How to Plan a Perfect Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip

Sponsored by Hyatt Hotels


A rebirth of the great American Road Trip is upon us. And with what better route to celebrate this road trip renaissance than the Pacific Coast Highway?


Here’s a list of our favorite stops, photo-ops, and social distancing-friendly activities from San Diego to San Francisco. 

Bixby Bridge

San Diego

There are countless ways to explore this sunny SoCal metropolis. While Balboa Park’s museums and cultural organizations may not yet be open to the public, this 1,200-acre urban oasis still offers plenty of Instagrammable settings with its outdoor gardens and stunning architecture.  


Stretch your legs with a walk around Waterfront Park just off PCH. This vibrant waterfront public space in downtown San Diego has spectacular views of the ocean, a reflecting pool, a native plant garden, and public art.


The waterfront Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego provides easy access to the city's best beaches, restaurants, shops, and more. 



Situated 25 miles north of downtown San Diego, Carlsbad has the perfect beach for every seaside activity from walking and jogging to swimming and surfing. At Tamarack Beach you can walk along the Carlsbad Sea Wall, a paved pathway with convenient access points to the beach and street. The overlook above the parking lot and wide stretch of sand at South Ponto Beach make this Carlsbad gem a fantastic place for a sunset stroll.


The AAA Five-Diamond Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club and Spa in Carlsbad offers an extraordinary coastal retreat. Hit the links at one of the best golf courses in the country and enjoy relaxed outdoor recreation with hiking trails on the resort’s sprawling 200 acres.

Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa

Dana Point

Known as the "Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World", this delightful beach city attracts dolphins and a variety of whale species to its warm waters year-round. Dana Point Harbor is a great place to rent private boat charters for exciting whale and dolphin watching tours. Take a hike up the 200-foot cliffs near the harbor and scan the horizon for Blue, Fin, Humpback, and Minke whales during the summer months.


Huntington Beach

Welcome to Surf City, USA! Soak up some gnarly vibes with a stroll on the Huntington Beach Pier, one of the longest piers on the West Coast. Take in refreshing ocean breezes and watch surfers ride HB’s world-famous waves.


Just steps from the sand, Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa with its coastal chic atmosphere is the perfect oceanfront location for your Surf City getaway.

Huntington Beach Pier

Santa Barbara

Around 100 miles north of Los Angeles lies Santa Barbara, a charming seaside city with unique Spanish Colonial architecture. Take a free self-walking tour and check out historic attractions including the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, La Arcada Plaza, and El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park.


Located across from East Beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara is the ideal hotel for your American Riviera retreat.

Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara

San Simeon

Just across Highway One from the legendary Hearst Castle is William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach—a tranquil destination for hiking, beachcombing, and pier fishing. Visitors don’t need a fishing license if they stay on the pier.


The Piedras Blancas Rookery is a short seven-mile drive north of San Simeon. Stop here to observe hundreds of elephant seals lying on the beach from a safe distance on the boardwalk. The viewing areas are accessible and free of charge.


Big Sur

The most scenic stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway lies between San Simeon and Carmel. One of the most photographed sites in Big Sur is McWay Falls—a spectacular 80-foot-tall waterfall that empties into the Pacific Ocean. The short and easy-paced Overlook Trail offers wonderful views of the waterfall.


A Highway 1 road trip isn’t complete without a stop to marvel at the Bixby Bridge, situated 15 miles south of Carmel. Constructed in 1932, the concrete arch soars 260 feet above a deep canyon and is one of the tallest bridges of its kind in the world. The surrounding steep, dramatic cliffs and ocean present an amazing backdrop for exceptional photos of this celebrated landmark.


For a truly remarkable stay, choose Ventana Big Sur - An Alila Resort. This AAA Four-Diamond coastal resort features a variety of sophisticated rooms, suites, and “glampsites” for the ultimate luxury camping experience.

Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort Ventana Big Sur - An Alila Resort

San Francisco

Our final stop is San Francisco, home to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Marshall’s Beach, a secluded shorefront spot just north of Baker Beach, provides picturesque views of the bridge amid plenty of natural beauty.


Get some fresh air at Yerba Buena Gardens, a serene oasis located in the cultural heart of the city. Walk around the Gardens’ open spaces and admire the beautiful landscapes. Don't miss Lombard Street, also known as the “Crookedest Street in the World.” Well known for its steep, dizzying grade and eight hairpin turns, this popular attraction gives visitors a unique experience whether you choose to drive or walk the street.


The Hyatt Place San Francisco/Downtown in Mission Bay is just a one-mile walk from Yerba Buena Gardens. Here, you can enjoy sweeping downtown views and sleek, modern rooms. 


AAA Members Save with Hyatt

Pack your bags, fill up the tank, and arrive at a warm and safe welcome where your safety and well-being remains a top priority.


And for a limited time, AAA Members can enjoy 20% off the standard rate with a flexible cancellation policy at participating Hyatt hotels and resorts.

Many travel destinations have implemented COVID-19–related restrictions. Before making travel plans, check to see if hotels, attractions, cruise lines, tour operators, restaurants, and local authorities have issued health and safety-related restrictions or entry requirements.