California Road Trip Itinerary

Browse this sample California road trip itinerary for Highway 1, or build your own itinerary for free.

Highway 1 between San Francisco and San Diego is one of the most popular coastal routes for travelers. This spectacular coastal road trip starts in San Francisco and passes through Carmel, Big Sur, Santa Barbera, and the Santa Ynez Valley. It takes you all the way to San Diego.

Full details of this California Road Trip itinerary, with maps, directions, pictures, and notes are here. Text version below.

You can also plan your own road trip online.

Sample California Road Trip Itinerary

Picture 6

Shopping along Cannery Row
Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 10:00am – 11:30am

Lunch at the Fish Hopper
Fish Hopper, Cannery Row, Monterey, CA

Notes: This place was a little bit pricey, but fun place to have lunch. Not too crowded during the week, so we got a table right up against the window and were able to watch the Sea Otters play as we ate!

Check in at Carmel Country Inn 
Third Avenue, Carmel, CA
1 night


Loved this place. Super cute and they leave a bottle of Cream Sherry in every room….not generally my drink of choice, but was a fun and different way to start off the evening!
Dinner at Cassanova 
5th Street between Mission and San Carlos, Carmel, CA


This was a recommendation from the B&B…was within walking distance. We had a fabulous dinner here, complete with a bottle of Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon that we still talk about to this day!
McWay Waterfall Trail Hike
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park


This hike was perfect…not too tough, short enough to just break up a long day of driving, and beautiful!
Elephant Seals on the beach in Big Sur


On our way to Hearst Castle, we stopped along the beach in San Simeon to observe the Elephant Seals. They were everywhere and they were HUGE!
Heart Castle Experience
Hearst Castle 
750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, CA


Fantastic! Be sure to book tickets in advance, because they typically sell out!

1 Night at the Madonna Inn 
San Luis Obispo, CA


This was our ‘daring’ hotel option. All of the rooms are themed. We were given the ‘caveman’ room :)

Arrive at 

Cheshire Cat Inn
36 West Valerio Street, Santa Barbara, CA


This place was adorable – every room named after a character in Alice and Wonderland. The owners were fantastic and the location was very central.

Cloud Climbers Jeep & Wine Tour in Santa Barbera


This was hands-down the highlight of our trip. A great tour through the backroads/mountains of the Santa Ynez Valley. We were picked up from our hotel in Santa Barbara and we stopped at 4 wineries during the tour. Beautiful scenery, great wine and a very good lunch (gourmet sandwiches), which was much appreciated during a day of drinking. :)

1 Night at the San Diego Marriott Hotel

San Diego Marriott – Mission Valley 
8757 Rio San Diego Drive, San Diego, CA

Afternoon at the San Diego zoo