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The Ultimate Pacific Coast Highway Roadtrip

by Pinsi Lei

Imagine that Hollywood picture scene where two besties in sunglasses are laughing and driving with their hair blowing in the ocean breeze. The camera pans out to show the majestic terrain of jagged cliffs and crashing waves. This is the iconic Pacific Coast Highway drive.  

With its breathtaking ocean views, PCH offers one of the best road trips for your road-tripping bucket list. Whether you drive part of it, from Los Angeles to San Francisco, or the entire route, from San Diego all the way to Seattle, the scenery is worth every second of the trip.

Only one tank of gas and two days to spare? We’ve got your covered. The Los Angeles to San Francisco route is your best option. Rent a convertible, bring a girlfriend or make it me-time-only weekend, you’ll definitely feel zenned out and recharged by the end.

Grab your keys and a weekender bag, let’s go!

Stop and Stare

From the white sands of Malibu Beach to the Golden Gate Bridge, PCH offers no shortage of spots of stop along the highway. Our four favorite stops cover a castle, elephant seals, a waterfall and a breathtaking bridge.    

The first, the Hearst Castle, America’s most famous castle on a hill built by the Hearst family in the 1800s. With 165 rooms and 123 acres of greens and gardens, multiple tours are available to view the rooms and architecture of this enormous estate. The most famous part of the castle is the Neptune Pool, inspired by Italian villas.

If you happen to make the drive in January, February or early March, you’ll see thousands of elephants seals at Elephant Seal Vista Point. The 5 mile stretch of beach is where these seals mate and birth their pups. The proximity of the viewing deck to the seals is quite breathtaking and you can see the pups nuzzle their little pup noses into their mothers bellies.

McWay Falls, easy to miss, but hard to forget. This plunging waterfall crashes right into the Pacific Ocean. You can hike down wooden steps to the beach or enjoy the aerial view from the car. Catch it during sunset and snap a picture because the magic is real.

Bixby Bridge, you’ll know you are close because you’ll see peaks of the bridge from a couple cliff turns away. Its spectacular arches set magnificently in the cliffs is almost too beautiful for words. Find a place to park, bring a picnic blanket and watch the sunset, because the PCH drive doesn’t get better than this.

Lullaby of Waves

Rockabye baby, take an overnight break at one of these two hotels because you deserve the beauty sleep. On the cliffs of Pismo Beach, the Shore Cliff Hotel is modern and clean with views that can’t be beat. Ask for a ocean view room and the sound of waves will quite literally lull you to sleep. In the morning, enjoy a run and complimentary breakfast along the cliffs. Lay in the lounging swings for a nap before you continue on your way.

For the luxurious resort experience, Ventana Big Sur offers 5 star amenities and even a full on in-the-wild glamping experience. Seen in Vogue and Conde Nast Traveler, Ventana Big Sur will provide the relaxation and fuel for the second leg of your drive.

Roadtrip Sustenance

The salty ocean breeze making you thirsty? We got your covered. Pull over at Paradise Cove Beach Cafe in Malibu. Grab a piña colada and head back towards the sound of the waves. Take a seat in an Adirondack chair, stick your toes in the sand and enjoy the ocean view. After all, you are in paradise.

Further along in the drive and need to refuel? Lucky for you, both your car and your stomach can refuel at the Ragged Point Inn. There’s a gas station and two food options. If you’re looking for a quick bite or sit down meal, Ragged Point Restaurant, won’t disappoint. Breathe in the mountain air as you eat your fries. After your meal, walk towards the sound of the waves and peer down the coastal cliffs. This is another view you’ll never forget.  

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