CruzHalf Moon Bayand Pacifica. At Pacifica take Sharp Park Rd to connect to Hwy 280 into San Francisco.  This will bring you into the city on 19th Ave, and then you can head over to your hotel.

If you are tired of driving the coast road before then, you can take Hwy 17 from Santa Cruz to 280, or Hwy 92 from Half Moon Bay to 280. 

I have made this drive often and enjoy it every time.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Carpinteria (attraction)
  2. Ventura (attraction)
  3. Santa Barbara (city)
  4. Morro Bay (attraction)
  5. Nepenthe (restaurant)
  6. Post Ranch Inn (restaurant)
  7. 17 Mile Dr (attraction)
  8. Pebble Beach (attraction)
  9. Carmel (attraction)
  10. Monterey (city)
  11. Pacific Grove (city)
  12. Fishermans Wharf (attraction)
  13. Santa Cruz (city)
  14. Half Moon Bay (city)
  15. Pacifica (attraction)
  16. Sharp Park Rd (attraction)

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