Drive to The Pacific Coast Highway

Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is an unforgettable road trip in America. You can feel the sea breeze in your hair, the sun on your face, and sometimes the fog on your face. It follows California Highway 1 and US 101 from Mexico to Canada. This thrilling drive will leave you wanting to explore more of the nearly 2000-mile route. We've collected the best highlights so you can enjoy the entire journey.

Beautiful beaches and coves

The Beach Boys’ songs float above the waves, thanks to miles of sandy beaches and almost guaranteed sunshine. Santa Monica Beach and Manhattan Beach are good options for people-watching. For its eccentric performers and bodybuilders, the Venice Beach boardwalk is unbeatable.

Surfing beaches are plentiful in California’s Oceanside and Huntington Beach, Malibu, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, and Malibu. There are many hidden coves and tidal swimming pools on the state beaches in south San Francisco.

The beaches of Oregon, which are dune-swept to the north, are ideal for beachcombing. Gold Beach, Yachats, and Cannon Beach are all favorites. Visit Washington’s Olympic National Park for isolated beauty.

For stunning views

Big Sur, which runs for 94 miles (151km) between San Simeon to Carmel, is the most iconic stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway. The road winds and turns high above the surf-pounded beaches, hugging the Santa Lucia Mountains. Even for the brave, the views are breathtaking. There are many pull-offs where you can stop and enjoy the views. Bixby Bridge offers some of the most beautiful views.

Highway 1 leads you to the Golden Gate Bridge. You can park in the parking lot on the north side and enjoy a spectacular view of the landmark and San Francisco’s skyline. Astoria-Megler Bridge is a thrilling bridge that crosses from Oregon to Washington. It climbs steeply up the hillside and then sweeps four miles above the Columbia River.

Wildlife watching

One of the greatest pleasures of the Pacific Coast Highway is seeing wildlife. You can take a whale-watching cruise all along the coast. At Morro Bay, you can see the sea otters playing just yards away from the shore. There are two places to see the unique whales.

Piedras Blancas beach is just five miles from Hearst Castle. It’s the highway’s most popular tourist attraction. Every year, up to 10,000 elephant seals (named after their long snouts) come to the beach to molt and mate. The perfect spot for viewing these animals is on a low ridge above the beach. The bull males fight for supremacy in December/January, while the young pups learn to swim in March.

Oregon’s Florence Sea Lion Caves allows you to descend into a great lair. You are greeted by the sounds and smells of a large sea lion colony as soon as the elevator door opens. You can see their ocean habitat from the caves in the rock as they move through the darkness.

World-famous wines

You can find the famous wine regions of Napa Valley or Sonoma County just off the Pacific Coast Highway. Suppose you travel inland from Cambria, California’s Central Coast, and discover Paso Robles wine country with its beautiful vintages. In that case, you will also see the beautiful Paso Robles wine region. Ten years after Sideways burst onto the screens, Santa Barbara offers tours and a wine map to help you enjoy its famous pinot noir.

Oregon and Washington are home to exceptional wines that are difficult to find outside the US. Although most wine-growing regions are farther east, many wineries are located along Highway 101 on Olympic Peninsula.

For the nature

Numerous places along the route will encourage you to get out of your car and enjoy the great outdoors. The best places to view the natural environment along the Pacific Coast are in state and national parks. Take a boat ride from Ventura to the Channel Islands National Park. These islands are part of the North American Galapagos and contain an incredible biological diversity. They also preserve 145 animal and plant species not found anywhere else in the world.

There are also trees. These trees are enormous. Redwood country in Northern California is home to some of the giant trees on Earth. You can either walk among them at Humboldt Redwoods State Park or take a scenic Avenue of the Giants. Redwood National and State Parks are further north.

Three distinct environments make up Olympic National Park. You can visit rare temperate rainforests and climb majestic glaciated mountains. Or, you can walk miles on wild beaches.

For urban exploration

The Pacific Coast Highway passes through three of California’s largest cities, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Portland and Seattle are just a short drive away.

Santa Barbara is a must-see with its beautiful mission, old-style dock, historic downtown, and striking Spanish-Moorish Courthouse. Another favorite place is Monterey, with its fantastic aquarium, landmark district, and Fisherman’s Wharf. You will also find charming small towns with unique characters, like Cambria and Mendocino, Eureka, Carmel, Mendocino, and Mendocino.