Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway is everything you’ve imagined, everything you’ve seen in iconic movie scenes and so much more. Offering views that will quite literally take your breath away, especially if someone doesn’t keep their eyes on the road, it’s one of the greatest road trips in the entire world. But for a successful journey, there are a few things you need to know – before you go.
Watching sunset take over beautiful oceanside canyons is spectacular. Realizing however that you’re 50 miles into a stretch of road, which is now treacherous and dark, with 50 miles to backtrack – just to get back to somewhere going your direction is not good. Vast stretches of Highway 1 are closed, and signage is very limited. Coming from the North, Carmel is roughly as far as you can go, before you’ll need to detour. The highway continues on with no warning signs, so heed this warning before driving on.
Bixby Bridge – Iconic
The Bixby Bridge is just south of Carmel, meaning you’ll have to pull a U-turn after viewing. But it’s completely worth it. In our opinion, it’s one of the most pristinely beautiful and inspiring places on earth. Anywhere – literally, anywhere. Try to time your trip for early morning or late afternoon, while the sun is still out, giving yourself ample time to make it back onto main roads before dark.
A few very clever entrepreneurs once figured out that Pacific Coast Highway offers very few detours – and that it’s a very long stretch. All this boils down to one thing – expensive gasoline. Petrol, gasoline or whatever else you’d like to call it will run an absolute fortune, if you fall into one of the common tourist traps. Try to use a fuel efficient car and be sure to fill up during any diversions off of Highway 1, you’ll save a fortune.
Eyes Peeled – Truly
Highway 1 is best experienced shared with another person. But not just for company. The views are enough to make your head swivel – but one person will need to constantly mind the road. It’s highly possible to fly off of a 500+ foot high cliff onto rocky coast below, if distracted. Share the driving so that your companion can enjoy full viewing pleasure, and you can too. And save the Instagram for when you reach your final destination.
Monterey has become a lighting rod for tourists, and while the neon signs are eye catching, we recommend the more village like, rugged feel of Carmel. You’ll find beautiful country shops, organic restaurants and beautiful hillside spots. Monterrey is a lovely place, but for the most authentic experience – you’ll find it hard to leave Carmel.
The Real Time – Driving…
There are highlights all up and down Highway 1, but if you’d like to go from Los Angeles to San Francisco, vice versa or any points in between – you’ll do best to pick your battles. We love the drive from San Francisco to Monterrey, the short stretch into Bixby Bridge and then again around Malibu and other Southern California gems. Using mostly Highway 1, the drive can take more than 10 hours, whereas focusing on the main freeways, venturing over to Highway 1 for short jaunts will run more like 7 hours or less.