So, you want to take the famous drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Too many people decide to roadtrip the fastest and easiest route (state highways like the I-5 and the US 101) when planning a California road trip. Sure, it’s efficient but you miss so many scenic, coastal stops. Do it right, and do it our way. Here's the detailed lowdown on how best to tackle the bucket list-worthy California road trip:

The Journey Itself

Take highway 1 (AKA the Pacific Coast Highway), where the sea cliffs and redwood forests make the drive far more beautiful. A straight drive will take 8+ hours, and the following iconic stop off points will make it so much longer, but it's much more worthwhile.

Morro Bay

Just a short half hours ride out of San Luis Obispo is the spectacular Morro Bay. The quaint beachside town is famous for the iconic Morro Rock, which literally seems to rise out of the sea. While you are not allowed to climb the rock itself, the area around it is open to visitors. This beach town offers plenty to do with dozens of small shops, nature and wildlife tours. Looking to stay the night? Book a night at the Anderson Inn , which gives visitors a lovely view of the bay. Just down the road is the famous Galley Seafood Grill and Bar . Here you can enjoy a succulent helping of grilled fish and wine with a sunset view of the distinctive bay.

McWay Falls

Looking for the perfect blend of forest and sea? Then go no further than the gorgeous McWay Falls. Here a forest stream runs right off the cliffs and into the sea. Nestled along the cliffs of Big Sur, McWay Falls is a probably the most photogenic spot in Big Sur. While the road to get there is filled with dozens of essential little stop off points like the sights at Ragged Point, or the spectacular Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls is one that you should not pass up. There are two trails at the Falls that can take you to the look out or down to the waterfall itself. While parking is a bit high at $10 for day use, there is plenty of parking along the highway up for grabs. If you’re hungry a few miles up the road is The Nepenthe which serves up delicious burgers with a spectacular coastal view.

Bixby Bridge

If you’ve seen pictures of this place on Instagram or Tumblr you’ll already know why you need to stop here. This is one of the most iconic spots along the 1. Stretched over two massive seaside cliffs is the fantastic Bixby Bridge. This spot is always crowded with travelers so be patient with parking. While the stop is a short one, it is well worth it.


Just north of Bixby Bridge is a beach town that feels more like a fantasy than a beach town. With the fairytale cottages and gorgeous Carmel River State Beach, you’ll want to spend more than just a couple of hours here. Whether you decide to take some fantastic Instagram shots of the Point Lobos State Reserve or take a pleasant stroll down the charming Carmel-by- the-sea neighborhood, the stop here will not disappoint. If you get hungry during your travels, Carmel has tons of fine cuisine to offer. Craving something from the Middle East? Try Yafa, where their food is as authentic as it is delicious. Hungry for a genuine seaside meal? The Flying Fish Grill should definitely your place of choice. Its sushi, fried fish and lobster reach new levels of Asian fusion goodness. For a genuine overnight experience at Carmel-by- the-sea, book a room at the Mission Ranch . With the charming cottage styled rooms and nearby ranch land you’ll feel like a native of the quaint sea village.

Half-Moon Bay

One of the best stops en-route is the the charming town by the famous Half-Moon Bay. Known for the spectacular big wave surfing at Mavericks, and the Cliffside Ritz Carlton, this is a spot that you can end up spending an entire day visiting. While booking a room at the Ritz might not be necessary (read: pricey), taking sunset shots of the beautiful seaside luxury hotel is completely free. Half-Moon Bay is a cycling enthusiast’s dream, as the 5 mile Coastside Trail offers some of the most scenic rides along the northern California coast. If you’re looking for a burger and a brew, try the Half-Moon Bay Brewing Company where you can enjoy local craft beers and fine dining by the sea. And if your subsequent food baby stops you from driving further, try booking a night at The Inn at Mavericks . Rooms overlook the sea, and since it's only an hour or so out of SF, it's likely to be your last stop of the journey.

You’ve Arrived

So you’ve made it to the Golden City on the Bay. If the journey here has taken you days rather than hours it's unlikely to have been a regret - there's nowhere prettier. Hiking down to seaside waterfalls and wandering through quaint beach villages can’t be found on the 101 or the 5. As the saying goes, it’s about the journey, not the destination. The road trip to San Francisco from LA is no different.

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