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Coastal California

  • San Francisco, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, San Diego
Coastal California Coastal California
£ 6695

Explore California’s stunning coastline on this quintessential American road trip between San Francisco and San Diego – easily one of the most scenic drives on the planet.

Stretching virtually the entire length of the west coast, the cliff-hugging Pacific Coast Highway embraces over 650 miles of gorgeous Californian coastline. En route to San Diego, you’ll visit delightful seaside towns like Carmel-by-the Sea, soak in the rugged grandeur of Big Sur and admire the architectural jewel of Hearst’s Castle. 

You’ll also spend time in picture-postcard Santa Barbara on America’s ‘Riviera’, as well as low-key Santa Monica with its historic pier. Ending your road-trip with a couple of nights in sun-drenched San Diego, famed for its string of dazzling beaches. 

14 days from
per person
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Detailed Itinerary
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Day 1-3 San Francisco
San Francisco

Start your PCH road trip in vibrant, multicultural San Francisco. Here you’ll be staying at the landmark St Regis at the heart of the SoMa neighbourhood. With Union Square and the Financial District on your doorstep, the city’s great sightseeing opportunities are all easily accessible. 

Highlights include cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge and riding the ferry over to the infamous prison island of Alcatraz where Al Capone was in residence for a number of years. You can also enjoy exploring San Francisco’s wonderfully diverse neighbourhoods, from the enormous Chinatown to the distinctly Italian North Beach with its iconic City Lights Bookstore. Other sites include pretty Lombard Street and the brightly painted Victorian buildings known as the Painted Ladies, as well as Pier 39 with its colony of sea lions. 

Stay: Three nights at The St Regis San Francisco

Day 4-5 Carmel-by-the-Sea
Carmel-by-the-Sea

The next stop on your Californian road trip is the quaint, seaside hideaway of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Staying at the historic La Playa Carmel just steps from the white sands of Carmel Beach, you will find yourself perfectly situated for discovering boutique shops, art galleries, fairytale cottages and farmers’ markets. Nearby Monterey, connected to Carmel by the scenic 17 Mile Drive, beckons with its whale watching opportunities and world-famous aquarium. 

Stay: Two nights at La Playa Carmel

Day 5-6 Big Sur
Big Sur

The breathtaking scenery along the Pacific Coast Highway reaches dramatic heights at Big Sur – a rugged stretch of coast famed for its curving roads and steep cliff faces, spectacular coves, redwood forests and breathtaking viewpoints over the Pacific Ocean. Here you’ll enjoy one night at the cliff-top Post Ranch Inn with its award-winning restaurant, rejuvenating spa and unrivalled ocean vistas. Take advantage of complimentary guided nature walks in the area, as well as morning yoga and stargazing sessions. 

Stay: One night at Post Ranch Inn

Day 7-10 Paso Robles
Paso Robles

En route to Paso Robles, be sure to stop off for a tour around Hearst Castle, the sumptuous hilltop retreat of publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Marvel at this 165-room Disney-esque extravaganza, which is filled with Hearst’s personal collection of rare and ancient works of art. 

Nestled in the rolling hills of California’s Central Coast, Paso Robles is renowned for its stellar wineries, olive groves and hot springs. Experience the attractions of the area, including custom wine-tasting excursions, from the comfort of your intimate boutique hotel which sits just off the historic town square – within walking distance of a number of excellent restaurants.

Stay: Two nights at Hotel Cheval

Day 9-10 Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara

Back on the open road, continue driving south down to affluent Santa Barbara – an essential stop on any Pacific Coast road trip – and Belmond’s glamorous hideaway, El Encanto. 

Known as the ‘American Riviera’, this delightful, elegant, curiously south-facing seaside town has a decidedly Mediterranean feel, complete with plenty of white stucco and terracotta roof tiles. Not to mention upscale boutiques, superb restaurants and a broad sweep of sandy beach backed by a palm-lined promenade. Enjoy visits to the old Mission church and Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, as well as strolls along the wooden pier where you can lunch on lobster rolls and locally brewed beers. 

Stay: Two nights at Belmond El Encanto

Day 11 Santa Monica
Santa Monica

Cruising past the beaches of Malibu, you’ll soon arrive in Santa Monica, the seaside ‘west wing’ of Los Angeles that feels more like a stand-alone resort than part of the general urban sprawl. Here, Shutters on the Beach puts you within strolling distance of the beach and historic pier with its brightly lit amusement park, solar-powered Ferris wheel and soothing ocean views. You can always walk, bike or roller-skate along the boardwalk to neighbouring Venice Beach, and if you do tire of being on the coast it’s easy to venture into other LA neighbourhoods. 

Stay: One night at Shutters on the Beach

Day 12-13 San Diego
San Diego

End your Californian road trip in balmy San Diego, famed for its zoo (nestled within the immense Balboa Park) but also worth exploring for its craft breweries, art galleries and USS Midway Museum. The city’s pristine 70-mile coastline strings together some of California’s finest beaches, and is a magnet for local surfers, sunbathers and volleyball players. Your hotel has its own secluded beach, ideal for relaxing at the end of your Pacific Coast Highway adventure. 

Stay: Two nights at Hotel del Coronado

Day 14 San Diego - London

Return your hire car and board your international flight back to London. 

  • Customer focussed, helpful and sensitive to the current travel challenges. They have booked me a variety of interesting holidays with fabulous hotel recommendations and relative value for money compared to there premium agents.

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    AW, Australia - November 2020