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Pacific Coast Highway Holidays

One of the most scenic drives in the world, the Pacific Coast Highway meanders down the fabulously rugged California coastline. This length of road – otherwise known as Highway 1 – encompasses all of California's best bits: think laid-back beach towns, glamorous cities, captivating landscapes and epic wildlife. From the bright lights of Hollywood to the flip-flopping elephant seals of the Big Sur, the Pacific Coast Highway is bursting with diversity. So what are you waiting for? Grab yourself a car and head out on an iconic American road trip.

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  • Top places to see
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San Francisco & Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco is an excellent place to start or finish your Pacific Coast Highway trip. This vibrant city is known for its hedonistic, trendy lifestyle, tech companies (Google's HQ, in particular) and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge – but there is so much to discover beyond that. Explore hidden eateries and tea houses in Chinatown, ride the iconic cable cars along steep streets lined with Victorian terraces, grab a bike and cycle around Fisherman's Wharf and Golden Gate Park, and catch a the ferry to the island-prison of Alcatraz – easily the most infamous lock-up in the USA. Oh, and don't leave without trying some fresh-baked sourdough bread.

Napa Valley

Whilst cruising along the Pacific Highway take a short detour to Napa Valley and neighbouring Sonoma to sample some of the world’s most exquisite wines, in some of the world’s most exquisite wineries. This region is famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon but you can also find sweet, delicious Zinfandels and even delectable white wines such as crisp Chardonnays and rich, fruity Riesling.

Big Sur

The Pacific Coast Highway winds tantalisingly around the dramatic, wave-bashed scenery of the Big Sur coastline. Cliffs rise up from sapphire waters which are bursting with marine life – you can get up close and personal with elephant seals at Point Piedras Blancas or, between December and February, look out for humpback whales offshore. Gaze down on the McWay Falls as it flows directly into the Pacific and cross the landmark Bixby Bridge. You can also see redwood forests, just off from the Pacific Coast Highway itself.

Santa Cruz & Monterey

Along the Pacific Coast Highway are the blissful beach towns of Monterey and Santa Cruz. Nature lovers should pay a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see some of the breathtaking wildlife that can be found just off the coast while, in Santa Cruz, you can stroll along the lively boardwalk or get your blood pumping on one of the rides. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a fabulous place to visit and learn about the towering trees that populate this area of coastline, not to mention the ideal spot for a hike amongst the groves.

Hollywood

What would a trip to California be without strolling the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame? Stop off in Los Angeles to see the epicentre of so many iconic pieces of historic film and popular culture. Go behind the scenes on a studio tour, get a photograph in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater or seek out your favourite celebrity on a Hollywood homes tour. For big kids, don't miss a day at Universal Studios Hollywood, or stargazing from the Griffith Observatory.

Santa Monica & Venice Beach

Whilst in Los Angeles be sure to head down to the coast – specifically to the trendy Venice Beach, where you can watch locals working out at the iconic Muscle Beach, or try roller-blading along the boardwalk. Here you can also find myriad artisan shops and stalls selling handmade wares. Of course you won't want to miss neighbouring Santa Monica either. Indeed, the world-famous Santa Monica Pier marks the end of the epic Route 66 and also affords great views of the surrounding coastline. Santa Monica itself is awash with swanky hotels, great dining opportunities and classy bars.

Huntington Beach

Towards the south east of the city of Los Angeles, in Orange County, lies the beautiful city of Huntington Beach. Renowned for its rolling waves, competitive boarding, and sweeping 10-mile-long stretch of sand, this suburb more than earns its nickname of Surf City.

Santa Barbara

A great stop before or just after Los Angeles, Santa Barbara has an excellent Zoo, Botanic Garden and, for those who fancy a little more culture, Lobero and Arlington theatres.

San Diego

A great place to start or end the trip is San Diego. This laid-back city near the Mexican border embodies so much of what the locals love about “SoCal” – fantastic climate, beachside living, wide-open park areas and a thriving cultural and social scene.  

More About California

Currency: US Dollar

Language: English

Vaccinations: Extra vaccinations are not required.

Getting there

Flight time: London to San Francisco, San Jose or Oakland flight time is 11 hours. London to San Diego or Los Angeles flight time is 11 hours 15 minutes.

Main Airports: Los Angeles International Airport, also known as LAXand San Francisco International Airport.

Visas: British Citizens require an ESTA, which you can apply for online.