Tourist Attractions : Incredible Itinerary For Your California Pacific Coast Road Trip
California‘s diverse landscape is a constant delight. However, to gain a better view of California, you should see both the coast as well as venture further inland.
It’s a wonderful way to experience so much of California’s coast on the Pacific Coast Highway.
There are many things to do along the California Coast, including waterfalls, castles, and spectacular beaches. Let’s start this Pacific Coast Highway road trip!
This is one of the most beautiful drives in the country (and rightfully so), so we recommend you take your time and enjoy the beauty of California’s west coast.
This 10-day California Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip itinerary is the best way to see all of California’s great attractions. This itinerary features some of the most popular destinations in America. There is plenty to do and see.
10-DAY CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
DAY 1 & 2 – SAN FRANCISCO
Our ultimate California Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary for 10 days is the best way to see all the amazing coastline.
Start your adventure in San Francisco. This bohemian city boasts many attractions, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. The Exploratorium is a hands-on museum that encourages curiosity and creativity among all ages.
The City By The Bay can be a great place for you to get started, eat delicious food, and explore the many neighborhoods. Each neighborhood feels like you are in a completely different world.
This walkable city allows you to get in a lot of steps and you’ll be able to log your 10,000 daily steps before you know it.
It takes 2 hours to visit popular spots like Haight Ashbury and North Beach, Chinatown, North Beach and the Mission.
For more stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, take your tour to Crissyfield after you’ve finished.
The second day is spent at Golden Gate Park. There you can explore the California Academy of Sciences and learn more about natural history and art at the de Young. The Japanese Tea Garden is the closest public Japanese garden.
DAY 3 – BIG SUR
This is the first stop on the road trip. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of California coast.
STOPS ALONG THE WAY TO BIG SUR
Half Moon Bay’s Mavericks beach, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk are much calmer option than the boardwalk and provides a refreshing break.
The Bixby Bridge, which stands at 260 feet above Bixby Creek, is Big Sur’s most famous sight. You can park on either side of the bridge and pull over to take photos from nearby vantage points.
Julia Pfeiffer-Burns State Park is an enormous state park that is home to McWays Fall, an 80 foot waterfall that cascades into Pacific Ocean.
Pfeiffer beach feels almost alien with its lavender-colored sand, keyhole rock formations, and jutting out into the Pacific Ocean.
You will also find many other trails that can be hiked throughout the park, from easy walks to more strenuous treks.
DAY 4 – SANTA BARBARA
This section of road trip is the most scenic, beginning at Big Sur and ending at the charming seaside town of Santa Barbara.
STOPS ALONG THE WAY TO SANTA BARBARA
To see true excess, make a reservation for a tour to San Simeon’s Hearst castle, Morro rock towering at the entrance to Morro bay’s harbor.
San Luis Obispo is a college town where you can’t miss the tri-tip at Firestone Grill.
You can enjoy local wines at the Urban Wine Trail. This includes the Funk Zone which is an industrial area that has many wine tastings, cafes and galleries.
Enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific while you soak up the sun at the East Beach. You can wander around Gannawalska Lotusland on the Montecito estate.
Take a stroll down State Street and drive to nearby Los Agaves where you can enjoy Mexican food.
DAY 5 & 6 -LOS ANGELES
Los Angeles can be roughly divided into West, Central and Downtown, South, or The Valley.
The Westside is the best place to live beach life. A comprehensive guided tour of Los Angeles allows you to get a feel for the city. It includes popular sights such as downtown, Griffith Park and Hollywood.
Another favourite is the Downtown LA Food Tour. This tour stops at iconic landmarks such as The Bradbury Building and other food havens, like Grand Central Market.
Take a tour of a Hollywood movie studio. Or, head to Universal Studios Hollywood. This is where you will find The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
DAY 7 – JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
Joshua Tree California is an unassumingly beautiful area. The rugged landscape of California often feels more like a distant planet than a desert just two hours east of Los Angeles.
Hidden Valley offers a 1-mile loop that runs through a valley protected by rock formations.
Although there are no grocery shops within the park, you can get boxed lunches at the Joshua Tree Visitor Center. Eight picnic areas are available in the park: Black Rock; Split Rock; Cottonwood; Hidden Valley; Cap Rock, Cap Rock and Live Oak.
There are many good restaurants in Joshua Tree. Royal Siam Thai Cuisineis an excellent choice for a celebratory post-hike meal of green curry, pad see ew and other Thai dishes.
Joshua Tree Health Foods is located at the West Entrance. This place is great for healthy snacks and drinks before you head into the park. Joshua Tree Coffee Company is a great place to get strong morning fuel (try the vanilla latté).
DAY 8 – DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Death Valley’s desert landscape in the bone-dry desert is a must-see if you want to truly understand California’s contrast landscapes. Avoid going in the summer.
Stop by the Furnace creek area, which contains the visitor center, restaurants and gas stations. You can visit Zabriskie point, which is one of the most visited lookout points in park.
Here you can either hike from Badlands Loop, or simply drive up to take in the views.
The Badwater Basin is the lowest elevation in North America, at 282 feet below the sea level. From the parking lot, you can see the mysterious salt flat.
The Racetrack, with its magical moving rocks, is also worth mentioning (though it’s strongly recommended not to rent a regular car because of the rough roads).
DAY 9 – YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
It is difficult to plan a California road trip without including this national park. Planning is key to a successful Yosemite trip.
Turn onto CA Highway 41 and follow the signs that say Bridalveil Falls as you make your way to the park. Just before reaching the Wawona Tunnel turn onto CA Highway 41 and follow the sign that says Bridalveil Fall.
To get started in the valley, visit the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center to get your bearings. You can explore the valley on either the Tuolumne Meadows walking trail (open from late June to November depending on the season), or the more strenuous Glacier Point hike.
It is worth a visit to nearby Mono Lake with its towering limestone formations.
DAY 10 – LAKE TAHOE
The Bay Area’s most popular mountain escape is here. In the winter, it’s great for snow sports and in the summer, you can enjoy outdoor activities around the lake.
The North Shore has more tranquility, is more spread out and more nature-oriented. The South Shore has more touristy vibes and a vibrant nightlife, with bars, casinos and resorts in Stateline and South Tahoe.
It takes approximately an hour to travel between these two areas so it is important to decide which one best suits your needs.
You can plan a day of hiking in Emerald Bay State Park, or the nearby D.L. Bliss State Park is located in the southwest corner of the lake. You can also float down the Truckee river, that flows from the northwest corner of the lake.
The Alpine Village in Squaw Valley has shops, restaurants and free concerts during the summer. You can rent SUPs and kayaks for a few hours on North Tahoe’s King’s Beach during the summer.
FAQs About California Pacific Coast Road Trip
What time of year is best for Pacific Coast Highway road trip?
The best time to drive the Pacific Coast Highway in the year is from mid-to-late February through April. California’s rainy season usually ends in February.
The golden hills of California are transformed into a bright green landscape and the coast is covered with wildflowers that last until May.
How many days do you need to do the California Pacific Highway?
It takes between 10-12 hours to drive the entire coast of CA Highway 1 without stopping. The stops are what make this road trip so special!