Beach along Highway 1 in California
Beach along Highway 1

The best places on Highway 1 in California span the coast from north to south. There is so much beautiful coastline that the entire highway is worth a drive, but if you only have a short time to visit California, here are some of the top places to stop. They are listed in order from north to south:

Mendocino – Famous for its laid-back vibe and gorgeous coastline, Mendocino is home to wineries, B&Bs, Victorian architecture, stunning Redwood trees, and beautiful beaches. While there, don’t miss nearby Fort Bragg, Sea Ranch, Elk, Gualala, and Point Arena.

Point Reyes – The Point Reyes National Seashore is one of most stunning places on Highway 1 in California. Jutting out into the Pacific Ocean, it has great beaches and is home to the famous Point Reyes Lighthouse.

San Francisco – This pretty city by the bay needs no introduction. Its famous Victorian buildings, lively farmers’ markets, great food, rich history, and steep hills attract visitors from all over the world.

Half Moon Bay – The sleepy farm town of Half Moon Bay is home to some of the most famous big wave surfing in California. For those that prefer to stay on land, there are miles of beaches and a great coastal trail for hiking. Additionally, you can play golf or stay the night at the famous Ritz Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay.

Pescadero – The historic town of Pescadero is one of the oldest in California. Just 2 miles from the Pescadero State Beach on Highway 1, it is home to the famous Duarte’s Tavern, which has been open since the 19th century. If you eat there, don’t miss the restaurant’s classic artichoke dishes. Afterwards, walk off the calories by strolling through the antique shops and general store.

Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz is known throughout the world as a great surfing destination, and is one of the best places along Highway 1 in California. The city is home to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park, the Mystery Spot, great shopping, good food, and a classic California vibe.

Monterey and Carmel – The neighboring cities of Monterey and Carmel are the perfect places to go for boutique shopping, California history, and the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. There are trails running along the coast that are perfect for walking or cycling, and the famous Pebble Beach Golf Course is also located there. Make sure to book well in advance if you want to play.

Big Sur – Big Sur is what most people think of when they think of Highway 1. The sunning rocks jutting out of the sea, the high cliffs dropping into the Pacific Ocean, and the rocky beaches along the coast all make Big Sur one of the most iconic spots in California.

Santa Barbara – The pretty city of Santa Barbara is one of the most beloved places in Southern California. There is no shortage of things to do there, including wine tasting at the area’s famous wineries, shopping at art galleries, relaxing at spas, and of course going to the beach.

San Diego – One of the final stops on Highway 1 before the border with Mexico, San Diego is a classic California surf city with a great atmosphere and friendly locals. Don’t miss towns like pretty Del Mar, chi chi La Jolla, and laid-back Pacific Beach as you make your way to the famous Gaslamp district in downtown San Diego. When you’re tired of the city, head to the beaches to see some more of the best places on Highway 1 in California.