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California coast highway 1

Arriving August 13-August 22 Starting in San Francisco and driving down to San Diego approximately 11 +days what would be the best places to stop at and how many days I was figuring two nights three days in San Francisco tonight's in Monterey two nights in Santa Monica and 2 to 3 nights in the San Diego. Need suggestions on what is more important to see going down the coast and do I need reservations other than San Francisco and San Diego could I just drive and do you think I would find hotel rooms on the way down

Posted by
28147 posts

Like pink?

Madonna Inn, SLO.

Ya gotta love it.....

did you know if you google hotel san luis obispo pink you go straight there. Lots of pink, and well....

Posted by
3192 posts

You don't say when you are taking this road trip but there are closures on Hwy 1 that will prevent you from doing this as a continuous trip in the near future. This winter's rains caused a couple of major mud slides they are dealing with near Big Sur.

You can still enjoy San Francisco to Monterey and the 17 Mile Drive. I'd then head south on 101 and connect back to Hwy 1 via Hwy 46 at Paso Robles. Enjoy the many wineries along the central coast!

Don't forget a stop in Santa Barbara (Mission, Courthouse, Beaches, State St.) on your way further south. Enjoy your road trip.

Posted by
6485 posts

You will need to combine a few roadways to make this road trip and as a CA native born in SoCal but raised in the Bay Area have driven countless miles on the highways.

Depending on what you want to see I offer these options of routes with Day 1 ending in Pacific Grove.

Leave SF via Hwy 1 to Half Moon Bay. From there drive up 92 to 35 ( Hwy 9) and explore the wineries along the route to Big Basin State Park. Walk among the California Redwoods if you've never seen them. From Big Basin head to Santa Cruz and see the suggestion below. (If anyone gets car sick then this isn't the best route)

Take 1 from SF all the way down the coast still stopping in Half Moon Bay, and Santa Cruz. If its still summer time ride the Big Dipper at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, the last remaining wooden roller coaster on the West Coast. From there and if you didn't see the redwoods in Big Basin you could always see some at Nisene Marks State Park. ALL CA parks have admission fees.

Continue you down Hwy 1 toward Monterey and spend 2 nights in Pacific Grove. Sites to see and explore: the Monterey Bay Aquarium, walking along Asilomar Beach, visiting Carmel and the Carmel Mission, Pt Lobos and the old Fishermans Wharf. The galleries, shops, cafes and restaurants of Pacific Grove and Carmel are worth your time and depending on how you travel, fast paced or at a leisurely stroll there is more than enough keep you occupied.

You will need to cut across the central coast to Hwy 101 at this point as Hwy 1 is closed.

The Mr. Madonna Inn is pure kitsch if that's your goal. Personally I find staying in the adjacent Morro Bay more enjoyable. Morro Bay is a favorite spot. Was recently there for a birthday weekend. Stayed at the newly refurbished Comfort Inn at 590 Morro Avenue. One block from the Embarcadero. Ideal setting. Favorite spots in Morro Bay and Baywood/Los Osos include: Montana Del Oro State Park, Elfin Forest if you have small children, Bayside cafe where we eat following our rental of Kayaks and a nice paddle around the estuary, the bakery on Front street right next door to the Bayfront Inn (pastries are fabulous!!!), walking along the path at the rock to watch the sea otters frolicking, taking in whatever movie is playing at the Bay Theatre, the food at Mi Casa and a meal at Celia's Cafe in Baywood /Los Osos. The later is where I discovered SLO Coffee. If a coffee drinker I encourage you to visit their coffee roasting plant and store. I don't splurge much on things but their coffee is an exception. I have their beans shipped to me. They are a half block from Celia's. I'd spend at least a night in this area as Morro Bay, Cayucous, Bayside/Los Osos and San Luis Obispo are all close to one another.

I need to get to work so I'll finish the next leg of what to see and where to stop enroute to San Diego on my next post.

Posted by
3333 posts

Santa Barbara is an outstandingly beautiful city, with some interesting sites to visit, like the court house and the mission. It has a bicycle path along the waterfront (or you can walk) for seeing beach scenery, and the water temperature is actually such that you can swim.

If you want to see how the rich and vulgar lived in the last century, Hearst Castle is another place to stop along your way.

Posted by
244 posts

Stop in San Luis Obispo! If you can stop on a Thursday. Downtown Thursday night market is a great experience! You'll have to try the delicious BBQ's! Local produce, local restaurants, crafts, music! Such great fun, and the food, yum! SLO Farmers Market. Farmers Market
You might want to see the Mission. It's a beautiful historic mission downtown San Luis Obispo.

Posted by
2364 posts

dallas113, you don't indicate where you are from, what your special interests are, or if you are traveling alone, as a couple, or as a family with kids. So it's tough to suggest one excellent site or experience over another. I can attest that yes indeed, Highway 1 is closed in the middle of Big Sur, as the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge was damaged, then demolished, this past winter, and is now being rebuilt, closed until September or so. All the suggestions listed here are good ones, so I will just add a few others: (1) sounds like you will have limited time in San Francisco, but day-trip possibilities there also include Wine Country of Napa or Sonoma Valleys, or the Muir Woods National Park for many redwood hikes. (2) in the Monterey area, you could stay in Monterey, Pacific Grove, Carmel, or Carmel Valley, for somewhat different experiences. Many things to do, including biking, kayaking, hiking, golfing and fishing trips. The new Dali Museum in downtown Monterey just celebrated its first anniversary, very near Fisherman's Wharf. The days of approx. August 16-20 are "Car Week" in the Monterey area, with various events culminating with the Concours d'Elegance at Pebble Beach on August 20, if classic cars are your thing. Traffic, and parking, can be slow and difficult that week, and hotels very full and pricey. Also, I always encourage visitors to the Monterey area to spend a few minutes taking Palo Colorado Canyon Road near the northern end of Big Sur; it is about 11 miles south of the Carmel River, and goes east, inland, from Highway 1; it is a very unique, very rural, very wooded (redwoods etc.), residential area. You can drive in slowly maybe 10 minutes, then turn around and go out again; it is often a most memorable part of a visit to the Monterey area, just adding a few minutes to a Big Sur drive. (3) Cambria is a fun coastal town, and very near Hearst Castle, which is a very unique place to visit, at least once in a lifetime. With the Highway 1 closure, I guess you would need to approach from the south, such as from San Luis Obispo. You would want to explore the Hearst Castle web site and make a reservation for one of the (choice of 3?) tours. (4) Lots to do in San Diego, including the famous Zoo, Wild Animal Park, Museum of Man (and other museums) in Balboa Park, Coronado, etc.

You ask about hotels, and I would say yes, it would be worthwhile to book in advance at all these popular places. If you just show up and look for lodging, you may be able to find rooms, but probably not the nicest, or best-priced, and in some places not at all, depending on the day of the week and special events in each area. Better things to do with your time than set out looking for a room. Lots of people visit all of these spots during the summer.


Posted by
5697 posts

Going south on Highway 1 -- beautiful! But don't do it if the person in the passenger seat has issues with heights, since there are miles where there's a sheer drop to the Pacific over a narrow, winding road. (Think Amalfi coast.)

Posted by
15075 posts

If you are wildlife lovers, on the way to Pacific Grove (great place to spend 2 nights), stop in nearby Moss Landing and take a boat tour of Elkhorn Slough. It's been several years, but we had a great dinner at The Fishwife on Sunset Drive - their specialty was Caribbean-style fish and seafood. Instead of the pricey 17-Mile Drive, you can get beautiful views by drive along the coast in Pacific Grove. We very much enjoyed Hearst Castle - it's a little like Vegas, completely over-the-top. Plus there are some genuine pieces worthy of any museum - Hearst was an undiscerning collector so along with a lot of schlock he picked up some real beauties. Lovely hiking in Point Lobos State Park.

Posted by
6882 posts

Point Lobos State Nature Reserve (close to Carmel) is one of the most beautiful places I've ever ever been to, no joke. It is jaw-dropping gorgeous...words don't do it justice. Try to take a side trip there.

Posted by
379 posts

When living in CA, I drove the full length, multiple times. It remains my favorite drive in the world.

OP did not mention driving north from SF. Time permits, it's worth a short hop to Muir Woods for the redwoods. Every time I was there, I felt like Jimmy Steward and Kim Novak might show up.

I seldom photograph wild life, but I always stopped at San Simeon for the elephant seals. From the boardwalk, I could see hundreds of them sunbathing, frolicking and fighting. Taking their photos was like shooting fish in a barrel. Too easy.

Posted by
28147 posts

just don't drive 101 north into Oregon. News reports suggest that you could get a car full of hagfish (slime eels).

Posted by
15075 posts

Guessing you live in Dallas, are you aware of August weather in San Francisco? Seriously, take "winter" clothes. The last time I was at the Golden Gate Bridge - July 2016 - it was barely 60F at midday and windy. Muir Woods is a great place to see the coastal redwoods, but it may be a slow drive, especially during the long rush hours. And in summer, you may have to park kind of far away, so consider going pretty early.