Venice Beach, Los Angeles, CA

Planning a bucket list-worthy California coast road trip? Follow this 2-week itinerary to have the BEST time exploring one of the coolest drives in the world – the Pacific Coast Highway.

Guys, I have wanted to do a California coast road trip for years! I mean way back in middle school, my friend and I made a deal to drive from Pennsylvania all the way to California when we were older (inspired by the Oscar-worthy movie, Crossroads). Then during my first summer break while teaching in Korea, I joined my friend, Elissa’s family in northern California for their vacation thinking we’d take the PCH back down to where they lived in Los Angeles. However, timing constraints meant we had to take the quicker, more inland highway down, and I missed out on the coastal drive once again.

Finally, my friend, Sher, and I planned for a week-long road trip last fall and had a fun time driving down from San Francisco to Los Angeles. We made some errors in our planning and overall I think a week was too short to fully enjoy the PCH, so I’ve written out a 2-week California coast road trip itinerary that fixes our mistakes and gives you much more time in each spot. Follow the guide below for the perfect vacation!

Thanks so much to Moon Guides for collaborating with me on this post. Check out their Moon Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip guide, which covers even more ground than I managed!

Quick California Coast Road Trip Tips

  • Getting There: For this itinerary, you’ll want to fly into San Francisco and fly out of Los Angeles. I do recommend leaving from LAX as off-peak as possible to avoid L.A. traffic, which brings new meaning to the term “bumper to bumper.”
  • Renting a Car: The one kind of annoying thing with renting a car is the surcharge they have if you drop it off in different location. If you want to avoid that, you could fly round trip into L.A. or S.F. and then just set aside a day to drive up the I-5, which takes around 6 hours without stops. I will say for we just dropped it off in L.A., paying the surcharge, and it was only $300/week.
  • Weather Expectations: I know California seems like it should be the same temperature from San Francisco down to Los Angeles, but that’s just not true. S.F. tends to be cooler and L.A., no matter what your weather map says, will mostly likely be insanely sunny and above 85F. What you wear around NorCal will not be what you want to wear around SoCal.
  • Safety in California: California is fairly safe, though it has its fair share of problems like anywhere else. The big thing you’ll want to worry about is carjackings. Just keep any and all valuables out of sight to avoid a crime-of-opportunity situation. Another thing I’m sure anyone will tell you – California definitely has a huge homeless problem which can be uncomfortable for even the most understanding of visitors. Just practice your normal safety precautions and don’t just wander around at night, and you should be okay.
  • Reading: If you want some reading materials for California, Moon Guides has quite a few California books! For fiction, some of my favorite books set in California include The Language of Flowers, Interior Chinatown, Shanghai Girls, The Joy Luck Club, The Bride Test, The Heart Principle, The Last Story of Mina Lee (basically most of my favorite Asian American books)
california coast road trip

The Ultimate 2-Week California Coast Road Trip

Fly Into: San Francisco International Airport

To start off this California coast road trip, you’ll want to fly into San Francisco International Airport. It’ll then take you around 45-60 minutes to get to your hotel downtown depending on traffic. The easiest thing to do is to order a Lyft, but just know that there’s a designated pick-up area and can be kind of confusing.

For domestic flights, you have to go up to Level 5 in the Domestic Garage and go to the area that matches whichever terminal you came in on:

  • T1 – A/B & B
  • T2 – C & D
  • T3 – E, F, & F/G

I’d wait to order your ride in case you get turned around. I ordered mine too early and got so turned around, they wound up being able to cancel me as a no show.

For international, the Ride App Pick-Up/Drop-Off Zones are between 14 and 17.

Going to San Francisco for the first time? - California Coast road trip

San Francisco

What better place to start your California coast road trip than San Francisco? I do have to say this is one of my favorite cities ever even though the cost of everything makes me die inside.

Anyway, as one of the main cities of the west coast, S.F. has always had an interesting history and it’s still present in everything from the cuisine to the architecture. Think largest concentration of Victorian homes in America, the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge, the oldest Chinatown in North America, and so, so much more.

While I think a proper trip should be at least 3 days; for the sake of this itinerary you’ll have a solid 2 nights and 2 days to enjoy.

STAY: Stay somewhere where you can walk around as much as possible. I personally like Chinatown or Union Square best, but the most popular areas are around Fisherman’s Wharf. Last time I was in San Francisco, I stayed at the fairly affordable Hotel Garden Orchard and thought it was the perfect location. Some others I liked were The Clancy and Hotel Nikko in Union Square.

Day 1: Land in San Francisco

(Driving today: 0hrs)


When booking your flights, I recommend arriving around mid-morning. You can drop off your luggage with your hotel and then set off from there. Sightseeing in San Francisco is all about getting your steps in and workin’ your glutes with those hills! Be sure to wear shoes that are actually comfortable. I like my Birdies loafers or Veja sneakers. (Really any cute white sneaker will be be easy to style.)

From your hotel, make your way over to the famous Ferry Building. This will be a good starting point for walking around the perimeter of the city to the different piers. There are a lot of cool spots to visit along the way. Look for places like the Exploratorium, everything in Pier 39, and Musée Mécanique.

Be sure to stop into the Boudin Museum & Bakery in Fisherman’s Wharf and try some of the famous clam chowder for lunch. You can always have a more proper meal at Bistro Boudin, but if you just want the chowder, be sure to get it at Bakers Hall.


Once you’ve had your full, walk on over to the famous Lombard Street. Any casual “Mythbuster” watcher remembers the episode this windy road featured in.

From here, you can walk over to Columbus Ave. and make your way down towards City Lights Booksellers & Publishers. The 3-level bookstore is a must for any book lovers and has been a mainstay since the 1950s. Along the way, you’ll see plenty of cool landmarks like Washington Square and the Transamerica Pyramid.

For dinner, head through Chinatown to Sam Wo Restaurant. Having opened in 1908, it’s one of the oldest restaurants in the city, and it’s known for its BBQ pork rolls. Seriously, get them; you won’t regret it.

This is a pretty loaded first day, so depending on what time you arrived, it’s probably close to night by this point. Head back to your hotel to properly check in and rest up those legs!

Day 2: San Francisco

(Driving today: 0hrs)


Start your morning with a coffee and bite to eat at Sightglass Coffee, specifically the Divisadero St. location. This way once you’re done you can walk over to Alamo Square and check out the famous Painted Ladies, as seen in the opening theme for “Full House.”

From here, head over to take in the views of the world famous Golden Gate Bridge. It really is a beautiful bridge and worth taking the time to enjoy. I took a Lyft to the Golden Gate Overlook and made my way over to the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. I have no idea how I got there but I just kinda started walking towards the bridge and eventually found myself under the bridge! There are so many viewpoints; just pick one that looks the most appealing to you.

Now, if you’ve worn proper shoes and are up for more walking, you could walk about 40+ minutes over to the Palace of Fine Arts. I was wearing some old loafers and not up for more walking, so I called a Lyft to come take me. The Palace of Fine Arts is this huge outdoor Greco-Roman-inspired structure that was built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition and kind of looks like they plucked a palace from an Ancient Greek myth and dropped it into San Francisco!


From the Palace, you’ll be in Marina District, which is a fun area to wander around. Grab lunch at Lucca Delicatessen, a family-owned Italian deli that has some really incredible hoagies. They don’t have seating but there are some benches outside you can eat on. Or stop here first and walk back to the Palace to eat there.

Now for some shopping! Regular or window. Along Chestnut, Fillmore, and Union are all sorts of boutique stores as well as physical locations for popular online retailers. I wound up buying my Birdie loafers here because the salesgirl was so nice, and I really wanted a leopard pair. Don’t forget to treat yourself to a gelato at GIO Gelati while you’re at it.

Eventually begin to make your way back to your hotel. If you want to, you can walk towards San Francisco City Hall, which is an absolutely stunning Beaux-Arts building. A few blocks over will bring you to another fun shopping area along Hayes Street, which also has a lot of cool boutiques and restaurants.

I say get dinner around here or somewhere on the way back to your hotel before calling it a night.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, California - California Coast road trip

Monterey & Carmel

About two hours south of San Francisco, Monterey and Carmel areas are perfect to include on your California coast road trip. Monterey was a big fishing hub even before European settlers came here in the 1800s, and Carmel has become famous for its storybook houses and quaint small town vibes.

STAY: I would stay in Carmel as it’s cuter and more fun to walk around. L’Auberge Carmel is a beautifully romantic hotel that was first built in 1929 while both Normandy Inn and Briarwood Inn are about as cozy and charming as their names suggest. For those that prefer home rentals, Pinewoods & Prints is a renovated beach hut and all sorts of warm and welcoming.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California

Day 3: San Francisco – Monterey

(Driving today: 2-3 hrs)


After breakfast, it’s time to pick up your car. Lucky for us, Thrifty has a location O’Farrell Street, which meant we could just walk over from our hotels.

From here you want to begin driving south. There are a ton of places to stop depending on what kind of day you want to have. We stopped off at Pacifica Beach to take in the ocean for a bit but otherwise your first major stop should be Pigeon Point Light House.

Pigeon Point is about an hour south of San Francisco and was first constructed in 1871. At 115ft, it’s one of the tallest in the United States and is beautiful to see in person. While you can’t go inside or up the tower, you can walk around and read some history on the signage outside. For a tour of the grounds, just call (650) 879-2120 to schedule one.


Continuing down to the coast, our next stop was the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which is located near the beginning of Monterey Bay! Founded in 1907, it’s California’s oldest surviving boardwalk and is exactly the fun, candy-colored experience you’d expect. You can get lunch here; though you’ll probably find better fares back in town.

Honestly, if you wanted to break up the drive down even more, stay in Santa Cruz overnight instead of two nights in Carmel and see more of the city. It’s got a younger vibe to it, so it seems fun for nightlife.

Otherwise, continue on towards Carmel-by-the-Sea and make sure you drive along the 17-Mile Drive while doing so. Grab dinner in town once you check-in. I’d like to try Tuck Box or La Bicyclette if I ever go back.

Carmel, California

Day 4: Monterey & Carmel

(Driving today: 30-45 mins)


Start your morning with breakfast at the very cute Café Carmel and a sweet treat at Carmel Bakery before hopping in your car and backtracking a bit back to the city of Monterey.

The big, big thing I recommend doing in Monterey is visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA). I know what you’re thinking – ugh an animal exhibits and imprisoned fish. I’m always skeptical of all zoos and aquariums. However, MBA absolutely cares for its animals and focuses on rehabilitation, research, and education – NOT pure entertainment. Don’t come here expecting Seaworld antics but instead enjoy learning about marine life – especially that of Monterey Bay – and hopefully catch sight of their ridiculously adorable sea otters.

Once you’re done, head into town and just wander along Cannery Row and Monterey. Del Monte Beach is a nice spot to relax and Old Fisherman’s Wharf is worth seeing. For lunch, take advantage of being on the coast and go to Monterey’s Fish House for seafood.


Afterwards, head back to Carmel and spend the rest of the afternoon finding all the storybook houses while also checking out the man cute downtown boutiques and shops. Pop into the visitor center to pick up a guide and map to the houses – they’re not really online! My favorite spot, though, would have to be Pilgrims Way Community Bookstore and Secret Garden.

For dinner, try out whichever restaurant you didn’t do the day before or head to the grocery store to pack yourself a little picnic to eat on Carmel Beach.

San Luis Obispo, CA - California Coast road trip

San Luis Obispo

Things move SLO-ly in San Luis Obispo (get it? ha). This tiny town along the central coast is the perfect stop on your California coast road trip, and about 3 hours from Carmel. It was occupied by the Chumash people until Spanish colonization starting with Junípero Serra in 1769, who would found the still-standing Mission San Luis Obispo de Toloso.

Today, it has a fairly small but beautiful downtown district and some really unique nearby highlights if you don’t mind doing a little driving around.

STAY: We stayed at the beautiful Hotel Cerro, which is an incredible eco-stay downtown (read my full review here). Another nice downtown option is Hotel San Luis Obispo. For a truly one of a kind, quirky stay, my friends have always recommended the themed-rooms at Madonna Inn, which is a little outside of the main SLO area.

Day 5: Carmel – San Luis Obispo

(Driving today: 3 hrs)


A big driving day! San Luis Obispo is a total of 3 hours along Highway 1 and will take you to some more pretty iconic California coast road trip stops. For Frank Lloyd Wright fans, stop by the Mrs. Clinton Walker House on your way out.

Otherwise your next big stop will be the most photographed spot all along the coast – Bixby Creek Bridge along the Big Sur coast. I’ve been wanting to go here for years and unfortunately I’m going to have to way a few more! Because we did our trip in November, the sun set around 4:30PM, which meant we ran out of daylight. Like I said, the California coast road trip itinerary I’ve put together for you fixes the mistakes I made on my own!

Bixby Bridge is this gorgeous open-spandrel arch bridge that just creates the perfect view when you see it with the coastline and the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean. Go earlier in the morning so you can make sure you’re able to park. (Sunrise honestly sounds like a surefire way to take in the views and be almost alone).


Once you’ve gotten your shot, hop in your car and keep heading south. There are different viewpoints if you have time but the the big thing to do is to get to San Simeon and visit the incredible Hearst Castle. It was built between 1919 and 1947 for William Randolph Hearst and the design was inspired by the Church of Santa María la Mayor in Ronda, Spain (another place I’ve road tripped to!)

I’ve been wanting to go for ages but, of course, when we did our trip the roads leading to the castle were under construction. There are a lot of tour options, so just pick whichever one works best with your schedule and reserve ahead.

Finish off the day getting into San Luis Obispo and checking into your hotel. If you stay at Hotel Cerro, they have a really love restaurant onsite. We also got dinner at Arigato Sushi one night which was actually pretty good.

Day 6: San Luis Obispo

(Driving today: 20-30 mins)

Start off your morning roaming around downtown SLO. It’s a really walkable district with lots of cool spots. They even have a bubblegum alley and, of course, the mission is worth checking out. Get breakfast at Mint + Craft.

I say take this day to stretch your legs and do a scenic hike. It’ll be a nice break from being a car so much. My pick would be to do the 4.6-mile Montaña de Oro Bluff trail which is relatively easy (only 370ft of elevation) and gives you views of wildflowers and the ocean. Another nice one would be Guiton Trail Oceano Lagoon, which is about 1.3 miles and a little south of SLO at Pismo State Beach.

Finish off getting dinner back in town and just enjoying a relaxing evening. If you stay at Hotel Cerro, the rooms are so cozy; take advantage!

Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara

I can 100% see why so many celebrities like Oprah and Julia Childs chose to set up their homes here. There are so many unique things to do in Santa Barbara. When you combine this with its eternally sunny weather and smaller size, it really feels like the most perfect place to live.

Like most of the California coast, Santa Barbara went from being home to the Chumash people to Spanish colonization to wearing multiple hats during the 1800s and 1900s as the state grew in importance. Today it’s known as “The American Riviera” and is the perfect weekend escape for Angelenos and anyone else who can get there easily.

STAY: When it comes to Santa Barbara, the hotel options are endless. There’s no right or wrong area to stay as you can get around via e-bike or car in a matter of minutes. We stayed at the very cute Hideaway Santa Barbara but I’d also recommend looking into Hotel Californian or, if you’re really splurging, Rosewood Miramar Beach. To feel like a local and be right on the beach, Straw Hats & Wild Flowers is super cute.

Solvang, CA Road Trip
photo via Valeriya Zankovych

Day 7: San Luis Obispo – Solvang – Santa Barbara

(Driving today: 3 hrs)


Before you fully go into Santa Barbara, you’ll want to spend some time in Solvang. This is on my list because it just looks so fun. Nicknamed, “The Danish Capital of America,” it came to be in 1911 when a bunch of Danish-Americans purchased the land to build their own unique community.

Stop in for the day and just wander around and enjoy feeling like you’ve stepped inside a sunny Danish village. From the Little Mermaid fountain to different authentic bakeries, wine tastings, and a number of cool museums like the Hans Christian Andersen Museum and Old Mission Santa Inés, it just looks like such a quirky California coast road trip stop!


Once you’ve finished continue on to Santa Barbara, which is less than an hour away. I say go straight to Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach for dinner with a sunset view. Try to get there a little earlier because they fill up quickly for dinner and it’s first come, first served. If you do have a bit of a wait, there’s a nice trail around Douglas Family Preserve next door and, of course, you have Hendrys Beach itself to enjoy.

Once you’ve had dinner, check into your hotel and grab some drinks in the Funk Zone. If I go back, I really want to try the mocktails at Test Pilot!

Day 8: Santa Barbara

(Driving today: 0hrs)


For the next two days you’re ditching your car for an e-bike courtesy of Cal Coast Adventures. Santa Barbara is in the middle ground where it’s big enough that there’s a lot to see and do but small enough that driving anywhere takes maybe 8 minutes at most. Take advantage of the sunny weather and relatively flat land to e-bike instead!

With your bike, head over to Montecito for coffee at Bree’Osh and take in the views the whole way there. If you’re lucky you’ll spot a giraffe from the Santa Barbara Zoo. For a really cool view, head up to Winslow-Maxwell Overlook, and then head to Flor de Maíz for some lunch.


Later enjoy the very pretty Santa Barbara Museum of Art before walking around the downtown area and seeing all sorts of Spanish architecture, especially at the County Courthouse. You’ve GOT to spend golden our at Old Mission Santa Barbara, which has the prettiest pink trim and sits in its own kind of park.

Finish off the day with dinner at La Paloma Café which serves a fusion of Spanish, Mexican, and Chumash dishes.

Day 9: Santa Barbara

(Driving today: 0hrs)


Start your day off with breakfast at any of these delicious locations or at your hotel (our hotel had really nice, fresh breakfast everyday).

Next up grab your e-bike and head over to Summerland to visit the very underrated Lotusland. Be sure to reserved your timed tickets ahead of time. These gardens once belonged to a Polish opera singer named Ganna Walska, who spent her life cultivating the grounds. You’ll want to give yourself at least two hours but maybe even more if you want to talk to volunteers and hear all the stories from when Lotusland was a private home.

After you’re done exploring, bike over to Field + Fort to browse through luxury home goods and get lunch. Trust me when I say you need to get the market greens salad and add chicken salad on top. I barely like salads but this one lives rent free, especially with the carrot ginger vinaigrette dressing it comes with.

Spend another hour or so in Summerland and take in the views from Lookout Park and grab a coffee or iced chai latte at Red Kettle Coffee. There are also cool antique stores around here if you want to find some gems.


Now it’s time to spend the afternoon relaxing. If you like the ocean, head to Summerland Beach; and if you prefer a pool, get a day pass to Rosewood Miramar Beach. Both are absolutely perfect spots for a SoCal afternoon, and you’re probably in need of some downtime.

Once it gets dark or you’re done with the sun, head back to your hotel for a quick shower and head over to The Lark for dinner. Think a locally-sourced menu with dishes that fall under farm, ocean, and ranch. To this day I think about those crispy Brussel sprouts.

Since you’ll have a pretty easy morning tomorrow, this is a good day to explore Santa Barbara’s nightlife. Try some more bars or cocktail spots, and see what else there is to do once the sun goes down. The Canary Hotel is supposed to have a cool rooftop bar and there are even some cool nightclubs and live music spots that look like they’d be fun.

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, CA - California Coast road trip

Los Angeles

La La Land! The City of Angels! Tinseltown! Los Angeles hardly needs much of an introduction. This city and surrounding area has been featured in so many movies and TV shows over the last century, many of its landmarks are instantly recognizable.

I do have to admit, I’m not a big L.A. fan. Maybe it’s because I grew up on the East Coast, but I’d vastly prefer Philly or NYC even in the dead of winter to Los Angeles. Sorry, not sorry! Elissa is a born-and-raised Angeleno, so she feels the exact opposite of me. I just really hate how the city is designed where you need to drive to get anywhere and because of traffic, it takes like 1-2 hours more than it would anywhere else.

Also – no matter what your weather app tells you, L.A. will be very sunny and hot. When I packed for my California coast road trip, it told me the city would be on the cooler side and similar to at least Santa Barbara. Once we got there, the temperatures were in the 80-90s and the sun was relentless. Pack a light sundress or two just in case.

STAY: I would say your best bet is to stay in Beverly Hills. It’s fairly central to all you’ll want to do, and you’ve got some of the nicest hotels in the Beverly Hills Hotel, AKA Beverly Hills, and The Maybourne. If you’ve traveling with a group, you may want to book the Italian Cypress, which is a 4-bedroom home styled like a Tuscan villa.

Day 10: Santa Barbara – Los Angeles

(Driving today: 2-3hrs)


Sleep in a little! I would try another brunch spot, hangout at the beach, and check out Stearns Wharf. My vote is to grab lunch in Santa Barbara before making your way down to Los Angeles at some point in the afternoon, pre-rush hour. If you do want to fit in another spot in between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, Ventura is supposed to be a very cool little beach town.


Once you’ve driven down and checked into your hotel, get a Lyft and plug in the Bradbury Building. The building itself looks really cool and you might be able to go inside and see its interior. From here, cross over to Grand Central Market for dinner. I really liked Sticky Rice, which is a Thai food stand, but there are a bunch of different vendors around to try. There’s also a Guisados nearby if you want tacos.

Finish things off with The Last Bookstore, a 2-story bookstore with over 250k of books and a lot of cool displays. Seriously could’ve spent a good hour or two roaming around.

From here, head back to your hotel and get some sleep!

Hollywood Lake Park, Los Angeles, CA - California Coast road trip

Day 11: Los Angeles

(Driving today: ~1hr)


Mini-hiking day! Wake-up early, put on your cutest yoga pants/sports bra combo, and drive over to Griffith’s Observatory. Instead of driving up to the observatory itself, park in Griffith Park below and follow one of the many trails that lead up to it. Keep in mind you should be able see the outside as well as take in the views even if the observatory itself is closed. You should also be able to see the famous Hollywood sign!

Once you’ve finished, drive down to visit the famous Hollywood Boulevard, a.k.a. the street with all the stars and the TCL Chinese Theatre. Now, I’m not going to lie to you. This place isn’t particularly charming and feels more touristy than Times Square in NYC. BUT if this is your first time to L.A., you really ought to see it at least once.

Park by the Pantages Theatre and walk all the way down and back; there are plenty of lots and parking garages. Take time to read all the signs because beneath the less than stellar exteriors is some really cool Tinseltown history. In fact, do a tour so you can have someone regale you with the tales.


When you’re done, you can either drive over to The Grove or pop back to your hotel for a quick shower to freshen up. If you do go back to your hotel, I’d just leave your car there and get a Lyft over to save some money on parking and give yourself a break from driving in L.A.

Even if malls aren’t your thing, the Grove is partially outdoors and really pretty. Plus, it’s a good place for lunch as it houses the Farmers Market, which has been around since 1880.

After you’re done eating, you can easily walk over to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). It’s a mile and should only take around 20-30 minutes. The big thing to see at LACMA is the free Urban Lights exhibits outside, but the museum itself looks really cool and has all sorts of interesting exhibits and collections.

Next door is the very unique La Brea Tar Pits. Believe it or not, this is still an active paleontological research site and tons of fossils have been found here including a Columbian mammoth! You can see all the displays in the museum and check out Lake Pit.

To make your life easy, I’d get dinner somewhere in the neighborhood. Republiqué looks really good, so that would be my pick!

The Great White, Venice Beach, Los Angeles, CA

Venice Beach

Founded by Abbot Kinney in 1905 to be seaside resort town and named after the famous Italian city, Venice Beach is a great way to end your California coast road trip. Over the last few decades it’s become known for its free-spirited vibe. Think trendy restaurants, famous boardwalk and canals, and cool beaches from which you can see some incredible sunsets.

We only had a brief morning here, but I’d recommend spending at least a night or two to enjoy. You get a more relaxed vibe than being in L.A., and it’s slightly more convenient to get to L.A.X. from here than Beverly Hills.

STAY: Some nice hotels include Hotel Erwin, Podshare Venice, Inn at Venice Beach, and Samesun Venice Beach. I’d also look at home rentals like Viva La Venice, Virginia Court, or Pocketful of Peace.

Getty Villa, Los Angeles, CA - California Coast road trip

Day 12: Los Angeles – Venice Beach

(Driving today: ~1hr)

Before you actually go to Venice Beach, you’ll drive over to the beautiful and very underrated Getty Villa. Sitting right along the Malibu coast, its design was inspired by Villa dei Papyri in southern Italy and was built to hold more of Getty’s collection after the Getty Museum ran out of room. I’ve been twice on my visits and really is such a gem of a place! All you have to do is reserve your spot and pay for parking.

Another stop on your way is Santa Monica Pier. The current pier is actually two adjoining piers that were built in the beginning of the 1900s, one for sewer pipes and one for amusement. Today it’s a bustling spot with classic views and some fun, historic landmarks (like the end of Route 66!).

When you’re done continue on to Venice Beach. Dinner wise, I’d say somewhere by the beach or along Abbot Kinney Boulevard would be your best bet. I have The Butcher’s Daughter and Felix Trattoria on my list to try but you could also grab In-N-Out too, which is along Washington Boulevard.

Then walk over and check out the Venice Beach Skatepark and Muscle Beach for sunset!

Venice Beach, Los Angeles, CA

Day 13: Venice Beach

(Driving today: 0hrs)

Start off your morning with a relaxing breakfast at Great White. They only do walk-ins before 4:00 PM, so you may have some time to kill if it’s busy. If there’s a wait, you can always stroll over to the beach and check out more of the boardwalk in the daytime.

When you’re done, head over and check out the famous Venice Canals. The whole area surrounds about four quarter-mile long canals and makes for a fun walk to see all the different fancy houses. No, it definitely doesn’t compare to the actual canals of Venice, but it’s cute nonetheless!

From here, head over to Abbott Kinney Boulevard for some shopping and eating. There are lots of random places along the palm-lined street including many of the trendy names that get thrown around online and on TV. There’s even a FARM Rio and Christy Dawn store right across from each other and, of course, you’ve gotta get an ice cream at Salt & Straw while you’re strolling.

Really this day is about enjoying the relaxing vibes of Venice! You could bring a book and hang out on the beach all day if that’s what you’d prefer or grab a bike and just wander around.

Day 14: Fly Out of L.A.X.

Time to say goodbye to this California coast road trip! If you have even more time, you can continue on to Orange County and San Diego, which I’d like to do on a return trip. L.A.X. can be a pit of a pill to get through, so give yourself plenty of time to head over, return your rental, and get to your gate.

FAQ for Your California Coast Road Trip Itinerary

How many days does it take to drive the coast of California?

Considering it takes about 8 hours to drive straight from San Francisco to San Diego, you could realistically drive it all in a day. However, if you want to enjoy your California coast road trip, give yourself at least a week. The most ideal would be 2 weeks.

What is the best time of year to drive down the California coast?

The best thing about the California coast is that the weather stays pretty stable all year round, so you could go at any point in the year. What you want to keep an eye on is any flooding or wildfire dangers.

What is the prettiest part of the Pacific Coast Highway?

If you were super limited on time, my favorite stretches would be around Monterey Bay/Carmel and San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara.

And there you have it – a California coast road trip guide. Believe it or not, this whole trip barely scratches the surface of this massive state. Like just look at a map and see how much ground there still is to cover. I definitely plan on heading back sometime to continue exploring – my California bucket list must be a mile long at this point!

For more West Coast travel, read these posts next:


How to plan a California coast road trip

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