Posted Sep 23, 2020 | By Alejandra Cerball

Top Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips

Pack Your Bags, These are the Top Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips in Southern California

Adventure is calling. While it may be a while before your next international trip, explore the open road this season. From quick getaways to the coast to epic road trips to the mountains, pack the car with your road trip essentials. Here are the top bucket list Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) road trips California has to offer.

Photo by @westcoastergram on Instagram

Know Before You Go

Known to locals as the PCH, the Pacific Coast Highway runs along State Route 1 from San Francisco to San Diego. With pleasant weather year-round, pristine beaches, and scenic lookouts, this drive is anything but boring.

If you’re pressed for time and need to go from point A to B, you’re looking at approximately 10 hours in the car. (Let’s be real, you need to eat, stretch your legs and use the bathroom, so give yourself time to enjoy the trip and be comfortable.)

For a world-class PCH road trip experience, slow down. Here are some of our favorite half-day, full-day, and weekend road trips adventures to put on your bucket list.

1. PCH Road Trip: Santa Barbara to Santa Monica (approximately 100 miles)

Perfect for a weekend getaway, the drive from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica is packed with coastal views and stunning architecture. Nicknamed the “American Riviera,” Santa Barbara is rich in Spanish culture.

Don’t Miss: Pick up souvenirs at Stearns Wharf and soak in some sun while burying your toes in the sand at any of the beaches.

From there, head south along the PCH to Oxnard, where you can hit up one of the four local wineries before surfing at Silver Strand Beach.

Love boats? Visit the Channel Islands Maritime Museum at the Channel Islands Harbor to explore ship-related art and enjoy lunch with a view.

For the best healthy places to eat, here’s your guide to vegan, organic, keto diet, and gluten-free meals in Oxnard.

Wrap up your trip to Santa Monica, an oceanfront city that prides itself on farm-to-table restaurants, art galleries, and the famous Muscle Beach. Whether you’re traveling with family or friends, add the Santa Monica Pier to your list. Soak in the views of the coast from the solar-powered Ferris Wheel at Pacific Park, an amusement park on the pier.

2. PCH Road Trip: Pismo Beach to Los Angeles (approximately 180 miles)

Stop 1: Start your journey at Pismo Beach to explore ocean dunes, wineries, and the award-winning boardwalk adjacent to the pier.

Must-See: The wine cafes lining “Restaurant Row” on Price Street offer some delicious samplings from local vineyards.

Stop 2: Drive south to Oxnard to explore Channel Islands National Park, award-winning wineries, and water sports at the harbor. Oxnard is blessed with a beautiful coastline and perfect year-round weather. If you love art, grab your camera and snap pics of the amazing street murals from homegrown artists. Visit the Channel Islands Harbor and rent a kayak for a fun-filled adventure.

Don’t Miss: Celebrity Homes in Oxnard You Need to See + Our Wine Tasting Guide.

Stop 3: World famous for its celebrity homes and stunning beaches, Malibu is also known for its fun, quirky shopping. Visit the Malibu Country Market and the Malibu Lumber Yard for your retail fix.

Time to spare? Check out Universal Studios, downtown walking tours, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Venice Beach, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Museum Row, and Rodeo Drive luxury shopping.

3. PCH Road Trip: San Jose to San Diego (approximately 460 miles)

Give yourself plenty of time for this road trip adventure. The largest city in Silicon Valley, San Jose is also home to the San Jose Flea Market, the largest open-air market in the country.

Interesting Places to Visit: The Winchester Mystery House, a historic landmark in San Jose, features 165 rooms of curious dead ends and staircases leading to nowhere.

Places to Visit Nearby:

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk + the surf museum at the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse
  • Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Exit the 101 to go on a whale watching tour in Oxnard. Explore the scenic views and wildlife at Channel Islands National Park.

Bike Rentals in Oxnard

Traveling with the family? Rent four-wheel surreys to take in the views along a coastal bike path or fly high above the Pacific Ocean with Channel Islands Parasail.

Continue your journey to Long Beach. Stop by the Aquarium of the Pacific or the 105 acres that make up the El Dorado Nature Center before heading to San Diego for the final leg of your trip.

Fun Places to Visit in San Diego:

  • San Diego Zoo
  • San Diego Air & Space Museum
  • La Jolla Cove
  • Balboa Park
  • Seaport Village
  • Legoland

Tip: Be sure to snap a photo with the “sailor-kissing-nurse” statue on North Harbor Drive at the USS Midway Museum.

Conclusion

Want to experience the Ultimate PCH Road Trip in California? Here are some tips for the perfect getaway.

  • Bring plenty of snacks and water, so you don’t get “hangry.”
  • Do you have a map? While your GPS is great, plan ahead just in case the signal drops.
  • Before your trip, research the best places to eat. Need ideas? Bookmark this page
  • Wear comfortable clothing, shoes, and bring extra layers.
  • Pack a portable charger. You’ll be taking lots of pics, make sure your phone and camera are fully charged.
  • Download your favorite playlist with your top road trip tunes.

About the Author:

Alejandra Cerball (Journalist)

Alejandra Cerball is an award-winning journalist, writer, and travel + lifestyle blogger at alexcerball.com. On her blog, Alex shares inspiration for your bucket list, packing tips, and destination guides for solo and adventure trips.

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