The coast of California between San Francisco and Los Angeles is home to one of the most famous stretches of road in the world, and one of the most romantic and dramatic road trips. Travelling south from San Francisco, the famous Route One highway passes through long stretches of wild, rugged scenery, with cliffs, sparsely populated beaches and the Pacific Ocean on your right, and Californian Redwood forests and the hills of the Santa Lucia sierra on your left.

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Will, Kate B and Alexandra are here to help give you the inside track.

Key Stats

Best Time To Visit

Apr - Oct

Flight from London London

11:15 hrs

Time Difference

GMT -8 hrs


The 90-mile stretch either side of Big Sur is the most famous and most dramatic. The things to do here involve driving slowly and taking in the panoramic views (although preferably not at the same time), and stopping at some of the many hundreds of viewpoints to explore the area on foot. There are numerous walking trails along the attractive beaches or in the hills.

The towns of Carmel and Monterrey to the north, and Morro Bay and Santa Barbara to the south are all worth a visit and there are some beautiful places to stay here too - some of the most romantic and stylish in the US. Monterrey is slightly more touristy than Carmel, while Santa Barbara is known as the American Riviera, with good beaches, a long promenade and excellent shopping.

All in all this is one of Original Travel's favourite road trips and provides a refreshing alternative to the major cities at either end of this stretch of coastline.


Where to stay

Sunset at Post Ranch Inn, luxury hotel in the Big Sur

Post Ranch Inn

This cliff hanger luxury hotel - it literally does hang over the cliffs - is one of the few places to stay along the Big Sur (of this standard anyway), meaning guests can explore uninterrupted to their hearts content.

Sunset at Anderson Inn, luxury hotel in Morro Bay, Big Sur

Anderson Inn

For guests looking for understated luxury, look no further - The Anderson Inn is a family run contemporary boutique hotel, and nothing says quintessential seaside home stay than the hotel’s stunning spot on the waterfront in Morro Bay.

The poolside at Pebble Beach Resort, luxury hotel in San Francisco

Pebble Beach Resort

Famous for its four extraordinary golf courses (that have hosted the US Open five times) as well as incredible facilities and settings.

Terrace at Four Seasons Santa Barbara, luxury hotel in Santa Barbara, Big Sur

Four Seasons Santa Barbara

The Four Seasons group acquired this Spanish-style 1920's hacienda during the Reagan era and restored the 22-acre property to make the most of its historic charm.

Roof terrace at Canary Hotel, luxury hotel in Santa Barbara

Canary Hotel

Canary Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, complete with roof top pool and just a short bike ride from the beach.

Start creating your tailored trip today

Will, Kate B and Alexandra are our Highway One, the California Coast Road Trip experts and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

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