To really experience everything that the Golden State has to offer, set out on a coastal California road trip. Along the way you’ll spot quaint little towns, beautiful shoreline, and much more. Here, we’ll share how to discover the ultimate coastal California road trip.
Before You Go
There are a few things to take care of before you set out on your road trip. The first is to schedule a car maintenance check-up. Making sure your car is tuned up before you drive hundreds of miles is always a smart idea. The main things to check before your coastal road trip are your car’s oil and oil filters, replacing worn wiper blades, checking your coolant levels, checking your battery, and getting your tires checked and rotated. A qualified mechanic can help you make sure you’re hitting the road safely.
In addition to getting your car checked, you’re going to want a course of action before you hit the road. Build out your itinerary ahead of time so you don’t miss a moment of the action deciding where you’re going to stop. Below are some of our favorite coastal California Road Trip stops. We’ll start up north and make our way down the coast:
Start your strip at the iconic Golden Gate Park to really get in a California state of mind. The sweeping Golden Gate Bridge is a wonder in itself, but if you want to explore the city even further, check out Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Island, and Union Square.
Santa Cruz is a sleepy little beach town in the Bay Area known for its awesome surf, delicious cuisine, and fun activities. Bring the whole family to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for a day of fun, or visit the Mystery Spot, a weird natural phenomenon you have to see to believe.
About an hour south of Santa Cruz is Monterey, one of the most stunning stops on the California coast. Here, you can enjoy the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, the Old Fisherman’s Wharf, and famous shopping on Cannery Row. Even if you don’t do much in Monterey, you’re sure to enjoy the views of the cliffs, coastline, and whale watching!
Even if you’ve never been to Big Sur, you’ve likely seen photos of Bixby Bridge, the 280-foot tall bridge that gets you into Big Sur. This bridge is one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the world. Once you get to Big Sur, enjoy the amazing sights of Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls, Ragged Point, and countless others. There are so many lookout points in Big Sur. It’s impossible to see them all!
The Central Coast
San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura are the must-see stops on California’s central coast. Here, you’ll find delicious dining, world-class wine tasting, and even a zoo! You don’t want to miss these miles and miles of pristine coastline on the Pacific Coast Highway 101.
As you make your way south, Malibu will be the first stop to greet you in Los Angeles County. In addition to the beautiful beaches and delicious grub, you might even be able to catch a celebrity spotting or two. Head to Topanga Canyon, a hippie chic neighborhood that is so Southern California.
Los Angeles Beaches
In addition to Malibu, Los Angeles is home to countless fun and quirky beaches to hit on your coastal road trip. Venice Beach is an artist’s paradise, Long Beach has some of the best surfing in the state, and Santa Monica is home to the famous boardwalk and ferris wheel. There’s nothing not to love in the West Coast’s capital of sunshine.
After driving through San Clemente, Huntington Beach, Newport, and Dana Point, you’ll hit San Diego, America’s Finest City. While here, check out Balboa Park, the historic Gaslamp District, and the beach cities, like Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, and Pacific Beach. San Diego has everything you need to close out your coastal California road trip (including the best tacos this side of the border!).