California State Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway or simply the Pacific Highway, is one of the most exciting and breathtaking highways in all of North America. Often regarded as one of the best road trip routes in the United States, the Pacific Highway runs all along the coast of California. Its most northern point is at Mendocino County near US 101, while its southern tip finishes at Orange County near I-5.
The Pacific Highway runs for a little over 659 miles in total and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and California coastline landscapes, passing through dozens of must-visit destinations along the way. Whether you're looking to take in a California redwood forest, a beautiful beachside destination, or a major metropolis like San Francisco or Los Angeles, there's a lot to love about the Pacific Highway and a long list of stops to make along the way. If you're planning a Pacific Highway road trip, here are just a few of the best attractions and locations to check out.
- Los Angeles
One of the biggest and most famous cities on the planet, Los Angeles is the number one city stop on the Pacific Highway. Home to a long list of must-see monuments and attractions, from Venice Beach to the Hollywood sign and Disney theme parks, LA has a lot to offer and is an unmissable part of your Pacific Highway road trip. No matter what kind of activity or entertainment you’re hoping to enjoy, you’ll find it in LA.
- San Francisco
Along with Los Angeles, San Francisco is another major must-visit city location on the Pacific Highway. One of the prettiest and most socially progressive places on the planet, San Francisco is well-known for its unique cityscape, spread out across a long line of hills, and its unique monuments and landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. A lot of great eateries, stores, museums, and more can be found and enjoyed in San Francisco.
- Big Sur
A key point on the Pacific Highway is Bixby Creek Bridge, located on the Big Sur coastline. Huge crowds of tourists and travelers stop off at this location to enjoy incredible views of the Pacific Ocean and one of the longest stretches of untouched California coastline, and it’s a great spot to start your Big Sur adventure. This area is a nature lover's paradise, with a lot of key landmarks to enjoy like Sand Dollar Beach and McWay Falls. Nature-based activities and glamping are very popular in Big Sur.
Famous for being one of the most exclusive and elite resort spots on the planet, Malibu also offers some of the best surfing opportunities anywhere in North America. Various celebrities have homes along this stunning stretch of beach, and there's a really friendly, laid-back atmosphere at the local bars and surf shops. Malibu is a key stopping point on the Pacific Highway for surfers and beach fans.
- Redwood National and State Park
California is known for its redwoods, and one of the best places to see these incredible, towering trees is at Redwood National and State Parks, not far from Crescent City in the northern part of the state. With a lot of scenic hiking trails to enjoy and various other treasures to uncover around the park including tide pools and more, this is a must-visit location for nature lovers.
- Santa Cruz
A great spot for thrillseekers and adrenaline addicts along the Pacific Highway, Santa Cruz is very popular in the summer months with its old-fashioned fairground. Hosting one of the oldest wooden coasters in America, this is a great spot for families to spend a day, and the nearby beaches and outdoor mall offer a lot of other opportunities for fun times too.
- Santa Barbara
Well-known for its famous Santa Barbara Zoo, this city is a nice stop-off point on the Pacific Highway, especially for animal lovers. There's a lot to love about Santa Barbara and it doesn't have quite the same crowds as the bigger cities like LA and San Francisco. Some stunning views can be enjoyed from Santa Barbara's beaches, and the city has a lot of other unique attractions including the Botanical Gardens and Historical Museum.
- Glass Beach
Located in Fort Bragg, Glass Beach is a really unique attraction along the Pacific Highway and a must-visit stop for anyone interested in seeing something a little different. This beach earned its name due to the fact that millions of little bits of 'sea glass' make up its shoreline, offering a shimmering, glimmering sight that has to be seen to be believed.