Monday, December 06, 2010

Pacific Coast drive - in January?


My boyfriend and I are planning a driving trip along the Pacific Coast in late January. We have to start in San Diego as he'll be there for a business meeting, and we can only spend about five days on vacation after that. I'm wondering how much of the coast is a reasonable distance to cover in that timeframe? We need to figure out where to book our flight home from. Don't want to end up having to hurry or have really long driving days and not see anything along the way.




Hi Jen --

Many thanks for writing in to Road Trip USA, and I hope the weather cooperates so you can have a memorable cruise along the California coast. It is absolutely gorgeous right now, and January can be lovely (so long as no "El Nino" storms are passing through...)

I have a couple of ideas about your trip. First off, I might suggest that you explore the areas closest to San Diego on day-trips -- maybe late afternoons, or early mornings, depending on your bf's business schedule. There are a lot of nice places within an hour of SD (La Jolla for one, on the northern fringes of San Diego, and there are number of nice towns like San Juan Capistrano, along the coast up through Laguna Beach.)

I suggest this because the joys of the coast fade around metro LA -- so if you see the San Diego coast on shorter trips first, you can then race thru LA, and get back to the attractive places further north (like Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Big Sur, and Carmel!) This way, on a 5-day trip, you can really see everything, and have time to enjoy it all, all the way north to San Francisco. From San Diego, I'd suggest an itinerary something like this, which has about 150 miles of driving each day (and quite a lot of the driving is truly spectacular -- Hwy-1 north from LA through Malibu to Santa Barbara is like being in the movies, and Hwy-1 thru Big Sur is truly unforgettable!).

Also, January is perfect time of year to see some of the migrating Gray Whales, either right from the shore or from a boat (Santa Barbara and Monterey both have boats offering whale-watching trips)

Here goes:

Day One: SD to Santa Barbara (I-5 from SD to LA, then Hwy-1, the Pacific Coast Highway).
Day 2: Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo.
Day 3: Hearst Castle, then up the coast on Hwy-1 thru Big Sur. Overnight in Big Sur if you like to camp, or can afford to splurge on some luxurious lodgings. I personally like Deetjen's, a very rustic, very Big Sur inn (I cover this in Road Trip USA -- pages 75-80.)
Day 4: Point Lobos in the morning, then on to Carmel -- which has a lovely Spanish Colonial mission, and a gorgeous beach. Then, depending on your taste and timing, you can ride rollercoasters in funky Santa Cruz, or head up to San Francisco, which is a gorgeous city.

Five days is more than enough time to do this trip, and have fun. It's about 600 miles from SD to SF, so you can set an agreeable pace, and be flexible -- if you find a place you like, stay a bit longer, and you can make up time later. That's one of the many great joys of a road trip!

Hope this helps, and Happy Trails,

Jamie Jensen
Road Trip USA


Thank you so much! I bought your book and it's great!





Post a Comment

<< Home