The California Highlights road trip is famous all over the world and perhaps America’s best-loved driving destination, a dream for travelers. And when it comes to overwhelming scenery, striking stop-offs and of wondering what the next bend in the road will bring, few trips like this one.
The landscapes and places you will see and visit will take you everywhere you’ve seen in the movies: the multicultural and proud San Francisco, the sunny Santa Barbara, awesome Yosemite National Park, cosmopolitan Los Angeles, and much more. And not exactly on the same route but close, if you have time, you’ll also get to spend some time in the sin city Las Vegas if you like!
Usually, you’ll start from the north for driving away to the south of California. This means from California’s northern border with Oregon and stretching all the way down to San Diego, near Mexico. The Pacific Coast Highway is a wonderful winding route.
The route takes about ten hours to complete at a leisurely pace with no stops, but we hope this is not your case. You can easily make a meal of the Pacific Coast Highway and spend a few days, a week, or longer meandering its length. It is a very good idea to rent a car in the USA to drive this trip.
Over 1000 km of stunning coastal views, seaside villages, impressive forests, endless vineyards, charming towns or exciting cities, will make the trip take several days.
Mainly it is to drive by the California State Route 1, but you can make incursions on secondary roads that deviate a little from the main axis of the trip.
If you do not have a lot of time, we could recommend a smaller version. We think that the most dramatic scenery is on the Central Coast and a journey of about 240 miles from Monterey south to Santa Barbara.
- San Francisco: for its hills and spectacular bay, it beguiles with natural beauty, vibrant neighborhoods, and contagious energy
- San Jose: full of galleries, museums and San Jose is well worth a stop. Check out Downtown San Jose by night
- Santa Cruz: The 60s live here, especially along the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Check out the lighthouse on the beach, the Big Dipper along the boardwalk and the beautiful beach. The top destination for surfing.
- Big Sur Coastline: a place of ancient forests and rugged shoreline with a lot of personality.
- Morro Bay: working fishing village is well known for the famous Morro Rock landmark that sits just offshore in Morro Bay State Park
- San Luis Obispo: do not forget to sample local wines at one of more than 30 wineries, or take a hike to the nearby Point San Luis Lighthouse for pure air and breathtaking views.
- Los Olivos and Solvang: a picture-perfect country town. Where every weekend is a wine-fest.
- Santa Barbara: Perfect weather, beautiful buildings, excellent bars and restaurants, and activities for all tastes and budgets.
- Malibu: you’ll find a beautiful sandy beach, headlands, cliffs, and rocky coves. Take a walk around Malibu and you’ll see piers, wonderful homes and a lot of chic restaurants.
- Los Angeles: Known as the Entertainment Capital. A trend-setting global city with an extraordinary history and a rich cultural heritage
- Las Vegas: the Sin City, 4 hours from Los Angeles by the I-15.
- San Diego: for surf, friends, suds, and sunsets.