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Driving the PCH & Need Recommendations

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Washington DC...
posts: 3
reviews: 35
Driving the PCH & Need Recommendations

My husband and I are planning on driving a portion of the PCH in May. Our current plan is to start somewhere near Dana Point and end up in San Francisco. Our flight leaves out of San Fran but we're not planning on spending time there as we have been there a number of times in the past couple of years. I would love suggestions for where to spend time, what to do and where to stay the night during our drive. We are looking for a combination of hikes, walking cities/towns, spending some time on the water, and eating at great restaurants. Here are some of the cities we've looked at. Would love any input on what to skip, what's worth a few hours and what's worth an overnight.

-Dana Point

-Laguna Beach

-Newport Beach

-long beach

-Santa Barbara

-Santa Catalina island

-Big Sur


-Chanel Islands

-Santa Cruz

Huntington Beach...
Destination Expert
for Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach
posts: 4,902
reviews: 144
1. Re: Driving the PCH & Need Recommendations

In Long Beach, PCH cuts inland through a very urban area for many miles.

Check the map and note that you can cut down to Ocean Ave and then over the bridge to San Pedro and then drive through beautiful Palos Verdes along the coast -- but it is not PCH. The view of the ports of Long Beach and San Pedro from the bridge is quite interesting and then Palos Verdes is its own paradise. You'll emerge in Redondo Beach and you can drive through Manhattan Beach and north to Santa Monica without getting on the 405 but it will be lengthy and NOT on PCH. You can return to PCH in Santa Monica and then drive north through Malibu and then Oxnard before you'll have to return to Highway 101.

Check the maps carefully to plan you route if your goal is to stay off the freeways. But understand that in certain areas there will be no choice.

Corona del Mar, CA
Destination Expert
for San Diego, Orange County, California
posts: 35,792
reviews: 344
2. Re: Driving the PCH & Need Recommendations

The first question is how long are you allowing for the drive? A three night itinerary is very different from a ten night one.

The "most" worthwhile places with sights and great restaurants are going to be Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Santa Barbara and Monterey.

Seeing the Channel Islands is an all day excursion and unless you have special camping permits, no overnight and no restaurants. I'd also skip Catalina on a "PCH drive" since Catalina isn't on PCH.

Big Sur is very beautiful, but very limited places to stay and eat.

If you are wanting to go to SFO, but not stay in San Francisco, I'd probably cut over on the coast at Half Moon Bay to the Bayshore (101) Freeway as SFO is south of the city.

We really do need a bit more information, people come to Newport, Laguna, Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, Monterey/Carmel and spend a week in those cities by themselves. Half Moon Bay has good over night accommodations too. Each city has unique attractions so it is hard to say which is deserving of more attention.

Napa, CA
Destination Expert
for Napa
posts: 5,226
reviews: 22
3. Re: Driving the PCH & Need Recommendations

Oops! It looks like you have two threads going on this topic and it also looks like you have two different screen names. You should merge them.

Huntington Beach...
Destination Expert
for Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach
posts: 4,902
reviews: 144
4. Re: Driving the PCH & Need Recommendations

Looks to me like another case of "small map syndrome." The smaller the scale of a traveler's map, the greater their ambition.

Anaheim, California
Destination Expert
for Anaheim
posts: 23,750
reviews: 13
5. Re: Driving the PCH & Need Recommendations

Here is a California TA Top Question that talks about the Southern California Coastal Drive, including maps and some photo/video, including the detour to the Palos Verdes scenic drive (stop at Point Vicente) and a neat short detour in the Newport Beach/Balboa Peninsula area.


6. Re: Driving the PCH & Need Recommendations

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