The Perfect Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary (25 Stops + 3 Itineraries!)

Post Summary: The Ultimate Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary + All The Stops Along The Way

The Pacific Coast Highway is easily considered to be one of the most iconic road trip routes in the world!

It’s not hard to believe either. From the moody beaches in Washington to the spectacular natural bridges in Southern Oregon to the winding roads of Big Sur, California, there is something new to see around every bend.

Berty and I drove the entire route back in 2017, and have returned to deeply explore sections every year since then!

Because we know this route so well, we wanted to create this comprehensive guide for iconic stops and places to see along the entire length of the Pacific Coast Highway, all 1,700-ish miles between Seattle, Washington and Orange County, California!

In this power, we’ll share the best PCH stops in Washington, Oregon, and California to make your Pacific Coast Highway road trip your most epic trip yet.

Let’s get planning!

Step By Step Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Directions (Download)

Where is the Pacific Coast Highway? How long is it?

The Pacific Coast Highway has many names.

You can also recognize it by its abbreviation (PCH), and referred to as the California Coast road trip, Pacific Coast Highway road trip, Route 1, Highway 101 (through Washington and Oregon), or even just Highway 1 (in California).

All names aside, they all lead you down the same road, which is the route that parallels the Pacific Ocean and the western border of the contiguous United States.

The traditional Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1) is 655 miles long. The full Pacific Coast Highway (Orange County to Seattle) is just over 1,700 miles.

We’ll be talking about the entire Pacific Coast Highway itinerary in this blog post. (Seattle to Orange County)

Pacific Coast Highway Map, Directions, & Best Times

Which Direction To Drive The Pacific Coast Highway?

Where should you begin your Pacific Coast Highway itinerary? Northbound or Southbound?

There are two directions to do a Pacific Coast Highway road trip – driving south or driving north! Honestly, both are great options but being from Washington, Berty and I began in Seattle and made our way south.

If you are searching for the best weather conditions, here are pros of each direction:

  • Southbound (Seattle to Orange County): Driven during spring break, you can escape the Pacific Northwest rain and enjoy the warmth of Southern California.
  • Nortbound (Orange County to Seattle): Driving north will help you escape California’s hot weather in late summer and fall.

Pacific Coast Highway Start and End Points

Traditionally, the Pacific Coast Highway is considered to be the entire Highway 1 of the California Coast. This spans between Capistrano Beach is Orange County to Legget in Nortoerhn California. Highway 1 is 655.84 miles.

However, we like to think of this drive spanning three Pacific Coast states: Washington, Oregon, and California.

The traditional starting point in Washington is Seattle (with a detour through the Olympic National Park). The traditional starting point in California is San Diego.

When To Drive The Pacific Coast Highway

We also began our trip in June, but this trip is good to take any time of year.

If you decided on making it a winter road trip route, that means you’ll have a lot fewer crowds to deal with! Driving along the coast, the weather is more temperate and usually doesn’t get cold enough for snow, so you won’t run into many driving issues.

However, if you’re looking for the “windows-down, sunsets every night” kind of trip, we recommend taking this drive any time between June-September for the best chance of good weather.

Pacific Coast Highway Map

Top Tips For Driving The Pacific Coast Highway

So, how can you plan a Pacific Coast Highway road trip? Here are our suggestions of things to do before your trip:

Plan Your Stops Carefully: Carefully creating an itinerary will help make reserving hotels and activies a LOT easier. However, make sure to leave just a little wiggle room for surprises!

Book Accommodations In Advance: The Pacific Coast Highway is a popular road trip route. Once you know your trip dates, plan to book hotels and campgrounds ASAP. We like to split accommodations between car camping and hotels for a good mix. On a budget? Here are 20 car camping hacks to consider.

Check Road Closures: Check you route for any major road closures. This actually happens a lot more often than you might think Big Sur often has landslides.

Rent a Great Car (or RV!): You can rent a car and book hotels, OR you can rent a campervan and book campgrounds for a budget-friendly trip. Outdoorsy has cool recreation vehicles vans to rent – it’s like Airbnb but for RVs!

Decide When To Embark: Determine when to plan your PCH trip and how many days you have. Keep scrolling to the bottom of the post for PCH itinerary examples.

Use a Good Navigation App: Good navigation apps make a huge difference. Read our favorite road trip planner apps here.

Get a Convertible…or a Harley! If you are driving only a small section of the PCH, rent a fun vehicle! This isn’t mandatory, but it sure is iconic to drive on the highway in one of these cool rides.

Ask Great Questions: You’re in the car for a long time. Make sure to have these road trip questions ready to brighten those dull moments.

Download Podcasts + Playlists: Download these road trip podcasts and personalized playlists when you have wifi. You’ll thank me later.

Pack Your Car With The Essentials: Here’s a list of road trip essentials you need to be packing.

Prepare To Stop Frequently: The whole point of driving the Pacific Coast Highway is to take in the sights!

Cape Kiwanda Oregon, Pacific Coast Road Trip Stops

How To Choose a Car For The Pacific Coast Highway

Choosing the right vehicle for your Pacific Coast Highway road trip is probably THE most important decision you will make.

Option 1: Drive Your Own Car
Make sure your car has had a tune-up, and its oil changed. It’s worth it to get checked out now, than risk something going wrong mid-way through your trip.

Option 2: Rent a Regular Car
Renting a car is a great option for a reliable drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. Personally, we like Avis becuase they have a great rewards program. You can find cheap options

Option 3: Rent a Campervan or RV
Renting a campervan is an awesome way to experience a little bit of vanlife. Search for the best campervans at Outdoorsy. Just note, it may be a little tricky to drive a campervan one-way. You may have to return it at your starting point via I-5!

Option 4: Take The Public us (Kind of possible, but not recommended)
Yes, it’s possible to cobble together transportation on local transit. You’ll find that you can get around easiest in Southern California and the central Oregon Coast. However, there will be stretches of road with no transporation avaiable, or you may have to leave the coast and venture inland to find a route. It’s cheap yes, but takes quite a bit of pre-planning.

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip On A Budget

Are you hoping to plan a Pacific Coast Highway road trip route on a budget? Here are some budgeting hacks we like to use to plan a budget PCH trip:

Use The Dyrt To Find Campgrounds: The Dyrt is the largest online campground database. We use the offline campground search feature to find spots on the go (no service needed!).
The Dyrt gave us a code for you, our epic reader, to try the pro membership for 30 days free! Click here to unlock your 30-day free trial.

Find Free Campsites: Road tripping around the west coast for years, we’ve learned a thing or two about finding free campsites in the USA. Our guide includes campground searching hacks, backcountry packing guides, and tips on how to find the best camping spots on the PCH.

Cook Your Own Meals: Save money on the road by making your own quick & easy camping meals.

Manage Money On The Road: Learn how we travel on a budget in the Pacific Northwest.

Grab your gear and let's go! If you are like us and love to be outside, we've written this comprehensive post about the best winter coats & jackets to wear in the Pacific Northwest this season. We're covering everything from rain gear, parkas, to puffers, even utility jackets!

What To Pack For A Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

A good Pacific Coast Highway road trip will take you through the rainy gloom of Washington, as well as the sunny beaches of California. This makes packing slighly more challenging – you’ll have to account for tons of variable weather!

Rain Jacket: You’ll need one in Washington and Oregon, especially during winter and spring. Here are our favorite rain jackets to wear in the Pacific Northwest.

Light Layers: Once you reach California, it’s nice to have light, packable layers to bring on your day adventures. We like this windbreaker and this colorful fleece for easy layering.

Down Jacket: Down jackets are an excellent option for extra warmth, especially when paired with a rain jacket. Get this packable one to save space in your suitcase.

Sunglasses: You’ll need some, since you’ll be watchin the sunset every night! Grab this pair of inexpensive but HIGHLY rated sunglasses to knock around on your adventures.

Hiking Shoes: Hiking in the PNW for over a decade, we know a thing or two about boots! Read our list on the best hiking boots, to pick the right ones for you.

Walking Sandals: From walking around Huntington Pier to strolling around your campsite, walking sandals are essential to your Pacific Coast Highway packing list.

Portable Phone Charger: This Goal Zero 24 is the perfect companion to charge your phone on a day trip.

Camera: Here’s our guide on how to take smartphone landscape photography, or you can check out the travel photography gear as media professionals.

Hiking Clothes: You’ll want to bring these highly-coveted hiking shorts, a day pack, and the 10 hiking essentials.

Here are some posts we’ve written about what to pack for certain parts of the Pacific Coast Highway:

The Best Pacific Coast Highway Stops (State By State)

If you’re planning to experience the entire Pacific Coast Highway (including extending it to Oregon and Washington), you probably know that there is an insane amount of beautiful stops to take.

We’re going to break locations down state by state, to give you bite-sized chunks of information for each place.

Each state provides something unique and exciting for your Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary, so read below for location inspiration in Washington, Oregon, and California!

Cape Flattery - Pacific Coast Road Trip Stops

Pacific Coast Highway Stops In Washington

Washington is not all rain and gloom!

While the movies portray this evergreen state in a constant shroud of clouds and moodiness (Thanks, Twilight), its nothing farther from the truth.

Here, you can find powerful waterfalls, secret coves, and lush green forest, and amazing hikes in every corner of this beautiful state.

Keep on reading to read about some highlights along the Pacific Coast Highway in Washington!

Cities in Washington State - Seattle, Washington -

Seattle, Washington

This is where we suggest starting your Pacific Coast Highway road trip.

Seattle is a great place to stock up on all the road trip essentials, grab rental cars, and arrive by plane to stay on your journey on the Pacific Coast Highway. If you’re flying in to begin your journey, you’ll fly into Sattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

Have a little bit more time on your hands? Stick around for a few days and try these unique things to do in Seattle, or take these incredible day trips from Seattle.

Fun things to do in Seattle, Washington:

Read More: What To Pack For The Pacific Northwest

Girl overlooking Mount Storm King
Mt Storm King Trail outside of Port Angeles.

Port Angeles

If you are starting in Seattle or Vancouver, chances are you’ll need to take a ferry across the Puget Sound to reach the Olympic Peninsula. It’s also possible to drive around through Olympia, if you don’t want to put your car on the ferry.

From here, you will pass the cities of Sequim and Port Angeles. Before hitting to Pacific Coast Highway, we recommend taking a stop by Lake Crescent for some classic PNW vibes and maybe a quick lunch break too.

If you want to see what the lake looks like from above, test your limits and hike Mount Storm King. The 4.7-mile round trip hike gains over 2,000 feet in elevation, including scrambling up the side of a cliff with the help of a few installed ropes.

This hike isn’t for the faint of heart, but your attempts will be rewarded with experiencing one of the most spectacular places to see in the Olympic Peninsula.

Stay Overnight: Book a stay at The Olympic Lodge in Port Angeles. It’s right in town, and central to other adventures like Hurricane Ridge, Salt Creek, and Lake Crescent.

Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Falls is located in the Olympic National Park, and along Highway 101 on your way towards the coast.

It’s a small detour before heading to the ocean. However, the detour is worth every minute! The short trail to Sol Duc Falls leads to one of the most gorgeous waterfalls in Washington state.

If you are wanting a unique place to stay in the Olympic National Park, consider staying at the Sol Duc Hot Springs, a natural pool resort in the park.

Doing this, you can wake up early to visit the falls and beat the crowds!

Emily Mandagie standing at Cape Flattery, Makah Land -

Cape Flattery

If you’re looking for the most northwest location in the lower 48 United States, you’ve found it at Cape Flattery!

This jaw-dropping piece of coastline is owned by the Makah Tribe. It includes beautiful sea stacks just offshore and expansive views of the Pacific Ocean and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

If you are planning your Pacific Coast Highway itinerary for epic photo spots, don’t miss this place! You’ll need an entry pass ($10 per vehicle) and you can pick it up at the gas station or grocery store at Neah Bay.

Forks, Washington

Emily at La Push Second Beach - Pacific Coast Road Trip Stops

La Push Beaches (First, Second, and Third)

You may know these beaches from the movie Twilight but rest assured there are no vampires in sight. (Partly because it’s werewolf territory anyway, DUH) In fact, we’ve seen some of the most incredible sunsets right here on Second Beach.

When visiting, it’s important to note that there are three beaches to choose from. First Beach provides easy and instant beach access, so it’s a popular choice for families.

Second Beach requires a hike on a short trail to reach the beach, and you can also camp on this beach. Second Beach is also the most popular option for its beautiful rock formations and vast shoreline.

Third Beach requires a longer hike and is the least visited of all the beaches.

Any of these Washington beaches you choose, don’t forget to pack these 5 beach essentials!

Read More: La Push Beach + and Beach Camping Tips

Ocean Shores, Washington

Ocean Shores is a quaint little town on the Washington Coast, just north of Grays Harbor.

Here, you will find tons of vacation rental homes, small seafood restaurants, and tons of beach activities. Berty and I came with our friends last summer and opted to rent motorbikes on the beach, eat our weight in crab, and explore the jetty!

Restaurants to try in Ocean Shores:

Want more beach fun on the Washington Coast? Check out Ruby Beach and Rialto Beach!

Read More: 7 Fun Things To Do In Ocean Shores, Washington

Pierce County Area (Gig Harbor, Tacoma, and Puyallup)

If you’re looking to spend a little extra for a comfortable room and some great food, spend some time exploring Gig Harbor and boating around the South Puget Sound. You will be able to spot wildlife all around you, whether it’s jellyfish or a pod of orcas!

Some of our favorite cities in Pierce County to explore: Puyallup (Washington State Fair), Tacoma, and Gig Harbor!

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park - On The Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

Take your journey slightly inland to explore Mount Rainier National Park. Here, you can test your limits and backpack up to the summit (training required!) or simply take a nice stroll at the base of the mountain like on Nisqually Loop Trail.

Mount Rainier is best explored if you spend 2-3 days in the park! There are so many different areas to cover (Paradise Area and Sunrise Area are the most popular), so give yourself time to enjoy the beautiful outdoors here in the Pacific Northwest.

Most Popular Activities To Do At Mount Rainier:

  • Hike the Grove of the Patriarchs Trail
  • See Silver Falls
  • Hike the Skyline Divide Trail
  • Visit the Longmire Museum

Cape Disappointment State Park

Cape Disappointment is located in the far southwestern corner of Washington State. Here, you can discover miles of trails, play on the beaches, and maybe even spot an orca offshore!

For a memorable photo opportunity on your Pacific Coast Highway road trip, take the trail down to Deadman’s Cove and capture this hidden beach at sunset!

Read More: Cape Disappointment + Deadman’s Cove

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Stops In Oregon

Emily Mandagie at Secret Beach on the Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast itself is worthy of its own road trip but lucky you – you get to see it all and more!

We’re sharing all the best stops along this part of the Pacific Coast Highway and what you can expect in this beautiful state.

Not enough time for the whole thing? Take an Oregon Coast Road Trip instead!

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is a family and dog-friendly beach located 1.5 hours west of Portland. Here, you can explore the many quaint seaside shops, take a walk on the beach, and explore the many tide pools.

There are many services available here, so it’s a great stop for camping, resting, or even getting a seaside Airbnb! (By the way, you can get $40 off your first reservation at this link!)

Read More: Spending The Day At Cannon Beach

Cape Kiwanda

Cape Kiwanda is a popular beach on the Oregon Coast. Here, you can walk along the beach and enjoy Pacific City’s own “Haystack Rock”, or climb the nearby sand dunes to discover incredible views, coves, and rock formations!

Too busy for you? Venture just a 5-minute drive south to Bob Straub State Park, where you can walk along the less-traveled and peaceful beachfront.

The area of Oregon can be rainy and cloudy year-round, but if you’re lucky you can experience one of its gorgeous sunsets (that is if the weather cooperates!). Make sure to pack a rain jacket!

Read More: 10 Epic Adventures To Take Aroun Cape Kiwanda

God’s Thumb Hike, Lincoln City

The hike to God’s Thumb is a moderately difficult hike along the Oregon Coast. A 4.6-mile round trip hike will bring you to a curved landscape on an oceanside cliff. 

It gets its name “God’s Thumb” because it slightly resembles a thumb…but we think it kind of looks like a soft-serve ice cream swirl!

Located in Lincoln City, Oregon, this is a perfect place to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and see a beautiful area of the Oregon Coast.

Read More: Hike To God’s Thumb in Lincoln City On The Oregon Coast

Devil’s Punchbowl

Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area is a perfect stop on your Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Here, you can experience the power of the ocean slamming and swirling into a carved-out bowl.

From the top, you can see down inside the “punchbowl”. During high tide, the waves swirl and crash around inside, but during low tide, you can walk down on the beach and explore inside.

Stay a while for a roadside picnic, to explore tide pools, or climb around on the rocks on the shore.

Thor’s Well

Thor’s Well in another one of the Oregon Coast’s amazing natural phenomena. You can experience the most dramatic sights at high tide, but beware – it’s the most dangerous time to visit too.

Similar to the Spouting Horn in Kauai, this sinkhole looks like water is just draining into a huge abyss, but it’s actually a natural rock tube that sucks and shoots water our according to the adjacent waves.

Don’t get too close to it though, it pushes and pulls water with a powerful force, meaning if you get too close you risk being swept off your feet into the hole!

This area is located just south of the Cape Perpetua Visitor’s Center, with lots of wheelchair accessible walkways AND walk-at-your-own-risk paths too.

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is an amazing spot on the Pacific Coast Highway, and probably home to one of the best photo spots on the PCH!

For a quick side trip, take the drive up to Cape Perpetua Lookout, where you can see the Oregon Coast meet the winding highway below. It’s an incredible view – make sure to bring your camera!

This is also a great stop for some camping on the Oregon Coast, as well as exploring the many ocean features and scenic trails in the area.

Read More: 10 Epic Things To Do In Cape Perpetua Area Of The Oregon Coast

(Bonus Side Trip!) Umpqua Hot Springs + Toketee Falls

Got an extra day to spare?

Since you’re already in Oregon, consider taking a side trip east to the Cascade Mountains. The Umpqua National Forest has a lot to see, but it’s shining stars have got to be Toketee Falls and the Umpqua Hot Springs.

Both of the trails to Toketee Falls and Umpqua Hot Springs are nearby one another, short, and easy to follow.

They can be accomplished in a morning or afternoon trip. If you haven’t visited a Pacific Northwest hot springs yet, this is the perfect chance to do it!

We would suggest that you Visit Toketee Falls first, so you can save your soak for last!

Read More: 5 Essential Tips For Soaking at Upmqua Hot Springs

Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor - Oregon Coast Road Trip Route

Of all the stops on the Oregon Coast, Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor is a MUST visit. Offshore rock formations, dramatic cliffs, and crashing waves make this place a magical stop on the Pacific Coast Highway.

To fully experience this area, we suggest scheduling your visit for sunset. The sun sets over the Pacific Ocean, and on a clear day the skies light up with beautiful colors. Don’t forget to stop at other iconic spots in the park including Secret Beach, Natural Bridges, Arch Rock, and Indian Sands Trail!

Located on the Southern Oregon Coast, Samuel H Boardman spans around 10-miles of rugged, scenic coastline. There are many hikes to choose from around Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor. Take some time to explore a few (many trails are short), and pick your favorite spots for sunset.

Pacific Coast Highway Stops In California

Congratulations! You’ve made it to California!

This is technically the beginning of the official Pacific Coast Highway (also called Highway 1), but we all know you’ve put in too many miles on your car and see too much epic-ness for it to be just starting.

While you’ll be encountering a lot more sunshine in this section of the road trip, the Northern California coast can be a little temperamental! Don’t put away your rain coast just yet.

California road trip stops on the Pacific Coast Highway are some of the most breathtaking and beautiful areas of the whole trip. Read on to discover where to go and what to see below in the sunshine state.

Redwood National and State Parks

If your Pacific Coast Highway road rrip is taking you southbound, your first California stop will be at the Redwood National and State Parks.

The Redwoods are known for their spectacularly tall and beautiful trees. Furthermore, this area is home to some of the tallest trees on earth!

There are several scenic drives to take here, but the prettiest Northern California drives are through the Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park (the scenic route) and the Avenue of The Giants at Humbolt Redwoods State Park. For a lot of stops and viewpoints of the ocean, consider stopping at Patrick’s Point State Park!

Read More: 10 Things To Do In The Redwood National Park

Fern Canyon

Emily Mandagie in Fern Canyon Trail, Redwoods California

Wait, did we just travel through time? You’re not far off if you felt like you just stepped foot into Jurassic Park. In fact, scenes from the movie were filmed right here in Fern Canyon!

Fern Canyon Trail in the Redwoods is a very short route – just 1.1-miles to revel in the 50-foot tall fern-covered walls and lush surrounding forest. The hike is easy, but getting there is a different story. The trip requires a few creek crossings and winding, narrow dirt roads to reach the trailhead. We’ve got everything you need to know about Fern Canyon right here!

Black Sand Beach

Have you been looking at those famous black sand beaches in Iceland? Get a taste of the beauty (without the price of a plane ticket) and come visit a look-alike on the California Coast.

Shelter Cove is a little town located in the King Range National Conversation Area. Here, there are craggy coastlines, dramatic scenery, and a black sand beach. The waves are tall and powerful here.

Warning: The road is winding and treacherous, which can be dangerous in bad weather.

This is also an extremely out-of-the-way detour, with one route going in and out from the beach. Make sure to have a full tank of gas, and be prepared to drive on narrow roads and near tall cliff edges!

Read More: How To Get To California’s Iconic Black Sands Beach

Point Reyes National Seashore

Love the California beach? Explore the Point Reyes National Seashore, a protected coastline of rolling pastures, historic landmarks, and even a secret docked ship!

Start your journey in the town of Inverness, where you can stock up on food, gas, and even camping gear if you choose to spend the night in one of their many campgrounds.

Some of the best things to do in Point Reyes National Seashore are visiting the historic lighthouse (make sure to pay attention to its hours of operation!), driving down the canopy of Cypress trees, and even whale watching if you come at the right time of year!

Read More: Spending The Day At Point Reyes National Seashore

Bolinas Ridge

If you have a scheduled stop in San Francisco on your Pacific Coast Highway itinerary, make sure to make a sunset stop just north of the city, on Bolinas Ridge.

This area of golden, glimmering rolling hills is located on the edge of Mount Tamalpais State Park in Marin County, California.

Our favorite scenic road to drive is Ridgecrest Boulevard, which includes pullouts ever so often to quickly park your car and enjoy the beautiful and consistent sunsets on this piece of the California coast.

Read More: A Golden Sunset At Bolinas Ridge

Mount Tamalpais

Keep the spirit of adventure alive, even in a bustling city like San Francisco!

If you’ve got a pit stop in the Golden City, journey just north of the Golden Gate Bridge and experience Mount Tamalpais State Park for a quick break from city life.

Here, you can take many amazing trails with stunning views of big city buildings across the bay. Some of our favorite trails for city views are the East Peak Hike (to a stone lookout tower) and the Verna Dunshee Trail. 

Going when it’s cold outside? Read our San Francisco Winter Packing List.

Read More: 10 Adventurous Things To Do Outside of San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge

No trip along the Pacific Coast Highway is complete without seeing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge!

On either side of the bridge, there are several incredible viewpoints to check out. Some of the best places to view the Golden Gate Bridge are from Battery Spencer, Kirby Cove, and the North Vista Point.

Remember: The Golden Gate Bridge is a toll bridge. Motorcycles and regular cars will get through and be billed $8.00 to the address your car is registered at.

Read More: 10 Adventurous Things To Do Outside of San Francisco

San Francisco, California

Pacific Coast Road Trip Itinerary - San Francisco Stop

If you’ve been driving southbound on your Pacific Coast Highway road trip, San Francisco will be the first large city you will encounter. 

Here, you can experience many iconic and famous landmarks. Here are some places to see while in San Francisco:

  • See the sunrise at the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Visit Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Stop By The Painted Ladies
  • Wander through the neighborhoods and see the beautiful Victorian-era houses

Need a place to stay in San Francisco? Click here and get $40 off your first booking on Airbnb!

Shark Fin Cove

Click here to see more amazing pictures from our visit to Shark Fin Cove.

Shark Fin Cove is a beautiful California coast beach located south of San Francisco – in Davenport, California. It’s named for its rock formation just off the shore that resembling a shark’s top fin. 

You aren’t able to see this cove from the road, which makes finding access a little difficult. There are no signs indicating the location, so you must rely on Google Maps to help guide to you the parking lot off the California Coast Highway 1.

This place provides absolutely stunning views from above AND below. Start your visit at the top and walk along the trails near the cliffs (but be careful!). Finally, climb down into the cove via a steep trail to find beach access.

On a weekday, it’s very likely you will get this beach all to yourself! 

Read More: What To Expect At California’s Shark Fin Cove

Big Sur State Park

When you think of driving down the California Coast, Big Sur is what Pacific Coast Highway dreams are made of. Sunny coastline, winding roads, dramatic cliffs, and beautiful bridges are scattered along 90 miles of this beautiful West Coast drive.

Some of the highlights on this part of the PCH include:

  • Pfeiffer Beach
  • McWay Falls
  • Bixby Creek Bridge
  • Pebble Beach
  • 17-Mile Drive (Monterey/Pacific Grove)

Pro Tip: A day trip to Big Sur, California is absolutely the most quintessential activity of any good Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Don’t miss this.

Read More: How To Pull Off A Day Trip To Big Sur, California

(Detour Off Highway 1) Yosemite National Park

While you’re in the area, might as well take a little detour to one of the greatest national parks in America!

Yosemite is home to the tallest waterfall in North America, home to giant Sequoia trees, and has more than 800 miles of trails for hikers to enjoy.

Only have 24 extra hours to spare for Yosemite? Click here for our 24-hour guide to Yosemite National Park.

Pro Tip: If you are hoping to spend a few days in the park, make camping reservations extremely early in advance.

Camping spots generally get full six months before the reservation date. A trip to Yosemite National Park requires a lot of pre-planning.

Los Angeles, California

Pacific Coast Road Trip Stops - Los Angeles

Another major city on your Pacific Coast Highway road trip will be Los Angeles California. For many going northbound, this is a common starting point (as well as San Diego).

If you’re like us and coming to LA on a southbound Pacific Coast Highway trip, this is a fun pit stop to take a few days and recharge from all that driving.

Again, if you are looking to book a place on Airbnb, click here to get $40 off your first booking!

Here are some fun things to do in Los Angeles:

  • Santa Monica Pier + the Amusement Park on the boardwalk.
  • Venice Beach
  • Griffith Observatory
  • The Getty Museum
  • Hollywood Boulevard
  • Hike to the Hollywood Sign

Read More: How To Spend a Fun Weekend in West Hollywood, California

Orange County, California

Orange County California is just south of the city of Los Angeles. With a slower lifestyle, less traffic, and a lot more beach space, this place is a perfect getaway for sunshine lovers and surfers alike.

There are a few opportunities to camp on the coast, like RV sites in Huntington Beach and tent sites at Crystal Cove State Park. Either way, it’s definitely worth it to spend a few days in Orange County and experience all it has to offer!

Must-see spots to visit in Orange County:

  • La Tour (Secret Oceanside Castle in the cliff)
  • Huntington Beach (Sur City, USA)
  • Newport Beach Harbor and Balboa Island
  • Laguna Beach
  • Here are our favorite restaurants in Orange County to try!

Looking to travel to the OC on a budget? Check out our list of free things to do in Orange County to have maximum fun, with money still left in your pocket!

Read More: 10 Amazing Outdoor Activities in Orange County, California

San Diego, California

You did it!

San Diego will be the likely the end (or the beginning!) to your Pacific Coast Highway itinerary.

However, it’s still worth visiting for a few days. There are so many amazing things to do in San Diego that this city is an excellent way to kick off or wrap up any Pacific Coast Highway road trip.

Don’t miss out of Torrey Pines State Reserve! This network of outdoor trails have some of the best views in the entire city. Spend some time exploring the trails during sunset for a magical stay in San Diego.

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary Examples

Wondering if you can see all these iconic landmarks in one trip?

To accommodate different trip lengths, we’re sharing some example itineraries for a five-day trip, one-week trip, and two-week trip down the Pacific Coast Highway.

Read below to find your perfect one!

5 Day Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary

Five Day Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary

Five days to drive down the Pacific Coast is absolutely doable! During these days, you have time to experience the highlights of the coast, and whet your appetite for another future trip!

7 Day Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary

One Week Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary

One week on the Pacific Coast Highway will allow you to see the most iconic locations. One week is great for travelers who want to fit in the entire trip during a school break, or only have so many days to take off of work.

A one-week Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary will allow you to see the highlights without feeling rushed. Here’s an example PCH itinerary:

10 Day Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary

  • Day 1:
  • Day 2:
  • Day 3:
  • Day 4:
  • Day 5:
  • Day 6:
  • Day 7:
  • Day 8:
  • Day 9:
  • Day 10:

Two-Week Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary

Two Week Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary

If you have two weeks to spare, this is the ideal amount of time for a Pacific Coast Highway road trip!

Two weeks gives you ample time to see all the highlights, take some day hikes, and even some off-coast detours like Yosemite or Toketee Falls! You will be able to see everything you want and more, and not feel rushed in your process.

Some of our Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Inspiration

Creating this Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary was quite the workload! Lucky for us, this is the kind of work we live for, and it was fun, inspiring, and most of all helpful!

We hope this helps in your own Pacific Coast Highway road trip and makes planning a little bit easier for you.

Here are some of the pins we’ve created to share with our followers on Pinterest. Feel free to save some too for your own inspirational road trip!

Pinterest (Find us at @themandagies)

Have you taken a Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip? What were some of your favorite stops?


Ready To Plan Your Own Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip?
Read These Helpful Posts:

8 Steps For Planning A Flawless Weekend Trip

2o Energizing Hikes In The PNW

The Essential 2017 PNW Bucket List

Want more Pacific Coast Highway road trip inspiration? Follow our curated board on Pinterest!


  1. So excited for you guys! My hubby and I did a similar (but quicker, so we didn’t see everything) trip in the summer of 2010 (a LONG time ago!). It was amazing. There is an amazing hike in Redwood National Park (Gold Bluffs Beach Section) that leads down to this secret beach. Even in summer (August) there wasn’t anyone on the trail. We were pretty new to the “planning” travel business so didn’t really plan anything when we went, but this hike was a highlight of our trip. I’m dying to go to the Painted Hills and Hot springs so excited to see what you guys think. Have so much fun!!! We’re secretly living through both of your photographs and blogs dreaming of our move one day back to this beautiful region of the world. We love Ireland, but the PNW truly can’t be beat.

    1. Hi Danielle! I’m so glad you like our photographs and blog! That means so much to us 🙂 I’m so intrigued about the Gold Bluffs Beach Hike in the Redwoods. Now we need to go back and do that one!!!