Travelers Recommend These 20 Unforgettable Sights Along the Pacific Coast Highway

Photo of author

California’s Pacific Coast Highway, officially known as CA 1, is one of the most spectacular drives in the world. It’s a 656-mile ribbon of road that has its northern end near Fort Bragg and its southern end near Dana Point in Orange County. As it hugs the coast, it reveals views of rocky shores, mountains, tall cliffs, waterfalls, sea lions, and more.

Some people like to do the northern half in one day and the southern half the next, spending the night in San Francisco, but you’ll enjoy it more if you can take at least twice as long. Following are some top things to see and do.

McWay Falls

McWay Falls
Image Credit: Doug Meek/Shutterstock

McWay Falls is the crown jewel of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which is in the heart of Big Sur, the section of the coast most people think is the most beautiful. This waterfall spills 80 feet down a cliff onto a beach just mere feet from the blue waters of the Pacific.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California
Image Credit: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

This historic pier, built in 1909, has been in countless movies, TV shows, and commercials. Culturally, it’s also significant as being the western terminus of historic Route 66. Rides, an arcade, an aquarium, dining, and more attract beachgoers today.

Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove

Pismo Beach Monarch Butterfly Grove
Image Credit: Zach Behrens/Shutterstock

Pismo Beach is an iconic California beach, but there’s something extra special about it in winter. That’s when thousands of monarch butterflies come to spend the winter in a eucalyptus grove here. The butterflies make this journey only once in their lifetimes, yet their offspring instinctively know they have to make the trip, too, and so it goes through successive generations.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle
Image Credit: Aimee Lee Studios/Shutterstock

Newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst built this fabled Big Sur landmark. There are 165 ornately decorated rooms, and you can see them and other features only on a ticketed tour. The swimming pools are stunning, so be sure to see those.

Dana Point

Dana Point, California
Image Credit: Beach Media/Shutterstock

You might think of this small beach town mainly as the start and end of CA 1, but it’s much more than that. Spend some time there to hike the rugged headlands, explore the harbor, or do some whale watching.

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara California
Image Credit: Bill Perry/Shutterstock

Much of the architecture in this town, sandwiched between the mountains and the sea, is in the Spanish colonial style. There’s a historic mission to explore, and you can head east into the hills for wine tasting or west to the ocean to catch sight of whales.


Carmel by the Sea, California
Image Credit: J Wendy Baker/Shutterstock

If you’re a Clint Eastwood fan, you may know this place as the town he was the mayor of. Others know it as one of California’s original artist colonies, and it still has a vibrant art scene. Fun fact: the town has a quirky old law that you can’t wear high heels without a permit!

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz
Image Credit: Dreamframer/Shutterstock

Recognized as a top worldwide surfing destination, Santa Monica has a warmer climate than most other towns in the region because it faces south. Don’t miss the boardwalk; it has the oldest amusement park in California, and you can still ride a classic wooden roller coaster there!

Sidecar Winery Tours

Sidecar Tours
Image Credit: Nature-Andy/Shutterstock

Do you enjoy wine tasting? Check out Sidecar Tours! A motorcycle driver wearing a vest and tie will shuttle you from winery to winery in an attached sidecar. If you have a friend with you, you can opt for a tandem sidecar.

Madonna Inn

Madonna Inn
Image Credit: Paul R. Jones/Shutterstock

This inn, located in San Luis Obispo, is one of the most wildly designed and decorated you’ll ever see. If you can’t book one of the 110 rooms, you can still stop by for a casual tour and a great meal.

Moonstone Beach

Moonstone Beach, Cambria California
Image Credit: randy andy/Shutterstock

This peaceful beach near Hearst Castle has a lot going for it. From a mile-long boardwalk, you can view driftwood, pristine coastline, sea lions, and, sometimes, whales.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery
Image Credit: picchu productions/Shutterstock

Elephant seals can grow to 16 feet in length and weigh 5,000 pounds. If you ever had an urge to see one being born or watch two of them fight, the boardwalk here is for you.

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach
Image Credit: Lucky-photographer/Shutterstock

Also known as “Surf City, USA,” Huntington Beach has long, sandy beaches. It doesn’t have the backdrop of dramatic cliffs that a lot of other beaches out here do, but the real action is in the water, where expert surfers do their thing.


The beach of Malibu
Image Credit: ID-VIDEO/Shutterstock

Legendary Malibu is home to iconic Zuma Beach and Malibu Pier. A 2018 wildfire destroyed much of the area, but grass is growing back on the hills, and a sense of rebirth is in the air.

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California
Image Credit: salilbhatt/Shutterstock

Pfeiffer Beach is another Big Sur gem. It’s known for its purple sands– a result of manganese washing down from the mountains, and for the huge rock outcrops, including Keyhole Rock, with huge waves crashing against them.


Monterey, CA, USA
Image Credit: Apostolis Giontzis/Shutterstock

You’ll find one of the best aquariums in the country here. You can also enjoy a stroll along historic Cannery Row. It has little resemblance now to the place John Steinbeck made famous, but it’s still a fun experience.

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge
Image Credit: ventdusud/Shutterstock

You’ve seen it in pictures, but it’s so much more impressive in real life. You can drive across it, but if you want to enjoy it a bit more intimately, you can take the walkway across it. Electric bikes are also a fun option. Another popular activity is to photograph it from a nearby beach or other location.

Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay California
Image Credit: Lynn Yeh/Shutterstock

This pretty Northern California location is popular with those who enjoy wine tasting. Adding to the experience is that at sunset, they light fires and you can sip some wine while a fire keeps you warm as the evening chill descends.

Bixby Bridge

Bixby Bridge
Image Credit: Nuria Kreuser/Shutterstock

Bixby is the other iconic bridge on the California coast, and it’s close to Carmel. It’s one of the most photographed human-made sites in the state, and you should try photographing it from both the East and the West.

Morro Bay

Morro Rock in Morro Bay, CA
Image Credit: Magargee Films/Shutterstock

Just off the beach here is a massive volcanic plug that dominates the skyline. Sunrise makes it glow, and sunset silhouettes it. A walkway lets you safely access it.

The World’s Most Beautiful Mountain Ranges

woman sitting on mountain top
Image Credit: marvent/Shutterstock

For as long as humans have existed, mountains have inspired and daunted us. They’re the basis for countless legends, and although they can be deadly, have an irresistible pull on us, drawing millions of sightseers, hikers, climbers, skiers, and other outdoor enthusiasts every year. Making a definitive list of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world is subjective, but the ones here are certainly strong contenders.

The World’s Most Beautiful Mountain Ranges

14 Cities That Must Have Been Named on a Dare

man whispering to woman laughing
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

Ever come across a town named Odd or considered a vacation to a place called Why? Fancy a leisurely stroll in Dull or perhaps a detour to Nowhere? As surprising as it may sound, these towns actually exist and their peculiar names are sure to amuse… or perplex. If you’re a fan of humorous quirks and obscure trivia, then you’ll definitely be entertained by some of the globe’s most eccentrically named locations.

14 Cities That Must Have Been Named on a Dare

+ posts

Robert Sihler is an educator, freelance writer, and rock climbing guide and instructor living with his family in Driftwood, Texas. In his spare time, he enjoys reading fiction, streaming films, completing crossword puzzles, and rock climbing. When he goes on vacation, he likes to visit the mountains of the West and climb remote, obscure peaks that have seen few or no prior ascents.