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Ultimate Guide to Pacific Coast Highway Road trip

Summer adventures are underway, we are all looking for the perfect road trip in the US. One of my personal favorites is the pacific coast highway road trip in California. If you’re looking for the Ultimate Guide to Pacific Coast Highway road trip, look no further.

How long is the Pacific Coast Highway?

The Pacific Coast Highway runs from San Diego to Seattle. It’s approximately 1,650 miles long. This guide will include the portion of highway from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, which is 350 miles long.

How long does the Pacific Coast Highway take to drive?

From Santa Barbara to San Francisco, it takes approximately 7.5 hours without stops. I encourage you to take plenty of stops along the way, even stopping in different towns along the way. There are plenty of scenic stops, parks and other areas to see.

Where should I stop between Santa Barbara and San Francisco?

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is known as the American Riviera. This beachside town, is full of life. Downtown you can find Mediterranean-style white stucco buildings that reflect the city’s Spanish colonial heritage. Visit the beachside cliffs that will surely astonish you during any of the beautiful sunsets.


Solvang is a European inspired town that resembles the Netherlands. Stop for lunch at Solvang Brewery and visit a few of the nearby shops. If you have some extra time, stay outside Solvang after visiting a local winery or two. Skyview Los Alamos, a luxury boutique motel is inspired by modern rustic chic. It has a full restaurant, and a vineyard on site.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seals Beach

You’ll want an early start from Solvang so that you can stop along the Pacific Coast Highway today. Give yourself at least 8 hours and take your time. The Piedras Blancas is about 1 hour 45 minutes from Solvang. If you love marine life, like me, you’ll want to see the magnificent mammals. One of the best parts, other than these massive seals, is its free!

Big Sur/Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is about 1 hour 15 minutes from the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seals Beach. This stretch between the two is where the beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway, along with the winding, curvy roads really gets started. One of the more well known features of the park is McWay Falls. You’ll also get to see some of the magnificent redwoods that the region offers. Big Sur also happens to be one of my favorite views along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Bixby Bridge

The Bixby Bridge, which is in the Northern area of Big Sur on the Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most photographed bridges on the West Coast of the United States. There are two angles of the Bixby Bridge to enjoy. Parking can be limited and with a two lane highway, be careful turning around. There are some beautiful views of the beach below. If you have extra time, there is hiking path down to the beach below from this point.


Carmel-by-the-Sea is a short half hour from Bixby Bridge. It’s a small beach side city, which luxury boutique shops and delicious restaurants. The Carmel Mission is well known because of its historic museum. The best part about Carmel-by-the-Sea is that you can take your time, stroll along the sidewalks and venture down to the beach for the sunset.

San Francisco

San Francisco is two hours from Carmel-by-the-Sea. We chose to eat dinner and drive to San Francisco after sunset. It wasn’t a difficult drive and seeing the night skyline of San Francisco in our view was a view I won’t easily forget. Just so you know, you will not drive on the Golden Gate Bridge on this road trip. However, you can spend several days in San Francisco with the Ultimate 3 Day Guide to San Francisco.

Till next time guys!



Hi, I'm Ashley!


I’m a digital content creator and photographer who has a fierce love of travel & a passion for photography.


I couldn't pinpoint the moment I fell in love with travel. I only remember the feelings I had at a very young age, every time I visited a new destination.


Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions regarding my trips, travel experiences, or other travel advice!


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