I grew up in the small coastal town of Half Moon Bay, located 30 miles south of San Francisco. Driving up and down the Pacific Coast Highway (also known as Highway 1) was a regular occurrence for me in my childhood. I didn't realize until later on in my adulthood how lucky I was to experience such scenic ocean views everyday. As a local I love to share the love and tell where to find my hidden gems spots.
Beginning from North to South, I've built the ultimate guide with the top spots along Highway 1 worth pulling over for!
Map Your Route Along the Pacific Coast Highway
1. Sausalito - We found the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge sailing in Sausalito.
3. Lands End & Sutro Baths - We walked drenched in sunlight through Lands End Park and enjoyed some incredible ocean views. Lands End Park and Sutro Baths are some of the most interesting historical ruins in San Francisco.
4. Devil’s Slide Trail - We took these fall fashion photos along the trail and it was too perfect. The thick fog rolled over the mountains giving us all those mysterious and spooky vibes. When I was growing up this used to be an active road but it has since been turned into a walking trail. Trail head starts off Highway 1, between Pacifica & Montara. It’s dog friendly too!
5. Montara Mountain - I took a walk up the mountain to seek solace after the loss of a dear friend. Montara Mountain is an ideal place to connect to the earth and allow yourself to feel small as you look out at the stunning ocean views. If you hike high enough on a foggy day, you'll actually walk through the clouds until you're standing above them. Heaven on earth.
6. Barn Burger - This quaint little barn turned burger joint opened fairly recently and has quickly become very popular with both locals and tourists alike. The outdoor patio's decor is just too cute and the weather is perfect on a sunny day. Dogs are welcome on the patio so feel free to bring Fido along. With locally sourced ingredients the food is gourmet quality and oh so delicious.
7. Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail - The Coastal Trail runs over 11 miles along the coast line and provides spectacular cliff views. You can find a great spot on the sand to set up a picnic and relax.
8. Kayaking in Pillar Point Harbor - We rented our equipment from the Half Moon Bay Kayak Company and set off into the harbor. Under a cloud of fog we cruised along through the bay in our kayaks and enjoyed the views. The heavy fog brought an aura of calm but we still managed to squeeze in a little adventure.
9. Sunflower Fields at Andreotti Farm - Beginning in September the sunflower fields begin to bloom and you can walk among these 15 feet tall giants. The farm is “u-pick” meaning you can cut your own flowers. We paid a dollar for each flower and came home with a giant bouquet. These are not your typical supermarket sunflowers, some of the ones we cut were huge! Scroll down to see the photos from our visit! They have multiple farm locations but the sunflower fields are located at 800 Cabrillo Hwy N, Half Moon Bay.
10. Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve - Just about an hour south of San Francisco you can step into another world and walk among redwood giants. If FernGully was real, this would be the exact place to find woodland fairies! One of our all-time favorite hikes is the Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve. This park has over 24 miles of trails, some with steep inclines so you will really be getting your cardio! If you are visiting the coastal Half Moon Bay area this is a great half-day hike.
11. San Benito House - Best sandwiches in Half Moon Bay with fresh baked bread (see image below). The San Benito House used to be a saloon and brothel back in the wild wild west days. If you stay at the hotel many of the rooms have the original furnishings and giant clawfoot bathtubs.
12. Pumpkin Patches in Half Moon Bay - Autumn is especially magical in Half Moon Bay because along Highway 92 you'll find many adorable pumpkin patches, corn fields and flower nurseries. Every October there's a huge Pumpkin Festival with all kinds of foods made from pumpkins.
13. Pescadero Country Store - Grab a custom made sandwich with the popular fresh baked pesto ciabatta bread. Ask for the God Father sandwich, it's locally famous.
14. Bean Hollow State Beach - This secluded and untouched beach is located near Pescadero. It's located right off Highway 1, very easy to quickly set up camp.
15. Pigeon Point Lighthouse - The lighthouse is actually a hostel and you can book a night's stay in this historical spot. The photo opportunities here are so Insta-worthy, keep scrolling to see the pics from our visit.
16. Ano Nuevo Beach - This very private beach is known for beautiful bluff views and a large population of elephant seals. While we didn't find any seals during our visit (breeding season is in the winter), we enjoyed the very quiet and peaceful scene away from all the beach crowds.
17. Berry Picking - Last year we headed out to Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport, Ca. During the summer months you can pick fresh strawberries straight from the farm and pay by the pound. It is so much fun to be out in the country and the strawberries are so sweet (way better than store bought). Now that's what you call farm to table!
18. Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk - We celebrated the 4th of July à la Drifters style down at the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, Ca. The weather was perfect for a good ole American carnival. We rode classic rides like the Ferris wheel and frolicked in the waves on the beach. It was definitely a day for making memories and capturing some great photos!
19. Capitola - This colorful little beach town is located at the north end of Monterey Bay, almost a 2 hour drive south of San Francisco. The sandy beach is a perfect place to lay out a blanket and enjoy a summer picnic. Feeling adventurous? Take a walk under the pier or grab your surf board and catch some waves. The local Esplanade is full of great eats and shops to explore, you can watch the sunset on the dock while enjoying fresh caught seafood. Yum!
20. San Luis Obispo - I was particularly impressed with the food scene in SLO. Local restaurants are featuring a variety of fresh and inventive gourmet eats along with great atmosphere with contemporary style. During our 3-day stay we ate handcrafted artesian food, we shopped adorable boutiques and we slept in vintage luxury at the Granada Hotel.
21. Madonna Inn - Located in the heart of San Luis Obispo, the Madonna Inn has become a California landmark and a favorite road trip destination. As one of the most photographed hotels in all California, the Madonna Inn has so many unusual sights that you could spend hours exploring the grounds. One of the first things you might notice when looking at all these photos is "My gosh, the decor is just so tacky!". And you would be spot on to think so, the fabulously tacky style of the Madonna Inn is it's claim to fame. Each of the 110 rooms has a unique theme with an over-the-top interior design scheme, making each stay at the inn a new experience.
22. Carlsbad Flower Fields - The fields are located in Carlsbad in Southern California, about 40 miles north of San Diego. The blossoms are known as the "Persian Buttercup" and the fields of these beauties stretch for 50 rainbow acres. The flower season begins in March and the fields remain open until mid-May.
23. San Diego - I lived in San Diego for a year and my favorite part was exploring all the different neighborhoods. I built travel guides to North Park, Little Italy, and even a guide to all the city murals (the best ones for Instagram!).
24. La Jolla - The San Diego city of La Jolla is the perfect spot for a quick weekend getaway. It's got all the vacation essentials you need including colorful murals, artesian food and endless beach sunsets. I've built a quick and easy guide to popular spots in La Jolla. Looking for amazing Instagram photo spots? Want to eat a delicious meal on a rooftop while gazing into a sunset sky? It's all here!
25. Coronado - When I first moved to San Diego so many people told me: "You have to go visit Coronado Beach!". There was so much buzz about this spot and when I checked it out in person I understood why. In 2012 this beach was named number one of all the beaches in the United States! The beach is maintained by the prestigious Hotel del Coronado and has an old world charm. When my friend visited she said it felt very much like the Hamptons, which is a great way to describe it. The best part is that the beach is open to the public, so you don't have to be a hotel guest to enjoy it. You can even order cocktails at the bar and sip a margarita on the beach!
26. Mission Beach - During our weekend at the beach, we walked down the Oceansfront Boardwalk from Mission Beach to Pacific Beach, stopping to enjoy some sherbet and snow cones. We strolled down Crystal Pier and admired the adorable little white beach cottages that sit above the water.
Explore these stylish hotels along Highway 1:
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