If one coastline has been made famous thanks to its fantastic landscape and top attractions, that’s the US Pacific Coast. From San Diego to Seattle, with popular cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, and incredible scenery in national parks like Point Reyes or Olympic, we put together a Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary that will hit all the top things to do and see for a lifetime experience.

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Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary

This itinerary can be done in two ways:

  • Southbound: Seattle to San Diego
  • Northbound: San Diego to Seattle

The total distance between these two cities along Highway 1 and Highway 101 in the northern section is around 1,460 miles (2,350 km) and would, in theory, take 28 hours.

Exploring Highway 1 on 7 days is quite tight and will involve long days driving on a small and most of the time windy. But with stunning vistas of the Pacific Coast as rewards!

So this 7-day itinerary mostly includes driving from one city to another, listing spots you might want to check. The itinerary features two sightseeing days when you can visit a couple of places deeper. Our recommendations would be San Diego and San Francisco, and you could spend a couple of hours of your half-day exploring Seattle.

We list things to do and see in the different places you would be driving too, so you can adapt your trip itinerary depending on what you are interested in.

 

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary: 7 Days // Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

For this Pacific Coast Highway itinerary, we are covering a Northbound itinerary covering a California road trip first, then into Oregon, before ending in Washington State.

California State

There is so much to see and do in California (and the state is so long!) that it will take a few days to simply cross it in its entire length.

  • Day 1: San Diego
  • Day 2: San Diego to Los Angeles
  • Day 3: Los Angeles to San Francisco drive
  • Day 4: San Francisco to Eureka

State of Oregon

  • Day 5: Eureka to Portland

Washington State

  • Day 6: Portland to Seattle
  • Day 7: Seattle

See below a more fleshed-out Pacific Coast highway itinerary, day by day, including what to see, and where to stay.

Defining the best places to stop on Highway 1 is difficult since everyone has different expectations. Some might want to explore the fantastic outdoors in California. Others the incredibly diverse towns. Many will want to try the local delicatessen or go wine tasting. Historian buffs will choose to stop at older sites. In our itinerary suggestions, we are listing the top things to do per city and destination, as well as some alternative ideas of what to see.

Day 1: San Diego

What to See in San Diego in One Day

San Diego is packed with cool things to do but in one day, you will need to pick what you want to do carefully.

Top Things To Do in San Diego:

  • San Diego Old Town. Visit the Old Town State Historic Park, considered to be the first European settlement on the U.S. West Coast.
  • Balboa Park: with more than 16 museums, arts venues, gardens, and trails, Balboa is a must-see in San Diego. The San Diego Zoo is also a popular attraction located in the park.
  • San Diego Gaslamp Quarter: admire the old Victorian buildings, shop in one of the 100+ stores, taste some of California’s finest cuisine in one of the 150+ restaurants, bars, and cafés. Beer tasting is a big thing in San Diego! Add a fish taco and you are set for the day!
  • Hotel del Coronado and Coronado Beach: Dated from 1888, this National Historic Landmark is an iconic monument in San Diego. Enjoy lunch there, or go for a stroll on the beach of the same name.
  • La Jolla Cove: epic sunsets and majestic sea lions await you! Plenty of restaurants as well, so you can plan to end your day at La Jolla.

San Diego Museums

Museum aficionados will want to make these stops:

  • USS Midway Museum
  • Maritime Museum of San Diego
  • Cabrillo National Museum

Top San Diego Beaches

If you are looking to chill for the day, head to one of these beaches:

  • Coronado Beach: nice sand beach, nice place for everyone to relax
  • Mission Beach: family-friendly beach, with a cool boardwalk
  • Windansea Beach: rock and sand with reef break.
  • La Jolla Cove: A popular stretch of beach
  • Pacific Beach: party-goers and loud music tend to gather there if you are looking for a vibrant scene. Or if you want to watch surfers crashing the waves

Where to Stay in San Diego

From affordable to luxury, San Diego accommodation has something for (almost) all budgets. Here are all selections, all with 9+ ratings.

Hostels

  • California Dreams Hostel
  • USA Hostel San Diego
  • Hostels Ocean Beach

Budget Accommodation:

  • Novagarden
  • Beach Haven
  • Bristol Hotel

Mid-Range Lodging:

  • Hampton Inn Liberty Station
  • El Primero Boutique Hotel
  • Vineyard Hacienda

Luxury Resorts:

  • Empress Hotel
  • Hillcrest House
  • Villa Capri By the Sea

Day 2: San Diego to Los Angeles

  • Distance from San Diego to Los Angeles: 130 miles
  • How long: About 3 hours drive, around 4 hours with stops and sightseeing, and potentially longer with the regular, heavy LA traffic.
  • What to see: La Jolla Cove, Carlsbad Gardens and Lego-theme hotel, Temecula Wineries, Los Angeles

Scenic Road from San Diego to Los Angeles

The road along the Pacific Coast Highway is, of course, beautiful and you can enjoy the 3-or so hour drive to Los Angeles without stopping so you can have more time in the City of the Angels. Or you can stop a few places along the way:

  • La Jolla Cove: If you haven’t visited during your day of San Diego, or want to try kayaking, that will be a good opportunity to do so.
  • Carlsbad: Admire the seasonal gardens, or have a peek at the incredible LEGOLAND hotel.
  • Temecula: The area is home to about 40 different wineries if you feel like taking a lunch break with a glass of wine chilling in green vineyards.

What to See in Los Angeles (Extra Day)

Los Angeles is spread out, and traffic notoriously awful. Pick what you want to see, plan your route, and be prepared for alternative roads to get there. So don’t pick too much unless you want to be stuck in your car all day long.

Top Things to Do in LA

  • Hollywood Walk of Fame: Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, as the place is officially called, has since 1958 seen the stars leaving their handprints in the cement. Today, over 2,600 handprints can be seen along the Walk of Fame.
  • Rodeo Drive: The two-mile drive in Beverly Hills passes by luxury hotels and shops, and ends in Sunset Boulevard
  • Sunset Boulevard: Once there,  you can drive from the sparkles of Hollywood to Malibu via Bel Air.
  • Santa Monica Pier: Reaching the ocean, stop by the pier and check the popular Ferris wheel and roller-coasters.
  • Venice Beach Boardwalk: Another famous boardwalk, Venice Beach is the iconic LA scene, with people skateboarding, beachgoers, palm trees lining up the street.
  • El Pueblo de Los Angeles, LA’s oldest historical area. Popular plaza with live music, festivals, a food market, and the feeling of stepping back in time.

LA Theme Parks & Hollywood Studios

Given the time needed to explore each park and the price of the entrance ticket, you might want to focus on one park and spend the day there if this is what you want to do in LA. It would be hard to include anything else without rushing through both the park and the city sightseeing.

  • Universal Studios Hollywood
  • Walt Disney
  • Disneyland
  • Paramount Pictures

Los Angeles Beaches

Besides San Diego, Los Angeles is probably the last place you can actually enjoy swimming in the Pacific Ocean. In San Diego and Los Angeles, water temperatures in August average 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), compared to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) around San Francisco.

  • Malibu beaches: Topanga State Beach and Zuma Beach are among the most popular, but smaller El Pescador and El Matador beaches are worth a visit for quieter settings.
  • Cabrillo Beach
  • Santa Monica Beach
  • Manhattan County Beach
  • Venice Beach
  • Hermosa Beach

Where to Stay in Los Angeles

A wide range of accommodation is available in Los Angeles, and while you might have to drive outside the fancy area to find budget lodging, they do exist. The selection below is based on top-rated hotels, regardless of their categories.

Hostels

  • Walk of Fame Hostel
  • USA Hostels Hollywood
  • HI Los Angeles South Bay

Budget Accommodation

  • Sea Rock Inn
  • Republic Inn Hollywood
  • H California

Mid-Range Lodging

  • Arroyo Vista Inn
  • Freehand Los Angeles
  • GreenTree Alhambra

Luxury Resorts

  • El Royale Gardens by Universal Studios
  • LalolA Venice
  • The Bissel House Bed and Breakfast

Day 3: Los Angeles to San Francisco

  • Distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco: 480 miles
  • How long: About 9 – 10 hours drive
  • What to do and see: wine tasting around Santa Barbara, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Hearst Castle, Limekiln State Park, McWay Falls, Big Sur, Bixby Creek Bridge, Carmel, Point Lobos, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, San Francisco

A long, long day on a winding road… but a stunning section of Highway 1. And plenty of things to see along! So start early to make the most of your time.

Day 4: San Francisco to Eureka

Ah, San Francisco! Since we lived in the Bay Area for around 15 years, we are a bit biased when it comes to the Northern California city. The Pacific Coast south and north of San Francisco is gorgeous, with incredible vistas and small cities along.

  • Distance from San Francisco to Eureka: 271 miles
  • How long: The drive takes about 4.5 hours drive on Highway 101 but double the time on Highway 1 given the windy state of the road.
  • What to see: Stinson Beach, Point Reyes National Park, Bodega Bay, Timber Cove, Sea Ranch, Point Arena Lighthouse, Mendocino, Fort Bragg.

It is a long day, but the drive is totally worth it. Usually way less crowded that the portion between LA and SF, the coastline north of San Francisco is rugged and beautiful.

Day 6: San Francisco Sightseeing

In case you have an extra day or two, consider visiting what San Francisco has to offer. There are plenty of things to do in San Francisco for a day in the city and several choices of exciting day trips.

Top Things To Do in San Francisco (Extra Day)

  • Walk in the Golden Gate Park
  • Explore the different neighborhoods: Mission, Castro, Sunset
  • Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Explore Fisherman’s Wharf waterfront
  • Board a cruise and head to Alcatraz Island
  • Soak in the sunset colors at Twin Peaks
  • Enjoy Chinese food in Chinatown
  • Ride across town on the famous San Francisco Cable Car
  • Watch a game of the San Francisco Giants if you can book tickets in advance.
  • Wander down Lombard Street

Day Trips from San Francisco (One Extra Day per Trip)

  • Go wine tasting in the nearby Napa or Sonoma Valleys
  • Admire the giant Sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park
  • Spot a black bear in Yosemite National Park
  • Head to Sacramento, the state’s capital
  • Explore some of the small towns, many with a history going back to the Gold Rush

Day 6: Eureka to Portland

  • Distance from Eureka to Portland: 448 miles
  • How long: If you stay on Highway 1 all the way to Portland, the drive will take 10 hours. Or you can join Highway 5 to drive through Eugene and Salem before reaching Portland as your final destination.
  • What to see: Crescent City, then Waldport, Tillamook, Rockaway Beach via Hwy 101, or Eugene and Salem via Hwy 5.

Day 7:  Portland to Seattle

  • Distance from Eureka to Portland: 290 miles
  • How long: 6 hours to go along the almost 300 miles along the Highway 101, or a little over 3 hours on the 180 miles of Highway 5
  • What to see: Seaside, Astoria, Aberdeen, Olympia National Park along Highway 101, or Longview and Castle Rock on Hwy 5.

More details will come shortly to provide complete information about our trip, including travel tips and how to organize your Pacific Coast itinerary.

For now, we hope that some of our Highway 1 photos that will make you want to pack and go right away!

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary: 7 Days // Lonely Cypress, California

Lonely Cypress, California

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary: 7 Days // Pacific Coast between Eureka and Fort Bragg

Pacific Coast between Eureka and Fort Bragg

We will cover travel tips, top attractions, and must-sees, as well as side trips if you wish to extend your stay in one particular area.

Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary: 7 Days // Whale Watching Cruise, Monterey

Whale Watching Cruise, Monterey

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