Are you itching for a road trip once we’re all able to start traveling again?
While waiting for COVID-19 travel restrictions to be lifted, why not start planning a California road trip? The state boasts picturesque coastline, stunning scenery, and endless sunshine. In our opinion, there’s no better way to explore the Californian coast than grabbing some friends, jumping in the car and pumping the tunes as you experience all it has to offer.
To ensure you don’t miss a thing, we’ve put together the ultimate 10-day California coast road trip itinerary. Once you’re out of quarantine, grab your crew, fill up the tank, and hit the highway.
Day 1 – Los Angeles
You’re going need way more than one day to see Los Angeles, but since this is where a lot of people base themselves, we are going to begin the ultimate California road trip here. Start your day by grabbing a fresh juice and heading to Runyon Canyon. This is a relatively easy hike that will give you epic views of the city (when the weather permits) and the Hollywood Sign. This trail is popular among locals and tourists alike and is the perfect way to get active and tick off a major tourist attraction.
Depending on the direction you came from, you may have already walked up some of Hollywood Boulevard. If not, now is the perfect time to stroll along this famous strip and get some photos of the stars. From here, you can either join a tour to tick of the major sites or continue to explore on your own. Either way, a visit to Beverly Hills to see the iconic hotel and fancy houses is a must. You will also want to check out Rodeo Drive. Remember that LA is a big city so if you get sick of carrying your bag around, check it into an LA luggage storage facility.
Get an early night so you are prepared to hit the road tomorrow.
Day 2 – Santa Barbara
While we hope you had a chance to tick off all the highlights before you jump on the road, there are a few key things we recommend doing on your way out of LA.
Start your road trip off with a bang by heading out to Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Both of these coastal destinations are on the way out of the city as you head in the direction of San Francisco so it’s the perfect way to start your trip. Plus, is there a better or more iconic way to experience California than with long stretches of golden sand?
Head to Venice Beach for your market fix. You’ll find a range of stalls offering everything from tourist hoodies to cheap sunglasses and unique souvenirs. Grab a smoothie or bite to eat as you wander up the main strip and soak up all the good vibes.
When you’ve filled your shopping quota, jump back in the car and head up to Santa Monica. It is here that you will find the famous Santa Monica Pier. Instantly recognizable by its amusement park, this pier is an LA icon and often features in movies and travel brochures. Check out the rollercoaster if that’s your kind of thing or head to the outdoor gym for a sweat sesh before spending time in the car.
Enjoy the scenery as you cruise through Malibu on your way to Santa Barbara. Try to find a hotel in ‘The Funk Zone’ as you will be right in the middle of the action and it’s a great base to explore.
Day 3 – Pismo Beach
Day 3 should start with a stroll around Santa Barbara and some breakfast in one of the many cafes. Then it’s back in the car and on your way to Solvang. This is California’s version a Little Denmark and you could be mistaken for thinking you’d reached Europe (without the tediously long flight, of course). There are plenty of opportunities for wine tastings in town so if you’re lucky enough not to be the driver, make sure you try one of the local vinos.
Your day will end in Pismo Beach, a beach town situated on an endless white, powder beach.
Day 4 – Pismo Beach OR Paso Robles
After a few jampacked days, it’s time to slow things down. You can either choose to spend another night in gorgeous Pismo Beach, soaking up the sun and the relaxed feel of this beachside destination. If you are visiting between October and February, make sure to check out the butterflies at Monarch Butterfly Grove.
If lounging on the beach isn’t for you, continue up the coast until you reach Morro Bay. The scenery will not disappoint to make sure to snap a few pics. Get back on the road and make the short trip to Paso Robles. You will find yourself in true wine country but we recommend waiting until the next day to take full advantage of the wineries. Instead, explore the town, head to the Franklin Hot Springs or devour a good meal in Downtown Paso Robles.
Day 5 – Paso Robles
Today is the day for wine. Start with a solid breakfast in town before making your way to the local wineries to taste the local drops. You can join a winery tour if you prefer, however, the wineries are easy to find. Also, make sure to try the olive oil as the locale is famous for it.
Spend the rest of the day relaxing and enjoying the wine.
Day 6 – Big Sur
On your way out of town, head to Piedra Blancas to see the elephant seals that call this townhome. Then, it’s on to Hearst Castle. The architecture of this National Historic Landmark is seriously impressive and worth the stop.
Spend your afternoon at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park exploring the trails and McWay Falls. Then it’s on to Big Sur where you will be spending a couple of nights.
Day 7 – Big Sur
The scenery in Big Sur and its surrounding area deserve the time to be enjoyed. You’ll see everything from stunning cliffs to epic waterfalls and everything in between. While you will have checked off the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park the day before, there are a number of other parks to explore on Day 7. For instance, Andrew Molera State Park and Limelkin Beach State Park are excellent options and worth a visit. You can also choose to camp in the forest if that’s your thing.
To finish our day, head to the Taphouse for a drink.
Day 8 – Big Sur OR Monterey
For day 8, you can choose to continue adventuring around Big Sur or if you’re looking for a change of scenery, make the short way up the coast to Monterey.
Take a walk along Cannery Row and visit the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. There are plenty of options for food and drinks so take some time to explore the town.
Day 9 – San Francisco
You will now begin your journey to the final destination on this 10-day road trip: San Francisco. Stop in at Pebble Beach on your way for some impressive views.
Then make your way to the city. By this stage, we are sure you’ll be itching to see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge so hire a bike and head there. From here, head to Pier 39 for food and a bit of souvenir shopping. Then head to Fisherman’s Wharf to watch the sunset and see the sea lions.
10 – San Francisco
There are so many things to do in San Francisco so the options for your final day are endless. If it’s your first time in the city, we recommend checking out the Painted Ladies (a stretch of beautiful, colored, Victorian homes) and Lombard Street (the crooked road that featured in Herbie). You can finish your trip with a visit to Alcatraz or further exploration of the city.
The Californian Coast is an epic road trip destination. With an itinerary like this, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable time. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to hit the road!