The Siberian American: California Road Trip: Pacific Coast Highway Tips

Monday, May 16, 2016

California Road Trip: Pacific Coast Highway Tips

Our entire California road trip itinerary was incredible, but our day driving up Highway 1 goes down as one of my favorite days ever. I must have said wow approximately 10,000 times throughout the drive, and my only complaint is that we couldn’t stay there forever. I hope everyone gets to enjoy the Pacific Coast Highway, so I wanted to put together a list of tips, so you can also have the best experience ever.

Pacific Coast Highway Tips

Drive south to north if you don’t like heights (San Diego to San Francisco)
Most people will tell you to take Highway 1 north to south, so you can be closest to the ocean. I will admit it’s way easier to get in and out from the scenic stops, but there are places where you are super close to the edge, and that’s just not my cup of tea. Plus, if you have the time, you can keep on going all the way to Oregon!

Big Sur
Pacific Coast Highway
Highway 1 Views
Highway 1 Fog

Don’t miss the elephant seals in San Simeon
After touring Hearst Castle, we had to stop by the Elephant Seal Rookery at San Piedras Beach. It’s crazy to see so many seals in one place, and when we were visiting, there were a lot of babies! There was a guide on the beach who told us 23,000 seals came to the six-mile stretch of beach during the 2014-2015 season.

San Simeon seals
San Simeon seals

Stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park deserves its own post (check it out here) because of its beauty. It was stunning to see the McWay Falls, one of two waterfalls in the area that flow into the ocean. I could have stayed there all day.

Julia P Burns Park
McWay Falls
Pacific Coast Highway Views
PCH views

Go in the spring
We took our Pacific Coast Highway road trip in March, and the timing was perfect! It wasn’t as crowded as it would have been in the summer, and the weather was amazing. (Plus, it meant we got to see some of the California poppies at Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve!).

Pacific Coast
Big Sur fog
Highway 1 trees

Don’t rush the experience
Sadly, we only had a week for our road trip, so we had to do the Highway 1 drive in one day. Someday, I would love to stay at a hotel in Big Sur and take it all in for several days. Even so, we tried to make the most of our time in the area. Drive slowly. Stop often. Make amazing memories. Take lots of photos.

Highway 1
Pacific Coast Highway

Have you ever taken a drive on the Pacific Coast Highway? Did you love it as much as I did? If you haven’t, have I convinced you to add it to your bucket list?

Catch up on our California road trip: 

Hearst Castle Grand Rooms Tour
Hearst Castle Upstairs Suites Tour and Roman Pool

The Most Beautiful Place in Big Sur


  1. Ivan and I were just talking about doing this. I haven't been to California yet, but he has. I want to see all the state has to offer, so we were talking about doing a road trip. Looks like you had a fantastic time :)

    The Midwest Darling

    1. A road trip is such a great way to see as much of the state as you can in a short time! I hope y'all get to go soon! :)

  2. When we were in California a couple of year ago we ended up driving south from San Francisco to Big Sur, and you're totally right that it's pretty nerve wracking being so close to the ocean! I was just glad that I wasn't the one driving! After looking back at our trip, the one day that we took to drive to Big Sur is probably my favorite part of the whole trip! The PCH is definitely something everybody should do, and you have some great tips!

  3. I'm so glad you posted this - Gary and I are thinking about making this one of our trips later this year...not quite sure when but we want to do it! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  4. This is a trip I cannot wait to do. It is seriously so beautiful along the ocean there, that water is just unreal! Definitely would love to stay along the way, but would think that would take a good 2 weeks or so.

  5. Ooooh. I will definitely have to add this to the bucket list! Those photos are GORGEOUS! I've never been to the west coast but I have a growing "must see" list for when we finally get there!

  6. This is definitely on my bucket list of things to do in the USA! Great photos xo

  7. This looks so beautiful! What a fun road trip adventure. I love all of your tips too!


  8. So beautiful!!! We used to drive the along the coast when we lived in San Diego. We never made it all the way to San Fransico, but we would drive hours and stay somewhere. There are so many cute little towns along the way too!

  9. I really need to get out to California and do this, it's so gorgeous!!

  10. pinned this in the hopes that one day we get over there. good to know about north/south because i do not want to be close to ANY edge ever. lol

  11. My cousin & I are talking about a PCH road trip next summer! Pinned this!

  12. I've always wanted to do that drive! So beautiful. You've just reignited the spark in me to get back out to Cali!

  13. The drive looks amazing! I love rocky coast lines! :)

  14. I can't get over how gorgeous all of these pictures are! I told my husband I'd love to see Cali this way, definitely a must-do! And I like the idea of south to north because I'd freak out about being too close to the edge :-P
    Green Fashionista

  15. Gorgeous photos!! I'm sure I've done this route when I first moved to Cali as a little kid! Hope to do it one day again!!

  16. So many beautiful places!! I don't know that I've ever done that drive, but I'm thinking that I should!


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