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Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary – Seattle to San Diego

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

A Pacific Coast Highway road trip – arguably one of America’s most iconic road trips. So many have dreams of driving alongside the coast in a drop top convertible with the sun beaming on your face. In the current COVID world, an epic 3-state, socially-distanced road trip was the perfect way to quench my thirst of the travel that I’ve been missing in our new world.


First let me start by saying, I completed this trip in 8 days, but I would suggest adding another 2-3 days to shorten some of the drive times.


Day 1: Seattle, WA

Space Needle in Seattle, CJ's Eatery - Photo credit: Ronda Wright.


What a cool city! The downtown area was lively with people out and about. Make sure you spend time at Pike’s Market. Even at night, it’s pretty active and has several restaurants in the area. You also have to make the obligatory trip to the Space Needle.


Where to Stay:

Hyatt Regency Seattle is a beautiful hotel right in the downtown area, and you can easily walk to several restaurants and bars. The rooms are very spacious and super comfortable.


Where to Eat:

Check out CJ’s Eatery for breakfast. It’s a few minutes away from Pike’s Market so you don’t have to worry about the long lines to be seated. The chicken sausage was fantastic, and their mimosas pack a punch so be careful!


 

Day 2: Olympic National Park (Hoh Rainforest, Ruby Beach) & Long Beach, WA

Olympic National Park, Breakfast at Benson’s By The Beach - Photo Credit: Ronda Wright.


Did you realize that Washington state has a rainforest? Honestly, I did not know this before I started planning my trip! Hoh Rainforest is one of the largest temperate rainforests in the US and you should definitely make a stop here and do a hike. The sights are unreal – just make sure you get there early as they are currently metering the number of cars entering due to COVID. Ruby Beach is only a few minutes from the entrance to Hoh Rainforest. Yes, it’s worth the stop and make sure you take your camera!


Where to Stay:

Boardwalk Cottages in Long Beach blew my mind. These cute cottages had everything that you needed for a short stay – microwave, fridge, plates, silverware, and napkins. These cottages are only about 2 blocks from the beach…and did I mention they bring you fresh pastries in the morning from a local bakery?


Where to Eat:

I had the best bacon that I can ever remember eating at Benson’s By The Beach. This restaurant in Long Beach is forever on my list for it’s amazing, thick cut bacon and the largest pancakes I’ve ever eaten. And the pancakes were the perfect consistency…not so thick that you’re about to choke and not too thin that you can’t taste anything. Make sure you check out Benson’s By The Beach for breakfast!


 

Day 3: Astoria, Cannon Beach & Newport, OR

Astoria, OR, Cannon Beach - Photo Credit: John McKnight, Ronda Wright


If you’re an 80’s baby (or older), then you remember The Goonies. This classic was filmed in Astoria, Oregon…and oddly enough, as you drive through the city, it still has the same small, storybook feel to it. Tip: the best view of the Astoria-Megler bridge is from behind the Holiday Inn.


Cannon Beach is a must-stop for your list. Not only is the beach itself beautiful with formations like Haystack Rock but, the city itself is filled with boutique shops, galleries, and restaurants. While heading south, make sure you stop to see Devil’s Punchbowl at Otter Rock Marine Reserve.


I was not planning to stop in Newport, but my stomach had other plans. The Bay Street pier of Newport is full of local shops and restaurants – it’s a great place to stretch your legs with a nice walk and grab some grub while you’re in the area.


Where to Eat:

I found Clearwater Restaurant while walking along the pier in Newport. Again, this location was not on my list, but the seafood was so fresh and tasty. Try the seafood pasta if you’re in the area.


 

Day 4: Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Glass Beach, Mendocino, CA

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, CA, Dinner at 5200 Restaurant & Lounge - Photo Credit: Ronda Wright.


As you leave Oregon and head into California, what do you start to see? The Redwoods! These trees are breathtaking and really give you perspective on just how small and finite we are as people. Humboldt Redwoods State Park has several trails that you can take which gives you up close views of these phenoms. Tip: If you’re trying to closely manage your time, drive through the Avenue of Giants and walk one of the trails directly from the main road.


One of my favorite stops along the road trip was to Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, CA. This beach is known for the glass pieces that wash up on the shore, but I was most fascinated with the natural, rocky terrain and how close I could get to what felt like the end of the world. Make sure Glass Beach is a stop that you include on your PCH road trip!


Where to Stay:

I stayed at Heritage House Resort & Spa right outside of Mendocino. This property felt like the set from a movie – it’s located right on the coast, so your views are literally of waves crashing against the coastline. The rooms were gorgeous and provided for absolute privacy to make you feel like you were in your own oasis. I certainly will go back to Heritage House for a longer stay.


Where to Eat:

Inside The Heritage House resort is 5200 Restaurant and Lounge. When we were visiting, they were still serving a limited menu, but the tacos and burgers were great! They hit the spot after a long day on the road.


 

Day 5: San Francisco, CA

Golden Gate Bridge - Photo Credit: John McKnight.


San Francisco is always a good time. It’s my favorite US city and, every time I go back, I love it even more. While in San Francisco, make sure you hop on a trolley car and ride down to Fisherman’s Wharf to enjoy the piers. If you have the time, visit Alcatraz or go sailing in the bay. If you’re short on time, park your car and just walk around Nob Hill or Embarcadero.


Where to Stay:

Hotel Adagio was a great resting spot for the night. It’s in the perfect location right in the heart of the bustle and only a few blocks away from the train and trolley line. The hotel rooms are well-appointed, the staff is awesome, and there are several bars, restaurants, and major retail shopping within a 5 min walk of the hotel.


Where to Eat:

I love eating seafood in San Francisco so, this time I had dinner at Pier Market Seafood Restaurant. I don’t know what special tricks they did when preparing my salmon, but I almost ordered a second piece when I finished eating it because it was so good. I know that makes me sound greedy, but hey, it is what it is!


 

Day 6: Big Sur & Santa Barbara, CA

Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, CA, Breakfast at Scarlett Begonia, Santa Barbara, CA - Photo Credit: Ronda Wright.


Leaving San Francisco and continuing south will bring you through Big Sur. The coastline in this area is so picturesque. Make sure you take your time and explore in this area. Another “must-do” on any Pacific Coast Highway road trip is enjoying the view of Bixby Creek Bridge. Tip: stop at the Castle Rock Lookout Point to get the best view of the bridge and sea together.

The next stop was in Santa Barbara, and I fell in love! I think I could live there! Santa Barbara has just the right amount of calm and chill with a strong dash of “it’s a vibe”. It was so easy to feel comfortable there and just enjoy this beautiful coastal city.

Where to Stay:

Hotel Milo Santa Barbara is directly across the street from the beach. The property has several courtyards with sitting areas and firepits. They definitely set this hotel up to maximize the great weather and beach views.

Where to Eat:

I had the BEST French toast in life at Scarlett Begonia in Santa Barbara. Tres leches, fresh strawberries, whipped mascarpone, and sliced almonds – it all tasted heavenly!


 

Day 7: Venice Beach and Los Angeles, CA

Venice Beach, CA; The Wayfarer Downtown Los Angeles - Photo Credit: Ronda Wright


Making it to Venice Beach and strolling along the boardwalk was so much fun. You could easily stay here all day enjoying the beach, watching the skaters, and seeing what tricks the street ballers are going to pull that day. The random folks I met along Venice Beach was the best part of the day.


Los Angeles is another area where you could easily spend a week exploring. Depending on the amount of time that you have and your interests, build some time in your trip to visit Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Griffith Observatory, Paramount Pictures, or Sunset Boulevard.


Where to Stay:

During my time in Los Angeles, I stayed at The Wayfarer Downtown Los Angeles. Like Hotel Adagio, its central location (a few blocks from Staples Center) was perfect for venturing out by foot to explore the city. The interior design of the hotel was also unique and modern.


What to Eat:

Believe it or not, my best meal in Los Angeles was at Venice Beach at El Huarique Venice. This Peruvian restaurant is right on the boardwalk and has THE BEST rotisserie chicken that I’ve ever had…and the rice and beans just set it off! That meal felt like I was back at home in the country on a Sunday afternoon! When you go to Venice Beach, you absolutely must try out El Huarique.


 

Day 8: San Diego, CA

Sunset on the pier in San Diego, CA - Photo Credit: Ronda Wright.


The last stop on my Pacific Coast Highway road trip was San Diego. It felt more like a family city with lots of green space and wide-open beaches. The area near the pier was very lively with lots of people out and about at restaurants and bars. I will definitely return to San Diego to see more of this city.


So yes…I went from the Canada/US border all the way to the US/Mexico border. It was a week full of breathtaking moments that I can’t wait to relive again!


 

Founder of The Wright Getaway


Hey, I'm Ronda Wright 👋🏽

I’m the founder of The Wright Getaway. I love all things travel and helping other people experience the world.


Let's chat about your upcoming travel plans!


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