There’s much more to the Pacific Coast of California than just the beaches of LA—namely historical attractions, rugged scenery, small resort towns, world-class food and wine, family attractions like Monterey Bay Aquarium, and architectural wonders such as the Golden Gate Bridge. Here are a few ways to discover the best of the state.
The town of Santa Barbara, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Los Angeles, is one of the most popular day-trip destinations due to its Mediterranean-style architecture, plethora of shopping and dining, and proximity to Southern California’s wine country around Solvang. Day tours are often paired with a visit to Hearst Castle, a National Historic Landmark another 130 miles (220 kilometers) north. Alternatively, head south from LA to laid-back San Diego for a day of exploring attractions like the San Diego Zoo, Coronado Island, Balboa Park, or La Jolla.
Extend your time on the California coast by opting for a 2- or 3-day tour that may take you as far north as San Francisco, stopping on the way in destinations such as Santa Cruz with its amusement park boardwalk, Big Sur and its dramatic coastline, historic Monterey with attractions such as Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row, the idyllic hamlet of Carmel-by-the-Sea, and the legendary golf courses of Pebble Beach and the 17-Mile Drive. Some tours also go inland to Yosemite National Park.
Things to Know
Highway 1 is the iconic California road that winds up and down the coast. It’s two lanes in many sections and can be heavy with traffic—or closed due to events like mudslides—so please know that some tours take different routes to reach destinations, meaning you might not drive along the coast the entire time.
Multi-day tours can be either one-way or round-trip; make sure to check those details to suit your travel plans.
Day trips and multi-day trips often do not include food so you can make your own selections. Many destinations along California’s coastline are known for their restaurants—from casual to high-end—so it pays to do research ahead of time.