Category Archives: Road trip

Road Trip Destination: The California coast

Northen California Coastal landscapes

Road tripping doesn’t have to mean beating your way across the country until you get to the opposite coast; in fact, you can have one unforgettable road trip without stepping (too) far outside your doorstep.

A California coast road trip is a sweet combination of exciting exploration and serene, breathtaking sightseeing. And a week is all you need to cover these hot spots from San Diego to Monterey.

Route 1 (PCH) will get you to all of these locales while providing spectacular views along the way.

Torrey Pines

A view from Torrey Pines

Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego

Scaling beginner-level hiking trails rewards you with unbelievable vistas of land and sea. You may be able to spot bottlenose dolphins, which swim close to shore, or perhaps some of the hundreds of bird species that call this wildlife reserve home. Guided nature walks are available on weekends and holidays for the intellectual adventurer. After a long day of meditative bliss, relax your soul even further by having a picnic on the beach while watching the sunset.

Getty Museum

The Getty and the Central Garden

The Getty Museum, Los Angeles

You don’t have to be an art aficionado to enjoy the Getty. A well-curated, iconic collection of Western art is housed within an expansive, modern space overlooking Los Angeles (the museum sits on a mountain summit). Tree-lined walkways outside lead to the Central Garden, where a constantly changing variety of plants makes for a new experience each time you walk through.


Venice Beach boardwalk

Venice Beach Boardwalk, Los Angeles

Venice Beach is in some ways a microcosm of Los Angeles, bringing together all kinds of characters in one bohemian setting. For this reason, it is one of the best places in Los Angeles to go people watching. Many famed artists, musicians, and actors have passed through this creative city (ever heard of Julia Roberts?) and many make their homes here today. Plenty of affordable and delicious mom-and-pop restaurants litter the beach, so you can sample to your heart’s content.


Moonstone Beach


A sort of West Coast Cape Cod, Cambria imparts a luxuriously relaxing atmosphere that is a welcome pause from the hustle and bustle of a road trip. Stroll leisurely with your toes in the sand on Moonstone beach – as the name implies, you may just find California jade or moonstones as you’re walking! To uncover a whole new level of relaxation, drive about 20 miles east to Paso Robles, where you can visit the city’s esteemed vineyards and attend a wine tasting.

Nepenthe restaurant

Nepenthe restaurant

Big Sur

The site of countless weddings and yoga retreats, Big Sur is as much a spiritual as a romantic experience, depending on what you’re seeking. Big Sur is located where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise steeply from the ocean. Elevated over the sea, Big Sur exists at the meeting of land, sky, and sea. In other words, it’s a little slice of heaven on the central California coast.

Visit Nepenthe, a restaurant that has been serving Big Sur visitors since the late ‘40s and has been run by the same family ever since. With a patio suspended high over the Pacific Ocean (we’re talking 800 feet above), Nepenthe offers breathtaking views and good grub.

Another destination is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which features a striking topographical range, from 3,000-foot-high ridges to an underwater preserve where you can go scuba diving. If that isn’t enough natural beauty for you, hike the Overlook trail to witness McWay Falls tumbling 100 feet down into a secluded cove.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey

Because no one can resist chubby sea otters. If the otters don’t get you, then the 200+ galleries and exhibits that pit predators against prey in their natural habitats will. Events like jelly fish shows, penguin feedings, and intriguing presentations—such as the one on inventions inspired by the sea—can easily fill up your whole day. But remember to break for lunch–stop by the aquarium’s café & restaurant or by a nearby joint in front of the water. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see more otters as you eat.

Set on a road trip and want to know how to prepare? Check out our posts on how to prepare your car for a road trip and what to bring on a road trip.

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The student road trip checklist, part 2: what to bring

Road trip preparation

Your car is in gear and your buddies are ready to go. But just before you step on that gas pedal and embark on your week-long joy ride, pack your buggy with the items below. Trust us: a little preparation goes a long way when it comes to preserving goodwill during a long car ride. You don’t want to be counting down the 1,798 miles until you get home in a dead silent car.

  1. Extra motor oil and fuses

You never know what may go wrong when you’re traversing new territories in lands unknown. Two of the most common problems that happen on the road are blown fuses and oil shortages, so bring at least a quart of extra motor oil and some extra fuses.

  1. Mobile phone with a charger (optional: walkie talkies)

You were probably going to bring your cell anyways, but don’t just use it to chat away with friends when bored; rather, save the phone calls for emergencies. And while it may seem old fashioned to lug walkie talkies along, they’re an easy solution if you’re traveling with multiple cars. Walkie talkies also work in areas where there is no cell phone reception.

  1. Audio books and music

No matter how gabby you and your friends are there will be plenty of times where you will just be sitting there checking your hair for split ends. For those inevitable situations, music (in enough genres to suit everyone’s tastes) saves the day.

Audio books are another source of diversion that, unlike their hard-copy peers, don’t cause extreme nausea when read in the car.

  1. Healthy, non-fussy snacks + a cooler

A bleak landscape, days without end in a cramped car, and the munchies are the perfect recipe for a bad time. Keep everyone well-fed with non-messy, healthy treats like energy bars, cheese, and vegetables. Throw all your edibles inside a cooler so they stay edible.

  1. Wet wipes

A small, contained space with minimal air circulation is a breeding ground for funky smells. Do your car mates a favor and wipe yourself down with wet wipes. Use them to wash your hands and freshen your armpits if deodorant is unavailable.

  1. AAA membership card

Probably the single most important card you can bring with you on a road trip (other than your driver’s license, of course). In case your car has fallen and can’t get up, AAA membership gets you 24-hour roadside assistance and towing services. Plus peace of mind.

  1. Water – bottled and spray-on

Car air can be extremely dehydrating, so make sure to drink water continuously. While you’re at it, prevent your skin from drying out by spritzing it with mineral water spray, like this one from Evian.

  1. Map

Most of us have a GPS, but if your GPS breaks down or you’re navigating uncharted territories it’s good to have a map to fall back on.

  1. Motion sickness pills (included in first aid kit)

No road trip first aid kit is complete without Dramamine. For natural alternatives, try chewing ginger candy or ginger gum.

  1. Extra: Listerine strips

The last thing you want on a road trip is to visit a roadside food joint and have everyone stinking up the car afterwards with garlic breath. As a precaution, throw some Listerine strips in your bag.

For more on how to prepare for a road trip, check out our post on road trip car preparation or visit our website,