Places To Stop Along The Pacific Coast Highway On Your Summer Road Trip

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The West Coast is calling your name this summer, and I really hope you answer. The sunniest season of the year always means endless adventures, but you might be feeling stuck in your usual scenery. You want to explore cliffside towns and cure your wanderlust with dreamy waterfalls that flow into the beach. It sounds like you need to head on a California road trip with the crew, and these are some of the best places to stop along the Pacific Coast Highway.

You've always wondered what it would be like to pack up a camper van and cruise down the California coastline with your best friends. You'd all squeeze onto a couple of blankets in the back when you needed to take a snooze, and you'd make a thousand memories seeing some of the coolest sights this country has to offer.

All of those episodes of The Hills have made Los Angeles a must on your bucket list, but there's so much beauty along the Pacific Coast Highway that's waiting to be explored. Surround yourself with palm trees and surfers, and spend your nights underneath the stars. Sounds sweet, huh? These seven stops just scratch the surface, but are ones you won't want to sleep on when you're planning your road trip.

1San Francisco

The first stop on your summer road trip should be San Francisco. You probably know by now that sights like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Painted Ladies are a must for every traveler who's headed to California. After watching Full House, seeing where the Tanners spent their time will honestly be a dream come true.

Spend an afternoon by the coast, but then also let your feet wander more inland to the national parks. The tall trees in Redwood National Park will truly make you put things in perspective. It'll be difficult to pace yourself going through this amazing city, but remember — there's still so much more to see along the Pacific Coast Highway.

2San Jose

For San Jose, you'll want to pack your sneakers, a backpack, and a good water bottle. Although it's a city, there are some great hiking trails that'll lead you to wonderful views of California. You'll spend most of your time exploring the outdoors in places like Almaden Quicksilver County Park, so be sure you have a lot of space on your camera roll. Soak up everything this spot in Northern California has to offer, and swoon over the #views.

3Santa Cruz

One of the coolest beach boardwalks ever is located in the lovely Santa Cruz. Summertime is about making memories. You could sit around in the air conditioning all season long, or you could explore the whole wide world and take trips to lively and colorful places like this one. After one amusement park ride, you'll realize that it's not too difficult of a decision to make. Santa Cruz is also home to more than 14 different skate parks, so pack your board and maybe a pair of Vans when you're headed on this trip.

4Big Sur

Joel Bear Studios/Stocksy

With rocky hills right against the road and beautiful teal waves that wash right on the shore, you'll be mesmerized by what this Earth can do. You'll spend lots of time wading in the Pacific Ocean with your people during this summer road trip, but admiring the sea from afar will certainly have its perks, too.

Be sure to check out McWay Falls when you're following your wanderlust. The waterfall can be seen by taking a short trail with wooden steps to an overlook. Even driving over the Bixby Bridge will leave you in awe, and you'll want to stop on the side of the road to get the full effect.

5Santa Monica

Carey Shaw/Stocksy

Set your sights on Santa Monica. After seeing the cliffs of the California coast, you'll want to be among the palms. Planning at least a day or two for exploring Los Angeles is necessary, and this spot is within the area. During the day, you'll walk along Rodeo Drive, pose against the colorful walls on Melrose Avenue, and probably see all of the pink celebrity stars in the sidewalk. If you're a fan of La La Land, you'll likely check out the Griffith Observatory for some quality stargazing as well.

When you're in need of a beach instead of a city scene, head to the pier for a radiant sunset and the rides of Pacific Park. Be ready for a round or two of beach volleyball while you're at it.

6Laguna Beach

Settled in Orange County, this stop is about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. If you need to stretch your legs a bit by the time you've reached this point in the road trip, then check out all of the coves and soak up even more sun. Laguna Beach is popular for being a place for beginning and intermediate surfers, according to VisitLagunaBeach.com. If you've been wanting to hit the waves in true California style, then maybe you'll take a lesson or two while you're there. Surf's up, am I right?

7San Diego

Nathan French/Stocksy

Your last stop along the Pacific Coast Highway will probably be San Diego. After hitting up the beach, head over to the San Diego Zoo. Hop aboard the Kangaroo Bus to explore different attractions, and be sure to take the Skyfari Aerial Tram to experience the zoo from a different viewpoint.

Like a lot of the stops you'll come across during your summer road trip, you'll find endless sunshine and miles of beautiful beaches waiting for you in SoCal. Embrace every second of this experience with your besties before hopping on a plane home. Where to next? The wanderlust never stops.