The Ultimate Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary

The Pacific Coast Highway, also known as PCH or Highway 1, is one of the most iconic road trips in the world. This stunning route hugs the California coastline, winding through rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, charming seaside towns, and panoramic vistas. With so many incredible sights to see, planning the ultimate Pacific Coast Highway itinerary can be overwhelming. But fear not! We’ve put together a guide to help you make the most of your PCH adventure.

Beautiful bright orange red golden gate bridge which connects sausalito to san francisco

Day 1: San Francisco to Santa Cruz

Start your journey in San Francisco, one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the world. Take a stroll along the Golden Gate Bridge before heading south to Half Moon Bay. This charming coastal town is known for its stunning beaches and picturesque harbor. Make sure to stop at Mavericks, one of the world’s most famous surf spots.

a view of Half Moon Bay south of the Golden Gate Bridge on the way to Santa Cruz. There are lots of wildflowers and beneath the bluff is the ocean

Continue your drive to Santa Cruz, where you can explore the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and wander through the charming downtown area. Make sure to visit Natural Bridges State Beach to see the stunning natural rock formations and monarch butterfly migration.

Day 2: Santa Cruz to Monterey

woman walking on beach with a pelican in view

From Santa Cruz, head to Moss Landing, a small fishing town where you can take a whale-watching tour or rent a kayak to explore the Elkhorn Slough. Continue on to Monterey, a historic city famous for its Cannery Row and world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. Explore the charming downtown area and indulge in some fresh seafood at one of the many local restaurants.

Day 3: Monterey to Big Sur

One of the most scenic stretches of the PCH, Big Sur is home to rugged cliffs, towering redwoods, and pristine beaches. Stop at Bixby Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges in California, and explore the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. If you have time, take a detour to McWay Falls, an iconic waterfall that cascades onto a secluded beach.

image at sunset with the waves crashing against the beach with a bridge connecting two bluffs

Day 4: Big Sur to San Simeon

From Big Sur, continue south to San Simeon, home of the famous Hearst Castle. Take a tour of this stunning mansion and explore the expansive gardens and pools. If you have time, visit the Elephant Seal Rookery, where you can see hundreds of elephant seals basking in the sun.

Day 5: San Simeon to Santa Barbara

As you head further south on the PCH, you’ll encounter more breathtaking scenery and charming towns. Stop in San Luis Obispo, a vibrant college town known for its farmers’ market and historic mission. Continue on to Pismo Beach, where you can take a dune buggy tour or relax on the beach. End your day in Santa Barbara, a beautiful coastal city known for its Spanish-style architecture, lush gardens, and world-class dining.

Day 6: Santa Barbara to Malibu

From Santa Barbara, head to Malibu, a celebrity hotspot known for its stunning beaches and coastal mansions. Stop at Point Dume State Beach for incredible ocean views and hike to the top of the bluff for a bird’s-eye view of the coastline. End your day at the famous Malibu Pier, where you can enjoy dinner and drinks with an ocean view.

Day 7: Malibu to Los Angeles

an image looking up at the hollywood sign

As you head towards Los Angeles, stop at the iconic Santa Monica Pier, where you can ride the Ferris wheel and take a stroll along the boardwalk. From there, head to Venice Beach, where you can soak up the eclectic culture and street performers. End your PCH adventure in Los Angeles, where you can explore the city’s famous landmarks, museums, and neighborhoods. This seven-day itinerary will take you on a journey through some of the most beautiful and iconic destinations on the Pacific Coast Highway.