We love a good road trip, and our drive along the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles to Napa Valley is by far the best we’ve ever taken. Alex and I had a lot to be excited about for our California trip, but driving the PCH in a convertible with the top down was one of our favourite travel experiences to date. Here are the best stops on the pacific coast highway, as per our road trip!
This is where we started our trip from, so we already had a few days to explore Santa Monica. If you’re driving through, I recommend stopping to walk along Santa Monica Beach – it’s 3.5 miles long. Check out the Santa Monica Pier if you want some kitschy fun, walk the 3rd Street Promenade for great shopping, or just sit in the sand and enjoy the view of the Santa Monica mountains that curl around the north end of the beach.
You’ve probably seen Malibu Pier on your Pinterest feed! It’s all white and blue, and gives the ultimate coastal, surfer vibes. If you can, book a spot at Malibu Farm, get a cool cocktail at the cafe, or grab a sparkling water in the pier shop and enjoy the views.
el matador state beach
Malibu has a very intimate and serene quality to it. We felt this the most at El Matador State Beach. When we arrived in the morning, it was misty and there was no one around. Wandering around this spot just the two of us was a really wonderful moment. The beach itself is not very big, and is filled with these insane rock formations. I recommend bringing a coffee and just sitting here to watch the waves crash against the rocks.
Note: the parking lot for the beach doesn’t open until 8am.
We stopped in Santa Barbara for breakfast and for a quick walk around, as per a recommendation from a friend. This city is super cute! While we were only there for about an hour, I wouldn’t have minded exploring this area more as it was walkable and the restaurants looked good.
When we were planning our trip, we were toying with the idea of spending a night in Big Sur, but ultimately decided against it. Driving through, I would LOVE to stay here one day! Big Sur is where you’ll get those insane end-of-the-world coastal views and off-grid experience. There are tons of areas to pull off the road and look out at the ocean. Our favourite spot was Bixby Canyon Bridge. We felt like kids in a candy store here, the views are incredible! The photos don’t even do it justice.
Have you ever done the drive up the Pacific Coast Highway? What are your stop recommendations?