One of the most stunning drives in the world is right here in the United States. We take you up Highway 1 in California, also known as the famed Pacific Coast Highway, for the ultimate road trip. The traditional route runs from Vancouver all the way down to San Diego. This is the kind of trip you would take when you have a lot of time on your hands, like when you sell your tech company. In the meantime, this is an abbreviated version. We start you in Napa and aim for destination Los Angeles. In between, we take you to the best places to rest your head, and take in the vistas and eat along the way. Route 1 is hands down, the prettiest road trip in the U.S.
Here’s a week long itinerary, though you can make a real adventure and go all the way up to Vancouver. That would make this the prettiest road trip in the U.S. and Canada.
Start: Napa Valley
As of the publication date, there are sadly wildfires in Napa at this time, but we know they will be back. Napa we love you always.
The key to achieve the ultimate road trip along the Pacific Coast Highly is to start at your northern most point possible. In this case, that will be Napa. Because Napa is always a good idea anyway. The second key to a successful road trip along the PCH is to make sure you rent a convertible. Take the top down and begin your adventure. You are in for one of the most beautiful drives of your life, up Highway 1.
Park your car at the North Block, a boutique right hotel in the heart of Yountville. Then call up Tom Jarman (aka your designated driver) at Destination Napa Valley to drive you around to the best vineyards in the area. Give him an idea of your favorite wines, and he’ll do the rest with closed vineyards and impossible to get to tastings. Check out our Napa Valley guide for the greatest hits of wine country. Make sure to get a dinner reservation at Bouchon if you’re into a casual meal. Otherwise, head to Single Thread for the hottest gourmet experience of the moment.
Stop 1: San Francisco
Make a stop in San Fran from Napa, for some shopping in town and an early lunch at Mourad. Mourad has even better Moroccan food than what you can find in Morocco. For now, they are doing takeout only, but we know they’ll be back soon for in-person dining. So keep a pin in this for your future road trip.
Stop 2: Big Sur
Take an early afternoon drive after hanging out in San Fran to Big Sur which is about 2 hours. Stop in the quaint town of Caramel-By-The-Sea to dip your toes in the sand and wander around town. In the early evening after a beverage in town, take about a 50 minute drive to Big Sur. Then get ready to chill for the next day or even two on your Route 1 adventure.
Post Ranch Inn is on our list of the top 5 places to stay in California, and is always a favorite. A little gentler on the pocket and more full-service, all-inclusive resort is the Ventana Inn, right across the street. Ventana Inn is also on the spectrum of terrific. Plan to schedule a nice long spa treatment then have dinner on property. No matter where you stay, you’ll fall into the deepest sleep among the Redwoods. In the morning, take a nice and early 1 hour hike in the Redwood Forest. Then enjoy a leisurely breakfast, before heading back on the road again.
Stop 3: Santa Barbara
There’s a reason it’s called a road trip, as from Big Sur to Santa Barbara is about 4 hours. On this leg of the prettiest road trip in the U.S., you’re headed to your next hotel at San Ysidro Ranch. Make sure to stop at the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park in between to stretch your legs. Then head to Paso Robles for some wine tasting (not for the designated driver of course). Pick up some bottles to take to San Ysidro and lunch at Thomas Hill Organics in town. Don’t forget to take in the views, stop at the best photo opps along the way. Above all, enjoy your time with the top down in the car and breathe in the fresh California air.
When you get to San Ysidro, it will be time to open those bottles of wine in your suite. This is where to enjoy the 500 acres of ranch overlooking the Pacific Ocean. If you can squeeze it in, spend the next two nights here enjoying the hotel, surrounding area and exploring Montecieto.
Destination: Los Angeles
Between Santa Barbara and LA it’s just about 1.5 hours give or take depending on traffic, and how fast you want to drive. End the ultimate road trip with a night at the classic Beverly Hills Wilshire, which is a Four Seasons. Because everyone deserves to feel like a Pretty Woman. Check out our dining guide to Los Angeles, for the classics that should be on any trip to LA. Congratulations; you’ve just completed the prettiest road trip in the U.S.