The California coast road trip is definitely one of the most iconic road trips in the United States. The scenic drive along the Pacific coast offers beautiful views and charming towns that make it a bucket-list-worthy experience. From San Francisco to San Diego, there are endless opportunities to explore the California coastline. Whether you have a few days or a few weeks, this iconic drive along the California Coast is a must-do road trip.
SAMPLE CALIFORNIA COAST ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
The amount of time you spend in each location depends on how much time you have for your trip. Here is a sample California Coast road trip itinerary, starting in San Francisco and heading south:
- San Francisco
- Big Sur
- Santa Barbara
- Los Angeles
- Orange County
- San Diego
Starting in San Francisco, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see attraction. Drive across the bridge and take in the stunning views of the city skyline and the bay.
*Check out more things to do in San Francisco here.
From there, head south to Monterey, a charming coastal town with a rich history. Visit Cannery Row, the famous street made famous by John Steinbeck. Be sure to also experience the marine life. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the USA, and third largest in the world! Also, depending on the time of year, go on a whale watching tour.
Continuing south, Big Sur is a must-see destination along the California coast. This stretch of coastline offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, towering redwoods, and cascading waterfalls. Stop at McWay Falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls in California, or take a hike in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
Next stop, Santa Barbara – a picturesque town known for its Spanish-style architecture, palm-lined beaches, and stunning coastal views. Visit the historic Santa Barbara Mission, stroll along State Street, or relax on one of the many beaches in the area. It’s a great spot to relax before heading to the high-energy city of LA.
Further south, Los Angeles has tons of things to do/see. Take a stroll along the Venice Beach boardwalk, hike to the Hollywood Sign, or visit the Griffith Observatory for panoramic views of the city. There are plenty of beaches to lay out at, designer stores for shopping, and high end restaurants to eat at.
Check out more things to do in Los Angeles here.
In between LA and San Diego, you’ll find Orange County. Orange County is most known for its beaches and amusement parks (Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm to get specific). Be sure to head to Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and Dana Point to truly experience Southern California’s popular beach towns.
Check out more things to do in Orange County here.
Finally, the road trip ends in San Diego, a big city with a laid-back vibe. Visit the famous San Diego Zoo or explore the historic Gaslamp Quarter, known for its nightlife and dining options. Be sure to check out the San Diego beaches too – try Coronado Beach and La Jolla Cove.
Check out more things to do in San Diego here.
Julie Keith says
A California road trip along the coast has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I am looking forward to the trip next month. Your recommendations of stops to make along the way are perfect.
Angela Hope says
It’s definitely a bucket list trip, especially if you live in CA 🙂