The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is a great way to see California’s coastline. From Northern California to Southern California, the PCH hugs the Pacific Coast and passes through many of the state’s most interesting towns along the way. No matter which direction you go, you should make a point of stopping at these four points of interest on the SoCal leg of your journey.
San Luis Obispo
Depending on whom you ask, San Luis Obispo marks the gateway between Northern and Southern California. But even if that isn’t official, the distinctive mountains surrounding the city are definitely a good compromise between the thick forests of the north and the deserts of the south. The town is quiet compared to other parts of SoCal, but the scrub-covered mountains are great for hiking and mountain biking, and the surrounding area is a highlight of California’s wine country. If you want to go wine tasting outside of Napa Valley, San Luis Obispo is a good place to look.
Santa Barbara is close enough to Los Angeles to be a popular tourist destination but far away enough to have its own upscale, cultured identity. You’ll find plenty of history here, too, as a lot of the downtown area preserves the white stucco and red-tile roofs of the original Spanish mission. Santa Barbara also has some inexpensive places to stay while you’re in town, and you can find some interesting attractions when you explore the Santa Monica Pier or head over to the zoo.
Rincon Beach Park
Just east of Santa Barbara is the town of Carpinteria, a good place to enjoy a beach on a budget. Just south of the city limits is a stretch of sand known as Rincon Beach Park, a spot that happens to be one of the best places for surfing on the West Coast. While Rincon is a free county beach that anyone can visit, the remote location helps keep it from getting too crowded on any given day. Still, the beach’s fame means you’ll always see a few other beach lovers whenever you visit.
Sure, it’s a few miles inland from the PCH. But why not take a little extra time to visit California’s most famous amusement park? Disneyland has been around for well over 60 years at this point, and it’s almost as interesting to look at how the park has changed over the decades as it is to enjoy the rides. Just be sure to check out an Anaheim hotel before you arrive since you’ll probably end up staying there until midnight no matter when you first show up.
Cruising the PCH is a fun way to spend your vacation, but you should remember to spend some time parked along a beach or in a town so you can sniff the roses, too. After all, while the sights are great, the cities along the coast have even more fun in store for visitors.