With that said, there are very, very few travel experiences I would recommend to everyone...and a road trip down Highway 1 on the California Pacific Coast is one of them. If you are ever able to take a road trip down this iconic highway, grab the opportunity by the balls and make it your bitch. You won't regret it.
The sights of highway one are absolutely breathtaking and I felt humbled as I drove down the coast, jamming to my music, and thanking God I am alive. It was a truly beautiful day to be alive and taking this trip. And it wasn't even a long one! I only drove for maybe 4 hours down the coast from where I started in the Bay Area so it doesn't have to be long, it just has to be worth it. And this trip is so totally worth it.
Santa Clara to Hwy 84 to San Gregorio
Ok, so I started in Santa Clara, CA and had to cut over to the coast. I did this by legit looking at a map and seeing what highway would take me as directly West as possible to get to the coast. I did this by traveling north and then cutting over to Highway 84. WHAT a surprise highway 84 was!! Winding roads and straight shots through the woods, it was the exact opposite of what I expected for my time on the coast but the BEST surprise detour if you will. While this won't be possible for everyone because most people start in San Francisco and travel down, if you get a chance to cut over, it is beautiful. When I did intersect with Highway 1, it was in San Gregorio and, again, chance had my starting destination in a beautiful area. The road opens up right on the coast and from there it is sea breeze, the open road, and a beautiful journey.
San Gregorio to Santa Cruz
From San Gregorio I drove down to Santa Cruz. The iconic beach town with their crazy Boardwalk. I was there early so I didn't get to walk through the rides but I did walk along the pier and the beach and stop for a coffee break and short reading time. On the recommendation of my friend, I stopped at The Picnic Basket for a caramel latte and observation. It was a beautiful morning and the coffee was on another level! So, so tasty! Santa Cruz could easily extend your Hwy 1 roadie for an extra day if you wanted to stop to eat lunch and do the Boardwalk. I didn't have time because I only chose to do the one day and get an early start. Next time, I would def stay the afternoon in Santa Cruz to ride the rides and eat the carnival food.
Guys. GUYS!! Carmel-by-the-Sea may be the absolute most amazing looking town I have ever been in. It was legit like walking around Alice in Wonderland and there was an actual shop called The White Rabbit. The shops and their architecture is so unique and colorful and bright I 100% fell down the rabbit hole and I didn't want to leave. I wandered around the town and shops for a few hours and grabbed a burger for lunch at 400 Degree Gourmet Burgers which was amazing! Moderately priced and so delicious! Beware of the shops though because not only is the town beautiful but it is 100% tourist driven and shit is expensive. I made the mistake of looking at a price tag of a shirt I thought was cute and I don't know about you but I don't have $178 to spend on a single top. Wish I did, maybe next time. Carmel also has a very accessible beach at the end of it's main street with decent amount of parking. This could also extend your trip by a day if you want to spend the night and explore the town a bit more. There was wine tasting advertisements at shops that I would have loved to do but again, solo and driving so not a good idea.
Before you enter into Big Sur--see below--you drive across the iconic Bixby Bridge. Featured in almost every car commercial ever, this bridge is the gateway into Big Sur and one of the most random and fun driving experiences ever. Like laughing out loud and blaring my music because the pictures at this spot are so fun! I was waiting all day to drive across this and while it only lasts about 45 seconds, it's just awesome. You feel like you're in one of those car commercials. Winning.
Another hour down the road and you enter Big Sur, California. Combination of woods and beach it is so beautiful I have no words, only pictures. There are dirt stop offs every few hundred feet to take pictures of the gorgeous scenery and you could spend hours stopping to take pictures and bask in the wonder of Big Sur. But note: there is ZERO reception! Also very limited gas stations. So fill up before you enter and make sure your cell phone is charged and you know where you're going. If you're driving straight through or stopping off, you'll need a legit map or GPS because it's in the wild. Within Big Sur I went to Pfeifer beach and holy scary. It was rec'd by a friend because it has purple sand...yeah kind of. If you're not looking out for this hidden entrance, you will miss it. And when you do find the entrance it is a mile down a one way width dirt road. Like if a car is coming at you y'all gotta figure out how to pass. Not fun. Longest mile of my life not to mention the thought of serial killers lurking in the midst because it looked like a breeding ground for the next Stephen King or Gillian Flynn novel. It's a $10 admission into the beach which I did not know about nor would have paid knowing what it was like. It was pretty, the beach kind of looked purple in certain shades. But it was cooler that day so laying on the beach was a little frigid and I left shortly after arriving back through the 15 min mile long trek back towards the main road.
I stopped halfway through Big Sur and turned around to spend the night in Monterey. I got to Monterey later than I anticipated due to stops and spending time in the other cities. Not a regret, Monterey is a beach town and has a lot of stuff to do, most notably their aquarium. I've heard great things but I do not do fish or aquariums in any sense of the word so knock yourself out but I'll be at the beach.
Like I said before, if my words don't do it for you the pictures have to. Hwy 1 is one of the travel experiences I would recommend to everyone because it is so beautiful it just cannot be missed if you are ever in California. You can make it as short or as long as you want. I chose one day but many people make it as long as 4 staying overnight in the cities I mentioned and traveling all the way down to LA. I did't have that much time and zero inclination to go back to LA so it was a perfect day trip jaunt for me. No regrets.
Hwy 1 Roadtrip
Private Jet--I just made this up because you HAVE to try and make this happen if you can. One of the best travel experiences I've had and it was in good ole' U.S. of A.