It’s the Road Trip which is on everybody’s bucket list and – after driving 500 miles down California’s ever-changing coastline – we now know why the Pacific Coast Highway is so special.
The funny part about this world-famous drive is that not many Californians, including Mrs Life of Reilly, have actually experienced it.
Most natives opt for a quick flight from Nor Cal or So Cal (slang terms for Northern and Southern California, if you hadn’t guessed?!) or get the job done in an eight-hour drive on the freeway.
After “doing” Route One, I don’t think we’ll ever drive the main motorway (Interstate 5) ever again!
Sure, it might take a few hours longer but we’d rather be smiling and enjoying every minute, rather than being stuck in traffic or trying not to fall asleep on a dead-straight road, while listening to a boring audiobook your other half put on before she fell asleep.
We were really excited about doing Highway One but when we were researching it, there didn’t actually seem to be any websites which offered exact timings so that we could properly plan our trip (to the hour) and work out a realistic itinerary. This is why we’ve written THIS article!!
Our timings are real and accurate, because we noted them down as we went along.
On the left you’ll see our real timings, but we’ve put our suggested times in brackets (plus a full itinerary at the end of Day 3), which will help you avoid the problems we had each day. If only we’d read our blog before we travelled!!!!
So, here’s how we did Route One, with two kids, over three days!
Get a convertible, if you can
Ok, before you get to the Golden Gate Bridge, make sure you try to rent a convertible for your Road Trip.
Having the top down makes it feel as though you’re really travelling and connecting with the towns and cities that you drive through, rather than watching it all through a rectangular piece of glass.
It’s great to feel the temperature change with the landscape, as it often captures the mood of the place you’re driving through.
A convertible also looks really cool in photos! 😉
We found that choosing a convertible over a standard car was only $50 extra for five days, when we booked through Dollar. I’m not sure if we were just lucky with a promotion, but give it a try – it might not be as much as you expect!
Was it worth getting a convertible when you have small children? Yes and no.
Yes: it’s something different and fun; they liked it when we drove under 10mph.
No: With a roof in the boot (trunk), there’s less room for luggage and a travel cot (pack and play) so it’s quite tight; they didn’t like it when we drove faster than a child on a bike; the back gets really cold, even in the Californian sun (we found this out the hard way and only realised that they needed jackets and blankets on when we got past Monterey – oops!); you need to put sunscreen on the kids before you leave; it’s frustrating to drive Route 1 with the roof on when you have a convertible, so you kind of wish you didn’t have one!
Overall: Would we choose a convertible again despite the big list of negatives? Hell yeah! It was fun to drive around with the top down, even if it was just for an hour each day. Just remember to snuggle up those little ones in the back.
There are a few things that you should book before you jump into your car and leave modern life for three days (it really will feel as though you’ve gone back in time, especially during the first 48 hours).
Yes, Big Sur is located just a few hundred miles from the global headquarters of Facebook and Apple, in one of the most advanced countries in the world, but it really is in the middle of nowhere – with no mobile phone reception, let alone internet – so there’s no way you can reliably book stuff.
First, book your accommodation for both nights. You should be able to find a normal priced hotel around Santa Barbara but, just outside of Big Sur, the hotel owners know you have fewer options and hike up the price.
We paid £92 ($142), via Expedia in the end, which was the cheapest priced room in the region. And it was a low-end hotel/motel, so it was totally not worth the money at all, but you need somewhere to sleep!
The other thing about fewer hotels – and people knowing that you should book ahead – means that there isn’t much scope for turning up and expecting a room somewhere. We saw people, who hadn’t booked ahead, running in and out of every hotel reception looking for a room – even at our hotel!
They said they were going to sleep in the car! You wouldn’t want to do that with kids in the back!
The other place you should book before you leave is Hearst Castle.
Yes, they recommend that people should book ahead of time on their website but we weren’t certain which tour we should go on – and, we didn’t think that every good tour would get booked up for the times that we wanted to go.
We also thought that we’d be able to book it at the hotel the night before…but with no 3G, and no working hotel wifi – it was impossible!
When we arrived at the castle, all of the tours were booked up and we had to go for a later tour – and not the one that we really wanted to do, either.
So, avoid this by simply booking ahead – you’ll thank us if you do!
10am – Golden Gate Bridge (you should get there for 8am)
Aim to get to the Golden Gate Bridge as early as you can.
We went for 10am to avoid rush hour traffic going out of the city but we could have probably left San Francisco at 9am and been ok.
We ended up getting there just after 10am and then didn’t actually start the drive until 11.30am, which meant that we we had lost a good amount of valuable driving time, straight away.
Aim to arrive at the bridge around 8am so that you can hit the road by 9am.
Golden great photo opportunity
Get some pictures at the bridge, but don’t go to the Vista Point on the Marin side of the Bay: it’s packed and not a great shot.
Head down to the beach off Old Mason Street. You’ll get a much better picture there and it’s far less crowded.
We found a free parking spot just before the beach and took our pictures next to the road, which you might choose to do if you already have the beach shots.
Once you’ve taken your pictures, jump in the car with your selfie stick and get some cool shots crossing the bridge.
You’ll then turn around in the Marin Vista car park – where you’ll turn around (and at the same time thank us for helping you avoid the chaos here).
You’re now ready to head south – the same direction you’ll be travelling for three days!!!
Time to drive, but be warned
It is a very real possibility that you could get a $70 fine just seconds into your epic Road Trip.
The Golden Gate Bridge is a toll road but you don’t pay with cash as you cross anymore.
It’s more like the London Congestion Charge where your number plate is photographed and a toll is attached to the car.
There are loads of places and ways to pay the toll but doing it online (here’s the link for you) is the easiest way.
It’s also best to pay the toll a few days before – the biggest reason for this is that you only have 48 hours to pay it and there is hardly any 3G or wi-fi once you hit Big Sur!
11.30am – Time to drive, finally (9am for you)
Ok, we’re finally off!!
The official way to drive Route One is to stay on it (or the Historic 101) from San Francisco to San Diego BUT after you get off the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Coast Highway is a four-lane road which gets snarled up with traffic.
It’s not exactly the way you’ll want to start the drive of a lifetime, so we jumped off and headed towards the Ocean as soon as we got out of Golden Gate Park.
It did feel as though the Stop Signs and traffic lights were never going to end at one point, but it was all worth it when we got our first glimpse of the water.
**You can avoid our slow drive to the ocean if you take Lincoln Blvd as soon as you get off the bridge.**
We continued along Great Highway Road and enjoyed the panoramic views of the sea along the flat road.
Every mile or two, we stopped at traffic lights to allow surfers to race into the water.
There’s no mistaking that you’re setting out on a real Californian experience with these sights and sounds.
You’ll join Route 1 just past Daly City and wind your way down to Santa Cruz.
Now you’re on “The One,” you can get your kids to start looking out for the El Camino mission bells which are on ‘shepherds crook’ posts along the whole route to San Diego.
They were placed on the highway in 1906 to commemorate the old El Camino Real (The Royal Road) trail which Spanish settlers created in the late 1700s to link the 21 California missions along the entire coastline.
Over the past century, more than half of the 450 iron bells have been stolen, vandalised or fallen into disrepair.
Don’t worry though, in the 1970s and 1990s many were replaced, so you should be able to spot some and take a few photos!
2pm – Lunch in Santa Cruz (11.30pm for you)
After driving along the empty coastline for two hours, it was nice to hit a real city again.
Santa Cruz is the original surf town: three Hawaiian students shocked locals by riding waves here in 1885 and, in doing so, became the first people to surf in the USA.
It’s also the home of surfer, and inventor of the wetsuit, Jack O’Neill. Yes, that O’Neill.
As you can see from our timings, because we left San Francisco really late.
We didn’t have time to walk along the famous Boardwalk from The Lost Boys movie.
Instead, with two starving kids – and two very hungry adults – we ran into the first diner we came across and ate lunch as quickly as we could so that we could get back on the road again.
It was a shame because the boardwalk was buzzing with tourists – and locals – who were all looking to make the most of the fun that the city has to offer.
Look out for the 90-year-old Big Dipper which is still holding its own against the modern amusements.
We spent an hour in Santa Cruz, and left at 3pm.
You should leave two hours – for lunch and sightseeing – and get back in the car at 1.30pm. This will get you to your next stop for the times below.
4pm – Monterey (2.30pm for you)
We’d been to Monterey to visit family there several times before, so we didn’t stop here during this Road Trip.
Monterey is a quaint place to visit, with its’ seafood restaurants and fishing village vibe. It’s home to Cannery Row, where John Steinbeck based the novel of them same name.
It’s home to the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium but, unless you’re going to do Route One with a stopover here, you won’t have time to visit it because it takes a whole morning or afternoon to get around.
You could easily choose to stop here, rather than the fast-paced Santa Cruz, for lunch though.
If you do – and you have some time to spare – you could also visit one of the most picturesque – and famous – PGA Golf Courses in the world: Pebble Beach.
The famous links course is situated within, what’s called, “17-mile-drive” – a scenic route around the rugged peninsula which, believe it or not (!!!!), is 17 miles long!
With its rugged coastline, ocean views and varied wildlife, it’s like a mini Route 1 roundabout!
It’s set within a gated community, so you’ll either need to know someone who lives in one of the mansions, or pay the $10 fee to be allowed in.
5pm – Big Sur entrance (3.30pm)
The roads out of Monterey are straight and filled with expensive sports cars but the modern world seems to fall off the side of the cliffs, and into the ocean, with every mile that you drive south from this point.
Before you know it, it’s just you. The road. And, the ocean.
Gone are the Starbucks’ and fast-food chains. Even the gas stations and motels seem to suddenly disappear.
There’s no Las Vegas style sign that says, “Welcome to Big Sur” but as you start climbing above sea level, the roads get windier and the landscape becomes more dramatic. You’ll quickly know when you’re there.
The panoramic views open up around you. The waves crash beneath sheer cliff-drops next to the road, and the hot Californian sun begins to cool.
The land becomes rustic and wild and it really feels as though you’ve got a seat in nature’s best interactive theme park.
It got so chilly that we needed to put the roof up to stop the children from freezing in the back. We were also starting to get red faces from the sun and now the wind.
We would’ve probably kept the top down if we didn’t have the little-uns but it did mean we could turn up the stereo and find an appropriate soundtrack to the stunning scenery around us.
There are scores of small parking areas through Big Sur to allow you to stop, take in the scenery and capture a few memories with some photos but we needed to keep our pit-stops economical.
The first big landmark we stopped for was, surprisingly, a man-made one: Bixby Bridge.
There’s a smaller version of the bridge that you cross before Bixby, so we were looking for a place to turn around, but before we knew it, the real bridge was in-front of us and we were ready to pull over.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a bridge lover, but I’ve always found the Golden Gate Bridge compelling for some reason – and the pictures I had seen of Bixby Bridge looked really cool, too.
It was amazing to see something so well constructed in the middle of nowhere.
The best part…is that the bridge totally lives up to the hype. It takes your breath away when you see it in person – and it will look amazing in any photograph that you take!
5.45pm – Pfeiffer Beach (4.15pm)
One of things we didn’t think about – or appreciate – when we’d heard stories or read articles about Highway One was the coastal fog that’s around.
We thought it would just be on certain days, or at certain heights, but from Bixby Bridge all the way to San Simeon (where we stayed the night), we couldn’t see that far into the distance – even though it was July!
It was a bit disappointing, at first, but then it all begins to add to the mystique of the drive.
We also think it’s Big Sur’s clever way of making you want to return again and experience a completely different trip.
Our next stop was Pfeiffer beach, with it’s purple sand and famous Keyhole Arch which invites big waves to build and crash through it.
We had also been told that it was hard to find, but we scoffed at the advice of family and friends believing that anyone can easily find anything in the USA.
We should have listened to Aunt Connie! It’s really hard to find and we drove past it twice, even after asking for directions.
There are no signs to the famous beach – and GPS doesn’t take you to the right place – so bookmark this page now so you can find it later.
Here’s how you’ll find Pfeiffer Beach:
**North to South: You’ll see a sign which welcomes you to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. After that, on the right, you’ll see a sharp turning off Route One (Sycamore Canyon Road). There’s no sign from the road, just some mailboxes, but as you turn you’ll see a yellow sign says “Narrow Road, no RVs – Trailers.”**
If you miss it, like we did, then you’ll know you’ve gone too far because you’ll end up getting to “Big Sur Center.” You can turn here and try again!
Be warned, the drive down to the beach is for confident drivers only. Alicia was yelping as we drove down and saw other cars heading our way!
When you get down to the beach you’ll be asked to pay $10 to park, so make sure you have some cash with you. It’s well worth the money as it felt like being on another world. It was really peaceful and the rock formations and waves are stunning.
We spent 45 minutes there, which felt a little rushed when we got our kids out of the car and back in again.
So, again, leave San Francisco on time and you should be fine!
6.30pm – Other Big Sur landmarks (5pm)
This was the point that we started panicking about how late we’d left everything.
It was dinner time, the kids were doing well, but would be getting hungry very soon. The sun was beginning to go down…and we were still two hours away from our hotel…so we raced through the rest of Big Sur to get them fed and watered.
If we weren’t in such a rush, we would have definitely stopped at McWay Falls and some of the other turnouts along the route. If you stick to our recommended timings though, you should still have time to see these sights.
Big Sur Bakery is just next to the “Big Sur Center” which you might have turned around in to find Pfeiffer Beach. It would be a great place to pick up some freshly baked food to keep you going until dinner.
If you’re running late, like we were, they also serve “normal food” for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Expect to pay top dollar for the privilege of eating in the middle of nowhere though: Soups start at around $10 and wood-fired pizzas start at more than $20.
A mile south is Nepenthe, which has a cafe and restaurant with a view, on the right hand side. We didn’t quite know where this place was when we drove past, but we really wish stopped here for dinner as it would have been perfect with our super-late timings!
A little further south, on the left, is the Henry Miller Memorial Library.
Yes, it’s a library, but in Bug Sur, you know it’s going to be different.
Stop in for a cultural, quiet break to browse some books or walk around the gardens with a tea or coffee, which you have to make yourself (of course).
If you don’t need to stop for food, McWay Falls is next.
Unlike Pfeiffer Beach, there is a sign to McWay Canyon from Route 1, but it’s hidden on a sign for Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (Confusing, huh? Two State Parks with similar names) and it’s a left turn, which feels wrong when the ocean is on the right.
We couldn’t afford to go wrong so late in the day so kept on driving.
You might get lucky and find a spot to park just before your turn off Route One, but if you don’t have the time to look for a free spot, follow the signs and you can pay to park in the official spaces.
It’s just a short walk, then, to see the 80 foot hight falls.
Your photos will be stunning at any time of the year – even with a drought – because the water constantly flows from underground springs.
Fact of the day: the water used to fall straight into the ocean until a fire, and then a landslide in the early 1980s, created the sandy beach that you see today.
The beach is too dangerous to get down to, due to cliff-falls and erratic tides, so stick to the path.
8.15pm – San Simeon for the night (6.45pm with no other landmarks)
The coastal fog was around all day but it was when the sun began to set that it felt more desolate and overbearing.
The drive seemed like a real effort through the southern end of Big Sur.
The road seemed windier than ever, a queue of cars was building-up and getting closer together – almost like a train convoy – and we were all feeling very tired and wanting food, some rest and a bed for the night!
I even started to get worried that we might miss checking in to our hotel because the reception probably wasn’t 24/7 (I was right, it wasn’t) but we did make it to San Simeon in the end!
The hotel was very basic and looked like the Bates Motel but we knew that’s what it would be like and, to be honest, this is what adventures are meant to be like.
It would be boring if it was a standard Hilton or Holiday Inn that you could find anywhere in the world.
There was no restaurant in our hotel so we drove to downtown San Simeon which, we’d just driven past and knew was definitely serving food, rather than going to nearby Cambria.
We should have gone to Cambria!!
The restaurants in San Simeon were all linked to the hotels. The only nice looking one had a two-hour wait.
The only one that could fit us in was a dodgy diner with incredibly over-priced food ($15 for a burger) which wasn’t very good!
We think you’d do better if you travel a little further south for food, unless you’re in one of the nice hotels.
The kids were in a weird mood. Dylan was going hyper with the lack of sleep and Samantha began to cry over anything and everything.
At around 9.30pm, we climbed into our two double beds – the lads in one and the girls in the other – and we were all asleep within minutes.
It had been a long, tiring day – and we were now sleeping in the middle of nowhere – but we’d travelled so far and done so much in a relatively short time.
I think we all fell asleep with smiles on our faces.
Click here to read about our second day of the Road Trip: from San Simeon to Santa Barbara.
27th March 2020 at 3:14 pm
Hello! I just wanted to reach out and let you know that my husband and I just finished our 5 day drive from san Fransisco to San Diego (in February, thankfully!!), and we used your itinerary and tips to complete our trip. It was so helpful (convertible was key!!) and I wanted to let you know that you made a difference in our trip. Thank you!
30th November 2021 at 2:07 pm
Hi Lori, Thanks so much for taking the time to send us a message. Apologies for not replying sooner – I thought we had email notifications for any comments on our website but alas, no!! Ha ha. We’re so pleased you had an amazing trip and that our itinerary helped!! It warms my heart to know that we were able to help. Nearly two years on, it’s time to start planning another big trip, I guess!! 😉
Thanks again!! Dave
30th September 2019 at 2:25 am
Could you share the reason for staying in San Simeon rather than those close to the highway, please?
3rd December 2019 at 12:48 am
Hi Xingyu, San Simeon is on Highway One. Let us know if you have any other questions.
26th August 2019 at 6:45 pm
Loved your video and the whole experience. I am going to do it as well. What would be the best time/month to do ? I have some holidays in Dec or Jan next year and was thinking to book it. But I am not sure about the weather and temperature.
Can you please help ?
19th September 2019 at 2:07 pm
Hi Ali, sorry for the slow reply – I usually get an alert when we have a comment. The winter is always going to be a lot cooler than the summer so don’t expect 90 degree weather in LA or San Diego. Having said that, you’re going to get some beautiful clear skies in Big Sur and you should be in the right place for some Whale Watching. It all depends on how much you care about having hot weather.
14th November 2018 at 5:34 pm
I am so glad I found this article but, I am still not sure where to spend time at. We will be doing this over Christmas break which will definitely be different due to the weather. Should there be any concern driving Route 1? There are five of us. 2 adults, 3kids (2 teenagers). We are starting off in San Francisco two days after Christmas and need to end up in Disneyland on New Years Eve. I have dinner reservations and hotel booked for 12/31-1/2. We are flying out of LA on 1/4 and plan on booking a room for 1/2-1/4 to explore LA.
I was thinking one night in San Francisco to visit some of the touristy attractions. We arrive into San Fran in the morning so, we would have about a full day after getting out of the airport and may need a few hours the next morning. So, we may not leave early in the morning. So that leaves us with 3 nights before arriving to Disney and I’d like to get there earlier in the day. What would you recommend to do, see, stop at 12/28-12/31?
23rd November 2018 at 10:02 pm
Hi Katerina, I’m so glad we’ve been able to help you plan a bit!! I think Route One will be a safe drive for you over Christmas. It was foggy during the summer so don’t expect long-range views!! It sounds as though you’ve got a fun Christmas trip planned – it’ll be memorable, whatever happens!! For what it’s worth, here are my top tips for your stops:
12/28 – See San Francisco and then drive down to Monterey (not the longest drive but means you’re not rushing around San Fran. If you get to Monterey early you can go to the Aquarium or walk around the marina or visit Carmel which is lovely and quaint.
12/29 – Monterey to Cambria/San Simeon. Make sure you book your hotel/motel for this part of the journey asap as these hotels were selling out fast when we booked months ahead. That day you can go to Hearst Castle and see all of the beaches we mention on the Big Sur webpage.
12/30 – Cambria to Santa Barbara
12/31 – Santa Barbara to Disneyland
Hopefully, these pages will give you enough ideas to places to stop and see. Our video will help you visualise what it all looks like too.
HAVE AN AMAZING TRIP!!!
5th August 2018 at 5:17 pm
Just found your wonderful site. We are doing the exact opposite drive. We are flying into LA and headed north. Can’t figure out the timing. Could you help? The only issue is we leave in 2 days…Help
6th August 2018 at 11:30 am
Hi Amy, thanks for the kind words. Everything should work backwards. Let me know if you have any questions though!!!
21st June 2018 at 9:01 am
Hey planning to do the same trip this summer. From where did u rent the car? please share details
14th July 2018 at 9:39 am
Hi there!! You’re going to have a great trip!! We found it cheaper to book it via an American car rental website rather than booking it through Hertz or Expedia while still in the UK. Dollar and Thrifty were cheapest when we went. Make sure you click on the “offers” page as they usually have some great deals. You then pay via credit card when you’re over there. Hope that helps!
21st June 2018 at 12:28 am
Love your video and helpful tips! Was wondering if the hour by hour itinerary has been removed as I was hoping to print a copy. We are planning to do roughly the same trip but in two days and from SanFran to Venice Beach and would love to get an idea of timing and where we should stay.
14th July 2018 at 9:26 am
Thanks for getting in touch. You should be able to find the hour-by-hour itinerary on the last page of the blog (Day 3). There are two versions, with similar timings. Enjoy and have a fab trip!!!
28th May 2018 at 9:50 pm
Hi there! I’m loving all of the tips and advice. I have a question, or rather, more a request for your opinion. Is this a drive/trip that is manageable if you are traveling solo?
22nd May 2018 at 5:10 pm
I am doing this trip in 2 weeks time with my friend and your blog has been a life saver! THANK YOU!
We are only going SFO – LA. After leacing SFO we have our first night in Big Sur then 2nd night in Santa Monica before spending remainder of our time in LA. By looking at your itinerary the Big Sur to Santa Monica drive is going to take quite a while right? Do you think we would have time to do Hearst Castle and the little stops you did?
Thank you again x
27th May 2018 at 8:13 pm
Hi Maria, thanks for your kind words – we’re soooo happy that it’s helping people!! We honestly made it because we wanted the exact same trip planner!! If you’re travelling from San Simeon/Cambria, you could totally do Hearst Castle at the beginning of the day and make it Santa Monica in good time. If you’re at the top end of Big Sur – and you’re looking to stop at Pfeiffer Beach etc – it would be really tough to fit all of it in. Maybe you could do the smaller Big Sur stops on the first day (even if it means travelling north again) and then you can head straight to Hearst Castle in the morning and continue on to Santa Monica? Hope that helps!! Have an awesome trip!!! Let us know how you get on!! x
9th May 2018 at 4:47 am
Awesome! You’ve given us some great ideas and recommendations to make our trip fun and convenient. Thanks for posting!
27th May 2018 at 8:05 pm
Hey George, thanks for taking the time to send us a message – we appreciate it!!! It also makes us want to make more!!! Have an awesome trip!! Let us know how you get on!
30th April 2018 at 6:10 am
Hi,saw ur Vedio and found it to me the most elaborate and accurate with minute of details!!!
Need ur suggestion for the trip as we goin to start in the morning from sfo and wil end the trip in LA and have one night to stay in between ; so what wil be the best place to hault the journey in between?
27th May 2018 at 8:04 pm
Hi, apologies for the delays reply – it’s been really busy these past few weeks, so hopefully you’re not already back from your trip!! Thanks for your kind comments about the video – we’re hoping to do more like these in the future!! If I only had one stop between San Francisco and LA, I’d either go for Cambria/San Simeon, so you can do Hearst Castle in the morning; or stop at San Luis Obispo/Morro Bay/Pismo Beach. That way you’re half way there and getting a fun and different place to stop. Hope that helps!! Safe travels!!
27th April 2018 at 5:54 pm
I just wanted to ask where you rented your car from. I’ve been looking around at Alamo/AVIS/Sixt etc… Alamo is coming up best but can’t guarantee a Mustang (which is what we want for our trip) and was wondering if you have any pointers really as to where you got yours from etc…
27th May 2018 at 7:57 pm
Hi Ryan, sorry for the delay. We got ours through Dollar/Thrifty in the USA. We were meant to get a Chrysler but got upgraded to a Camaro for no reason!! They’re the cheapest, normally, but not sure how good they are at giving you the car that you book!!
Hope this helps!! Have an awesome trip!!
18th March 2018 at 9:32 pm
Thanks a lot ! We will follow your itinerary.
Chrystine from Montréal
2nd April 2018 at 12:26 pm
Fantastic, Chrystine!!! Bon voyage!!
4th March 2018 at 10:41 pm
I am so glad I stumbled onto your blog … the writing style followed by the videos just makes me wonder if I should cancel my plans for next month and do another route from SF 🙂 !!
Im headed to Napa and start my road trip early morning via SF and onto Highway 1 . We have 3 nights in hand so where all would you recommend we do the night halts after leaving SFO and getting into Santa Barbara ( one night in Santa Barbara ) so essentially 2 nights in hand . We are 2 couples and no kids so in no hurry and the aim is to soak in the American countryside and enjoy the drive .
From Santa Barbara we turn inland towards Death Valley for a night before hitting the bright lights of Las Vegas 🙂 .
Looking forward to your inputs …
2nd April 2018 at 12:33 pm
Hi Saazid, sorry for the delayed reply – we don’t get notified when people comment anymore, which is annoying for everyone!! Thanks for the lovely message – you’re going to have a blast, especially finishing in Vegas!!! If you’re coming straight from Napa, I think you’d like to stop around Monterey and have a classy evening there. Lots to do if you arrive early (or choose to leave later). You could then do Big Sur the next day and stay in a Bed and Breakfast in Cambria or a hotel in San Simeon. That should give you enough of a drive for the final day to Santa Barbara. Hope this helps!! Have a fab trip!
25th February 2018 at 4:45 pm
Thank you for the life of Reilly trip down the California coastline. Nice to have a personal experience that we can relate to and get excited about. Would love to have this family tour thr south of France so we don’t miss the best hidden spots or end up driving forever in Aix en Provence without a clue. We are heading out to orrow to Monterrey nod now we will go to Pfeiffer beach, big Sur etc.
26th February 2018 at 12:35 pm
Hi Vicky, I hope your road trip is going well!!! We definitely need to do more Road Trips like this!! The South of France sounds like a good one!!! Have fun in California – we’re very jealous!! Enjoy!!
30th January 2018 at 10:28 pm
Your video’s and travel advice are first class 🙂 my wife and I are travelling part of the West Coast for our honeymoon in March this year, and will be driving San Fran to LA – the convertible is booked 🙂
We’re thinking of spending our first night in the Big Sur area, then heading down to El Capitan Canyon. The route I’ve looked at states there are some restricted/ private roads if you avoid the highways. Would you mind advising the best route from the Big Sur area down the coast to Santa Barbara?
Keep up the good work guys 🙂
All the best from Glasgow, Scotland!
26th February 2018 at 12:31 pm
Hi Graeme, Thanks for the kind words!! We were looking for a similar site when we were planning our trip so we thought we’d make one instead!!! Ha ha! Great idea to make more of the trip by stopping in Big Sur. You’ll love El Capitan Canyon – that’ll be amazing on a honeymoon!! The driving advice from Big Sur to LA keeps changing – there seem to be mudlides every few months at the moment. On page one of the Trip I’ve linked to a website which has the best up-to-date info for driving. Hope that helps!! Congrats on the wedding and ENJOY your honeymoon next month!!!!!!
10th March 2018 at 3:27 pm
Thank you 🙂 yes, we can’t wait to get over there and get started!! keep up the good work guys 🙂 x
30th January 2018 at 3:56 pm
Unbelievably helpful video and blog! My fiance and I are doing this in April in reserve direction but this was a huge help in helping us figure out the must do’s.
26th February 2018 at 12:28 pm
Hi Hillary, thanks for lovely message – so glad it’s helped!! Have a fab trip in April!!!!
16th January 2018 at 11:24 pm
Thank you for sharing your video, really helpful stuff. My wife and I are in San Francisco in August 2018 and will be definitely starting our drive down to Los Angeles from the “Starting Gate” and trying to follow Highway 1 as much as possible to LA.
Our actual route is San Francisco-Los Angeles-Las Vegas and back to San Francisco.
We had kind of scheduled 2 days for this with leaving San Francisco on the Saturday morning. Originally we had planned 1st stop in Carmel by the sea and then the next night in Pismo Beach. Do you think this is viable?
Also I have tons of questions I would love to ask, but one of the main ones is regarding the actual driving (I have driven in Europe a few times in a left hand drive car) is it fairly manageable for a Brit from a fairly rural part of Shropshire to get to grips with?
Any help or advice will be greatly appreciated.
Best regards Russ and Nikki
17th January 2018 at 12:23 am
Hi Russ and Nikki, thanks for taking the time to leave a message. So pleased you enjoyed the video and have found the webpages helpful. Firstly, you’re going to have an amazing time – even if things don’t go to plan – the drive and the country are just incredible! Carmel and Pismo Beach are great places to stop, really beautiful. I’m guessing that you’re planning two stops for the Coastal Drive. It should only take you three hours to get to Carmel, so it might feel too soon to stop but with the mudslide diversions around Big Sur, you probably can’t stop too much after that. Pismo Beach to LA is around 4 hours, so you’d have a good day in LA too with those two stops. If you’ve never been to LA and wanted spend more time there, you could get an hour or two closer by stopping at Solvang (Danish place) or Santa Barbara. I think you’ve picked good stops though!! As for the driving…it’s a breeze compared to what Americans have to deal with out here, with our roundabouts, manual cars and tight countryside lanes!!! Make sure you definitely get an automatic (almost a certainty in the USA) and it’s pretty much a go-kart. Stop at the lights, watch for Stop signs and you’re good to go. The freeways feel more hectic than English motorways but just plan to get in the slow lane earlier than you usually would – and people are a lot nicer about letting you get onto the freeway because the slip-roads are much shorter, I reckon. You can turn right on a Red light, too – as long as no other cars are coming across. We hope some of this helps!! You’re going to have an amazing trip!! We’re very jealous!!! Let us know how you get on!!
3rd January 2018 at 4:38 pm
I’ve just started to research for our own California Highway trip and the information you’ve given us here is exactly what I’ve been looking for – especially the timings. So a great big thank you.
One thing … It would be handy to have this info in a travel-friendly format; paperback, pdf or Kindle. Any plans?
16th January 2018 at 11:53 pm
Hi Max, thanks for taking the time to let us know that it’s been useful. We were searching for something similar when we were planning our first trip and so we vowed to note everything down so we could create it. Thanks also for the great idea about the travel-friendly format!!! You’re right, it’s not fun/easy to have to find our pages when you’re travelling. I will DEFINITELY look into this and let you know when it’s done and where you can download it!! Fab idea – thank you again, Max!!
19th December 2017 at 1:42 pm
Thanks for sharing all your tips. I’ve been looking into doing a three-day tour of the PCH and your posts have been the most helpful so far.
16th January 2018 at 11:48 pm
Hi Yaya, SO pleased to hear it!!! Have an awesome time. Let us know if you have any other questions. We don’t get notified when you post on here, so if you do have any random questions our FB page is the place to go. Have an AWESOME trip and let us know how it all goes!!
25th June 2017 at 5:31 pm
This blog and your Youtube video have been SUCH a help! I am a South African living in Colorado for the year and my mom is coming over in September to visit me. I stumbled across your video on Youtube when trying to find a good way to spend our time together in the US. After seeing that I decided that we just had to do the highway 1 road trip! We are basing out trip on your 4 day itinerary, however, we actually have 5 days in CA (just as that was when the cheapest flights ended up being). I was wondering if you had any advice on how we could spread out our trip a little, where we should spend some more time etc. We got complimentary tickets to the Monterey aquarium with the AirBnB that I booked so we will spend a little extra time there but haven’t booked any other accommodation yet. From what I have researched about Big Sur is that it is closed so will have to go around it, is this correct?
Any advice would be welcomed. Thanks so much!
26th June 2017 at 12:02 am
Hi Teagan, Thanks for the kind words – we’re so excited that the video has inspired you and you’re going to do it!! You’ll have an amazing time – even with the detours. Big Sur is open but, yes, you’ll need to take a couple of detours. The link at the top of the page has the latest information, so go by that because it’s changing week-by-week. If there were any “must-do” moments that you saw on the video through Big Sur, maybe that will help you decide what you want to do there.
As for spreading out the trip. You could easily spend the whole day in Monterey (at the Aquarium/wandering around/17-mile drive). If you’ve never been to LA before then you should definitely give yourself a day to stop and play there (Walk of Fame, Griffith Park, Venice Beach, Santa Monica). There’s also loads to do in your final destination, as San Diego has loads to see and do. We made a video of sights to see in SD too, if that helps? So, you could give yourself a break at the end of the trip. I hope some of this helps!!! Let us know how the trip goes!!!
21st June 2017 at 7:44 am
Thank you very helpful looking forward for my next trip.
25th June 2017 at 11:46 pm
Hi Lizz, so pleased it helped. Have a FAB trip!!!!
19th April 2017 at 7:36 am
I love this article, and I believe I would follow your itinerary. I have several questions though. How fast are you driving? Also, are there gas stations around? And how often were you gassing your car?
18th May 2017 at 12:48 pm
Hi Arden, Thanks for taking the time to comment!! Apologies, I’ve only just seen your post!! When are you planning to go? You’ll love it!! We were driving around 50mph for most of it. We didn’t want to miss much, plus the roads are quite slow around Big Sur, especially. We probably went back up to 70mph after leaving Los Angeles. There are gas stations at every point, except going through Big Sur!!! Make sure you fill up before leaving Monterey as they’re harder to find until you reach San Simeon/Cambria. Good luck with your trip!!! Apologies again for taking so long to get back to you!