California Road Trip: Six Essential Stops on the Pacific Coast Highway

Last Updated on March 28, 2021

Taking a road-trip down the Pacific Coast Highway in California is all about the experience. These six stops are a must on your journey.


Stop One: Union Square in San Francisco

You can take a cable car or a tram for the novelty, or visit The Clay Theatre for a bit of art-house and indie cinema, but for anyone visiting San Francisco Union Square is the place to do your shopping. There are six department stores, a host of up-market boutiques and restaurants, and the square itself is a short trek from other interesting areas such as Chinatown.

Fun fact: Union Square gets its name from the American Civil War era, with many pro-Union rallies held there shortly before war broke out.

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Six Essential Stops on the Pacific Coast Highway

Stop Two: Monterey Bay Aquarium

The aquarium is home to hundreds of different species of the deep, from the Giant Pacific octopus to the scalloped hammerhead-shark, green sea turtles and five friendly sea otters. While, as with most aquariums, you’ll find this a fun way to entertain the kids, anyone with an interest in sea life really can’t afford to miss this.


For those of you travelling with a special someone, the Monterey Bay Aquarium also promotes romance tours for you to treat them with.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Stop Three: McWay Creek and Falls – Big Sur

Situated half-a-mile down a trail in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, McWay Falls is one those places to simply see and experience. An 80-foot waterfall chutes down out from the rockface, plummeting to the sand and astoundingly blue ocean below. Though the beach itself is inaccessible, that does not detract from what is one of the most beautiful places on the Pacific Coast Highway.

If you have some time spare, it’s worth taking a couple of hours to explore more around Midway Creek; the trail is dotted with more waterfalls, the most prominent being the 30-foot Midway Creek Falls, and the State Park itself has various hiking routes.

McWay Creek and Falls

McWay Creek and Falls


Stop Four: Solvang

A curious place a few hours north of Los Angeles, Solvang is a city that celebrates everything Danish, from the food to the history, windmills and horse-drawn wagons, having been founded by a group of Danish teachers in 1911.

The opportunities in Solvang are broad and just about anyone will find something worth visiting here. There are museums to Hans Christian Andersen, vintage motorcycles and Danish-American pioneers, wine-tasting aplenty in Santa-Ynez valley, and the general wonderment of such a curious, cultural oddity in America’s west. Visit at Christmas and you’ll be treated to Solvang’s own celebrations of Julefest!

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Solvang

Stop Five: Walt Disney Concert Hall – Los Angeles

You’ll be awash with opportunities in Los Angeles, but you’re a music lover then the Walt Disney Concert Hall is an absolute must for that evening of culture. Don’t be put off by the name – anything to do with a cartoon mouse is kept over at Disneyworld.

The concert hall is home to the LA Philharmonic Orchestra and regularly hosts icons of the musical world such as Herbie Hancock (who also acts as LA Phil’s Creative Chair of Jazz) and Michael McDonald of The Doobie Brothers fame.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Stop Six: Balboa Park, San Diego

The end of your trip doesn’t have to be a damp squib. Balboa Park has plenty of opportunities for you to chill out and take it all in, including 17 museums, 19 gardens, the San Diego Zoo, a slew of performing arts venues and various restaurants and trails to explore.

Travelling from Los Angeles up to San Francisco? Simply reverse the list, squeeze in San Diego and your itinerary is set!

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Balboa Park, USA