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kristinayee Aug 24th, 2009 01:37 PM

Pacific Coast Highway/Highway One Questions

My husband and I will be driving the PCH/Highway One from San Fran to San Diego next month.

Our plan is to take Highway One the whole way, starting in Pacifica and ending in LA. We'd then just take the 5 to San Diego. BUT, we only have two days, with stops and one overnight. So, are there any portions of the trip that we can cut out the coastal route? We definitely want to do the portion between Monterrey and San Luis Obispo, as we heard this is the most beautiful part. I just don't know what portion to cut out because I also heard that it's often difficult while on Highway 1 to cut over to a faster highway, such as the 101 or the 5 and that by the time you do so, it actually takes longer or the same amount of time.

Also, am I missing anything by not doing the PCH between Santa Barbara and San Diego?

Finally, is Santa Barbara a must see City?


montereybob Aug 24th, 2009 02:02 PM

Santa Barbara is nice but not a must if you need to cut it out. Carmel, Monterey, Pacific Grove are must see places. Big Sur coastline is a must. If you need to cut part of the slow, windy HWY 1 out of your trip to save time, I would cut the part between SF and Monterey. It is a pretty coastline, but not as spectacular as the Big Sur area and it really slows down the trip south. The route to take instead for less traffic and more scenery is Hwy 280 (not 101!). Then you can cut back to Hwy 1 at Santa Cruz by taking HWY 17 west or, if you want to skip, the Santa Cruz area continue on 280 to 85 south then to 101 south then to 156 west which will take you to Monterey.

You are trying to squeeze in a lot in 2 days! If it were me, I would save San Diego for another trip because I would want to spend at least 2 days between Carmel and Big Sur and at least 3 days in San Diego.

janisj Aug 24th, 2009 02:44 PM

Hwy 1 from SF to LA is at VERY minimum 2 full days - and that is too fast to stop and see much of anything. For SF to SD -- if you want to do more than just sit in the car -- you should plan on 4-days. That allows 1 day for Monterey/Carmel, 1 day for Big Sur/Cambria, 1 day for Santa Barbara/Santa Ynez and 1 day to drive on to to San Diego. And that is serious rushing.

If you only have 2 days/1 night, something has to give.

Ronda Aug 25th, 2009 11:51 AM

The most spectacular portion of the coastline is between Monterey/Carmel and San Luis Obispo. The driving is slow and have to keep your eye on the road. I don't know about south of San Luis but with your short time, I would skip SF to Monterey/Carmel and at least start at Monterey/Carmel.

StuDudley Aug 25th, 2009 12:35 PM

In My Opinion (62 yr Calif native of Northern & Southern Calif)

Hwy 1 from St to Carmel is an B+

Hwy 1 from Carmel to San Louis Obispo is an A+++,

Hwy 1 from SLO to Santa Monica is a B- (But I'm less familiar with this section)

Hwy 1 from Santa Monica to Huntington Beach is a F--- (for 90% of the route)

Hwy 1 from Huntington Beach to Capistrano Beach is a B- for 70% of the route.

Hwy 5 from Capistrano to San Diego is a D- (can't see much ocean - no "white" of waves).

Almost any route through LA to San Diego will take much of the day on a work day.

Questions - do you absolutly need to be in San Diego to sleep the 2nd night?

If this was my trip, I would leave San Francisco around 9am on a work day, or earlier on a weekend. Take 280 to 101 to 156 to the Carmel area. This will take anywhere from 2 1/4 to 2 3/4 hrs if you miss the bulk of commute traffic (2 1/4 hrs early Sat or Sun). Spend about 1-3 hrs wandering in Carmel - depending on your interests. Visit Pt Lobos State Park (about 2 hrs). Drive to Big Sur (about 1 hr with stops) & stay overnight in Big Sur - (dinner at Nepenthe). So, if you start the drive at 9, you'll get to Big Sur as early as 3:30 or as late as 6.

Next morning, head south & admire the coastline. When you get to SLO, pick up 101, put some good music on the CD player, make sure you have coffee before you start - and make a run AFAP to San Diego - and hope for the best. I have no idea how to miss the Ventura Co, LA Co, Orange co, & San Diego Co commute traffic in the afternoon.

Stu Dudley

hazel1 Aug 25th, 2009 01:11 PM

Excellent advice from Stu.

happytrailstoyou Aug 25th, 2009 01:11 PM

Highway 1 between San Diego and Malibu is extremely scenic, and I like Highway 1 south of LA for the delightful towns, beaches, and piers from Seal Beach to San Clemente.

happytrailstoyou Aug 25th, 2009 01:12 PM

Correction. The foregoing should begin: "Highway 1 from San Francisco to Mailbu....."

rednikki Aug 26th, 2009 08:36 AM

Kristinayee, we just wrote an itinerary for people driving from SF to LA on Highway One, which should work for you:

It details all the must-see places in Monterey and Big Sur. You can skip some of the stops to trim it down.

Having driven to and from the Bay Area every which way, I'd say do Highway One from Pacifica all the way down to San Simeon or SLO. It is truly breathtaking. Highway One in the Malibu area is also beautiful, but once you get to Santa Monica it is very traffic-heavy. (I used to live in LA and worked five blocks from Highway One.) I cannot speak to anything much south of Santa Monica, unfortunately.

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