Lonely Planet Pacific Coast Highways Road Trips
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Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Whether exploring your own backyard or somewhere new, discover the freedom of the open road with Lonely Planet Pacific Coast Highways Road Trips. Featuring four amazing road trips, plus up-to-date advice on the destinations you'll visit along the way, explore America's creative coast's breezy, wildlife-rich highways with your trusted travel companion. Jump in the car, turn up the tunes, and hit the road!

Inside Lonely Planet Pacific Coast Highways Road Trips:

Lavish color and gorgeous photography throughout Itineraries and planning advice to pick the right tailored routes for your needs and interests Get around easily - easy-to-read, full-color route maps, detailed directions Insider tips to get around like a local, avoid trouble spots and be safe on the road - local driving rules, parking, toll roads Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Useful features - including Stretch Your Legs, Detours, Link Your Trip Covers Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pacific coast, Big Sur, Northern Redwood Coast, Disneyland, Orange County and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Pacific Coast Highways Road Trips is perfect for exploring California's coast in the classic American way - by road trip!

Looking for more extensive coverage? Lonely Planet California, our most comprehensive guide to the region, is perfect for exploring both top sights and lesser-known gems, or check out Discover California, a photo-rich guide to the region's most popular attractions. Looking for more specifics on your road trip pitstops? Check out Lonely Planet's San Francisco and Los Angeles guides for a comprehensive look at all these cities have to offer, or Pocket San Francisco and Pocket Los Angeles, handy-sized guides focused on the can't-miss sights for a quick trip.

There's More in Store for You:

For more road-tripping ideas, check out Lonely Planet's Road Trips guides to Route 66 andSan Francisco Bay Area & Wine Country and Lonely Planet's Best Trips guides to California, New England, Southwest USA, Pacific Northwest, Florida & the South, New York & the Mid-Atlantic, and USA. Or start with our FREE SAMPLER '3 of the USA's Best Road Trips' with excerpts from each Road Trips guide to help you pick which region to explore first. Also, check out Lonely Planet's Road Trips guides to Chateaux of the Loire Valley, Normandy & D-Day Beaches, and Provence & Southeast France and Lonely Planet's Best Trips guides to Italy, France, and Ireland for some European road trip inspiration.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

Published: Lonely Planet on
ISBN: 9781743607169
List price: $12.99
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Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Pacific Coast Highways

Pacific Coast Highways Map

Pacific Coast Highways Highlights

San Francisco City Guide

Los Angeles City Guide

Need to Know


1 Pacific Coast Highways

2 Northern Redwood Coast

3 Big Sur

4 Disneyland & Orange County Beaches


San Francisco

Northern Coast & Redwoods


Fort Bragg



Patrick’s Point State Park

Humboldt Lagoons State Park

Redwood National Park

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Central Coast

Santa Cruz


San Luis Obispo

Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Wine Country

Los Olivos


Los Angeles

Disneyland & Orange County


Orange County Beaches

Laguna Beach

Newport Beach

Huntington Beach

San Diego

California Driving Guide

Driver’s License & Documents


Rental Vehicles

Border Crossing


Road Hazards & Conditions

Road Rules



Road Trip Websites

Behind the Scenes

Our Writers


Starry-eyed newbies head to the Golden State to find fame and fortune, but you can do better. Come for the landscapes, stay for the farm-fresh and global fusion food, and glimpse the future in the making on America’s creative coast.

     The trips in this book will take you along the breezy, wildlife-rich Pacific coast highways, from the towering redwoods of Northern California, the open roads of Big Sur, through to the famed Southern Californian beaches of Orange and San Diego Counties. Take time out to explore the vineyards of Santa Barbara County, the chilled out beach cities of Monterey and Santa Cruz, and the big city lights of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

     From backcountry lanes to beachside highways, we’ve got something for you.

Bixby Bridge (Click here), Big Sur



Golden Gate Bridge

Get another perspective on this world-famous, 20th-century engineering feat by driving across it.


Redwood Coast

Nothing compares to the awe you’ll feel while walking underneath these ancient trees.


Socal Beaches

Enjoy your ultimate beach vacation on the warm sands of Orange and San Diego Counties.



Victorian architecture, San Francisco



Ride the clanging cable cars up unbelievably steep hills, snake down Lombard St’s famous hairpin turns, cruise through Golden Gate Park and drive across the arching Golden Gate Bridge. Then go get lost in the creatively offbeat neighborhoods of California’s capital of weird.

Getting Around

Avoid driving downtown. Cable cars are slow and scenic (single rides $6). MUNI streetcar and bus are faster but infrequent after 9pm (fares $2). BART (tickets from $1.75) run high-speed Bay Area trains. Taxis cost $2.75 per mile; meters start at $3.50.


Street parking is scarce and meter readers ruthless. Meters take coins, sometimes credit cards; central pay stations accept coins or cards. Overnight hotel parking averages $35 to $50; downtown parking garages start at $2.50 per hour or $25 per day.

Where to Eat

The Ferry Building, Mission District and South of Market (SoMa) are foodie faves. Don’t miss the city’s outdoor farmers markets either. Head to North Beach for Italian, Chinatown for dim sum, the Mission District for Mexican, and the Sunset or Richmond for pan-Asian.

Where to Stay

The Marina is near the family-friendly waterfront and Fisherman’s Wharf. Downtown and Union Square are more expensive, but conveniently located for walking. Avoid the rough-edged Civic Center and Tenderloin neighborhoods.

Useful Websites

San Francisco Travel (www.sanfrancisco.travel) Destination info, events calendar and accommodations bookings.

SF Station (www.sfstation.com) Nightlife, restaurants, shopping and the arts.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/san-francisco) Travel tips and travelers’ forums.

Click here

Destinations coverage: Click here

Los Angeles skyline



Loony LA, land of starstruck dreams and Hollywood Tinseltown magic. You may think you know what to expect: celebrity worship, Botoxed beach blondes, endless traffic and earthquakes. But it’s also California’s most ethnically diverse city, with new immigrants arriving daily, evolving the boundary-breaking global arts, music and food scenes.

Getting Around

Angelenos drive everywhere. Freeway traffic jams are endless, but worst during morning and afternoon rush hours. Metro operates buses and subway and light-rail trains (fares $1.75), with limited night and weekend services. DASH minibuses (single-ride 50¢) zip around downtown; Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus (fares from $1) connects West LA. Taxis cost $2.80 per mile; meters start at $2.85.


Street parking is tough. Meters take coins, sometimes credit cards; central pay stations accept coins or cards. Valet parking is ubiquitous, typically $5 to $10 plus tip. Overnight hotel parking averages $25 to $40.

Where to Eat

Food trucks are a local obsession. Downtown cooks up a worldly mix, with Little Tokyo, Chinatown, Thai Town, Koreatown and Latin-flavored East LA nearby. Trend-setting eateries inhabit Hollywood, Mid-City, Santa Monica and Venice.

Where to Stay

For beach life, escape to Santa Monica or Venice. Long Beach is convenient to Disneyland and Orange County. Party people adore Hollywood; culture vultures, Downtown LA.

Useful Websites

LA Inc (http://discoverlosangeles.com) City’s official tourism website.

LA Weekly (www.laweekly.com) Arts, entertainment, dining and events calendar.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/los-angeles) Travel tips, hotel reservations and travelers’ forums.

Click here

Destinations coverage: Click here



The only foreign phones that will work in the USA are GSM multiband models. Network coverage is often spotty in remote areas (eg mountains, deserts).


Wi-fi is available at most coffee shops and lodgings. Some accommodations have free guest computers. Cybercafes ($6 to $12 per hour) are common in cities.


Gas stations are everywhere, except in national parks and remote areas. Expect to pay $4 to $5 per US gallon.


Alamo (www.alamo.com)

Car Rental Express (www.carrentalexpress.com)

Simply Hybrid (www.simplyhybrid.com)

Zipcar (www.zipcar.com)


American Automobile Association 877-428-2277)

Emergencies 911)

Highway conditions 800-427-7623)

Traffic updates 511)

When to Go


High Season (Jun–Aug)

A Accommodations prices up 50% to 100%.

A Major holidays are even busier and more expensive.

A Summer is low season in the desert: temperatures exceed 100°F (38°C).

Shoulder Season (Apr–May & Sep–Oct)

A Crowds and prices drop, especially along the coast and in the mountains.

A Typically wetter in spring, drier in autumn.

A Milder temperatures and sunny, cloudless days.

Low Season (Nov–Mar)

A Accommodations rates drop in cities and by the coast.

A Many attractions open fewer days and shorter hours.

A Chilly temperatures and rainstorms; mudslides occasionally wash out coastal highways.

A In the mountains, carry tire chains; heavy snowfall closes higher-elevation roads.

A Winter is peak season in SoCal’s desert regions.

Daily Costs

Budget: less than $75

A Camping: $20–40

A Meals in roadside diners and cafes: $10–20

A Graze farmers markets for cheaper eats

A Hit the beach and find ‘free days’ at museums

Midrange: $75–200

A Two-star motel or hotel double room: $75–150

A Meals in casual and midrange restaurants: $20–40

A Theme-park admission: $40–100

Top end: over $200

A Three-star lodging: from $150 per night in high season, more for ocean views

A Three-course meal in top restaurant: $75 plus wine


Roadside diners & cafes Cheap and simple; abundant only outside cities.

Beach shacks Casual burgers, shakes and seafood meals with ocean views.

National, state & theme parks Mostly so-so, overpriced cafeteria-style or deli picnic fare.

Vegetarians Food restrictions and allergies can usually be catered for at restaurants.

Eating price indicators represent the average cost of a main dish:


Motels & hotels Ubiquitous along well-trafficked highways and in major tourist areas.

Camping & cabins Ranging from rustic campsites to luxury ‘glamping’ resorts.

B&Bs Quaint, romantic and pricey inns, found in most coastal and mountain towns.

Hostels Cheap and basic, but almost exclusively in cities.

Price indicators represent the average cost of a double room with private bathroom:

Arriving in California

Los Angeles International Airport

Rental cars Major companies offer shuttles to off-airport lots.

Door-to-door shared-ride shuttles $16 to $27 one-way (reservations recommended).

Taxis $30 to $50 to Santa Monica, Hollywood or Downtown; 30 minutes to one hour.

Buses Take Shuttle C (free) to LAX City Bus Center or Metro FlyAway bus ($8) to Downtown LA.

San Francisco International Airport

Rental cars Take free AirTrain blue line to SFO Rental Car Center.

Door-to-door shared-ride shuttles $15 to $18 one-way (reservations recommended).

Taxis $35 to $50 plus tip to most San Francisco neighborhoods; 30 to 50 minutes.

Train BART ($8.25, 30 minutes to downtown SF) leaves every 20 minutes (take free AirTrain from any terminal to BART station).


ATMs are widely available. Credit cards are accepted almost universally.


Tipping is expected. Standard tips: 18% to 20% in restaurants; 15% for taxis; $1 per drink in bars; $2 per bag for porters.

Opening Hours

Banks 8:30am–4:30pm Mon–Fri, some to 5:30pm Fri, 9am–12:30pm Sat

Business hours (general) 9am–5pm Mon–Fri

Post offices 9am–5pm Mon–Fri, some 9am–noon Sat

Restaurants 7am–10:30am, 11:30am–2:30pm & 5–9:30pm daily, some later Fri & Sat

Shops 10am–6pm Mon-Sat, noon–5pm Sun (malls open later)

Useful Websites

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/usa/california) Destination info, hotel bookings, travelers’ forums and more.

California Travel and Tourism Commission (www.visitcalifornia.com) Multilingual trip-planning guides and an events calendar.

For more, see Driving in California

Road Trips

Pacific Coast Highways 7–10 Days

The ultimate coastal road trip takes in beaches, redwood forests and more.

Northern Redwood Coast 5 Days

Stand agape at colossal primeval forests and drop in on kitschy mid-20th-century roadside attractions.

Big Sur 2 Days

Get lost at wild beaches and bohemian camps along coastal Hwy 1.

Disneyland & Orange County Beaches 2–4 Days

Meet Mickey Mouse, then surf the sun-bronzed ‘OC’ coast.

Highway 1, Big Sur (Click here)


Pacific Coast Highways

San Diego

San Clemente

Long Beach


Santa Barbara

Pismo Beach

Around Hearst Castle


Santa Cruz

San Francisco

Around Point Arena

Mendocino & Fort Bragg


Redwood National Park

Pacific Coast Highways

Our top pick for classic California dreamin’ snakes along the Pacific coast for 1000 miles. Uncover beaches, seafood shacks and piers for catching sunsets over boundless ocean horizons.


7–10 DAYS

1000 MILES/1610KM



Year-round, but July to October for the sunniest skies.


Golden Gate Bridge over San Francisco Bay.


Santa Barbara north to Monterey via Big Sur.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco


Pacific Coast Highways

Make your escape from California’s tangled, traffic-jammed freeways and cruise in the slow lane. Once you get rolling, it’ll be almost painful to leave the ocean behind for too long. Officially, only the short, sun-loving stretch of Hwy 1 through Orange and Los Angeles Counties can legally call itself Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). But never mind those technicalities, because equally bewitching ribbons of Hwy 1 and Hwy 101 await all along this route.

Top of Chapter

1 San Diego

Begin at the bottom of the state map, where the pretty peninsular beach town of Coronado is connected to the San Diego mainland by the white-sand beaches of the Silver Strand. If you’ve seen Marilyn Monroe cavort in Some Like It Hot, you’ll recognize the Hotel Del Coronado 800-582-2595, 619-435-6611; www.hoteldel.com; 1500 Orange Ave), which has hosted US presidents, celebrities and royalty, including the Prince of Wales who gave up his throne to marry a Coronado divorcée. Wander the turreted palace’s labyrinthine corridors, then quaff tropical cocktails at ocean-view Babcock & Story Bar.

Be thrilled by driving over the