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“PCH - Pacifica to Santa Cruz”

Pacific Coast Highway
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Ranked #35 of 8,999 things to do in California
Certificate of Excellence
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Recommended length of visit: More than 3 hours
Owner description: Running along the northern California coast, this highway has some of the best views of any in the United States.
Reviewed 28 September 2012

If you are ever in San Francisco, make sure you set aside a day to drive south on the Pacific Coast Highway, Route 1. It starts just south of the town of Pacifica, which is a cool little beach town 16 mile south of San Francisco. Make sure you bring a camera and no agenda. There will be many photo ops along the way.

This road just begs to be driven. The hills & curves make this road seem like a roller coaster. Even better is the view. Though the road begs to be driven hard, make sure you slow down to admire the view. You will never regret it. There are plenty of shoulders wide enough to pull over and look at the beach down below of the cliffs.

You will pass throught quaint beach towns like Half Moon Bay & Pescadero just to name a few. There are a number of State Parks along this route with ample parking. So if you wanna pull over and catch a wave along the drive, bring your surf board ... the waves are perfect all along this coastal route.

A really cool stop was the lighthouse at Pigeon Point. This stretch of land juts out into the Pacific waters and provides a scenic view of the PCH & the landscape. The lighthouse itself is closed to the public, as it looks like it has seen better days. There is a little hostel right next to it, so if you like it enough to spend the night that is an option ... who wouldn't like to sleep with the sounds of the waves crashing along the rocky shores. There is a wooden deck behind the lighthouse with great views of the waves crashing on the weathered rocks. Great photo op here. I got a great shot of me & my wife on this deck.

Be weary of the many bicyclists along this route. Many long distance bicyclists ride this road and pack a lot of gear. Some of them have bike trailers that sit on an axle and have a wide profile. Give them the right of way.

When we rolled into Santa Cruz, we decided to stop & grab some lunch. The town was so cool that we decided to check it out. It is a very picturesque town ..... and (having grown up in NYC) absolutely spotless. I never saw a town that was so clean. However, that is another review.

If we had the time we would have drove all the way to Monterrey. However, we had dinner plans with an old friend back in Pacifica, so unfortunately, we had to cut the trip short. If you make it to this part of the country, don't sell yourself short. Drive as far as you can, make lots of stops, check out the towns on the way, maybe stay overnight at some dive hotel, enjoy a beautiful Pacific Coast sunset, and most of all just soak it all in.

There are no words to describe the experience. If you are ever close enough, just drive it. It will be an experience you will never forget. That's all I have to say.

17  Thank Johnny-Boricua
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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943 - 947 of 1,397 reviews

Reviewed 24 September 2012

While visiting northern CA, my wife and drove HWY 1 from Carmel south to Lucia. It was incredible. While my wife would have preferred to drive with only a few stops for photo ops, I felt like stopping every mile or so! The entire drive was just beautiful, with majestic vistas of high cliffs and blue ocean surf almost the entire way. Be sure to take in not just the views of the Pacific, but also the rolling hills that are just covered with pampas grasses and some really cool trees.

Our trip to CA included Yosemite, San Francisco, and panning for gold in Jamestown. I really enjoyed all of them. But, for me, the highlight of the trip was the drive down Highway 1 / Big Sur / CA 1.

2  Thank KYOceanLover
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 September 2012

We drove from Point Lobos to Pismo Beach on day one. Day two we did Pismo down to Oxnard. Day three morning only we drove from Oxnard down to LAX
Day one was one we will never to forget. There are so many awesome views and we kept stopping We had lunch at Rocky Point and the views and food were great. Highlight of the drive was a walk down to see the waterfall at Julia Phefer (apology for spelling). The best view we have ever seen. We saw a large group gathered at one pull over and decided to have a look at what was going on. We found out that these were bird watchers. To our amazement we discovered that they were looking at two Condors. The group kindly invited us to look through their very expensive binoculars and explained all about the Condors. By all accounts they are often in this area so look out. This drive took us nearly 6 hours with the amount of stopping we did. A very long day.

Day two was another great drive but we spent a long time at Santa Barbara which we really enjoyed walking around the town and the pier. We were so exhausted from the day before we did not want to spend too much time and just got to Oxnard to our hotel. We satyed at the Hampton Inn and it was great. We had a harbour view room The harbour itself was really nice ad we walked round in the evening to the other side and had a nice Italian meal.

Day three was a bit of a rush down to LAX via Malibu We wished we had more time to stop at some of the beaches.

We rented a Mustang convertible which definitely made the driving experience even more enjoyable.

Be sure to take a jacket with you as te weather changes all the time.

This was a lifetime experience for us and the drive is not to be missed. Make sure you drive north to south as this means that you are the coastt side all te way down.

Please do not miss this drive and ensure that you have plenty of time

Ensure that you keep your car filled as petrol stations are far and few between and very expensive.

23  Thank Alshepuk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 September 2012

The Pacific Coast Highway drive is something you should have on your "Bucket List."

We have been blessed to do this drive numerous times both Southbound as well as Northbound. Our first trip was in 1988 and we have been coming back annually ever since.

These days we typically start our trip at SFO and then head south for 4 or 5 leisurely days stopping at Los Gatos, Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur and when we get to San Simeon will either continue south to Cambria or turn east and go inland to some of the finest Central Coast Wineries. On some trips we will just keep going and return home from LAX. There are so many things to do and see that it is impossible to do it all in one trip.

On our most recent trip we did some whale watching. On another trip we took a bright yellow Corvette and enjoyed the curves as we headed southbound. If you do that, watch out for CHP because they will be watching out for you as you approach San Simeon from the north.

Make a point to stop and see the Elephant Seals on the beach just north of San Simeon. It is truly amazing.

Needless to say Hearst Castle is at San Simeon and you should make an appointment and see it at least once in your life.

10  Thank MBVPHASE6
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 13 September 2012

Everyone should do this ride at least once in their lives. We went from San Fran to Pismo Beach, about 400 miles down right between San Fran and LA. We went in late August because school would be back in for most of the Country and the trip would be more leisurely and it was. The other bonus was weather was perfect all the way!

We stayed in San Fran a few days and then drove over to Half Moon Bay to hop on the 1 and start our trip from there. From the very first stop at HMB, we were mesmerized and hooked. We meandered and stopped first night in Monterrey CA which was sooo beautiful. Great little town and we were able to meander and enjoy it without the crush of tourists. We had a great dinner in the Cannery Row area then walked the beach and took some sunset pics. They have so many great views of the water that we skipped the "17 mile scenic view" which cost a toll to take. They have a very long walking path that hugs the coast and you can walk, ride bikes, jog and it was beautiful.

We picked up next morning and stopped in the very rich yet quaint Carmel-by-the-Sea -worth a drive down the main rode but we didn't stop there. Next stop was Point Reyes National Seashore. A variety of hikes await you with views to die for, including a terrific view of the elephant seals.(It cost $10 to get in). We swung by Hearst Castle for a tour (very touristy and pricey) and ended that day in Pismo Beach. We drove back up the 101 to San Fran.

The real views were everything in between. I can't pick out a drive highlight-too many of them. I did not expect to see water so clear, turquoise & crashing. Historic lighthouses, mountain views, tunnels, bridges, curvy curvy Big Sur stretch (take your time, be careful-it's 20mph for a good # of miles). Do not be in a hurry--no point going if you are. Leave time in your schedule for meandering.

My advice: Go in off seasons to avoid crowds. Plan at least 4 days. Have your camera ready-a real camera, not your phone! And have charger (or batteries) because you're going to need it. Wear comfy clothes-you'll be in and out of car. Wear sneakers in case an impromptu hike comes up or if you want to dare your way close to an edge to take a shot off a cliff. Use your aux settings to plug up your iphone/mp3-you won't have a radio station most of the way. However, it's a great time to just talk, forget the music. Pack a picnic.

17  Thank Tiffany75
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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