The Pacific Coast Highway is parts of California State Route 1 that run along the Pacific coast. Made famous by songs, movies and television, the road has become a popular spot for tourists as both a destination in itself and a scenic means to travel around the state. Here are 9 places you should stop along your PCH road trip, between where the highway begins around Dana Point to where it ends around Mendocino.
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1. Laguna Beach
This seaside town might best be known for its reality shows, but it has much more to offer visitors. Take a break from driving and hop on the Laguna Beach Trolley to make your way to the beautiful shores of the cove. Once you’ve soaked up plenty of Vitamin D, peruse the city’s art galleries and stop by Banzai Bowls to taste a California craze: acai bowls.
2. Santa Monica
You barely have to leave PCH to see what this city has to offer. The beach; Santa Monica’s famous pier with its amusement park; and Third Street Promenade, the shopping destination of the city, are all right along Ocean Avenue.
If you didn’t go to the beach in Laguna, Malibu is where to do it. Go to Zuma for a classic beach experience, and afterwards get some fresh catch at Malibu Seafood. If you don’t want to get sandy, eat at Malibu Farm on the pier and perhaps stop by the Getty Villa after — a museum full of antiquities that was designed to look like a Roman villa.
4. Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara has long been known as a relaxing escape from L.A., and you’ll find the pace slows down when you arrive here. Walk along State Street, the city’s downtown area; taste wine in the “Funk Zone;” or stop by the cute Santa Barbara Zoo.
5. Hearst Castle
This stunning mansion was built in the first half of the 20th century for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. Now it is part of the California State Park System, and visitors can tour both the building and the grounds of the complex. It’s a must see along PCH for its sheer size and the uniqueness of its placement and design.
6. Big Sur
Big Sur is a breathtaking spot along the highway where the ocean meets the mountains, creating some of the best views and hikes in all of California. Spend a day there admiring McWay Falls, hiking the Ewoldsen Trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, walking along the beach at Andrew Molera State Park, taking a picture next to Bixby Bridge, and eating some of Big Sur Bakery’s famous cookies.
7. Monterey Bay
Monterey Bay is famous for its aquarium, so head there first. If you don’t feel too guilty about it, after walk to Cannery Row, a waterfront street, and indulge in some seafood. You will love the charm of this town. Make sure to visit the beach - even if it's foggy in the summertime, it's still beautiful and the water is a very bright blue.
8. Santa Cruz
This hippie beach community is the perfect place for a relaxing stop. It also has beaches and a famous boardwalk, but if you’re tired of sand head to the city’s redwood forests. And, for some mind bending, visit The Mystery Spot, a cabin known to cause physically impossible things to happen because of the magnetic field it’s located on.
9. San Francisco
Even if you don’t end your trip here, spend a few days exploring San Francisco, the second most densely populated city in the country. Eat at the renovated Ferry Building, drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, visit the Japanese garden at Golden Gate Park, admire the Full House houses, and much more.
This article was written by Isabella Sayyah.