Best Car To Drive In San Francisco – San Francisco to Los Angeles is one of the most popular road trips in America. The drive down the coast, known as the Pacific Coast Highway, is filled with beautiful scenery, endless beach views, charming small towns and lots of fun activities.
So, grab your credit card, rent a convertible, put the top down and join me as I travel the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
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Our starting point is The City by the Bay, San Francisco. Almost everyone who drives the Pacific Coast Highway spends at least a few days in San Francisco, and I encourage you to do the same. It is a unique city with its unique weather system, rolling hills, numerous attractions and some beautiful photo spots.
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There are many routes you can take when traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The fastest route is south on I-5, but it’s one of the most boring roads to drive in America for me!
If you have time, you should take the Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1) from San Francisco to Los Angeles. So what should you consider when planning a trip along the Pacific Coast Highway?
You need a car to drive the Pacific Coast Highway. This is not a problem, as there are many car rental options in San Francisco. Of course, you can use online price comparison sites, in fact they are recommended, to find the best price for driving on PCH.
I would recommend allocating 2 full weeks for the entire trip. This gives you 3-4 days in San Francisco and another 3-4 days in Los Angeles. You can spend the rest of your time enjoying one of the most beautiful tours in the world.
The Best Way To Drive From San Francisco To Los Angeles
The Pacific Coast Highway is a great road trip because of the flexibility it offers. If you’re pressed for time, you can drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles on the PCH in less than 9 hours. However, I encourage you to take your time and enjoy the beautiful views of the Pacific Coast Highway.
It depends on how much time you have left for your trip. This is a route that can be done in 1 day, or you can take a whole week and still not finish. No matter how long your drive is, here are some stops you can make if you’re running late on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Santa Cruz is a beautiful beach town about 90 minutes from San Francisco. It has a long pier that stretches into the Pacific Ocean and is lined with restaurants and shops. Nearby Santa Cruz Beach is famous for its retro rides, including the 1911 Loaf Carousel and the Giant Dipper roller coaster.
Drive 45 minutes from Santa Cruz and you’re in Monterey. Once the capital of Alta California, Monterey is perhaps best known for its association with author John Steinbeck. Monterey is the setting of Steinbeck’s novel Canary Row.
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I recommend walking through Monterey State Historic Park. It’s a great way to experience the city’s history and work up an appetite for a seafood lunch at one of the city’s many excellent seafood restaurants.
For those of you who spend a lot of time in Monterey, the 29-mile Monterey Bay Coastal Trail is perfect for a scenic bike ride. Back in the car I recommend the 17 mile drive as it will get you to the next stop.
At the end of the 17-mile drive is a quaint seaside town called Carmel-by-the-Sea. But don’t be fooled by the laid-back atmosphere of this city full of trendy art galleries, expensive boutiques and fine restaurants. It has a population of less than 4,000, which includes some famous names. Clint Eastwood lived in Carmel and was mayor in the 1980s. Doris Day also lived in Carmel until her death in 2019.
Carmel has always had something to do with art. In the early 20th century it was home to writers, poets and artists. Today, Carmel has a reputation as the most dog-friendly city in America.
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Stroll along sandy Carmel Beach and, if you have time, stop for a drink at Mission Ranch, co-owned by Clint Eastwood.
Just 25 minutes from Carmel, it is a major attraction for many traveling on the Pacific Coast Highway, Big Sur and the Bixby Creek Bridge. Big Sur is a rugged, mountainous region on the central coast of California. Its famous landscape stretches for 90 miles and is one of the most beautiful places in America. It consists of 9 different state parks and is home to many hiking trails.
The highlight of Big Sur is the Bixby Creek Bridge, a single-span bridge that is actually longer than the Golden Gate Bridge. This is the most famous viewpoint on the Pacific Coast Highway and a must-see for anyone traveling from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
2 hours 20 minutes from Bixby Creek Bridge is the town of Morrow Bay. It is called the Gibraltar of the Pacific because of Morro Rock, which rises 581 feet above the small town. Morrow Rock is a volcanic plug that “protects” the mouth of the bay.
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When it comes to Morro Bay, this small town is easily accessible on foot. It is a popular ecotourism destination and is still popular among marine mammal lovers. Bird watchers regularly visit its bird sanctuary.
80 minutes south of Morrow is Solvang and probably the last thing you’d expect on the Pacific Coast Highway. Solvang has been called California’s Little Denmark and America’s Danish Capital because it was founded by Danish settlers.
Solvang is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on the PCH. It feels like something out of a Thor movie, in a Northern European-style town in the middle of California. The town takes a scenic detour from the Pacific Coast Highway.
50 minutes from Solvang is Santa Barbara. Filled with Mediterranean-style white stucco buildings, Santa Barbara makes an instant impression. You can immediately feel the Spanish heritage. The magnificent Santa Barbara Courthouse and the Old Mission are just two examples.
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State Street runs through Santa Barbara and is lined with upscale boutiques and charming restaurants where you can enjoy local wines and specialties. Surrounded by the dramatic Santa Ynez Mountains, this stunning beach town is well worth your while approaching Los Angeles.
30 minute drive from Santa Barbara to Ventura. Famous for its golden sandy beaches, such as Buenaventura State Beach, home to the wooden Ventura Pier. Ventura is also a popular surfing destination, the highlight of which is Surfers Point.
Notable attractions include the 1809 church of Mission San Bonaventura. Several boats run from Ventura Harbor to nearby Channel Islands National Park, home to rare foxes and crested grouse.
55 minutes later and you arrive in Malibu. Home to many Hollywood stars, Malibu is perhaps the most famous beach town in the world. It is famous for its beachfront vacation homes, beautiful sandy beaches and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.
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Just saying you’ve walked the pristine golden beaches enjoyed by the rich and famous makes it worth the visit. Malibu isn’t just about celebrity sightings. Many interesting hiking trails offer beautiful views. Afterwards, you can head back to the celebrity spot, pulling up a chair at the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe.
25 minutes from Malibu is famous Santa Monica. Famous Route 66 stop, Santa Monica. Home to beaches, delicious food, and the iconic Santa Monica Pier, a full-ride pier capped by the famous Ferris Wheel.
Nothing says California more than the cool vibes you get when you visit Santa Monica. After shopping on the 3rd Street Promenade, grab some food and then head to the beach to sit on the sand and enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Now you’ve finally arrived in Los Angeles, but that doesn’t mean the fun isn’t over just because the journey is over. Los Angeles is a beautiful city with lots of fun things to do for the whole family. Whether it’s the glitz and glamor of Beverly Hills or stargazing on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, LA has a lot to offer.
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There are many places to stay in and around Los Angeles, but my personal favorite is the Roosevelt Hotel. I stayed here when I first visited Los Angeles in 2012.
Before my visit, I had no idea of the Roosevelt’s rich history, but once you walk in, you begin to understand the role it played in Hollywood history. In the beginning