This past week Joe and I along with my little brother Michael road tripped up the Pacific Coast Highway 1 (PCH 1) from San Diego to San Francisco! We had just the very best time! Joe and I had been planning this trip for awhile and planned to do it sometime in 2016. My little brother had a $1,500 travel voucher to United that he needed to use by the end of the year so we decided this would be the perfect trip to get free airfare for! Thanks Mikey!! It was so special for Joe and I to have this time with my little brother before he moves to Spain next month, so special! (Images in this post are a mix of iPhone photos that I took and photos from our Canon 6D that Joe and I both took!)
We flew into San Diego early on Tuesday morning and we picked up our rental car and head to Coronado Island. We ate at Il Fornios right on the bay with stunning views of the city! Joe lived in San Diego before we met and he has alllllllways said he has wanted to bring me to this restaurant when we came to San Diego! It was such yummy Italian food with gorgeous views. We explored Coronado, ate ice cream, checked out the iconic Hotel del Coronado, drooled over the cutest beach cottages, and ate more ice cream 😉 We finished our first day with sunset at La Jolla checking out the sea lions and the gorgeous coastal cliff scenery.
On our second day in San Diego we checked out Mission beach and Pacific beach, some of Joe’s favorite beaches when he lived here! We had the best time chilling on the beach, walking along the beach, biking, and checking out cute shops. This is the perfect place to grab an acai bowl! Of note: we ate at Taco Surf Taco Shop in Mission beach for lunch and HOLY FISH TACO DELICIOUSNESS. Highly recommend! We hiked around at bit and watched the sunset at Sunset Cliffs and watching some brave people jump off the cliffts! The sunset was particularly gorgeous on this night! We ended our day with Sushi in Olde Town at Harney Sushi – which had such a fun atmosphere and great sushi.
Early the next morning we started on PCH 1 from San Diego to Santa Barbara. Which should usually take about 5-6 hours on the PCH 1. Unfortunately we hit LA traffic and it turned into a 11 hour drive forfeiting our beach time in Santa Barbara…BUT THE DRIVE WAS AMAZING! (And we got to eat In-N-Out burgers!!) The drive was pretty much along the coast the whole way and the scenery kept changing! It was awesome! The portion of the drive right before you arrive in Santa Barbara was tons of berry and citrus fields which I thought was so cool! In Santa Barbara we walked the beach & the harbor, checked out the Four Seasons Biltmore (stunning!) and hit up Lilac Patisserie for some yummy baked goods. I wish we had more time in Santa Barbara, it was gorgeous with the mountains leading right up to the coast.
The next day we drove from Santa Barbara through Big Sur and ended in Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, a lot of the stops in Big Sur were closed due to the wild fires. We didn’t do any hiking due to our limited amount of time, we just enjoyed the drive and took in the breathtaking scenery. It was over the top gorgeous the entire time. Here is our list of places we either got to stop or wanted to stop, definitely check out Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls, Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur Bakery, Nepenthe, and Penth.
After driving through Big Sur we drove about an hour past there and we stayed one night at the Chaminade Resort and Spa in Santa Cruz. We had just the best time! The Chaminade is a gorgeous resort with Spanish style buildings on a mountain set on 200 acres overlooking the Pacific Ocean(INSERT MAJOR HEART EYES HERE). They staff was so welcoming and accomidating! They have tons to do like sand volleyball, hiking trails, tennis courts, a pool, a Jacuzzi, a spa, and several restaurants with breathtaking views. We cannot recommend staying at the Chaminade enough, it was the perfect oasis on this road trip to stop over for a night or two! Our favorite part of the trip was staying here – no joke! It was such a perfect break between long days on our road trip. We enjoyed the spa, pool, and cheese and wine on their verandas near the fire pit. The weather gets cooler in the evening and it was seriously like we were living in a dream! We only wish we could have stayed longer.
For our last leg of the trip we left in the afternoon from Santa Cruz and continued 2 hours north up the PCH 1 to San Francisco. We didn’t have a ton of time, and to be honest didn’t totally love SF. The city felt a lot like Athens to me, crowded, dirty, expensive, and trafficky…give us San Diego/Santa Cruz any day! We ate a late lunch at Tacolicios (which was DELCIOUS), got ice cream at Smitten, where they make it with liquid nitrogen right in front of you, so cool (!) and explored the Bay area. We did love seeing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge of course. The next morning, we flew home from SFO!
If we could change anything about this trip, we would take an alternate route through LA, to try and avoid 4-5 hours of traffic. We would stay in San Diego and Santa Cruz longer! We would start up north in SF and drive south. You end at the best last and this way the coast and all the view points and pull offs would be on your right, giving you much easier access to them. Overall though this trip was just so fun! We didn’t even scratch the surface of all Cali has to offer but man we loved every minute of this awesome-jam packed-trip!
Thank you Chaminade for having us! Our stay was comp’d in exchange for photos/video that we provided for the hotel which you can view in this post. All opinions, photos, videos, and reviews in this post are my own.