It is no secret that driving California's Highway 1 is the ultimate solo road trip that one can take. This is also considered not only the best road trip in California or the US but also one of the most beautiful road trips worldwide. What is better than witnessing the majesty of the Santa Lucia mountains plunging into the sea and driving through Big Sur to see the wind pounding the rocks and shore below? People going on a California road trip on Highway 1 will have the chance to explore coves painted in shades of sapphire, turquoise, and teal.


Such magnificent scenes will make one wish they could plant their flag and declare the pristine beaches their own. Although a road trip on California's Highway 1 is fun, it still requires full attention from the side of those traveling on it. Moreover, there are some essential tips and guidelines that they should abide by to ensure they have the perfect road trip they have ever dreamed of.

Related: Hearst Castle Is A National Historic Landmark In California, But Is It Worth Seeing?

What To Know Before Driving Highway 1

Before taking a road trip on California's Highway 1, one must ensure to rent or have a comfortable and reliable car. The drive consists of a two-lane mountain road, so if one has an old and gently worn vehicle, it is best to rent a new one with a good turning radius. A new Kia Forte would be an excellent pick to drive along Highway 1. Another thing that travelers must consider is that they should take a road trip during the off-season to avoid heavy traffic.

Another reason to go during that time is that the weather in California is temperate during the winter. There's also sunshine during that time of year. Even if travelers go on a road trip during the off-season, they will still enjoy several outdoor activities, including whale-watching, surfing, and hiking.

Another thing that travelers must pay attention to is that they fill their car with gas before starting the road trip. This is because there are 40 miles of highway between Cambria and Big Sur, where gas stations are non-existent. A crucial thing is to have a camera alongside the road trip with a fully charged battery and a memory card to have the chance to take snapshots of all the magical scenery in that area of the world.

  • Duration: The road trip on California's Highway 1 takes around 5 hours, whether from north to south or from south to north. However, driving north to south is better because the ocean will be on the driver's right side.

What To See Alongside California's Highway 1

The first attraction that people traveling on a road trip along California's Highway 1 will witness is the Hearst Castle, located around 20 miles north of San Luis Obispo. The Castle was the home of publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst. Today, it's been turned into a state park and a fantastic vacation destination. The Castle boasts plenty of gothic and Mediterranean architecture and is home to endless antiquities from all around the world. It is recommended that travelers take the Grand Rooms Tour in Hearst Castle and enjoy the charming indoor Roman Pool. Travelers can spend around 2 hours touring the Castle and wandering around the location's grounds.

Another unique attraction that people taking a road trip in California along Highway 1 can enjoy is the Elephant Seal Viewing Area, directly after Hearst Castle. This is where visitors can enjoy the sight of some ugly and noisy elephant seals. People can behold the beauty of the large lava rocks on the shore area, along with the seals swimming under the waters. It would be wise to visit the site during the off-season to avoid the crowds which will ruin the views.

Related: Año Nuevo State Park: Where You Can See The Majestic Elephant Seals Of California

Other Attractions To Enjoy When Driving California's Highway 1

Reaching the Big Sur area, people will enjoy the sight of the more than 700 feet long and 260 feet high Bixby Bridge. Also, in the same place, people can hike Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, home to a 100-foot tall waterfall known as the McWay Falls. Another attraction in Bien Sur is the Nepenthe restaurant which boasts scenic views and has a special gift shop that sells unique fragrances, handcrafted jewelry, and beautiful children's gifts. Driving past Big Sur to the north, travelers will reach 'the little town in the forest by the sea,' Carmel.

Conde Nast Traveler once voted Carmel as the second Best Small City in the United States. A must-visit is the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary and the Point Pinos Lighthouse. Driving past Carmel, travelers on Highway 1 will reach Monterey. The first and most beautiful attraction to see there is the world-famous Monterey Aquarium. People will also enjoy a tour of Cannery Row, filled with restaurants, hotels, and tourist attractions.

  • Where to stay: It is recommended to stay at a hotel in the Monterey Bay Area. The historic Casa Munras is a perfect choice, and the hotel is close to the downtown and the Fisherman's Wharf. Another luxurious option is the Intercontinental hotel on Cannery Row.

Next: Big Sur: A Guide To Camping At A California Favorite