Destinations Explored

1

Carmel-by-the-Sea

2

Cambria

3

Malibu

Map with locations highlighted

The Pacific Coast Highway, or State Route 1, is one of the country's most epic drives. Each twist and turn reveals an even more impressive ocean view—with the occasional whale sighting if you're lucky. Between each seaside hamlet, you'll find rolling green hills, rugged beaches, and dense forested interiors. While the drive can technically be done in a day, we recommend at least a couple of overnight stops to fully appreciate it. This trip can begin in either Los Angeles or the Bay Area. 

Key Highlights

Charming village vibes at Carmel-by-the-Sea

Secluded hikes and sweeping coastal views in Big Sur

Elephant seal sightings in San Simeon

Miles of sandy beach in Malibu

Best Times to Visit

March - November

Sample Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Bay Area to Carmel

2 hours from San Francisco to Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Accommodation in Bay Area to Carmel

Suggested options (actual bookings will vary based on pricing and availability)

Relive you childhood at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk is an iconic beachside amusement park complete with all the elements necessary to revisit simpler times: retro thrill rides, abundant sweet treats, and a wide open beach for swimming and sunbathing. It's an essential stopover in Santa Cruz, whether for a full day or just a quick break on your way down the coast. 

Explore the shops, dining, & nightlife along Cannery Row

We'll let Steinbeck, widely credited for naming the famous Monterey street, describe it himself: "Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream." While the less desirable descriptors—the stick, the noise—no longer apply thanks to the long-shuttered sardine canning factories, it's safe to say the others do. With its waterfront location and preserved architecture, Cannery Row is reminder of a California long past. 

Day 2

Carmel to Cambria

2 hours and 30 minutes from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Cambria.

Accommodation in Carmel to Cambria

Suggested options (actual bookings will vary based on pricing and availability)

See the stunning Bixby Canyon Bridge

The Bixby Canyon Bridge is considered the gateway to Big Sur—and what a gateway it is. Despite the steep competition, it could easily be considered one of the most picturesque bridges in California. There's a parking lot on the north side of the bridge for your photo op.

Say hi to the elephant seals near San Simeon

While the exact scene at Elephant Seal Vista Point varies by the season, one thing's for sure: You're going to see elephant seals, and likely lots of them. During peak periods (January, April, October), as many as 17,000 elephant seals occupy the beach. Given that they were nearly hunted to extinction in the early 20th century, it's a pretty remarkable sight. Ample parking is available.

Day 3-5

Cambria to Malibu

3 hours and 30 minutes from Cambria to Malibu.

Accommodation in Cambria to Malibu

Suggested options (actual bookings will vary based on pricing and availability)

Enjoy rugged ocean views & volcanic formations at Morro Bay

The main attraction in the coastal town of Morro Bay is the massive Morro Rock, a volcanic rock formation jutting out of the water. Besides the rugged beachfront, Morro Bay has a quaint waterfront street lined with shops and restaurants as well as ample hiking opportunities. 

Take a walk along the Santa Barbara Harbor

Depending on your mood, a visit to Santa Barbara can go a couple of different directions. State Street has a myriad of boutiques, restaurants, and bars, while those looking to get active have ample options for water sports. And there's always the beach. 

Enjoy sweeping views at Point Dume State Beach

Point Dume State Beach has a number of cliffs and vistas for you to enjoy a beautiful view. There's fishing, swimming, scuba diving, tide pooling, and, in winter, whale-watching. Fun fact: the final scene of the original Planet of the Apes move was filmed here. 

Sunbathing and swimming at Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach is one of the largest beaches in LA County, making it very easy to stake out your own little patch of sand. The surf is relatively calm here and great for swimming. Restroom and shower facilities are available. 

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Pacific Coast Highway

Malibu, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Cambria

Prices start from $619.84 per person.

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“Couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I had some specific ideas about what to see—what art, what part of the countryside, etc. Elena (our trip designer) was very patient with me as we worked out just the right itinerary.”

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Carol’s Family Trip to Japan

“The experience was out of this world! Anything that we requested or that we were interested in, Sarah was able to accommodate it for us.”

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Omar’s London & Paris Family Vacation with Kids

“We really enjoyed the mix of cultural, food and shopping experiences. Most of all, it was great to hit the ground with a plan for each day, but also improvise depending on how our kids were feeling.”

Testimonial Profile Image

Deborah & Lew’s 25th Wedding Anniversary in Italy

“Couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I had some specific ideas about what to see—what art, what part of the countryside, etc. Elena (our trip designer) was very patient with me as we worked out just the right itinerary.”

Testimonial Profile Image

Carol’s Family Trip to Japan

“The experience was out of this world! Anything that we requested or that we were interested in, Sarah was able to accommodate it for us.”

Testimonial Profile Image

Omar’s London & Paris Family Vacation with Kids

“We really enjoyed the mix of cultural, food and shopping experiences. Most of all, it was great to hit the ground with a plan for each day, but also improvise depending on how our kids were feeling.”

Testimonial Profile Image

Deborah & Lew’s 25th Wedding Anniversary in Italy

“Couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I had some specific ideas about what to see—what art, what part of the countryside, etc. Elena (our trip designer) was very patient with me as we worked out just the right itinerary.”