Around 10 years ago I drove down from San Francisco to LA on the Pacific Coast Highway in one day and it was the best day of my entire life. 

So 2 years ago I figured, lets do it again, but this time take longer and enjoy what the PCH has to offer... so here is another roadtrip I planned ! Its VERY fast paced so not for everyone but if you want to see it all - this is for you. With route, recommendations, hotels and stop off to make planning your San Francisco to L.A roadtrip so much easier !


Leave San Francisco around 7am ( there is a San Francisco dedicated post with all we did here ) 

Stop off at - Half Moon Bay. We went to the Half Moon Bay Bakery for our breakfast and then drove to the Half Moon Bay beach to enjoy our coffee and baked goods. It felt amazing to be out of the city and we wandered the small main street before heading into the bakery. It was one of my favourite little streets on the drive. Parking for the beaches is $10 but the same parking ticket lasts you all day along the other stops too!

Stop off at - Davenport Pier. We didn't walk down to the beach as it looked too scary but we admired the amazing view from above.

Stop off at - Shark Fin Cove. One of my favourite beaches of the whole roadtrip and if we did this again I would spend a few hours here. It was quiet , the view was amazing, it felt so secluded and beautiful. After the winds of San Francisco - it felt amazing to be on a beach with sunshine.

Stop off at - Natural Bridges State Beach. We pulled up and wandered around this beach taking in the views. Used the bathrooms and watched the nature. There are picnic tables and chairs if you want to use this as more of a stop off. 

Stay over at Santa Cruz

Hotel - Beachview Inn - clean - very close to the beach/pier and Main Street and reception was really helpful.

By the time we go to Santa Cruz it was late afternoon so we dropped the car at the hotel & wandered around the pier before heading to Pacific Avenue.  We grabbed Pizza from Pizza my Heart before heading back to the hotel. 


The next day we drove 20 mins to Roaring Camp to take a steamtrain through the Redwoods at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. We booked parking at the same time at our tickets & it was really easy to find and well signposted. We did the morning ride so that we could start our day early and the views were amazing.

Stop off at - Capitola Beach - this was cute but for a picture but ... underwhelming. A little bit of Instagram vs reality but we got a photo and moved on. 

Stay over at Monterey

Hotel - Arbor Inn Monterey  - very cute and bright hotel a short walk from the main street & harbour. Clean with easy parking & really nice staff. 

We spent evening wandering the harbour & Cannery Row and saw hundreds of sealions all along the shoreline. It was spectacular. Truely. We then wandered for food and ended up at Fish Hopper. I wouldnt recommend it to be honest.  The food was really not great and the staff were sometimes rude. It was very unexpected and we do wish we had picked somewhere else for the evening. 


We grabbed a coffee and snack on the way down to the Harbour before our Whale Watching tour at Monterey. There were so many Whale Watching companies and they all seemed to be setting off at the same time and place in the harbour. We saw around 20 Humpback Whales and hundreds of Seals. It was unforgettable and although I know Whale watching can be very hit & miss I would really recommend taking a trip in Monterey. 

Food Recommendations - Alta Cafe and Bakery / Leave on Old Fishermans Wharf 

Stop off at - Lovers Point Beach

Stop off at - 17 Mile Drive. The drive is only $10 to enter and make sure to get a map. It takes around 3 hours and can take longer if you want to spend more time at the stops. You drive around and look for the small car parks and pull over signs and then you can read up about the nature, seas scapes and flora and forna nearby. Entry free is reimbursed if you eat at one of the food places along the drive.  The only toilet is at Bird Rock and is worth noting. 

Stay over in Carmel by the Sea

- Hofsas House - so so close to all the shops & places to eat and a short walk to the beach. This hotel is so cute & the rooms make it feel like you are in some kind of Hansel & Gretel tale. 

We explored the incredible town in the evening. It really is a village from a fairytale. It does not feel like real life. Cute little shops, bakeries, independent businesses and restaurants. We ate at the Hog Breath Inn ( formally owned by Clint Eastwood ) and it was one of our best meals from the trip - highly recommend. The town centre is quite small and can be seen in a couple of hours easily.

Day 4

We walked to the Carmel Bakery and grabbed a coffee and a pretzel and headed to the beach to enjoy before we set off again. The beach was white with bright blue waters and was stunning. I wish we could have spent the afternoon just enjoying it even for a few more hours. 

Food Recommendations - Stationary for Breakfast / Cottage of Sweets / Coffee and Rise & Roam / La Bicyclette Restaurant 

Stop off at - Point Lobos Natural State Reserve. If you pay for parking here your stub will get you into Andrew Molera, Julia Pfeiffer and Big Sur also on same day. We got a free trail guide at the information station and did the Bird Island Trail which was short enough to fit into our day but also gave us a lovely view of the coastlines and wildlife. 

Stop off at- Bixby Bridge

Stop off at - Big Sur River Inn. A wonderful place to grab a drink or food and you can sit in chairs in the river and dip your feet in. Would highly recommend.

Stop off at - Pfeiffer Beach. We didn't have time to stop here & decided to head straight to the next stop but we did have it on our list incase. You will see a sign saying ' Narrow Road' and this is the road you take down to the beach. 

Stop off at - Nepenthe Cafe. The views make this place what it is but depending what time of day it is you may end up queuing - so bare that in mind and maybe try not to go at the obvious times. 

Stop off at - McWay Falls. This is a waterfall right on the beach that you can see from a walkway a short walk from the carpark at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park 

Stop off at- Elephant Seal Vista Point. A lovely way to end the day seeing the incredible seals along the beach 

Stay over in Morro Bay

We wandered down towards the rock to see if we could see any otters. They say the best place for otter spotting is the left of the dock infront of the Great American Fish Company. We watched the sun set over the rock which really is an unforgettable experience. 

Hotel - Pleasant Inn. A very cute little motel with parking right outside your door and very cute amenities. A few minutes walk to shops and to the harbour. 


We were surprised how many cool shops were in Morro Bay - some very nice vintage, antique and thrift shops and a good vinyl shop so we spend the morning going up and down Morro Bay Bvld and Main Street. 

Stop off at - San Luis Obispo. The ' happiest place in America' was worth a stop off for some BBQ food. We headed to Old Slo BBQ Co and it was so so good. I know we should have spent longer here as there is so much to do but we needed to get to LA by tonight so we carried on the journey. 

Stop off at - Madonna Inn.

Stop off at - Avila Beach. It is white sandy beaches an a boardwalk. There is also a pirates cove to hike down. We missed this stop off to visit the next stop instead but this could be one for you !

Stop off at- Neverland Gates. Not a stop for everyone but as we were so close & the estate has been bought by someone else- I figured I may regret not going over. It was a 20 minute detour and literally in the middle of nowhere - you cant see much apart from the gates which have hundreds of signatures & comments on them. But I enjoyed the drive & realising how secluded Michael Jackson was from the world. Address is 5225 Figueroa Mountain Road, Los Olivos, CA 93441 for anyone who wants to visit. 

Stop off at - Solvang. We arrived to a mini festival happening. People dancing in the streets, axe throwing and live music. Solvang is a must see. It is unlike anywhere else I have ever seen in the world. Danish style architecture , windmills, cute little bakeries. We explored the village and also visited the Vintage Motorbike Museum. Head to Copenhagen and Park street. All the little shops and entertainment sit along these too streets. 

Stay over in West Hollywood.

Hotel - Best Western Sunset Plaza. I have stayed at this hotel twice now and really recommend it for a hotel on Sunset. The location is incredible - you can walk within minutes to the Rainbow Rooms or Chateau Marmont & it has a beautifully idyllic pool surrounded by palm trees. The underground parking feels very safe and secure & our room was spacious. We always felt safe here & the staff were really lovely. We stayed here for 3 days before heading over too....

Stay over in Santa Monica.

Hotel - Hotel Carmel Santa Monica. We chose to do a few days in West Hollywood and a few days in Santa Monica so that we limited any long drives. The hotel was amazing for its location. On the same block as many shops, bars and restaurants and 2 minutes from Santa Monica Pier. However we did get charged for things like 'water & newspapers' which we said we didnt want when. we checked in, but the hotel said they had to charge extra for them anyway. Getting our car from the valet often took a while and sometimes no one was there so we had to wait 15 mins for someone to come to the station to get the car for us. The hotel itself though was a great location, clean and safe. 

If you want to know more about what we did in L.A see our other blog post !