Venture up the Pacific Coast Highway and take in the incredible ocean views on this road trip through California's central coast. Starting in Los Angeles, you'll explore the beach town of Santa Barbara and its charming neighbors, sip on a glass of red in California's wine region, and discover famed lookout points along Big Sur.


  • Stroll along Stearns Wharf in the seaside town of Santa Barbara
  • Get a taste of adventure with an ATV ride through the Pismo Beach Dunes
  • Spend a day wine tasting in stunning Paso Robles
  • Take in the breathtaking views of Big Sur along Highway 1
  • Try a fresh danish in the Danish-style town of Solvang

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 From Los Angeles to Santa Barbara Santa Barbara
Day 2 From Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo, Visit Pismo Beach and Hearst Castle San Luis Obispo
Day 3 From San Luis Obispo to Monterey, Visit Big Sur Monterey
Day 4 From Monterey to Paso Robles, Wine Tasting Paso Robles
Day 5 From Paso Robles to Santa Barbara, Visit Solvang and Los Olivos Santa Barbara
Day 6 From Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, Stop in Ojai  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: From Los Angeles to Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara coastline
Santa Barbara coastline

Time to leave the big city behind and head up the coast to visit one of Southern California's favorite seaside towns, Santa Barbara. This city, known for its laid back vibes and beautiful coastlines, offers plenty to do besides strolling along its famed beaches. From Los Angeles, hop in your car and make the journey north up the 101 for a little over two hours.

Arriving in Santa Barbara, you'll head straight to the city's Funk Zone. This once industrial area of warehouses has been revamped and is now home to an array of restaurants, shops, wine tasting rooms, and outdoor art and murals to admire. Head over to the Lucky Penny and grab a table outside to enjoy the sunshine and a wood-oven baked pizza for lunch, before popping into one of the wine tasting rooms for some welcome drinks. 

Make your way to Stearns Wharf, just a short walk away. Stroll up and down the pier admiring the sights and sounds of California's oldest working wharf. Cool off in the afternoon sea breeze and soak up the views of the Pacific coast and the surrounding beaches. 

From there, head down to the beach! At the end of State Street, turn and make your way to East Beach. Soak in the sun and dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean. Stroll along the waterfront and long stretches of white sand. When you're ready, make your way back in the direction of Stearns Wharf and pop into one of the fresh seafood eateries for dinner. Try Santa Barbara FisHouse for beautiful ocean views and a casual outdoor patio.

Day 2: From Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo, Visit Pismo Beach and Hearst Castle

Pismo Beach
Pismo Beach

Hop back in your car this morning and continue on your journey. Before leaving Santa Barbara, stop at Scarlett Begonia for a delicious breakfast. From there, continue up the 101-N for an hour and a half, heading towards Pismo Beach.

As you arrive, cut back down the CA-1 S to reach the area of Oceano. Formerly known as the Pismo Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, the Oceano Dunes SVRA is a natural wonder of oceanfront sand dunes and the perfect place for an ATV adventure. Stop by one of the rental companies at the entrance of this one-of-a-kind State Park, such as Steve's ATV Rentals, to grab your gear and get ready to ride. With beginner options and rentals by the hour, first-timers have no need to worry. Let loose and explore this 5-mile stretch of sandy coastline. 

When you're ready, jump in your car and head back North up the CA-1 for just a couple of miles to Pismo Beach. Take a stroll through the walkable downtown and boardwalk area adjacent to the sandy shoreline, before stopping for lunch at Splash Café, a casual beachfront cafe whose clam chowder bowls are a local favorite. 

Continue up the 101-N into San Luis Obispo, and then the CA-1 N until arriving at Hearst Castle, about an hour away. This historic landmark is an expansive estate that was continuously developed over the first half of the 20th century, and today it is a museum unlike any other. Explore this immense property, known for its incredible architecture, art collections, and stunning gardens. The Castle offers an array of daily tours suited for different interests, and the property can only be visited with a tour. 

Head back down the 101 for just under an hour to settle into San Luis Obispo for the evening. Head to Novo Restaurant & Lounge for dinner and drinks, a chic space offering a modern take on international cuisine, before checking into your accommodation for the night.

Day 3: From San Luis Obispo to Monterey, Visit Big Sur

Brixby Bridge
Brixby Bridge

Start your morning with breakfast at Blue Sky Cafe in San Luis Obispo, where we would also recommend ordering lunch to bring with you on your day of exploring. When you're finished, jump in your car and drive the 2 hours up the CA-1 N to your first stop in Big Sur.

After just under 100 miles, you'll reach McWay Falls, one of the most iconic Big Sur landmarks. This narrow waterfall descends 80 feet from the rocky bluff above to a sandy beach nestled in a picturesque cove. The falls can be seen from the highway itself, but we recommend taking the short trail, which can be accessed just inside the entrance to the state park, for the most up-close views.

Your next stop is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park where you can explore some of the best the Big Sur coast has to offer on foot (37 miles, approximately 1 hour). We recommend the short Partington Cove Trail, (approximately 1 mile) which leads to a beautiful cove accessed through a 60-foot tunnel, used to transport lumber to awaiting ships in the 19th century. There are also optional trail spurs that take you to another nearby cove, or along the forest-lined creek in the adjacent canyon. Please note that the trail does have some elevation change.

The journey is the destination here: enjoy the incredible views on one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world. Cross the Brixby Creek Bridge and snap a picture or two before continuing up Highway 1. As the highway gradually lowers down, you'll pass the quaint village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which became an artist's colony after the 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake destroyed that city. Take a stroll along Ocean Ave. and admire the charming shops and galleries. Grab an afternoon pick-me-up coffee at Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company, and then head down the hill to Carmel Beach, one of the most picturesque along this stretch of coast.

From here, it is just over an hour's drive to the Monterey Peninsula (42 miles). For dinner, we recommend that you make your way to Passionfish in downtown Pacific Grove for some of the best seafood in the area.

Day 4: Monterey to Paso Robles, Wine Tasting

Paso Robles
Paso Robles

Start your morning heading to Municipal Wharf II (not to be confused for the nearby, more touristy Fisherman's Wharf) in Monterey for a bite to eat at Loulou's Griddle in the Middle. After filling up with a hearty breakfast, take a quick stroll along the wharf to see if you can spot any sea life (or hear them- sea lions can almost always be heard barking up a storm) before jumping in your car to make the journey back down the California coast along the CA-101. 

After a little over 2 hours, you'll arrive in Paso Robles. Take the rest of the day to explore the stunning scenery and award-winning wines in San Luis Obispo's wine region. With more than 200 wineries in the area and 14 tasting rooms right in the town's center, the laid-back atmosphere and approachability of Paso Robles has something for everyone. 

Start in the Paso Robles town center to get your bearings and visit Taste in the Alley. This wine bar and tasting room has hundred of local wines in stock and is a perfect place to introduce yourself to this wine region. If the wine has you in the mood for Italian, try Il Cortile for lunch, with homemade pasta in a quaint space.

Afterward, venture into the Adelaida District, where you'll find plenty of award-winning wineries and stunning views. We recommend visiting Halter Ranch Winery and the nearby Tablas Creek Winery, which both offer daily tours of the vineyards property and authentic insight into the production process. For more sweeping views, don't forget to make a stop at DAOU Vineyards & Winery.

When you're ready, jump back in your car and drive just a couple of miles down the 46-E to round out your visit with an Old West experience at Tobin James Cellars. The old-fashioned western-style saloon and tasting room, as well as the stagecoach outside, transport visitors to another time.

To top off a great day, head to Fish Gaucho for dinner, where you'll find great cocktails and Mexican cuisine. Stay in Paso Robles for the night, or continue your drive for another 40 minutes into San Luis Obispo. 

Day 5: Paso Robles to Santa Barbara, Visit Solvang and Los Olivos


Jump in your car and head down the 101 for a little over an hour and a half to reach your first stop. About 40 minutes before reaching Santa Barbara, you'll find the quaint town of Solvang. This small village in the Santa Ynez Valley is known for its unique Danish-style architecture and atmosphere. Spend an hour strolling through Solvang and admiring its charming European style houses, windmills, and boutique shops. Don't forget to pop into one of its many renowned bakeries, like Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery, to start your morning with a cup of coffee and a fresh danish.

From there, hop back in your car and make the 10-minute drive to nearby Los Olivos. This small area, just a few square blocks, is home to around 25 wine tasting rooms. We recommend trying Zinke Wine Co. to start, for a classic experience tasting the local specialties. From harvesting to bottling, you'll learn about the unique region and everything that goes into your glass of wine.

Afterward, drive the remaining 40 minutes down to Santa Barbara.  Pop into Loquita Santa Barbara for a late lunch of Spanish style tapas. Spend the rest of the evening exploring the downtown area. Right in the heart of downtown, State Street embodies what Santa Barbara has to offer. Lined with palm trees and dotted with local eateries, boutique shopping, and Spanish colonial-style architecture, this street is the perfect place to stroll along and enjoy the sights and sounds. When you've worked up an appetite, try Black Sheep Restaurant, a fusion of Asian-American cuisine and a cozy spot to grab some dinner. 

Day 6: Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, Stop in Ojai

Ojai's surrounding mountains
Ojai's surrounding mountains

Time to make your way back to Los Angeles. Jump in your car and drive down the coast on the scenic 101. After about an hour, cut inland for a stop in the small town of Ojai. Just 20 minutes out of your way, this small town is tucked away in a valley and surrounded by the Santa Ynez Mountains and citrus groves. It's perfect for a picturesque pit stop.

Start with a stroll up and down Ojai Avenue. This main stretch of town is dotted with art galleries, boutique shops, plenty of local eateries, and even a couple of wine tasting rooms. Head to Ojai Coffee Roasting, Co. for a cup of coffee before continuing on.

After getting your bearings, visit Bart's Books- a local favorite. This unique place holds an expansive collection of books in a mostly outdoor set-up. Get lost in a maze of titles and shelves.  Its creation and continued success are a testament to the character of this small town, as you'll find rows and rows of shelves outside sold on the honor system for over 50 years. 

If you have a little extra time, jump in the car and head a couple of miles inland to visit Ojai Olive Oil. This family-owned and operated farm will give you the chance to walk off your meal. Learn more about the property and peruse their local products, visiting the tasting room to sample the variety of fresh olive oils made locally. 

From there, get back in your car and return back to the 101 to continue your journey down the coast to Los Angeles.


Map of California Central Coast Road Trip - 6 Days
Map of California Central Coast Road Trip - 6 Days