10 Stops You Need To Make On Your Road Trip Up The Golden Coast
I think everyone can agree Cheryl Strayed's venture in "Wild" was beyond commendable and hard.
However, there's an easier way to see the West Coast of the United States, should you be craving some sunshine and adventure. Instead of the PCT, go for the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway).
If you're in the midst of crisis like Strayed, it's a trip you can easily do solo. And if you're just looking for a little getaway, it's a great road trip to do with a loved one or a car filled with friends.
The Pacific Coast Highway, aka The 1, is an ideal drive for both novices as well as intermediate motorists.
It's a smooth route along the coast, and you'll find yourself either putting through small, California beach towns or down long, winding roads with the ocean on one side and the continent on the other.
As an Orange Country high schooler who was terrified of freeways (think Cher and Dion), The 1 was my solace.
It took me almost anywhere I needed to go, and if I was in the midst of a hormone-fueled rage with my parents, I could just hop on and go. Whether it was north or south, it didn't matter.
Plus, it's almost impossible to get lost on this gorgeous, relaxing highway.
So, as the official season of summer — with rosé all day, long naps and beach bumming — comes to a close, I want to encourage one final summertime adventure.
Make it a long weekend, a day trip or a week-long extravaganza.
Here is this California native's guide to coastal trekking:
1. San Diego
Just as Drake wisely suggests, I highly advocate starting from the bottom.
In this case, it's the bottom of the state in San Diego. This city is filled with beautiful beaches and a plethora of bars and dining.
For a real vacation experience, stay at Paradise Point, which is located on an island in northern San Diego. Though the small island is still part of the city, once you've crossed the threshold into Vacation Isle Park, you'll feel as though you've left the continental US altogether.
Spread out over 44 acres with its own marina, five pools, 14 bonfire pits, an 18-hole golf course, NBA basketball courts, five tennis courts and 27 miles of waterfront bike paths, you'll feel as though you're 12 years old and in a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie.
It's the perfect location for detaching and relaxing.
2. San Clemente
Now, here's where I recommend you pull out the real adventurer lurking within you. Skip the hotel and put up your tent at any of the beachside grounds.
With Southern California's incessantly warm climate, you'll be able to enjoy campfires at night and the Pacific Ocean during the day.
Referred to as an unpolished jewel by Surfer Magazine and rated as the fifth best surf town, you don't want to miss out on San Clemente's beaches. Even if you don't surf and you're just looking for those Instagram-worthy photos of you and your boo roughing it, this is the spot.
Better yet, if you're looking for a break from Instagram (and Tumblr, and Facebook, and Snapchat and Twitter), lock your phone in the car and bring only a non-cellular camera to capture the sights.
You can update everyone later.
3. Balboa Island
As you head north toward LA, you'll inevitably need a bathroom break. So why not stop at Balboa Island in Newport Beach?
The carnival-like treats are better than anything you'd find at a gas station, and should you need to stretch your legs, you can stop almost anywhere to rent a paddle board.
After roughing it in San Clemente, you deserve some extravagance, and Malibu is the perfect place to pamper yourself for a night or two.
Book your room at Malibu Beach Inn, where you'll immediately feel as though you've left the metropolis of Los Angeles and entered a seaside hideaway, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and immersed in high-touch service.
Once you're settled, you can grab food from the Malibu Country Mart and venture out to one (or all) of the local wineries. You can go for a Wine Safari in Malibu Hills or Uber to Rosenthal for some live music.
The next day, opt for some self-spoiling and take advantage of the onsite spa suite before heading out to hike any of the numerous ocean-view paths located in the nearby vicinity.
Make sure to finish your indulgent escape with dinner and some cleverly crafted cocktails at Carbon Beach Club.
Easily recognizable as the backdrop of "Easy A," Ojai is another great spot for a bathroom break.
Stretch your legs as you walk through the town, eat at any of the first-class restaurants and purchase an extensive keychain likely to rival those of the Jenner sisters.
6. Santa Barbara
Famously, Santa Barbara has a surplus of nightlife options to choose from.
You can opt to do the whole college rage thing in Isla Vista, venture to Montecito for relaxation or head to Funk Zone for wine tasting, breweries and art. If you're in Downtown SB, stop for dinner at The Palace Grill, where you'll find Cajun cuisine, strong cocktails and an exceptionally energetic wait staff.
At the end of the night, we suggest accommodations at the Four Seasons in Montecito, stopping for a nightcap at the Ty Lounge before heading to bed.
7. Morro Bay
As you continue your way north, you'll notice more and more the foliage starting to change. Morro Bay, also known as the Fog Bank, is an exceptional representation of how different Northern California is from Southern California.
Morro Bay is a wonderfully slow town where the people are sweet and time drags on.
Despite its resounding beauty, the town tends to be vastly unrecognized, and so it's a perfect place for avoiding tourists. Because of this, the small city is lucky to claim multiple areas that appear untouched by humans, such as Black Hill.
8. San Luis Obispo
For overnight accommodations, continue on PCH as it briefly cuts inland, leading you right to San Luis Obispo. While all the tiny SLO hotels are charming, the Madonna Inn is a particularly special spot with its themed rooms.
After you're checked in, head into town for lunch at Big Sky Cafe, where ingredients are sourced from local farmers. And as day melts to night, local bars and breweries will start to open up, live music pouring through their doors to beckon you in.
If you're a literary aficionado (or you just went to high school in California), you'll recognize the town of Cannery Row from Steinbeck's famous novel, aptly named "Cannery Row." Take a bathroom break here to experience the history, views and amazing food.
10. San Francisco
As a final stop, go all out and book at room at the Fairmont San Francisco (or Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square, if you're lucky enough to score a room).
As you pull up to Fairmont, you'll immediately recognize the array of flags from the copious appearances it's made in both television shows and renowned movies. Considering the hotel sits on top of Nob Hill, you'll want to make sure you book a corner room overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
For dinner, allow the adventurer within you to re-emerge. In other words, you should wander. There are hundreds of phenomenal dinner spots in San Fran, so why not discover one all on your own?
If there's a queue at the place you're dying to eat at, pull a real city-native move and grab a drink from the bar while you wait and salivate.
And there you have it. That's the perfect coastal trek mapped out, enabling you to discover adventure, good food and maybe even yourself.