Driving down Pacific Coast Highway
Replies: 19 - Last Post: Jun 5, 2005 8:47 AM Last Post By: elsbeth500
May 30, 2005 1:50 PM
Driving down Pacific Coast HighwayMy husband has a business trip to San Fransisco in July for a week and we are then taking 10 days vacation and plan to drive from San Fransisco to San Diego and back up to Los Angeles. Can anyone tell me how far this is (I haven't a clue) and also any tips on car hire, driving Highway 1, accommodation en route, what we should see etc. We are in the first planning stages of this trip and would welcome all the help we can get.
May 30, 2005 2:49 PM
1For driving distances, try a mapping web site. I like Maps on Us As a starting point, you could drive highway 1 from SF to LA in one horrible, very long day.
As for the rest--can you provide an idea of what interests you--nature, history, art galleries, shopping? All of these are to be found on the route, but there's no sense in recommending my favorite museums if you'd rather be birdwatching. Are you interested in nightlife or early to bed? Want to go hiking? As for accommodation--what's your budget (in dollars not adjectives. My "moderate" might be your "hopelessly expensive)
Are you over 25, which is important for the car rental?
And, although the search engine here has been actin up of late, a search for "highway 1" will get you lots of info. Use the search box at the top of the branch and put "highway 1" in quotes.
May 30, 2005 3:30 PM
2It's about 500 miles from San Francisco to San Diego Here are some spots of interest along Highway 1:
- Santa Cruz. College town with an attractive shopping district and a waterfront pier and amusement park. Great place to stop for lunch.
- Monterey. Worth a couple of days if you have the time. See the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Eat at Fisherman's Wharf, which is much better than the one in San Francisco. Drive along the waterfront, especially toward Pacific Grove, a suburb to the south. Farther south, there is the 17-mile drive, a beautiful private road that charges a toll of about $10 for admission. Definitely worth it. Many people on the LP board object to the toll and therefore will say negative things. Ignore them.
- Big Sur. Dramatic cliffs overlooking the ocean.
- San Simeon. Visit the Hearst Castle, a huge mansion built by a megalomanic who owned a powerful chain of newspapers. It is now owned by the state of California and managed as a tourist attraction.
- Pismo Beach. Wide, sandy beaches and a pier. About half way to L.A.
- Santa Barbara. Attractive restored downtown, and a "mission," one of a series of churches built by a Spanish missionary in the 1700s.
- Malibu and Santa Monica. Both are part of Greater L.A., and have lots of things to see and do.
- San Clemente. Fantastic state beach. The adjacent town of San Juan Capistrano has another mission, and it's worth seeing.
These are only some of the highlights. There are many more. You might want to think about buying a guidebook.
May 30, 2005 3:31 PM
3This might help too:
Willysnout's Favorites In Santa Monica/L.A.
I Lived There in the '80s and Have Visited About 20 Times Since I Left
- Venice boardwalk. I lived a half-block away from it. Bohemian mix, muscle beach, mimes, musicians, funky stuff. Go in the afternoon. Night time can be dicey, especially the farther south you walk from the Santa Monica border.
- Santa Monica pier. Old time fishing pier with bumper cars, cafes, souvenirs, a couple bars. Lots of fun.
- Santa Monica Third Street Promenade. Upscale (but not horrendously so) shopping and restaurant district.
- Main Street in Santa Monica. Good restaurants, interesting shops, a semi-interesting contemporary art museum.
- Shutters on the Beach. Super-upscale hotel. Have drinks there, and you'll feel like a studio executive. You might spot some actors there, if that sort of thing matters to you.
- Getty Museum in Malibu. See it as much for the building and the location as for the collection.
- Peninsula Hotel, corner of Wilshire & Santa Monica Blvds in Beverly Hills. Super-luxe place favored by studio execs. One of the funniest prostitution scenes on earth at their bar. Everyone pretends to be discreet, even though no one is. Dress "elegant casual" and play the part. It's like something from a Robert Altman movie.
- Japantown is downtown, and it's really interesting.
- L.A. County Art Museum and Dorothy Chandler pavillion (performing arts center) are near, interestingly enough, the La Brea Tar Pits. A three-for-one tourist attraction near Century City, about halfway between downtown L.A. and Santa Monica.
- Norton Simon art museum in Pasadena. If you've got the car, it's worth the time. Via public transit, it is three-quarters of a mile from the Memorial Park station on the Gold Line.
- Favorite beach: Leo Carillo State Beach, about 40 miles north of Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway (a/k/a "PCH," Hwy. 1). Great place for a barbecue at sunset. Not well known, hence not often crowded.
May 30, 2005 3:45 PM
4Thanks for all that information so quickly. Car hire won't be a problem age wise, unfortunately I am well over 25!!!! We would like to take in some parks and wildlife and some shopping as well, also any quaint towns along the way. We plan to spend 10 days doing this, originally we were just going to do San Fransisco to LA but my husband was iin San Diego on business 3 weeks back and would like to go again. We didn't plan to book our accommodation in advance as we don't know where we will end up each day and if we hit on somewhere we like we may want to stay for a few days. We are not restricted on budget but would rather stay somewhere typical of the area and small and cosy rather than a large glitzy hotel (we will be doing that in SF & LA). We are not interested in night life but we will obviously take in any local bars where we are. Is Carmel worth a visit? We have guide books but I think personal experience and recommendation is worth so much more.
Thanks for all your suggestions, any other tips and suggestions gratefully received.
May 30, 2005 3:59 PM
May 30, 2005 4:59 PM
610 days is more than ample time for you. You can easily spend two days exploring the Monterey area, another days going down Big Sur, a day of wine tasting in the Paso Robles/San Luis Obispo or Santa Inez wine regions, a day in Santa Barbara.
Until you get south of San Luis Obispo, assume that mornings at least will be cool & foggy. Don't expect to be lying on a sunny beach unless you get very lucky on weather. The coast around Big Sur is rocky, not beach-y.
If you will be anywhere on July 4, plan for that. It's American Independence Day and many places will be closed. Lodging in some places could be a problem. Lodging in the Monterey area can be tough in summer. Some places will have a two day minimum on weekends. Although you do want to keep your flexibility, I'd suggest booking Monterey lodging while you are in SF to be sure. There are a number of charming Bed and Breakfasts in the area. [In the US, B&B usually means a quaint and charming restored old place, often furnished with antiques, not children-friendly. They tend to run $100 and up for the night,) Besides Monterey, look in nearby Pacific Grove. For something rather different, if you can get in, try Asilomar. Although primarily a conference center, they also do individual rooms when they aren't full. No TV, but there will be deer wandering by your front door and the smell of Monterey pines wonderful ocean walks. Carmel is a judgment call. Yes for quaintness, shopping, antiques, restaurants. No, for much of anything else. Do stop in at the mission, though.
Which reminds me--instead of driving highway 1 all the way down from SF, many people drive down 101 and then cut over to the coast at Watsonville. If you do this, stop in San Juan Bautista. I love the place. The old town is actually a state historic park. The missionhttp://www.oldmissionsjb.org/[/l] is one of the most interesting. The San Andreas Fault runs right behind it, as does a small stretch of the original El Camino Real---the original road connecting the California missions.
The Monterey Bay aqarium is on almost everyone's "don't miss" list. It can get crowded in summer. You can buy advance tickets so you don't have to wait in line, which can be an hour or more. They've just finished revamping the original exhibits and I've seen some rave reviews.
Advance reservations are a must for Hearst Castle. You can't see it except on a tour and many tours are sold out in advance in summer. Cambria, that River Otter mentions, is indeed a charming, artsy town with lots of B&Bs. There is not much lodging between Monterey and Cambria. Just north of Hearst Castle is the elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas It's not as well known as the one at Año Nuevo, but is also more accessible.
If you can, try to get to San Luis Obispo on a Thursday for the Thursday Night Market. Part farmer's market, part street fair, part music festival.
May 30, 2005 5:28 PM
May 30, 2005 6:42 PM
8some other stops not mentioned above: an hour south of San Francisco is Half Moon Bay - stop on Main Street (which runs parallel to Highway 1) for shops, bread at Moonside Bakery, thick sandwichs at San Benito House. Pescadero another small town has good artichoke soup at Duartes; Pigeon Point Lighthouse has tours on some days; Ano Neuvo although I don't think there will be too many elephant seals there in July; hike to the 7 waterfalls (not much water in the summer however) starting at Waddell Creek/Big Basin; Davenport for chocolate vegan muffins at Whale City; Bonny Doon winery; Compassion Flower Inn is an interesting place to stay in Santa Cruz (beautiful house, great breakfast, look closely at the artwork). There's also the open car train from Felton through the redwoods to the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Best sandwiches in Santa Cruz are at The Buttery and a good breakfast with the locals is at Zachery's.
May 30, 2005 7:19 PM
9From SF your first stop should be Half Moon Bay. Fun and funky shops. Then follow PCH down to the Pescadero turnoff. Have some artichoke soup or pie or a pint at Duarte's Tavern. Get back on PCH and head to Pigeon Point Lighthouse. There's a hostel. From there into Santa Cruz. After seeing Hearst Castle be sure to stop in Cambria and dine at Robin's. Lastly, Montana Del Oro State park outside Morro Bay is wonderful place to wander among sand dunes, walk along coastal highlands, view sea otters and just enjoy yourselves.
Oh while in the Carmel Area be sure to visit Pacific Grove and Pt. Lobos. China Cove is a nice stroll.
May 30, 2005 8:39 PM
10I would also reccomend Laguna Beach and Newport Beach in Orange County, between LA and San Diego. Nice beaches, neat shops, pretty coastline etc... In Laguna Beach, stay at the Laguna Inn (I think that is what it is called) right near main beach - great for walking around, great food, shops, beach, art etc... And, in Newport Beach, try the Balboa Inn - right near the Balboa Pier - and you have the beach, shops, harbor, Balboa Island around you. Even if you don't stop, the drive between Newport Beach and San Clemente is very pretty along highway 1 - pass through Newport, Laguna, Dana Point, San Clemente - very scenic coastline.
May 30, 2005 9:04 PM
11stay at deetjen's in big sur..get castro cabin and sign the guest books....see if you can find one of my many writings and i'll buy you dinner in laguna.
the inn at laguna beach is nice. cool setting above main beach, nice views, cool little pool that you can sit in and watch all the people walking by on the path...rose gardens are in bloom in heisler park, etc...
casa laguna inn is a lot more romantic if you're looking for that.
i'm not a fan of cambria, but that's just me. it's fun to drive through, but that's all (in my opinion). i'd rather stay in cayucos where there isn't nearly as much tourist traffic. that, or drive to san luis obispo and stay at one of the B and B's. Petit Soleil is nice and the owners are good and goofy.
Big Sur has some scenic little hikes, so if that's your thing buy a little hiking book and pick a few out.
May 30, 2005 9:28 PM
12kaybee, when you say you're not restricted in terms of budget I want to be certain that you mean what you are conveying. You are conveying that your budget is unlimited. You can spend anywhere from $60 a night to $700 a night along that route. Please give a dollar amount, and don't say something like "I'll spend a lot if it's worth it." Two reasons: First off, "a lot" or some other adjective as opposed to a number, tells me nothing. Secondly, with hotels as with virtually anything else, there is not a linear relationship between price and quality. The $700 room is not going to be 4.7 times as good as the $150 room, just like a $300 meal is not going to be four times as good as the $75 meal.
So please clarify your budget so I don't wind up wasting my time with recommendations that you're not going to consider. How much money are you comfortable with spending per night? Give a number, not an adjective.
May 31, 2005 3:04 AM
13If you want a break in the driving take the ferry to Catalina Island when you get to Long Beach. The Queen Mary is also worth a visit.
May 31, 2005 10:26 AM
14Sorry if I was vague about budget for accommodation, have to be realsitic I suppose. We would like to pay between $150 and $200 per night but would go up to $300 if necessary. Most important is that we get a feel of the place we are in so I am thinking small B&B would give us this and this would also be quite cheap. This is the first time I have joined any kind of discussion forum (hope that's the right name for it) but I am amazed at the replies I have had and how everyone is so helpful. Thanks so much to all who have replied to me.
San DiegoBook now
(0 star Hotel)
From US$16.00 per night
San FranciscoBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$204.00 per night
San FranciscoBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$99.00 per night