California’s coast-hugging Pacific Highway is the road of self-driving daydreams. Picture yourself winding along the coastal road with the Pacific to one side of you and mountains to the other.
Suggested route & duration
11 nights from San Francisco
• San Francisco: 2 nights
• Monterey: 1 night
• Morro Bay: 2 nights
• Santa Barbara: 2 nights
• Los Angeles: 2 nights
• San Diego: 2 nights
About this independent tour
Why you’ll love this self-drive
• Visit the three big cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, each with a very different vibe
• Drive along the most dramatic stretch of Cali’s Pacific Coast Highway: breathtaking Big Sur
• Visit Morro Bay, an easy-going coastal town that’s home to Morro Rock, a favourite sea otter hangout
• Stop a while in Santa Barbara to soak up the laid-back atmosphere
• This itinerary can also be done in a motorhome.
Suggested self-drive details
Day 1: San Francisco Start your trip in the best way possible: spending a couple of nights in the City by the Bay. Stay 2 nights at Handlery Union Square.
Day 3: Monterey Begin your journey along State Route 1 as you drive from San Francisco to Monterey. Stay at Portolo Hotel.
Day 4: Morro Bay Drive through the Big Sur region, the most spectacular stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway. From here you’ll have time to explore the nearby Paso Robles wine region and San Luis Obispo. Stay at Blue Sail Inn.
Day 6: Santa Barbara Sun-kissed and effortlessly charming, the American Riviera city of Santa Barbara is a delightful place to stop on the Pacific Coast Highway. Stay 2 nights at Best Western Plus Pepper Tree Inn.
Day 8: Los Angeles Jump between Los Angeles’s cities within a city: Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica. Stay 2 nights at Marina Del Rey Hotel.
Day 10: San Diego End your Pacific-skimming drive in almost-always-sunny San Diego. Stay 2 nights at Kona Kai Resort & Spa.
Drive one of the world’s most beautiful stretches of road: State Route 1 through Big Sur
See the sea otter colony that live near Morro Rock in Morro Bay
Soak up the SoCal beach lifestyle and stay for an amazing Pacific coast sunset
Iconic San Diego digs
Treat yourself to a couple of nights at San Diego’s world-famous Hotel Del Coronado
Tailor your tour
Make it your own
We’ve crafted this self-drive based on our own experiences and customers’ feedback. It’s fully flexible, so talk to us and we can create your perfect trip.
Where to stay
The included hotels have been picked for their good value and setting. In the cities, there are plenty of alternatives; we love the classic style of the Fairmont San Francisco and the beach backdrop of the iconic Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego. For a special treat, spend a night at Ventana Inn & Spa in Big Sur.
Of course we recommend stopping everywhere and anywhere you can in Big Sur, but there’s lots of other things to do: head over to Morro Rock in Morro Bay to see the sea otters; join the locals for breakfast at Hendry Beach near Santa Barbara; and visit Pismo Beach, a classic Cali surf town.
We would suggest setting aside no less than 11 nights for this self-drive. You could easily spend longer in San Francisco and Los Angeles as there’s so much to do in both cities. And if you choose one of San Diego’s beach resorts, it would be understandable if you want to stick around a little longer.
There are lots of other places that you can add to this itinerary to create the ultimate Californian holiday. Take a detour to Yosemite, which is about four hours from San Francisco, or the Sonoma or Napa Valley wine regions. Between LA and San Diego, head inland to Palm Springs.
Good to know
When to go
• The high summer months are often foggy in San Francisco and along the central coast but further south it should be warm and sunny
• Autumn is the perfect time to visit thanks to the Indian summers in northern and central California
• Late spring and early summer usually bring clear skies and lovely warm temperatures