There are several routes you can take when driving between Los Angeles and Seattle depending on how much time you have. If you want a more memorable road trip, taking the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) would be the one you’d want to pick. This route was voted as one of the World’s Most Beautiful Drives by National Geographic. The best way to do this is to really take your time and stretch your drive over a few days so you can take it all in. Guaranteed to be one of the most instagrammable road trips you’ll take.
Pacific Coast Highway
Los Angeles, the city of angels, has something for everyone with 75 miles of sunny coastline, a flourishing downtown, lifestyle playgrounds for the rich and famous, acclaimed restaurants, trend-setting art and fashion scenes, and internationally flavored neighborhoods. We spent 3 nights in this city before heading out on our road trip and we loved every bit of it. Not the best when it comes to public transportation so you are probably better off renting a vehicle during your stay. A heads up: parking can be a bit of a struggle and can be expensive depending on where you are going.
We headed out on a Saturday. First stop – Malibu for lunch. Now, it may not have been the best idea to begin this trip on a weekend. The traffic snarls in L.A. is mental! It took us forever to get there and parking was a nightmare. But once we got all this madness out of the way, we could relax and take in some of the most breathtaking views.
On route to Malibu
Malibu is often highly overrated thanks to a lot of celebrities who live or spend their time in this coastal town. But if you know which spots to pick, Malibu does have its charm. We spent the afternoon in this gorgeous cafe – Malibu Farm Cafe – and did not want to leave! Nothing quite like having a meal and basking in the sun while enjoying the cool sea breeze and views.
Image courtesy Goop: Malibu Farm
Two hours later we were back on the road. Since traffic out of Malibu was a bit overwhelming, we took a slight detour. Quite the change in scenery. Rows and rows of vineyards and lakes. Gorgeous! A little while later, we are back on Highway 1 hugging the coastline and stopping every now and then to absorb all the beauty. Come late evening, we arrived in Monterey Bay.
Detour off Highway 1 and on to San Marcos Pass
Monterey is a small town located in the Monterey Peninsula neighboring the Pacific Grove. There isn’t much to do here, but it is definitely worth the stop. Also, highly recommend you keep your vehicle for the time you spend here. Public transport isn’t the best, plus there is loads of free/affordable parking everywhere! We spent two nights and it was more than enough. Some of the popular attractions include the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, The Fisherman’s Wharf and the most fun of all, going whale watching.
Early the next morning, after a quick cup of coffee, we headed out to the Fisherman’s Wharf to catch the boat to go out to sea. We decided to go with the Princess Monterey Whale Watching group as they seemed to be the most popular, keeping with all the environment regulations as well. You might want to do a bit of reading up on this cause a lot of the sighting depends on the time of year you visit.
Frozen fingers and faces but totally worth the experience. Do cover up even though it may seem like a stupid idea on the shore.
Plenty of restaurants serve up some of the best clam chowder I’ve had on the west coast. If you eat seafood, then do not miss out on this! After we warmed up a little and ate to our hearts content, it was time to go exploring. Stretching on the central coast between San Simeon and Carmel By The Sea, The Big Sur is a 2-lane winding road on a seaside cliff on Route 1 Pacific Coast Highway. It was truly one of the most scenic parts of this road trip. There are a number of spots along the drive where you can park your car, take plenty of photos or just embrace the views. Watching the sunset from this cliff is magnificent.
The Big Sur/Bixby Bridge
Back in the car and en route to San Francisco. Make sure to stop at Pigeon Point – it is beautiful. We even saw a few dolphins playing and splashing around – putting on quite the show for the lucky few. A couple hours later we are in the city by the bay. This hilly city is on the tip of the peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay hence its year-round fog. Known for the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, colorful Victorian houses, Alcatraz Island, cafes and plenty of amazing restaurants, you definitely want to spend a few days here. There are plenty of day trips you can make from here too – Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Forest, wine tasting to list a few. We did not keep our car while we were here – parking is way too expensive and most of the time quite a challenge to find.
Four days later we were back on the road. Next stop – Portland; the City of Roses. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to spend too much time here. Filled with tons of street art, great microbreweries and coffeehouses, quirky stores and delicious food – wished we could have stayed a bit longer. The city also has a thriving art, theater and music scene. And on a completely different note, if you love donuts just as much as we do, make sure to visit Voodoo donuts. You won’t regret it.
On the road again – last stop on this road trip – Seattle; the Emerald City. This city is surrounded by water, mountains and evergreen forests, and thousands of acres of parkland. Washington State’s largest city, is also home to large multinational corporations like Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks. There is lots to do and it requires a car! Look for hotels that don’t charge their guests for parking especially if you are working with a budget.
Day trip to Mt. Rainier
Seattle has few bright, clear and sunny days. If you are lucky and visit during this time make sure you do the trip to Mount Rainier. It is glorious! If you are an avgeek, then the Boeing Factory and The Museum of Flight is a must as well. Lots to do downtown too. The Chihuly Garden of Glass is stunning and certainly not to be missed. If you are into going to the top of buildings, then take a ride up to the top of the Space Needle. Another must is Pioneer Square. It used to be the original heart of the city back in the day. Now more than a century later, this neighborhood is filled with beautiful restaurants in historic buildings lined alongside cobbled roads. Another must is Pike Place Market. With its farm-fresh produce, abundance of shops, restaurants and bars, there’s always something for everyone here.
Today, most people prefer to fly and get to their destination in a few hours, instead of spending a few days on the road. Personally, road tripping is my favorite form of travel, and I think going off the beaten, finding well-kept secrets and just embracing the beauty of it all, makes for better memories. Don’t you think?
Got questions? Ask right away in the comment section below and I will reply as soon as I can.
Location: Along the Pacific Coast Highway (Los Angeles to Seattle)
Month of travel: July
Weather: It was hot in Los Angeles, Malibu, Portland and Seattle. But Monterey Bay and San Francisco was quite chilly, so do take some warm clothing along with you.
Getting to L.A.: We drove into Los Angeles from Las Vegas, which is roughly a 5 hour drive. Else flying into LAX and driving from there on is another option.
Car Rental: We decided to go with Avis Car Rentals. They had great locations for pick up and drop off and the staff was always ready to help and in some places even offered a free upgrade.
Hotels: We stayed at the Hyatt Group of Hotels through this road trip.
Navigation App: Waze is your best friend!