California’s Highway 1 Road Trip  

The ultimate scenic route

From San Francisco, drive straight to Highway 1 and take a slow journey south to the sunny skies of Los Angeles

Drive south from San Francisco to Los Angeles on a coast-hugging trip that scores all the big sights. Take your time on the Slow Coast, then pause for a few nights in Monterey. Feel the sunshine on your face and the wind in your hair as you head south via the incredible Big Sur to stay in Santa Barbara before the final leg of your road trip brings you to the incomparable Los Angeles.

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San Francisco, Carmel & Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles
Multi Centre

Ideal for
Seeing the most scenic stretch of California’s Highway 1.

Recommended itinerary

San Francisco

A fabulous starting point

Whether the Golden Gate Bridge is displayed in all its glory with a backdrop of a summer sky or wears a more mysterious guise when the San Francisco fog rolls in, there's no bad time to experience this West Coast wonder city. Spend a few days here before picking up your hire car.

What to do in San Francisco

Check off the highlights

Join a guided tour to see all the highlights of San Francisco in double-quick time, visiting landmarks like Nob Hill, Chinatown, and Lombard Street. You'll also explore the old docks of Fisherman's Wharf by taking a local-led route, where you can smell the sourdough at Boudin Bakery and watch the sea lions’ antics at Pier 39. The tour also includes a stop at Ghirardelli Square to sample some world-famous chocolate. Finally, the tour wraps up with a cruise of San Francisco Bay and a sighting of the infamous Alcatraz.

Where to stay in San Francisco

You’re spoilt for choice

Indulge in San Francisco’s artier side and stay at one of the trend-setting hotels. You can balance your budget with options like StayPineapple in Union Square. On the other hand, Fairmont San Francisco has a regal look and a historic spirit for something swisher. Or, if you want to be in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf, consider The Argonaut or Hotel Caza.

Carmel & Monterey

Beauty abound

Your first drive on Highway 1 would take around two and a half hours if you didn’t stop, but you’ll want to make a day of it and pause to admire the views – perhaps to hike at Lands End or spot sealife at Pigeon .. Monterey and Carmel are two charming towns on California's central coast. It’s a place known for the sensational Monterey Bay Aquarium, the gazillionaire mansions on the 17-Mile Drive, and the world-class golf at Pebble Beach.

What to do in Monterey & Carmel

Slow your pace

Boat trips and sailing cruises aplenty depart from Old Fisherman’s Wharf. When you’ve returned with a camera full of shots of breaching whales and frolicking seals, stay for clam chowder at a wharf’s restaurant overlooking Monterey Bay and get a second glimpse of the seals playing on the rocks.

Where to stay in Monterey & Carmel

Plan your escape

Whisk away to the gorgeous Carmel Valley Ranch. Everything you eat and drink here is decisively local: garden-fresh food from the two-acre organic plot, honey from the beehives, and wine from the hotel’s vines. There’s also an onsite creamery churning out cheese and ice cream in equal measure. Snuggle up with blankets by a fire pit at the Clubhouse Grill and go for country club feels in the Valley Kitchen.

Santa Barbara

90 miles north of Los Angeles

Take Highway 1 and stop in Big Sur for big sights, including Bixby Bridge, giant redwood groves, and waterfalls in Pfeiffer State Park. Eventually, you’ll reach Spanish-style Santa Barbara, where you’ll stay for a few nights. The red-tiled roofs and white stucco buildings house local wine-tasting rooms, sustainably minded restaurants, and designer shops. They serve the dollared-up visitors and wealthy residents who live in the villas and bungalows that cling to the hillsides, commanding Pacific Ocean views.

What to do in Santa Barbara

The American Riviera lifestyle

Drive Santa Barbara's delightful 25-mile Scenic Drive for a helpful orientation around the city's landmarks and most exclusive real estate. See the Chromatic Gate - a colourful set of arches in front of the Pacific Ocean on Cabrillo Boulevard. Or people-watch on the electric Santa Barbara Trolley as it runs up and down State Street.

Where to stay in Santa Barbara

Choose your neighbourhood

Stay downtown in the hub of Santa Barbara with its palm-fringed boulevard, where people amble along, admiring the Spanish-style buildings that bless Santa Barbara with its Med-esque feels. Or head to Riviera, one of Santa Barbara’s most illustrious locales known to be more peaceful and residential than other neighbourhoods.

Los Angeles

The grand finale

The shortest drive of your trip is between Santa Barbara and LA. Continue to follow Highway 1 and plan to stop at beaches on your way to the city, arriving in LA via Malibu. Then plunge into this glitter-dusted, star-studded metropolis, getting swept up in the promises of Hollywood. Then, head up to the hills or down to the beaches because there’s more to LA than urban utopia.

Hollywood Hills

What to do in Los Angeles

Head to Hollywood

Hollywood is as close as you can get to the land of dreams. It’s the classic LA experience. The Boulevard throngs with tourists, but you’ve got to see it at least once. Head to hipster Franklin Village for a scene that feels more like NYC and stay long enough to swim in Hollywood Roosevelt’s David Hockney-designed pool.

Griffith Observatory

Where to stay in Los Angeles

Stay near the studios or the swells

Get close to the entertainment you love with a stay in North Hollywood or Studio City. You are within spitting distance of Universal Studios and just a ten-minute drive from the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Or just 40 miles south of the city, Huntington Beach has all of SoCal’s upscale surf shack feels. Its longboard lifestyle and full-throttle swells have garnered it the official Surf City USA title.