Our friends Courtney and Kenny were going to be in San Francisco for a weekend in January, so Niall and I decided we'd cross another road trip off of our bucket list and drive up Highway 1 to meet up with them. We only had a day allocated for each way, so we knew we had to make the most of it. I know people are always gushing about this road trip and that might make you think it's overrated but I'm here to tell you, it's really not.

We got an early start, leaving LA around 6:30am, and arriving in Santa Barbara just in time for breakfast. After a beachside pancake feast, we continued on past San Luis Obispo, where we stopped to watch the elephant seals (possibly the funniest animals on the planet), and then we hit Big Sur. Let's be honest, I made Niall stop and take pictures of me in front of the Instagram famous Bixby bridge, and we even went for a quick hike at Pfeiffer State Park. By the time we we got to Santa Cruz, the sun had already set so we put off visiting Carmel/ Monterrey for our return journey. 

San Francisco was a dream. We were super tourists and it was excellent. We got Irish coffees at Buena Vista, hiked up Lombard street, ate delicious hand pulled noodles at Chubby Noodle, and visited the Golden Gate Bridge (because we're cheesy, deal with it). Niall and I also drove to the John Muir Woods and went on a 7 mile hike through the enormous, truly ancient Redwood trees and finishing with a perfect vista on a rare clear day. 

We decided that we'd try to hit the spots we missed on our road trip back, stopping specifically at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium (which I can't recommend more), Carmel for a little window shopping and lunch, and then indulging in some more time in Big Sur. Truly, every turn of the highway leads to a majestic new vista, and people are constantly pulling over to the shoulders just to take pictures. We were especially lucky that it was whale watching season, and we saw several whales migrating throughout our drive. If we had taken a few more days, I would have loved to have visited the Heart Castle, and maybe the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. Next time we'd also love to go camping in Big Sur, and really explore the trails, beaches and hot springs they have to offer. 


Food: Sambo's in Santa Barbara // Big Sur Bakery // Chubby Noodle in SF // Buena Vista // Gialina Pizzeria in SF // 

Places: Elephant Seal Beach // Bixby Bridge // Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park // Lombard Street // Golden Gate Bridge // John Muir Woods National Monument // Monterrey Bay Aquarium // McWay Cove // 

Tips/ Warnings:

  •  Big Sur has absolutely no cell service, and no cheap options as far as food and gas go. I'd say fill up the tank, and buy some good snacks before you start the ascent. 
  • There's literally no parking in San Francisco, you're better off leaving your car outside the city and commuting in, or taking Ubers everywhere. 
  • The Monterrey Bay is expensive, but completely worth it (just in case you wanted to budget, I think each ticket for an adult runs you about $50)
  • Download a playlist to your phone, radio is spotty throughout, and when you're taking in the sweeping coastal cliffs you're going to want a soundtrack to live your best music video life. I've created a nice long one on my Spotify (beetsbydre), you can listen to it here: Pacific Coast Highway Playlist

If you guys have any questions or want any further recommendations please let me know in the comments!