Pacific Coast Highway {California Road Trip}

California. Ever since we rented a car in Spain and took that liberating drive along the Costa Brava, we’ve been mildly obsessed with the idea of doing this in every place we vacation. And so, last November we planned a somewhat unplanned, nine day road trip beginning in Los Angeles and ending in San Francisco. We drove the famed Highway 1, otherwise known as, The Pacific Coast Highway. A road trip is its own special category of traveling. It’s less about the destination (although, California did not fail to impress) and more about the journey. We cranked the music. Filled our car with snacks and drinks. Pit stopped. Took detours. Got lost. Pulled over for photo ops when we wanted. Unexpectedly discovered. And, took in the slow-living, laid-back vibes of California.

The distance from LA to San Fran is a short 385 mi. In this small stretch we experienced everything from: city vibes, to heavenly beaches, mountains, rolling vineyards, to-die-for coastal views, preserved Danish towns, and endless views of the Pacific. It was incredible. 

Top 3 picks:

3.) Choosing a favorite location was about impossible. We loved the beaches, wine country, and we loved San Fran. But, there was one magical stop that was unlike any other— that is Big Sur. Upon entering this rugged, highly romantic, and unspoiled region of California, you instantly lose all cell reception, and all cares in the world. The air smells different, it’s quiet, the people are sweet, tranquility surrounds you, and the pace of life is sloooow moving. We felt like we entered a bubble. The unparalleled combination of mountains and the Pacific were dreamlike.    

2.) Food! A majority of our prep and research prior to the trip was food focused. Obvi. We enjoyed nothing but excellent meals thanks to (Google the city + "Eater 38"). Here are some standouts: Genwa Korean BBQ in LA. Phil’s Fish Market in Monterey. Tosca Café in San Fran. Big Sur Bakery in Big Sur.  

1.) The Esalen Hot Springs. More specifically their Night Baths in Big Sur. How we ever stumbled upon this slice of heaven on earth, is still a little fuzzy. But, it was the greatest find. There are no pictures to detail this adventure. And honestly, it’s unnecessary. The experience will forever be engrained in us. Picture this: Cliff-side hot springs, 150 ft. high, overlooking the Pacific. Every night from 1 a.m. – 3 a.m. 20 lucky visitors get to enjoy the night baths (clothing optional) for a mere $25. For two hours we enjoyed serene hot springs, moon shining on us, while melodic waves crashed onto the shore. We’re still trying to decide if it was all a dream.  

We've been planning our move ever since,

Val + Jeff

In order, a few scenes we relished in: LA, Manhattan Beach, Santa Monica Beach, Malibu, Solvang, Cambria, San Simeon, McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer State Park, Big Sur, Monterey, Caramel-by-the-Sea, San Francisco, Petaluma and Napa Valley.