Pacific Coast Highway - California

One of the World's Best Scenic Drives

Pacific Coast Highway - California

"Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0"

The Pacific Coast Highway (California Route 1) is one of the world's most beautiful and photographed scenic drives as it meanders along the rugged coastline from San Luis Obispo to the historic town of Monterey.

This route with it's hairpin turns, cliffs, and rugged coastline is a challenging drive and if you are afraid of heights it is suggested you drive from south to north on the inside lane, beginning in San Luis Obispo.

The route covers the grasslands, oak woodlands, dramatic steep cliffs dropping into the Pacific Ocean, redwood forested canyons, vistas of ocean waves breaking on the rocky shores and otters and sea lions basking in the sun.

April is the best time to make this trip with mild temperatures, flowers, and foliage beginning to bloom, and of course --less traffic.

Suggested Drive

Begin your journey in San Luis Obispo on Highway 1 and head to Morro Bay, identified by Morro Rock, a volcanic cone rock jutting 536 feet above the bay.

Highway 1 in Big Sur is a designated American National Scenic Byway.

Next, stop at Hearst Castle home of publishing giant William Randolph Hearst, and tour the beautiful and impressive 127 acre estate and 115 room mansion tucked into the Santa Lucia mountain range.

Continue on and take a break at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Walk the trail to 100 foot high McWay Falls overlooking a picturesque cove.

Public domain. Photo by Martha Alejandre

Head north again taking a break at Big Sur and stop to take a walk along the picturesque beach and cliffs and rock studded shore line.

Continue past the much photographed Bixby Creek Bridge, an engineering masterpiece that spans a huge gorge with a single concrete arch.

Continue your journey north to Point Lobos State Reserve watch for gray whales migrating past (December through April).

Complete your journey in Monterey, the capital of Alta California under Spanish and Mexican rule and the home of some of the oldest buildings in the state.

Places To Stay

San Luis Creek Lodge
San Luis Obispo, CA
This 25 room new hotel is located close to charming downtown San Luis Obispo, 5 minutes from Cal Poly, and just 1 hour to Hearst Castle. Luxury spacious rooms feature premium furnishings.

Apple Farm Inn
San Luis Obispo, CA
This 104 room Inn is located near the downtown area and very close to Cal Poly . All the rooms have fireplaces and complimentary wireless internet access. The property has a heated swimming pool, an on-site spa, a restaurant and an elaborate gift shop.

Post Ranch Inn
Big Sur, CA
This 39 room inn, located on the cliffs of Big Sur, has endless views of the Pacific Ocean in one direction and mountains in the other. This is a sanctuary of natural luxury – small, serene, seductive.

Deetjen's Big Sur Inn
Big Sur, CA
This 19 room boutique hotel is the beautiful setting is located in a very scenic setting amongst the redwoods and attractive rustic cabins.

Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa
Monterey, CA
This upscale 290 resort complex is located on the water's edge perched over the Monterey Bay and on historic Cannery Row, A great place to enjoy the gentle sounds of the surf, the fresh scent of sea air and all of the activities that the Monterey Peninsula has to offer.

Spindrift Inn
Monterey, CA
This 42 room hotel is ideally located on Cannery Row and with ocean views. The rooms are great with a fireplace