Your Epic 8 Day Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary

If a road trip down California’s coast isn’t on your bucket list, you should probably drop whatever you’re doing and go ahead and plan a trip. Let me help you plan the perfect 8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary down California’s coast from San Francisco to San Diego.

When it comes to the best road trips around the world, the Pacific Coast Highway is hard to beat. Cruising along Highway 1 gives you stunning vistas overlooking the Pacific Ocean, adorable towns, and iconic attractions you only see on Instagram.

When planning an 8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary, the options can seem endless. I’m here to give your planning some structure and options for stops along the way. Of course, with such an extensive road trip, add and subtract stops depending on your group’s interests. I’m always excited to see how everyone’s trips turn out and love to hear about any cool stops you make along the way.

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Day 1: San Francisco

You’ll spend your first full day of your magical California road trip in San Francisco. Note that you can start in either San Diego or Los Angeles in the south (I like San Diego…more on that later) or San Francisco in the north.

Make sure to cruise through the Bay, check out Alcatraz, drive over the Golden Gate Bridge, hit up Fisherman’s Wharf, and take a sunset cruise through San Francisco Bay. If you have an extra couple days, you can easily fill the time. Check out my guide to the top attractions in San Francisco!

8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary - San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

Where to Stay: Luxurious: Hotel Omni. Mid-Range: Inn San Francisco. Budget: The Willows Inn (as much as San Francisco has budget hotels…just expect to pay a lot when staying in the city. Another option is to check out a VRBO vacation rental and see what deals you can find there!

8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary - San Francisco

Day 2: Napa Valley

Okay, I know that Napa isn’t technically on the Pacific Coast Highway, but when the wine calls your name it’s SOOOO difficult to resist. It’s a fantastic day trip from San Francisco, or you could make an extended weekend of it, all depending on how much wine you’d like to consume! Learn everything you need to know before going to Napa Valley! Make sure to hit up Castello di Amorosa (winery + castle combo), Beringer Vineyards, and Robert Mondavi Winery. If you’d prefer not to drive through Napa, hop on this wine tour from San Francisco, and leave the planning (and driving!) to the experts!

Where to Stay: If you opt to stay in Napa for the night, The Napa River Inn is a charming  boutique hotel that will definitely win you over. For a slightly cheaper (though definitely not cheap!) option, check out Embassy Suites, which has the reputation for comfort, cleanliness, and reliability.  If you’re traveling with family or friends, definitely look into an VRBO vacation rental. It’s also totally doable to go up and back to San Francisco in a day!

8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary - Napa Valley; Castello di Amorosa

Day 3: Redwoods and Carmel-By-The-Sea

Wake up bright and early to say adios to San Francisco! It’s time to officially hop on the Pacific Coast Highway, put the top down, and cruise down the California coast in your convertible. (Expedia and Sixt both have sweet rental deals.)

Make a pit stop at Henry Cowell State Redwoods State Park to feast your eyes on some beautiful redwoods. In Florida, it’s palm trees galore, but nothing quite like the majesty of redwoods! The Park comes right before Santa Cruz and is an excellent midway point before you get to Carmel-By-The-Sea.

If I had time, I’d recommend spending some additional time in Carmel. Enjoy the beautiful views along 17 Mile Drive, hang out in downtown Monterey, and visit the awesome beaches!

Where to Stay: Luxurious: La Playa Carmel. Mid-Range: Hotel Carmel Budget: Carmel Inn & Suites.

8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary - Monterey

Day 4: Carmel-By-The-Sea through Big Sur to Morro Bay

This is my favorite day of the 8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary. Despite all of the driving, the views are to die for. Check out my 8 foolproof tips for driving Big Sur to make sure you’re prepared! Wake up bright and early, because Big Sur if full of so much beauty that it will take you an entire day (especially if you make as many photo stops as me!) Must-see stops include Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls, and Pfeiffer State Park. Plus, build in plenty of time to stop at all of the gorgeous miscellaneous places you’ll see along the way.

You’ll arrive in Morro Bay in the early evening, so rest up to prepare for the next day!

Where to Stay: For Morro Bay, I strongly suggest finding a house or apartment rental. I snagged a cute little guest house with kayaks that was a quick walk to the bay. The town in super affordable, and everyone there was so welcoming!

8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary - Big Sur McWay Falls

Day 5: Morro Bay to Solvang to Venice Beach

Today is yet another (you guessed it…BUSY!) day filled with fun activities. Kick off your morning with a paddle around Morro Bay, and enjoy the unique views of the Morro Rock. After that lovely warm-up, pack up the car, you’re taking a detour off of the PCH! Note that you can continue down Highway 1 if you’d like, but I was pretty excited about this next stop…

8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary - Morro Bay

Say hello to Solvang, a magical Dutch town of windmills and wine somehow located in the middle of California. My guide to Solvang has all the super important information, but if you’re a wine lover (or pastry lover!), this is the place to be! Plus, it’s a nice little stop between Morro Bay and Venice Beach to break up the day.

8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary - Solvang; Rideau Winery

On the way into Venice Beach, swing through Los Angeles and hit up any of the big sites you desire; top picks are the Hollywood Walk of Fame, hiking Hollywood Hills for views of the famous sign, pedal through Tinseltown, or take a behind-the-scenes studio tour through actual Hollywood studios and soundstages.

For an absolutely epic time in LA, look no further than this bucket list of the top 100+ Things to do in LA!

After your whirlwind tour through Hollywood, head down to Venice Beach, and enjoy the boardwalk, beach, and unique little restaurants.

Where to Stay: Luxurious: Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Ray. Mid-Range: Venice Breeze Suites. My Pick: house by the Venice Beach boardwalk —I lucked into an awesome one!

8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary - Venice Beach sunset

Day 6: Venice Beach

Congratulations, you don’t have to pack up the car and move today! You get a whole day to explore the area. My First-Timer’s Guide to Venice Beach will walk you through the highlights. The Venice Beach Boardwalk is like no other (picture weed doctors every other shop), and the skate park is home to some of the most talented skateboarders I’ve ever seen. Plus, make sure to check out all of the awesome street art– I loved the grittiness of the area. For a quick jaunt over to Santa Monica Pier, hop on an electric bike tour, and finish up your afternoon playing on the pier. Wherever you choose to spend the evening, make sure you have some pretty views!

8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary- Venice Beach boardwalk

Day 7: Venice Beach to La Jolla

Today is the day where you head down to La Jolla, right outside of San Diego. I chose to base myself in La Jolla instead of San Diego because of the awesome beach vibes (and yummy tacos), but it’s a super easy ride into the city. On your first day, familiarize yourself with San Diego on a Gaslamp and Downtown San Diego Segway tour. You’ll get to visit downtown, cruise along the waterfront, and check out the Gaslamp district, which is home to lots of bars and restaurants. After you’re done exploring by land, it’s time to explore by sea! The whale & dolphin watching cruise is a great bet—you’ll have the chance to see whales, sea lions, dolphins, and seals. If you’re looking for a shorter commitment, try the San Diego Harbor cruise, where you can see sea lions, maybe some seals, and other famous city icons.

Where to Stay: Luxurious: The Lodge at Torrey Pines. Mid-Range: Inn by the Sea, at La Jolla Budget: Travelodge by Wyndham at La Jolla Beach. Like San Francisco, none of these are cheap, so mentally prepare yourself…but it’s worth it for those sunsets!

8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary - La Jolla sunset

Day 8: La Jolla, Coronado, and San Diego

For your last full day, it’s up to you where you’d like to spend your time. I’d recommend getting up bright and early to see a beautiful La Jolla morning…the quietness of the morning (aside from the seals) may have been the highlight of the trip. Save some time to wander through Sunset Cliffs Natural Park – the views are out of this world! After that, head over to Coronado Island for a walking tour, or you can rent your own bikes on the island and cruise around on your own. Finish up the day treating yourself to a delicious taco dinner in La Jolla, you won’t regret those fresh corn tacos.

8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary - Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

And there you have it, an epic 8 day Pacific Coast Highway road trip itinerary. This is still one of my all-time favorite road trips, and it definitely makes the list for top road trips around the world. Have you been down the Pacific Coast Highway? What were some of your highlights?

P.S. This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own. 

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  1. I would love to do this. We’ve been to San Diego and LA and surrounding areas but have not been to the northern half of California. I love California and would love to explore more of it. #FeetDoTravel

  2. I love your itinerary, and your photos are stunning! I live in San Diego, so I’ve made this trip in both directions. And San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the world. You did it right!

  3. This would have been our trip if we wouldn’t have had troubles to get a visa. For me as a European it’s not a problem but George as a South African wasn’t welcome for some reason which wasn’t stated. The US will have to wait but we won’t give up entirely on our plans and try again in a year or two.

  4. This itinerary looks fantastic!!! I’m just starting to plan a trip for July. I was curious if you had estimated drive times between stops?

    1. Have fun! Everyone’s drive times will be a little different. To estimate yours, I’d recommend starting with google maps and factoring in how often/ how long you plan to stop (for example, driving through Big Sur can take 2 hours, but if you want to take pictures everywhere or do small hikes, it can take a full day!)

  5. This Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Itinerary is incredibly helpful. You’ve really thought through everything you need to know before planning a trip. Thank you for this helpful resource. Saving this guide for later!

  6. I love this PCH Road trip! But I have 8 days and a 7 year old that wants to go to Disneyland! What do you suggest to take out of this plan and go to Disneyland at least one day! Thanks in advance!

    1. With a 7-year old, I might skip wine country and do an adults trip back to Sonoma and Napa. I recently spent a week just in wine country and it is definitely worth a trip on its own!

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