California is truly one of the greatest places in the world to discover. There is such a variety of landscapes to explore from the coastline, mountains, vineyards, state parks, and bustling cities while on your 10-day California coast road trip.
The best way to see California is by an adventurous road trip. So start packing and hit the road to explore my favorite coastline.
From living it up in San Diego to unplugging on the central coast, you will discover an impressive diversity that few places on the planet compare to while on your 10-day California coast road trip.
The best way to experience it all… is in a camper!
Since there are so many amazing state parks and places to camp along the coastline, it is best to have a camper or rent one for your 10-day California road trip.
Glamping makes all the difference. It simplifies your camping experience and you won’t have to tough it out in a tent and feel uncomfortable. Glamping will assure that you have all the amenities!
Do not worry if you do not own a camper, we highly suggest checking out Outdoorsy. This way you can find your dream California vehicle.
It’s kind of tough to explore it all in LA, but we are here to help you find the best places. It all starts with a hike up to the Hollywood sign!
You just got your workout for the day! Now it’s time for a nice lunch at one of LA’s finest restaurants. We highly suggest strolling down Melrose Street in order to find the perfect spot for lunch. Are you ready for some shopping? If so, head on over to Abbot Kinney Blvd.
TIP – LA also has some of the yummiest food trucks, so make sure to hit them up.
Make sure to check out the Griffith Observatory before making your way to Malibu where you will unwind after a whirlwind LA experience.
As you journey north along the coast, don’t miss out on one of the coolest beaches in LA. A stroll through Venice Beach definitely is worth your time. Founded in 1905 as a beachfront resort, Venice Beach has morphed into an artsy, cultural mecca just a short drive north of Central LA. You will find everything such as boutiques, coffee bars, art galleries, and more, but don’t shop too much as you will be heading up the coast
Make sure to check out Santa Monica Pier because you will find scrumptious seafood shacks, trinkets, and beautiful views of the ocean. Malibu is another hot spot to find great Instagram famous beaches, grab lunch, and tour the Pepperdine University campus.
Once you go up the coast to Santa Barbara, there is so much to explore. From shopping, beaches, and more great food options, you may feel like you want to stay here for a couple of days.
If you are hoping to spend some time in Santa Barbara, make sure to stay at The Hotel Californian. Our Fora Advisor will make sure you have everything you need plus extra perks. This unique property is right in the heart of it all. A perfect way to see as much as possible in Santa Barbara while visiting.
There is so much to explore in this region. As you leave Santa Barbara, make sure to stop in California’s Little Denmark (AKA Solvang). This quaint European-style town will bring you to a faraway destination. Wander around with your camera, then stop by one of their many wine tasting rooms.
TIP – If you are looking for an off-beaten-path destination and the best burger, then look no further.
If you are hoping to glamp in this region, we are excited to share our favorite hidden gem. Jalama Beach County Park is a one-road in-and-out state park where you can camp right on the beach. It can get windy there, so make sure to be prepared. The campground has a little shop where you will find the world’s best burgers. If you don’t want to cook and clean, then I highly suggest trying their famous Jalama Burgers.
The distance between Santa Barbara and Jalama Beach is about 46 miles. This will take just over an hour until you get to one of the most pristine beaches in California. As you wind down to the beach you will feel as though you are set deep in the Mediterranean.
After shopping our hearts out, eating, and touring the tasting rooms of Solvang, and vineyards in Los Olivos, we started the next day with a trip to Pismo Beach. We enjoy spending several days surfing, eating fresh seafood, and walking the beach. We stay at one quaint little inn on the top of the cliffs, watch eye-catching sunsets, and drink scrumptious wine. There are so many amazing restaurants in Pismo, but one of our faves on the bluff is https://ventanagrill.com. We also enjoy going on a clam chowder tour, but The Splash Cafe wins every time.
Pismo is also quite known for its famous Monarch Butterfly Grove which is filled with butterflies from late October through February. Loving the area? Drive about 10 minutes north and check out the sweet little beach town of Avila. If you have a dog, this is the perfect place to head to the beach to let your dog meet California local doggies and learn the ropes.
Driving up the iconic 101 is spectacular. Another stunningly photogenic stop on your way up to San Luis Obispo is the volcanic mound at Morro Bay. This is the perfect pit stop for getting out to enjoy the sun, grabbing some delicious seafood, and viewing the natural beauty. If you are exhausted and looking for a great stay, check out The Madonna Inn.
Famous for its wineries and olive groves, plan to spend at least one full day experiencing all of the incredible wines of Paso Robles.
We sipped our way through the vineyards all day. We started at Donati Family Vineyard then at Arndt Cellars, a boutique winery that creates hand-crafted award-winning wines. The wine tasting options are endless here.
After a couple of hours on the road, you’ll come to San Simeon and Hearst Castle near the town of Cambria, which is a great spot to get out and check out the beautiful beaches. This National Historic Landmark was the illustrious mansion of William Randolph Hearst, and it is stunningly beautiful.
Not far from Hearst Castle, Piedras Blancas is a must-stop. Check out the elephant seals sunning, being noisy, and grab some pics of the Piedras Blancas Light Station.
It’s a short, but breathtaking drive from Big Sur to Carmel. This quaint coastal town has an abundance of high-end shops and restaurants located within walking distance of the beach. From charming hotels to impeccable restaurants and don’t forget the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course, Carmel is a little nook of heaven.
Start early to get to Pebble Beach. From here, you can explore the famous 17-Mile Drive for some of the most beautiful landscapes in the United States. Be sure to check out the iconic Lone Cypress at Pebble Beach!
Another stunning little spot, Carmel-by-the-Sea, is full of historic sites, boutiques, and fairytale like cottages. Plan at least a quick stop here to explore or even spend a day here.
If you are a golfer or would like to hit the spa, Pebble Beach is a lovely place to spend a night or two as you pass through on your way to San Francisco.
The trip from Carmel to San Francisco is about two hours, and to be honest the drive is just as incredible as the destination.
Once you get into Monterey, make sure to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which has an impressive look into local marine life. Before you hop back in the car, take a stroll down Cannery Row to experience the heart of Monterey.
From Monterey to San Francisco, there are endless places to get out and stretch. If you are ready for a little city life you can cut over on Highway 17, but if you want to continue your scenic journey stay on the 101.
You will hit a small city on the California coast, south of San Francisco called Half Moon Bay. Here you can find a string of beaches along the bay including Half Moon Bay State Beach. Make sure to check out the Coastside Trail which leads north to Pillar Point, near the huge waves of the Mavericks surf spot.
Looking to enjoy a little more shopping? Half Moon Bay has a variety of different local boutiques, wine, and cheese tasting, or grab a cup of freshly brewed coffee from one of the amazing local coffee shops.
It’s time to hop back in the car and drive just a short 40 min before you arrive in San Francisco where you literally will find it all!
San Francisco has it all! Check out Pier 39 where you can find souvenirs and Fisherman’s Wharf for delicious seafood and cocktails.
TIP – This is the place for ultra-fresh seafood and breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.
As you are walking away from Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll run into Ghirardelli Square. A place that was once a chocolate factory turned into a great little shopping area.