Our California Coast Road Trip Itinerary

11 days of cruising down the coast


Joe and I recently escaped to California for eleven days to take an adventurous road trip down the coast from San Francisco to Santa Monica in a convertible.  He perfectly planned stops all along the way and left room for spontaneous activity in-between.  It was fun, healing and exactly what we needed.  Many of you asked for our itinerary over on Instagram so here it is!  Safe travels!

San Francisco

Length of time: 3 nights

We flew into San Francisco and started our road trip in the chilly weather. For me, a hike in Muir Woods (about 45 minutes away) was a must-do. The redwood trees are the tallest in the world! It was an extremely peaceful place to be and on our way home we stopped in San Salito for lunch. If you plan on going to Muir Woods, make sure to reserve parking in advance. They only allow a limited amount of cars there at a time, which is great because it’s never too crowded.

The other highlight for me was checking out Haight Ashbury, the town where the ‘60’s free love movement began. We saw the houses of the Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix and visited Amoeba Music, which is biggest record and music store I’ve ever been in.




Muir Woods

Visit San Solito

Check out Haight Ashbury

Drive or bike over Golden Gate Bridge


Ozumo for sushi

Mexican in the Mission District

Stop in Santa Cruz


We stopped here on our way to Carmel.  It's a chill little surfer town where we grabbed a coffee and sat outside watching the surfers for a while.  There are also restaurants on the pier along with one of the biggest boardwalks in the US full of rides and games.  We just spent about an hour here, but you can definitely spend an entire day.

Carmel / Monterey

Length of time: 3 nights 

This was our favorite spot along the trip. We’ve both never been to this area before and now we can’t wait to go back. The hotel we stayed at in the Carmel Valley was a beautiful resort and spa and one day we didn’t even leave the property.

We did so much during our three nights here, but out of all of the activities, the 17 mile drive down the coast was gorgeous, wine tasting was a lot of fun, but visiting Point Lobos National Park was my favorite. Out of all of the places I’ve been in the world, I don’t think I’ve seen anything more beautiful. We walked through the park to Moss Cove and had a picnic lunch. There were seals laying on the rocks right in front of us and it was just a magical afternoon.


Bernardus Resort & Spa in Carmel Valley (2 nights)

Hyatt Carmel Highlands (1 night)


Wine tasting

17 mile drive

Cannery Row in Monterey

Monterey Aquarium

Point Lobos National Park


Shop in town of Carmel




Lucia at Bernardus Resort & Spa

Hyatt Carmel Highlands restaurant

Stop in Big Sur

On our way from the Carmel Highlands down to Paso Robles, we stopped in Big Sur for a hike and lunch at the Big Sur Bakery.

Paso Robles

Paso Robles was a random stop off the coast simply because we wanted to stay somewhere in between Carmel and Santa Monica. Joe did the research and of course found another wine region that we needed to check out. It was a cute, little town lined with vineyards. If you want to go wine tasting, this is definitely a place to stop in the south.

Length of time: 2 nights


Allegretto Vineyard


Wine tasting



The Hatch

Somm's Kitchen

Cello at Allegretto Vineyard

Stop in Pismo Beach


Yes, from Clueless!  Pismo Beach was our favorite little beach town.  We had breakfast here at a little crêpe cafe, watched the surfers, shopped for souvenirs in a surf shop and went to The Hitching Post II nearby, where the movie Sideways was filmed.  Joe of course got a few bottles of Pinot Noir.

Stop in Santa Barbara


Santa Barbara was exactly how I expected it to be.  Well manicured and more of an upscale town.  We had lunch on the beach (toes in the sand) at the Shoreline Cafe.

Santa Monica / Venice / Malibu

Length of time: 3 nights

Joe and I often visit Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu. It’s our favorite place. We stayed in Santa Monica and met my parents there for the end of our vacation. It was so much fun, because we got to show them everything we love and like to do in the area from biking to Venice Beach to having dinner on the ocean in Malibu.