Day One: Los Angeles to Ojai (82 miles). Just seven miles northwest of Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway (Route 1), you can’t ... more »skip the Getty Villa (reservation required), a re-creation of an ancient Herculaneum mansion, with statuary and gardens. A few miles north, stop for a fried-scallop sandwich or fish-and-chips at the oceanfront Malibu Seafood (lunch for two $25). Thirty miles later, the PCH joins the coast-hugging United States 101. Here, take Route 33 to the village of Ojai. Arrive before dark for the sunset that casts the Topa Topa bluffs in a rosy glow. After a dinner of linguine with steamed clams or crab-and-corn cakes in the garden of Suzanne’s Cuisine (dinner for two $80), wander over to Bart’s Books, the country’s largest outdoor bookstore, with hundreds of thousands of titles and honor-system cashboxes for late-night shopping. Drift off reading a 35-cent novel in one of the nine Mission Revival suites at Great Value Su Nido Inn (doubles from $209).
Day Two: Ojai to Pismo Beach (120 miles). You can’t leave artsy Ojai without visiting the Pottery, the rustic studio workshop of Midcentury ceramist Otto Heino, who, at the age of 95, produces museum-worthy pieces. Route 150 heads out of the valley from Ojai and hits United States 101. In Santa Barbara, pull over for a stroll and people-watching along Butterfly Beach. In Pismo Beach, 70 miles north, order the chowder in a sourdough bread bowl at the tiny Splash Café (dinner for two $20). Spend the night high on the bluffs in an airy oceanfront suite at the Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa (suites from $520).
Day Three: Pismo Beach to San Simeon (77 miles). Head to the spa at Sycamore Mineral Springs (treatments from $75) for a grape seed_extract massage. In Atascadero, about 12 miles north, aromatic soaps and sachets are for sale at Green Acres Lavender Farm. And don’t miss a curried chicken sandwich at Art Café and Bakery (lunch for two $25). Follow Route 41 west to the giant oceanfront chessboard on the Embarcadero at Morro Bay. Head north on Route 1 to San Simeon, a dramatic stretch of cliffs and the entry point to La Cuesta Encantada (tours from $20), the Mediterranean Revival estate and museum known simply as Hearst Castle.
TOTAL MILES: 279 less «