A week by the ocean: Pacific Coast Highway roadtrip

Twin Peaks, San Francisco

During the recent holiday, two of my cousins and I drove from San Diego up to San Francisco along Highway 1, which runs along the beautiful California coast. Here’s how it went.

Day 1: San Diego

Started off the trip in sunny San Diego, making sure to take our cousin from Indiana to the stunning beaches (and good food stops).

Day 2: Los Angeles & Santa Monica

This was the day we hit the road for real. I fell in love with LA; we explored the city, stopping by the La Brea Tar Pits and LACMA before heading over to the Little Tokyo area and walking around. We sat in a milk tea shop for a while chatting and planning out the rest of our day before ending up at The Last Bookstore (a fantastic place for bookworms like us). The day ended in Santa Monica, where we visited the touristy pier, ate dinner at a phenomenal pasta place, and turned in for the night.

Day 3: Santa Barbara & Solvang

Confession: I’ve lived in California all my life and never knew that Solvang existed. It’s a little Danish town slightly north of Santa Barbara, and it was where we stayed the night after driving up from LA. Like the previous days, we stopped several times along the highway to admire the views. We took an In-N-Out and ice cream break in Santa Barbara before ending up in Solvang, being sure to taste Pea Soup Andersen’s famous split pea soup (we stayed in Pea Soup Andersen’s Inn for the night!).

Day 4: Morro Bay & Big Sur

This was a day full of unbelievable landscapes. We stopped at a rocky beach near Morro Bay and explored the tunnels and cliffs before venturing through some windy roads near Big Sur (surrounded by gorgeous tall trees). We spent the night in Monterey, making sure to relax after our longest driving day.

Day 5: Monterey

We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium first thing in the morning, roaming around the incredible exhibits and admiring all the organisms (and geeking out a lot). We made sure to drive around the coast, stopping at a few beaches before heading out towards the Bay Area. I insisted that we stop in Pescadero and Half Moon Bay on the way, picking up several loaves of fresh artichoke bread from Pescadero.

Day 6 & 7: San Francisco

Both my cousins are from out of town, so I had the chance to play tourist in my home city. On the first day in San Francisco, we went to Twin Peaks and Lombard street before walking through Chinatown towards all the piers along the Bay. We stopped by the Boudin factory and went on to eat soup in bread bowls at Pier 39. We wandered over to the Ferry Building, making sure to sample as many things as possible, and then made our way back to Ghirardelli square. I did more Stereotypical San Francisco Tourist Things in one day than I think I’ve done in my entire life.

The second day, we stopped by the Golden Gate Bridge and drove up to Mount Tamalpais for some postcard views and peaceful trails. Afterwards, I took them to Golden Gate Park, where we visited the Academy of Sciences, where I currently work, and the Japanese Tea Garden.


This was the first road trip I’ve taken like this, where we stopped in multiple places along the way. It was a wonderful and eye-opening experience, and I definitely learned a lot about California as well as myself along the way. If you ever need tips on a Cal coast road trip (or fun facts about Cal coast marine life), be sure to send a note my way.

See more adventures through my Instagram here.

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