Best Scenes of the Pacific Coast Highway Roadtrip

February 24, 2016
Wetravel Story Writer
5 min read
Pacific Coast Highway

If you are road tripping in California, there is one thing you cannot miss: the Pacific Coast Highway (or California State Route One). You may have heard that WeTravel is an international family of travel experts. Our Instagram leader, Stéphanie Bayle, captured gorgeous shots of the best stops along the PCH from her California road trip and has tips for you to plan your own.

Road Trip Planning for PCH

Roadtripping down California? Visit Big Sur.
Roadtripping down California? Visit Big Sur. (photo by Stephani)

This road traces California from the North (Legett) to the South (San Juan Capistrano), without really leaving the coast; it’s no wonder it’s also called California Dream Road!

During Christmas 2015, I left San Francisco for 4 days with a friend and we decided to go to Big Sur via the Pacific Highway. What a great idea we had, as we discovered soooo many great landscapes! I wanted to share them with you and I hope these tips will help you planning your roadtrip too.

The route

We went from San Francisco, where we took a car from the airport, to San Simeon, while stopping countless times to admire the views.

Heaven? No, just California. (photo by Stephanie)
Heaven? No, just California. Carmel, CA (photo by Stephanie)


We chose to stay in Monterrey. Actually, no, we wanted to sleep in Carmel, but unfortunately, we were on a budget and it was a bit expensive for us, so we chose a motel in this nearby town with a free parking. And it was perfect like this!

Monterey, CA. (photo by Stephanie)
Monterey, CA. (photo by Stephanie)

Stops on the road

  • Santa Cruz: Not far from San Francisco, was our first stop. We were able to see a nice sunset on the beach, and an impressive moon-rise! We ate in a small restaurant called Riva, near the water, which I recommend because it was really good and not too expensive! 
Santa Cruz beach offered a lovely sunset. (photo by Stephanie)
You should have seen it in person! Santa Cruz beach. (photo by Stephanie)
  • Carmel: This is such a cute small town, and we loved it a lot. Moreover, it’s super easy to find a parking, a good point for a roadtripper! The beach is amazing, and we walked in the residential area to see the beautiful houses.
Carmel, CA (photo by Stephanie)
Carmel, CA (photo by Stephanie)
  • Big Sur: Ah, Big Sur, the cliffs falling in the ocean, the water from dark to light blue, to turquoise, its State Parks, its winding roads… we were amazed, and we stopped almost at every turn to see the views (and if you do so too, be sure to stop at the designated places and not on the middle of the road!)
  • San Simeon: This was the last town we visited. As every evening we had to go back to Monterrey to sleep, we tried every morning to go further than the day before. To do so, we wouldn’t stop at the same place than the day before as to not lose time.

San Simeon is very small, it’s not even a real town I’d say. But it’s really, really cute. There is a long dock that goes far in the ocean, a restaurant, a post office, a shop, and we can walk along the beach!

Road to San Simeon (photo by Stephanie)
Road to San Simeon (photo by Stephanie)

Along the road

Trying to count all the stops we made would be impossible. But there are some you must see:

  • Point Lobos: just after Carmel, the road leaves the coast for a short time to go through a huge forest, in which you will feel really, really small.
  • Big Sur: a bit more south, Big Sur runs over 145 kilometers to San Simeon. On this road, the trees seem to tickle the sky, the waves crash on the cliffs, and the sunsets are just amazing!
Big Sur is a top visited spot along the PCH. (photo by Stephanie)
Big Sur is a top visited spot along the PCH. (photo by Stephanie)
  • Bixby Bridge: you cannot miss this concrete bridge (80 meters high, 200 meters long), the most photographed bridge of the Pacific Coast Highway! You can stop before to take a picture (but there are a lot of people) or just after (and surprisingly enough, there are less people there!)
You can't ask for more perfect California weather. (photo by Stephanie)
You can’t ask for more perfect California weather. Bixby Bridge.  (photo by Stephanie)
  • McWay Falls: this waterfall is also very popular with tourists and is near Pfeiffer Burns State Park. You won’t see it from the road, you will have to walk along a small path.
McWay Falls. (photo by Stephanie)
McWay Falls. (photo by Stephanie)

There are so many more stops you can make, so feel free to do so and to walk along the hiking trails. You might find hidden beaches!

Eating, gas, bathroom stops…

We regularly saw cafes, motels, etc… which allowed us to stop, to go to the bathroom, to eat a bite… but it’s also good if you take some water with you (a must!) and some food, just in case. You’d be surprised how fast you can get dehydrated in an air-conditioned car. 

About gas, we didn’t see lots of gas stations, so when you do, even if you’re still half-full, fill your car!

Can’t wait until the next road trip. Thank’s Stephanie for your story and we’ll be hearing from you again soon. Were there any tips or stops we forgot to mention? Start the conversation and share your tips with us on Facebook. If you enjoyed these photos, follow us on Instagram.

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