The Pacific Coast forms the western border of North and South America, winding nearly 10,000 miles from Antarctica to the Arctic. In total, more than 30 countries and 20 territories border the world's biggest ocean. Many of the world's great cities share a coastline with the Pacific Ocean—Los Angeles, Vancouver, Puerto Vallarta, Honolulu, Sydney and Auckland all offer easy access to the coast and amazing beach vacations. Whether your plans take you to the city or one of the far-away locales, the Pacific Coast will surely enchant. With its rocky bluffs, volcanic islands, white-sand beaches, and scenery mile after mile, nothing looks like the Pacific Coast.
Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Coast Highway
A road trip in California is one of the most memorable ways to experience the scenery of the Pacific Coast. It takes more time than driving the interstate, but it is more scenic. If you're the type who believes that getting there is more than half the fun, this is the route for you. The most scenic of scenic routes, the Pacific Coast Highway follows the California coast from Orange County to Mendocino County. As it runs from Southern California north, the highway is also known as the Shoreline Highway or the Cabrillo Highway, depending on the location. Whatever its name, there's no doubt that this is a scenic highway. Along the way, the highway offers easy to access to some of California's top attractions and natural wonders. You'll need a camera with you—and preferably a convertible.
Pacific Coast Map
Pacific Coast Highway Map
It also helps to have a good map or GPS to keep you on track and follow the route. The road begins near Capistrano Beach, a part of Dana Point in Orange County. From there, it's not long before you arrive at Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach. After a day at the beach—or a stopover for some photos—you can return to the highway to roll through some amazing beach towns and even under the runways of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The Pacific Coast Highway also serves as Malibu's main road before heading to Oxnard and the Central Coast. The scenic cities keep coming as the PCH winds through Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Big Sur. Monterey is a famous stopping off point for whale-watching tours and has one of the best aquariums in the world. Nearby Pebble Beach is famed for its golf, while Santa Cruz is known for its boardwalk.
Pacific Coast Golden Gate Bridge
Part of the Pacific Coast Highway runs concurrently with U.S. Highway 101—most memorably as it crosses the Golden Gate Bridge. At the beginning, the coastal route is popular with commuters, as it connects Ventura County to the San Fernando Valley. Highway 101/The Pacific Coast Highway also is an essential route in the Bay Area, connecting San Francisco with the North Bay and Silicon Valley. In Northern California, the route feels more off the beaten path as it winds through groves of redwoods and small towns to the Oregon border. The Pacific Coast Highway ends in the small town of Leggett in Mendocino County—close to the Standish-Hickey Recreation Area and the Smithe Redwoods State Reserve. After ending, the Pacific Coast Highway meets Highway 101 again. From there, the highway runs up the coast of Oregon and Washington up to the Olympic Peninsula.