California Coastal Drive: San Francisco to Santa Cruz

The California drive along Highway 1 from San Francisco to Santa Cruz is extremely scenic and includes breathtaking views of both the Pacific Ocean coastline and pastoral rolling hills. The distance is about 73 miles and takes about 2 hours without stopping, but I would recommend taking your time and making a weekend of it. Some great places to stop and explore along the way are:

1. Point Montara Light house and Point Montara Hostel

2. Pacifica, Ca. is just south of San Francisco. The Best things to See and Do in Pacifica, California is a great article for information about activities this lovely little town.

3.  Have some chowder overlooking the beach at Sam’s Chowder House and watch surfing at Maverick’s Surf Break.

4. Walking Trails. See more information at this site: Half Moon Bay State Beach
Walking Trails.

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay

5. Enjoy the amazing views at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. Even if you’re not making an over night stop at the hotel, it’s a beautiful place to have lunch or dinner as the sun is setting, walk the paved trails along the bluff, or order food and drinks and relax on the large outdoor patio.


6. The quaint downtown area of Half Moon Bay has several shops and restaurants and is a great place to stop for the night. I love staying at the Half Moon Bay Inn (pictured below) because it is right in town and easily walkable to shopping and to many options for dinner and breakfast. Pasta Moon for dinner and Chez Shea for breakfast or lunch are two of my favorites.


Continuing south  along Highway 1 a couple more scenic areas are:

7. San Gregorio State Beach

8. Pigeon Point Light House State Historic Park is an excellent place to watch for gray whales on their annual migration between January and April or walk through the tidepool area, which is 100 yards north of Pigeon Point.  Half hour guided history walks around the lighthouse grounds are available 10am to 4pm Friday through Monday and the lighthouse keeper’s housing is restored and operated as a Hostel.

9. At Ano Nuevo State Reserve, see Northern Elephant Seals that come ashore to give birth and mate from mid December through March.

10. Santa Cruz, Ca. is a wonderful city with so much to do and see including beaches, the boardwalk, Capitola Village, and strolling in downtown Santa Cruz. An excellent place to stay in Santa Cruz is the Adobe on Green Street Bed and Breakfast Inn because it is so comfortable and charming and easily walkable to downtown restaurants, shops, and entertainment.

Adobe on Green Street Bed and Breakfast Inn

Adobe on Green Street Bed and Breakfast Inn

That’s my list of favorite things along Hwy 1. I’m sure I didn’t include everything. What did I leave off that I should do the next time I am in this beautiful stretch of California?



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