Exploring the Pacific Coast Highway

April 13, 2024

Come along with me as I traverse the stunning landscapes of California's Pacific Coast Highway. From the bustling cityscape of Los Angeles to the tranquil shores of Mendocino, experience the essence of the West Coast on this unforgettable road trip.

Hey there, travelers! Welcome to ‘Vagabond Shorts’ on The Radio Vagabond, where I bring you quick travel tips and insights. Perfect little snack between my regular travel episodes.

In today’s quick escape, we’re cruising up the Pacific Coast Highway in California. I’ve mapped out an epic road trip, complete with must-see stops and suggestions on where to stays. Expect stunning views and unique experiences along the way.

My name is Palle Bo, and this is The Radio Vagabond. Exploring the Pacific Coast Highway: A Journey Through California’s Coastal Wonders.

Before You Start

Our journey stretches from Los Angeles, to Leggett, north of San Francisco. When I did this road trip myself, I drove south starting in San Francisco. That way I would be closest to the Pacific Ocean and get the best view. But you can go both ways so for this one we’re doing it the other way from south to north.

We’re covering 900 kilometers (560 miles) over seven days, ensuring ample time for exploration and enjoyment on this iconic route.

Our journey begins in Los Angeles, a city known for its glamour and diverse culture. The day before your actual road trip starts you should have a look around. Visit to the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame and the TCL Chinese Theatre, soaking in the cinematic history. Then, head towards the Griffith Observatory for panoramic views of the city and the famous Hollywood sign. In the afternoon, enjoy the vibrant scene at Venice Beach, with its eclectic boardwalk and Muscle Beach.

Day 1: Los Angeles to Santa Barbara 

Arriving in Santa Barbara, the so-called American Riviera, its Mediterranean vibes hit you right away. Stroll along East Beach where the sand is soft, the waves are gentle, and the volleyball games are almost professional.

Don’t miss the Santa Barbara Mission, the ‘Queen of the Missions.’ It’s a historical dive into California’s past, complete with eye-catching architecture and gardens that make you feel like you’ve time travelled.

Wrap up your evening at Stearns Wharf. It’s not just a pier; it’s a culinary and shopping hotspot. Picture yourself watching the sunset with fresh seafood in hand – a perfect end to the first day of our coastal adventure.


Day 2: Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo 

Day 2 takes us from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo, with a whimsical stop in Solvang. This Danish village in the Santa Ynez Valley is like a slice of Europe in California, complete with windmills and Danish treats.

Next, we head to San Luis Obispo, a city where laid-back vibes meet historic Spanish missions. The Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is a serene spot, echoing California’s early days with its stunning architecture and gardens.

San Luis Obispo blends old-world charm with modern energy. Its vibrant downtown offers shopping, dining, and art, all wrapped in a friendly atmosphere. As the day winds down, the city’s easy-going pace is the perfect end, setting us up for more Pacific Coast Highway adventures.

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As something new, these Vagabond Shorts are also as videos on The Radio Vagabond on YouTube.

Day 3: San Luis Obispo to Monterey 

Day 3 of our drive from San Luis Obispo to Monterey takes us through the heart of Big Sur, where nature puts on a spectacular show. It’s a stunning route with cliffs, forests, and the vast Pacific making each mile breath-taking.

We’ll marvel at McWay Falls, an 80-foot beauty tumbling directly into the ocean – a sight that feels like a dream. The Bixby Creek Bridge, too, is a marvel, elegantly spanning the seaside gorge.

Arriving in Monterey Bay, a marine sanctuary awaits. It’s a world of seaweed forests, playful sea otters, and migrating whales. Monterey is a wildlife lover’s paradise, offering a chance to immerse in oceanic wonders.

This leg of our journey is a celebration of California’s natural grandeur, leaving us in awe and filled with tranquillity.

Day 4: Exploring Monterey 

Day 4 is all about soaking in Monterey, so be sure to book a second night here. We start at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a mesmerizing showcase of marine life. From playful sea otters to entrancing jellyfish, it’s an underwater journey for every age, revealing the rich tapestry of life in Monterey Bay.

Then, we embark on the famed 17-Mile Drive. This scenic route winds through the Del Monte Forest, offering postcard-worthy views. You’ll witness stunning landscapes, world-class golf courses, and the iconic Lone Cypress, a solitary lookout against the Pacific.

This day is a deep dive into natural splendour, perfectly capturing the tranquillity and beauty of the Monterey Peninsula

Day 5: Monterey to San Francisco

Day 5 of our drive brings us from Monterey to San Francisco with some delightful stops. First up is Santa Cruz, a surfer’s paradise. Here, the vintage Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk mixes old-school fun with seaside vibes.

Next, we visit the tranquil Half Moon Bay, known for its dramatic cliffs and peaceful beaches.

Arriving in San Francisco, the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge welcomes us – a must-stop for that essential selfie.

Once checked into our San Francisco stay for two nights, we head to the bustling Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a sensory feast with fresh seafood, lively street performers, and the distant barks of sea lions. Remember to leave the car and enjoy the evening with a drink or two, soaking in the bay views.

Day 6: Discovering San Francisco

On Day 6, we dive into the heart of San Francisco, experiencing its diverse neighbourhoods. First up is Alcatraz Island, a notorious former prison with captivating history. The ferry ride over grants spectacular city views, while the island tour delves into fascinating inmate tales.

Next, we wander through Chinatown, one of the oldest in North America. It’s a sensory explosion of authentic eateries, vibrant shops, and beautiful temples.

We then relax in Golden Gate Park, a sprawling oasis housing the de Young Museum, the serene Japanese Tea Garden, and the Conservatory of Flowers.

Our day in San Francisco concludes with a classic cable car ride, an unforgettable journey through the city’s hills, offering unique sights and a true taste of the city’s charm.

Day 7: San Francisco to Mendocino 

We could wrap up our journey in San Francisco, but I recommend pushing further to Mendocino. This quaint town, with its Victorian charm and artsy vibe, is a peaceful retreat.

The drive north offers more stunning coastal scenery. At Mendocino Headlands State Park, the Pacific’s raw beauty shines through seaside trails, hidden coves, and breath-taking vistas. It’s a photographer’s dream and a tranquil finale to our road trip.

This episode a reminder that road trips are about the journey as much as the destination. Did I miss any must-sees? And if you take this trip, I’d love to hear about your experience!

My name is Palle Bo, and I gotta keep moving. See you.


Please tell me where are you and what are you doing as you listen to this episode? You can either send me an email on listener@theradiovagabond.com, go to TheRadioVagabond.com/Contact or send me a voice message by clicking on the banner.

Either way, I would love to hear from you. It’s so nice to know who’s on the other end of this.


A special thank you to my sponsor, Hotels25.com, who always provide me with the best, most affordable accommodation wherever I am in the world.

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