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  1. Default West Coast Road Trip- First timer looking for advice!!!

    My best friend and I are looking to do a scenic drive along Highway 1 for some relaxation after having graduated college. She lives on the east coast and I live in Silicon Valley. We would like to meet up in So Cal in the end of April and maybe go to Disneyland, then rent a car and begin our trek to San Francisco. We anticipate taking our time (possibly 4-5 days?). I'm looking for advice on good places to stop (I've heard Hearst Castle is good, yes?), sights to see, and best places to stay overnight. Should I plan this much in detail or play it by ear and stop in whatever town looks good?

    Thanks in advance for the advice! :)

  2. #2

    Default My one trip down the PCH............

    ......was great. Hope yours is fun, too.

    Hello Sarah Bell,

    You have the same name as a very talented musician here in Raleigh, NC.

    You might want to look ahead at car rental situations: many of the companies will not rent to customers < 25 years of age, and if you're of typical college graduate age, that may be a hurdle you'll have to deal with.

    Some 3 years ago, I enjoyed traveling the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) from Monterey to Arroyo Grande. On the same trip I drove it for a few miles north and south of Santa Cruz, from Half-Moon Bay to San Francisco, and from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica. The sections of the PCH at Ventura and Oxnard were urbanized and congested as was Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. Far more enjoyable was the section from Monterey to Arroyo Grande/San Luis Obispo. We did not take the Hearst Castle tour, nor did we take the inland section of the PCH (CA Highway 1) from Arroyo Grande through Lompoc back to US 101 north of Santa Barbara.

    Leaving from, say, Santa Monica, the trip through Malibu and from there to Oxnard goes fairly quickly. Ventura would be a fun town to overnight at and may be somewhat less expensive than nearby Santa Barbara. Farther up is Cambria, where we had a long late lunch and wished we could overnight. There are a number of small motels and a number of restaurants and bars right on the beach at Cambria, with an old section of the PCH between them and the ocean, and with boardwalks and stairsteps down to the rocky beach. Very nice little place.

    I've read the Hearst Castle tour takes a good two or more hours. It's just north of Cambria. Also close to the north of Cambria is the elephant seal beach, where in recent years herds (flocks? schools?) of elephant seals make a home (breeding ground?). I forget the peak season, perhaps February?, but I think at least a few can be found there year-round. From Cambria/San Simeon, towns and accomodations are few and far between until you get up to Big Sur. I recall but a handful of small restaurants, motels, and shops in that segment. Similarly, accomodations are few and far between from Big Sur up to Monterey.

    It may be too close to your Silicon Valley home to be enticing, but we looked fondly at the funky old motels on the beach at Capitola and Seacliff/Aptos area. We were visiting family near Watsonville so had no reason to stay in the motels, however. One of the enticing things about them was walking distance proximity to coffeeshops, restaurants, shops, and bars, all being right on the beach with the motels.

    We thought Half-Moon Bay looked fun, too, for many of the same reasons Capitola and Seacliff/Aptos was appealing.

    I hope "one man's experience" is helpful and that you'll have no trouble renting a car. Have fun planning and taking your RoadTrip!


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Joplin MO


    A note - Hearst Castle tours should be booked in advance. I would combine it with an overnite stop in Cambria or San Simeon - book an afternoon or morning tour. I'd block out 4 hours for the tour to give you time to get there, look around the visitor's center, take the tour, and get out of there.

    San Simeon is going to be considerably less expensive than Cambria, but nowhere near as charming.

    That's really the only thing I'd hard plan in advance. Everything else can be played by ear.

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