Not much beats a balmy summer day on California’s Pacific coast: a long stretch of highway hugging emerald green cliffs and rocky outcroppings ahead, and to the left, a bright summer sun glinting off the water.

Searching for the perfect summer road trip? A drive from Los Angeles to Pebble Beach via Highway 1 could be just the right fit. We’ve crafted a leisurely itinerary that takes in all the sights, with luxurious accommodations to look forward to each night.

Day 1: Los Angeles to Santa Barbara


To kick off the trip, start from SoCal’s urban metropolis and head west toward Highway 1, connecting in Long Beach. Once en route, stop for lunch in scenic, celebrity-favorite Malibu, then continue along the coast toward Santa Barbara.

Though known for its temperate Mediterranean climate and convenient proximity to both L.A. and San Francisco, Santa Barbara—called the “American Riviera”—has a culture all its own. Take in the Spanish-colonial architecture and explore the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, featuring 65 acres of native flora. Then, enjoy dinner at bouchon Santa Barbara, an upscale farm-to-table take on French cuisine with Californian flare.


When you’re ready to settle in for the night, a stay at the Belmond El Encanto—the only Forbes Five-Star resort in the city—will leave you feeling refreshed for the next leg of the journey tomorrow.

Day 2: Santa Barbara to Big Sur

Feeling well-rested? It’s time to get an early start for this lengthiest portion of the trip—and be sure to get gas before leaving Santa Barbara city limits.


Continue along Highway 1 through Cambria, a good halfway point to stop, stretch out, and take in some beach views. Then, about 12 miles past, stop to see the elephant seal rookery in San Simeon, and grab a bite at Sebastian’s, a burger bar featuring Hearst Ranch wines and an ocean-view patio.

From there, it’s 65 miles ahead to Big Sur, your destination for the night. Accommodations at Ventana Big Sur await, boasting rustic charm with a sophisticated edge. Tucked amid California redwoods, this eco-friendly, adults-only resort is the perfect place to unwind after a long day of coastal cruising. Grab dinner on the property at The Sur House before turning in for the night.

Day 3: Big Sur to Pebble Beach


Quintessential California coastal views will cap off this short, last leg of the journey from Big Sur to Pebble Beach, about 30 miles. Gas up, grab a pastry at Big Sur Bakery, and hit the road.

Along the way, be sure to take in postcard-worthy views of Bixby Creek Bridge—an iconic landmark along the Pacific Highway. Then, stop for photos at scenic Point Lobos State Natural Reserve before the final 8-mile stretch into Pebble Beach.


(Photo courtesy of Pebble Beach®)

And finally—you’ve arrived. It’s time to hit the links or enjoy a rejuvenating spa treatment at Pebble Beach Resorts® to cap off three days of cruising California’s legendary Highway 1. You’ve earned it.

33 Comments

  • Leena says:

    Interested

  • William jacobs says:

    I can only say that you stop the trip way too soon. Take the time to drive all the way up along the coast and dont be afraid to cross a state border or two. Choose bay Oregon is not shabby at all and there are plenty of places along the way to see and do things as well as spend nights comfortably along the way. My wife and I have driven the roads more times than i can count. Dont be in a hurry and buckle your seat belts because the coastal highway up north has more cut backs than you can count and if your doing 35 mph through them you are probably going to fast.

  • John says:

    You forgot the beautiful city of Carmel-by-the-Sea. The charming English Village atmosphere, where Clint Eastwood was past Mayor. It’s located next to Pebble Beach.

  • Tanna says:

    It is beautiful but I’m not ready to crown it the MOST beautiful because there are a lot of really beautiful road trips to be had in America. I will say though that it’s ONE OF the most beautiful rides in America!

  • Anita says:

    Don’t miss Monterey!

  • Jeff says:

    There are many beautiful roads in our country. I just discovered the Beartooth Highway in Montana & Wyoming last year and it is one of the most beautiful drives I’ve taken anywhere in the world.

  • Yves Samuel says:

    Outstanding scenery, breathtaking. I would love visiting some day. Great picture

  • James says:

    And do it in a classic Porsche speedster convertible… Or a Jaguar xj8

  • Bob says:

    Lunch in Pescadero is really special – don’t miss the fresh fish and then move to half moon bay and moss creek inn

  • Max R. says:

    Start in Santa Barbara, not LA.
    Take the 154 through Los Olivia and Solvang. Back on the 101 in Buellton and follow the signs to Morrow Bay once you are in San Luis Obispo. Don’t forget Hearst Castle ( north of Morro Bay) and Pfeiffer Big Sur and see the waterfall on the beach. Walk down Ocean Avenue in Carmel and see Dog Beach.
    Monterey Aquarium is not to be missed.
    The Boardwalk in Santa Cruz is worth a stop.

  • Lisa says:

    Touring San Simeon is really special. They have a wonderful farm fresh deli at end of tour with great food. Look out for wild zebras grazing along highway. They are descendants of private zoo. Also stop in San Luis obisbo.

  • doyle williams says:

    Drive right on by the incomparable Hearst Castle and not even mention it’s name? No way. We tried for many years to get there only to have something come up to stop us short so at age 80 or so , determined to “get er done”, we finally flew to San Francisco from Kansas City and drove leisurely down the coast to finally feast our eyes on the most spectacular, majestic and architecturally beautiful creation we have ever witnessed in the USA. The incomparable Hearst Castle. Cost us a pretty penny to get that item off our bucket list but it was worth it. Love the fantastic Pebble Beach Golf Course at the termination of the tour but there’s no comparison to the Castle so far as World Heritage sites are concerned and by the way, figure the cost and time required of each and pocket enough on the difference for round trip air fare back home. Of course, if you are embarrassingly rich that matters not a whit so do both, but I would hope this article is also directed to the other 99% of us whose budgets have their limitations.

    Otherwise, a good and useful description of an incredible road trip that everyone should have on their bucket list before it gets too late to travel long distances. I would just add the following recommendation: Stop and smell the many roses along the way. It’s can be an arduous trip on twisty Highway 1 and requires a gentle unhurried approach with frequent stops to see and enjoy the countless interesting attractions, so give yourself frequent breaks as you negotiate the endless steep hilly curves. Just simply driving it without frequently leaving the car along the way could become a tiresome grind and possibly even leave you looking forward getting it over with.

    An Old retired engineer whose passion has always been exploring our wonderful America. Doyle Williams.

    • Gerry says:

      It took us a couple trips to finally get to do Hearst Castle but we weren’t 80 yet. Have some incredible night time pictures.

  • Roger says:

    Or, you can enjoy the scenic route from Big Sur to Carmel by running the Big Sur Marathon like my wife did, without the hassle of car traffic. KC

  • Wendy says:

    It is a pleasure for us to take short trips to Big Sur. We live here and enjoy everyday no matter the weather…so come here and enjoy the beauty…lots of areas with different climates…Carmel, Monterey, and Carmel Valley….

  • Paula says:

    Took that drive! The Greatest Meeting of Land and Sea!!! Went all. The was from Los Angeles to Sausalito!! Totally thrilling adventure.

    • Ted says:

      I live on the east coast but have enjoyed parts of this trip on three different occasions. It was worth every penny and minute I had. Monterrey to San Luis Obispo is my favorite stretch. If you have an extra day, drive inland near Paso Robles. You will find some of the best and underrated vineyards in Cali.

  • Lois says:

    There are many, many beautiful road trips across America. My goal is to do them all! Which leads me to beg the question, why would anyone want to travel anywhere else in the world? America is safe, beautiful, has diverse scenery, offers clean lodging , potable water, edible (safe) food and a regular supply of gasoline. Mountains, glaciers, wild rivers, deserts, oceans, rain forests, vast stretches of open land; you want it, America has it !!!

  • Dan says:

    You missed Carmel Highlands if you want a little more rustic atmosphere than Pebble Beach, but even more spectacular views being that Carmel Highlands is known as the the Gateway to Big Sur.
    The views and rugged coast at Carmel Highlands are even more spectacular!
    Try the Tickle Pink Inn, or Highlands Inn for gorgeous views out your room and that rugged but elegant California Big Sur vibe that’s uniquely blended together at Carmel Highlands.
    If you still want the Carmel/Pebble Beach vibe it is still only a few miles away.
    It’s worth getting out of Carmel to experience that beautiful interplay of nature, and civilization harmoniously blended into one that’s only Carmel Highlands!

  • William says:

    I have driven it in a motor home and my last trip was on a 98 Mercedes sl500. Stayed at the Pine Inn on Ocean ave and if you can find it have dinner at “Mission Ranch restaurant

  • Vinod says:

    Best drive in the world – Seattle to LA along highway 1- you can never forget it

  • AEU says:

    O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain
    For purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain
    America, America, God shed His grace on thee
    And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea

    O beautiful for Pilgrim feet, whose stern impassioned stress
    A thoroughfare for freedom beat, across the wilderness
    America, America, God mend thine every flaw
    Confirm thy soul in self control, Thy liberty in law

    O beautiful for heroes proved, in liberating strife
    Who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life
    America, America, May God they gold refine
    Till all success be nobleness, and every gain divine

    O beautiful for patriot dream, that sees beyond the years
    Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears
    America, America, God shed His grace on thee
    And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!

    • R wood says:

      Love it. Still applies after all these years. This needs to be sung frequently by all, in my opinion. Maybe it will bring back a sense of pride and community.

  • Jimbo says:

    Start by renting a convertible at LAX, or better yet, a motorcycle at the nearby home quarters of EagleRider. Take the ten to Santa Monica and catch breakfast at Patrick’s Roadhouse. Follow PCH north through Malibu and see if you can even count the number of exotic cars you pass along the way.

    If the surf’s up, Patrick’s might be busy, so stop at Neptune’s Net just before crossing into Ventura county. Another SoCal surf classic and biker hangout. Walk the lot and feel free t gawk, bikers love to talk about their rides. If you’re serious about bikes, the Rock Store is in the hills above Neptune’s, better get a map.

    It will be hard not to stare as you wind north towards Santa Barbara but try to keep up, LA drivers have zero tolerance for the unhurried tourist.

    Escape the 101 in SB at Cabrillo St, it follows the beach into town at the pier. Park, get some sand between your toes, or in your shoes at least. Walk the pier, buy some tchotchkes for souvenirs, eat something sweet, get back in the car or on your bike and head up State Street.

    State Street is The Boulevard in SB, THE boulevard. Stop, shop, eat as time permits. But there’s a lot more to see, like the old Spanish Mission which is just north of center city, a few blocks off State.

    Cut the corner using highway 154 for a peek at the California outback. The interior here is all about wide open spaces, the rolling coast range of mountains, cattle, and wine. Lots of wine. This is Sideways country. Taste it while you’re here.

    San Luis Obispo is a town, a county, and the local culture. As in, “SLO down, this ain’t LA.” Surrounded mostly by agriculture — cattle ranches and vineyards — SLO dances to an easy beat. It’s a world class surf destination that’s not on the beach. Shed your pretentiousness, check out downtown, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be in time for one of the awesomest farmers market going.

    It’s in SLO that PCH and the 101 split again. Head for the coast, the thrill begins at Morro Rock. The beach at Cayucos is lovely, there’s great clam chowder to be had at the Splash Cafe in Pismo Beach, take some time, explore.

    Further north is Cambria. If you’re taking two days for this trip, Cambria, some hotels just north of town all the way to the Cavalier in San Simeon is the place to stay. Gas up before leaving town, it gets ridiculous up the coast road.

    Visit Hearst castle. Stop by the overlook at Piedras Blancas and watch the elephant seals lounge on the beach. Stretch your legs at Ragged Point. Get a snack in Gorda or on the cliff at the Lucia Lodge, or Nepenthe. Check out the iconic waterfall at Julia Pfeifer state park. Hike up to the Salmon creek waterfall. This is the best of the California coast.

    You have to see it while you’re here,
    but when you tire of the carnival barkers in Monterrey, head west to Pacific Grove, find a nice B&B and then walk to dinner at the little red house. Fantastique!

    C’est la Californie!!

  • dc says:

    I agree you stopped way, way too soon. What about driving through Carmel then up for an afternoon in Monterey taking in Cannery Row (Inspiration for the famous novel by John Steinbeck) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium there. Continuing on up to Half Moon Bay then short-cutting across to the city by the bay for a visit to Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Ghirardelli Chocolate factory. You shouldn’t miss a five star restaurant while watching the sun set over the golden gate. Stopped way too soon. (Also what happened to the visit to the mansion of Hearst Castle at San Simeon when you begin your ride up the coast road to Big Sur.

  • Joe says:

    Yes, you stopped way too soon. What you listed is beautiful, take highway 1 north of San Francisco and it becomes allot more wilderness and absolutely breath taking.

  • L. Weigle says:

    Much prettier north of SF and on to Oregon coast.

  • Lenny says:

    The California coast is lovely but the Oregon coast puts it to shame

  • Philip says:

    Your yuppie credibility was completely lost with me with the spectacular typo “choose bay Oregon.” I can only guess you meant “Coos Bay, Oregon.” I think you drove right by the most spectacular links on the west coast — Bandon Dunes about 25 miles south.

  • Gerry says:

    My spouse and I have taken the coast road from San Diego, CA to Port Angles, WA on more than one occasion and enjoyed every one of them. Not the route you want to take if in a hurry but we never were being retired. Lots of historical sites as well as scenic beauty along the way.

  • mike says:

    2 words:
    Big Sur.
    (the village)

    Still lovely and gracious
    after all these years

    You can check in, but…

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