Buckle up - How to plan the ultimate Cali road trip

It’s what movies are made of – beaches, sunshine, hair flowing and amazing scenery. The Pacific Coast Highway, known by locals as PCH, is one of the most impressive scenic drives in the world.

It’s what movies are made of – beaches, sunshine, hair flowing and amazing scenery. The Pacific Coast Highway, known by locals as PCH, is one of the most impressive scenic drives in the world.

Start your trip up in San Francisco and cruise on down to San Diego, but don’t forget to stop at these destinations that are sure to leave you loving the West Side.

From San Francisco to San Diego (or vice versa) it takes roughly ten hours in the car without stopping, but there is nothing fun about that!

STA recommends taking around 1-2 weeks to really soak it up and see what the Sunny State has to offer.

Over the 1000km ride you’ll pass amazing beaches, untouched forests and lush vineyards to enjoy a hard earned Cab Sav.

Now, enjoy the ride!



san fran-min (1)

The beginning of a very good time: the iconic Golden Gate Bridge is a great place to start your road trip.

About 3 hours east to the city is Yosemite National Park that sports stunning scenery and wildlife that is worth a look.

Keep your eyes peeled for black bears! On your way out of the hilly city be sure to stop at San Jose, an hour south.

The Winchester Mystery House is a weird and whacky “Fun House” with 165 rooms that has dead-end hallways and staircases that lead up to the ceiling… the question, how do you get back down?



santa cruz

Another hour’s drive from San Jose is this coastal haven.

The beach boardwalk has a cool 60s American vintage vibe with an amusement park that’s sure to have you entertained after being cooped in the car.

Don’t miss the ‘Mystery Spot’, a circular area about 46 metres in diameter which is a gravitational anomaly.

Here, the laws of gravity, height and perspective don’t seem to apply and will  boggle your mind with visual illusions.




Two gorgeous little spots for beautiful panoramic shots of the Pacific Ocean. Carmel is a beach town on Monterey’s peninsula where you can explore its fairy-tale cottages that are nestled  into their own little forest.

Certainly don’t miss Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

It is one of the richest underwater habitats in the world so you’ve got the chance to see whales, seals and sea otters.

If wildlife isn’t your thing, it’s an adventurers heaven with sailing, kayaking and biking trails in abundance.



san luis

A 15-foot high, 70-foot long alley covered in stranger’s gum isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but trust me it’s cool.

Leave your mark on Bubblegum Alley alongside other travellers from around the World. On a different note, there are some cool hikes up Black Hill, Islay Hill, Bishop Peak and around the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden that sport some great views.

Also not to miss is the “Clam Capital of the World” – yum! – Also known as Pismo Beach.



Santa barbara

Before you hit the bright lights of LA, take a refreshing stop in Santa Barbara. Keep to the right lane to take in the best views along PCH.

Sticking along the coastline, you’ll see Stearn’s Wharf and East Beach – a great spot to stop for a picnic.

For something a bit more cultural, head to the Lobero Theatre or the Santa Barbara Museum.



los angeles

Just like the movies, you’re in Hollywood baby! The shopping here is a must, so take a stroll down Rodeo Drive and check out the biggest names in far-shon!

But, if you’re on a budget steer clear and head to Melrose Avenue for high street labels and the best Op shops!

If you’re looking to rub shoulders with the A-listers head to the Hollywood Walk of Fame – you’ll get to meet Batman, Superman, Spiderman and Marilyn.

Also, take a ‘Homes of the Stars’ tour and you might be bumping into the Kardashians.

Before you leave L.A., take a hike on Runyon Canyon and you’ll get the chance to see the Hollywood sign up close. An absolute must do.



huntington beach

Remember Ryan, Summer, Seth and Marissa? Keep your eyes out for them because you’re in the OC.

Breeze past Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Dana Point and try your hand at surfing at one of Cali’s top surfing spots Huntington Beach.

If you are a keen surfer, there are loads of surf comps held throughout the year so be sure to look them up so you don’t miss one.

Get ready to top up your tan on Newport Beach and you can finish the day at the end of the pier at Ruby’s Diner.



san diego-min

The drive down to San Diego Bay means you’re close to the end of your

trip, but it also mean you’ve hit the 2-mile-long Coronado Bridge. As you head past Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and La Jolla, spot the beautiful lagoons emerging from the ocean.

Also, it might not be your scene, but the San Diego zoo is world famous and the flamingos are definitely worth it.

Lastly, to end the trip on a high, head up to Cabrillo National Monument at the tip of Point Loma and take in the stunning view of San Diego and the Bay.

No need to rush along this road trip – stop to take it all in! Scenic views and rolling waves will be taking up your camera roll in no time! STA recommends taking a campervan along for the ride and make sure you crank up that OC playlist, you’re in California!

Have you been driving along The Pacific Coast Highway?