american driving vacations: 877-485-8747
  Great American Journeys

New England

Mid Atlantic


Mid West

Mountain West

West Coast

Pacific Coast Highway: Land of Crashing Waves and Barking Seals
10 Days/9 Nights

Pacific Coast Highway

Some consider it the most scenic road in America. Heading up the spectacular highway that hugs the California coast, riding above waves crashing into windswept cliffs, over dramatic bridges anchored in rugged outposts, and through unspoiled pristine natural areas showered with endless California sunshine, this journey is like no other.

Even though the region welcomes millions of visitors each year, the natural beauty has remained untainted. Historic towns have a quaint and quiet silence at times broken only by the sound of barking seals. Farther inland, the road threads through quiet countryside that produces rich agricultural bounty. We design our trips along the Pacific Coast Highway to maximize the special sections of the roadway where two portions are designated National Scenic Byways. It’s a slice of California at its most breathtaking, coupled with serene, gently rolling, vineyard-filled terrain farther south.

Yet, this journey is not just about driving. Time to explore the heritage and culture along the way has been built in. In addition to natural attractions like the Point Sur State Historic Park and Lighthouse, the Santa Monica Mountains Natural Recreation Area and Morro Bay, you can also visit locations such as the Hearst Castle San Simeon State Historical Monument, original California missions, and the National John Steinbeck Center.

There are also a number of unique cities along the way. Solvang, California is the Danish Capital of America. San Louis Obispo traces its roots back to an early mission. Monterey is the quintessential California seaside resort. And then of course, there’s San Francisco, America’s most visited destination! Enjoy the trip as much as the places you visit.

Day 1: Arrive Los Angeles

Welcome to Southern California! Los Angeles is one of the most unusual cities in America, covering the largest land area of any metropolitan region stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the California desert. Yet, the downtown is quite small. Incredibly famous suburbs make up for it, include Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Long Beach, Anaheim and Santa Monica. The Getty Center with spectacular art, views and structure is not to be missed. Of course, there’s the original Disneyland, the Queen Mary, Universal Studios and great museums.

Overnight: Los Angeles, California

Day 2: Explore Los Angeles Area

Los Angeles is built around “freeways” the famous highways that connect the various locations. You’ll find some of the best shopping in the world on Rodeo Drive. The Sunset Strip is the part of Hollywood Boulevard that connects Los Angeles and Hollywood. Mulholland Drive through Beverly Hills shows you the cream of the homes. The Santa Monica Freeway gets you to the beach. Take a city tour of LA and the stars homes. Other greats include the Hollywood Bowl, Armand Hammer Museum and Grumman’s Chinese Theater.

Overnight: Los Angeles, California

Day 3: Los Angeles to Santa Barbara

Art lovers can get their fix at the Pacific Design Center and the LA Music Center while nature lovers can hit the Zoo and the California Science Center. An LA Go Card lets you explore more. Spend one more day exploring Los Angeles before departing for the Reagan Presidential Library and the drive up the coast to Santa Barbara. Try to time it while the sun is setting over the water.

Overnight: Santa Barbara, California

Day 4: Santa Barbara to Pismo Beach

Before leaving Santa Barbara we suggest visiting the Santa Barbara Mission, one of the missions on the El Camino Real established by Jesuits in the late 1700s. Explore the surrounding area on the Santa Barbara Historic District Walking Tour. There’s some great antique shopping. Up the coast, stop at the Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Center where you can even take a Hummer out on the Dunes for a spin. Catch the Downtown Trolley through the Red Tile District of San Luis Obispo before settling in at Pismo Beach.

Overnight: Pismo Beach, California

Day 5: Explore Pismo Beach Area

You can take a side trip to Paso Robles and California’s “other” Wine Country before heading north on the Pacific Coast today. It’s California’s oldest “watering place.” The Hearst Castle, officially the San Simeon State Historical Park is a must see. What started out as a “camp” for the Hearst family transformed into an 165 room mansion. Swing back around through Morro Bay with its famous rock before turning back to Pismo’s beach.

Overnight: Pismo Beach, California

Day 6: Pismo Beach to Monterey/Carmel via the Big Sur

Get ready for the most scenic drive on the Pacific Coast Highway! Rugged coasts, crashing waves, massive cliffs and awesome sight s await! When you leave Morro Bay, you’ll be on the official National Scenic Byway portions of the road up to the Big Sur. Get to the coast at every chance you have at the State Parks that line the road. At the end of the drive, round the bend to Monterey and Carmel, two of the most quaint and beautiful villages in California.

Overnight: Carmel, California

Day 7: Explore Monterey/Carmel Area

Today provides a day to explore the Monterey peninsula and take a side trip a bit inland. We recommend starting with the 17-Mile Scenic Drive around Pebble Beach. After passing through Pacific Grove and Seaside, head west to Gilroy and Salinas. The National Steinbeck Center commemorates the work of this literary giant whose characters from the Salinas Valley inspired his greatest work.

Overnight: Carmel, California

Day 8: Carmel to San Francisco, California

Explore the Big Basin Redwoods State Park with the largest stand of ancient redwoods south of San Francisco, before landing in the city where everyone “leaves their heart.” Take a deep breath as you head down to San Francisco Bay, it’s as beautiful as the photographs. Everything you’ve heard about the city is true. The 3.8 mile Barbary Trail introduces you to the historic heart of the city. Explore Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square and the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Site.

Overnight: San Francisco

Day 9: Explore San Francisco

Take the opportunity today to explore as much of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area as possible. The Presidio of San Francisco and Muir Woods National Monument are must sees. And of course, everyone should take the ferry to Alcatraz, the famous island that is so much more than the infamous penitentiary and Nob Hill is a not to be missed too. Squeeze in as much as possible today, this is a fabulous city.

Overnight: San Francisco

Day 10
We wish you a safe and pleasant journey home, taking with you memories of barking seals and crashing waves.

About Us

Planning Your Trip

Feedback & Testimonials

Travel Insurance

Booking Policy

Privacy Policy

Travel Planning Form

Blog Us

Contact Us

© American Traveler Service Corporation, LLC, 2009