Taylor-Big-Sur2

A woman enjoying a California road trip

Driving along the Pacific Coast in California is special, but doing a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip is absolutely breathtaking and it is where you will see the Golden State’s true gems! Between the Spanish Colonial architecture in Santa Barbara to the charming Danish ambiance around Solvang and the breathtaking coastal cliffs of Big Sur to the lovely seashore village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, there is so much to adore on a California coastal road trip!

A woman enjoying a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

During late June 2021, I did a dream California road trip for my 30th birthday. I first started my road trip with Ashley from World to Wander where we spent two days exploring Palm Springs and the surrounding areas. From there, we proceeded with a stunning coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco.

A woman exploring Solvang, California

Along the way, we stopped in the beautiful cities of Santa Barbara, Solvang, Los Alamos (where we spent the night) and various stops along the Pacific Coast Highway such as Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Everywhere we visited was incredible!

After spending two days in San Francisco for the first time, I met my mom on my actual birthday and we spent five days experiencing California’s Wine Country. In this article, read all about what to do at the best road trip spots along a California coastal adventure.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like. During my time on the Central Pacific Coast, Skyview Los Alamos hosted me for one night.


Pin the Below Image to Keep Handy

Best Spots on a Santa Barbara to San Francisco Road Trip

Traveling to the Central Pacific Coast:

Big Sur in California during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

Since I started my California road trip in Palm Springs, I personally flew from Newark Airport in New Jersey to Palm Springs International Airport with a layover in Phoenix. If you aren’t starting your road trip in Palm Springs and want to specifically go up the coast, I recommend either flying into San Diego International Airport and starting there or LAX. You can find affordable flights through Skyscanner.

Here is a great guide to a road trip around Southern California.

(Coming home, my mom and I flew from Sacramento International Airport back to Newark with a layover in Seattle.)

The Santa Barbara Courthouse in California

To do a Santa Barbara to San Francisco coastal road trip, you will need to have your own vehicle. Unless you have your own personal car that you’re traveling with, you will need to rent one.

(Click here if you are planning to road trip around the United States and want to rent an RV.)

Staying at Skyview Los Alamos:

A woman enjoying her time at Skyview Los Alamos during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

During our coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, Ashley and I stayed at a luxury, roadside motel called Skyview in Los Alamos. I am not kidding when I tell you that Skyview is the most beautiful, fun and “Instagrammable” motel you will ever stay at during a USA road trip! It even has a rosé vineyard on the property! How cool is that?!

The Rooms at Skyview Motel:
The deluxe room at Skyview Los Alamos

Skyview Los Alamos features stunning rooms that only boutique accommodations offer. Both Ashley and I got our own rooms at Skyview and we both stayed in the Deluxe room that included a king-sized bed, in-room fireplace, en-suite bathroom and a patio that included a fire pit, lounge seating, peach trees and views of the nearby mountains and onsite vineyard. It was amazing and I LOVED everything about it.

The patios outside of Skyview Los Alamos' rooms

The beds at Skyview Los Alamos were cozy and the room also came with high-speed WiFi, a Nespresso machine, Bluetooth-speaker alarm clock radio, mini bar, TV and so much more. In the bathroom were also face masks and makeup remover wipes!

The lobby at Skyview Los Alamos

The other rooms at Skyview Motel were the Cozy room that came with a queen-sized bed; Classic room that had a king-sized bed; the Superior room that had a king-sized bed as well as an in-room fireplace and a private patio overlooking the historic US-101 highway and a Junior Suite that included everything mine and Ashley’s room did, but also offered a living space in the room.

The beautiful Skyview Los Alamos in California

Not only were the rooms at Skyview Motel beautiful and decorated so lovely! I also adored how stunning the grounds were. Located in Santa Ynez Valley, or otherwise known as the Santa Barbara wine country, Skyview Los Alamos features admirable Southwestern plant life all throughout the property and you can find lounge seating and fire pits all around to enjoy.

Skyview Los Alamos Amenities:
Two women walking through the rosé vineyards at Skyview Los Alamos in California during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

When you first check in, the front desk will give you a token that allows you to enjoy a free glass of rosé straight from the motel’s vineyard. Once you pick up your glass of rosé from the hotel’s bar, you can walk around the stunning property and sip your wine, enjoy it by the fire pits or even at Skyview’s pool. Overall, the rosé was delicious!

The pool at Skyview Motel in Los Alamos

Speaking of the pool, it is such a fun spot to hang out at and cool off to in Los Alamos. I also love how adorable the pool area was at Skyview Motel! It is the perfect spot to celebrate a milestone birthday as well as a bachelorette party since there is a pool bar. Plus, there are so many great photo spots all around.

Staying at Skyview Los Alamos during a road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco

Even though Ashley and I unfortunately didn’t have enough time to make our way into Los Alamos, Skyview provides guests with Linus Bikes to rent for a few hours so they can take a fun adventure into town. Los Alamos is filled with interesting history, renowned restaurants and bars, shops, wineries and so much more. There are also great hiking and nature trails all around.

Eating at Skyview in Los Alamos:
Norman Restaurant at Skyview Los Alamos

In addition to all the amazing amenities, Skyview Los Alamos also boasts a wonderful restaurant that features locally sourced food and drinks called Norman.

The outdoor restaurant area at Skyview Motel

Both the indoor and outdoor space at Norman is eclectic, airy and modern. Breakfast at Norman is served every day from 7am to 10:30am and there is also a great lunch, “in-between” snack and dinner menu that features everything from light salads to meat dishes and pasta meals to wonderful dessert items.

Avocado toast with rosé from Skyview Los Alamos

Ashley and I ate at Norman for breakfast during our morning at Skyview and everything was delicious! We both enjoyed our glass of rosé with some coffee and orange juice.

For my meal, I had the avocado toast with 9-grain whole wheat bread, tomato and pesto sauce and Ashley enjoyed the croissant sandwich that included scrambled eggs, spinach, bacon, aioli and white cheddar.

Best Spots on a Santa Barbara to San Francisco Road Trip:

The charming Danish village of Solvang, California

Santa Barbara, California:

After Ashley and I drove across the state from Palm Springs, our first stop was to Santa Barbara. (It took us over three and a half hours to drive from Palm Springs to Santa Barbara.)

A woman at the Santa Barbara Courthouse on a road trip to San Francisco

Santa Barbara is a beautiful and upscale city situated on the Central California coast. The entire town is stunning as it features Spanish-Colonial architecture. In fact, it has the only mission continuously operated by the Franciscans since its founding in 1786. Also, the only restored California Presidio is in downtown Santa Barbara.

The Beach in Santa Barbara:
East Beach in Santa Barbara, California

Overall, Santa Barbara is totally worth a stop along a coastal road trip to San Francisco! Even though we didn’t have a lot of time to experience there, I was cool to see a lot of hot spots that are part of history.

Since it is located on the coast, you can enjoy the beach in Santa Barbara, but one thing to know about the Pacific coast versus the Atlantic is that it is much cooler in the summer in terms of the temperature outside as well as the ocean for swimming. However, the beach is a great spot to enjoy a picnic or a nice bike ride!

The Chromatic Gate:
A woman at the Chromatic Gate in Santa Barbara

Located at East Beach in Santa Barbara is the famous Chromatic Gate in Arco Circle. Created by local artist Herbert Bayer, who unfortunately passed away in 1985, the Chromatic Gate was built as a gateway of the primary colors of the rainbow pallet.

Old Mission Santa Barbara:
A woman at Old Mission Santa Barbara during a coastal road trip to San Francisco

Next, since Santa Barbara is known for its beautiful Mediterranean architecture, make your way into the town and check out the Old Mission Santa Barbara.

One of the most beautiful buildings in this lovely coastal city is most definitely Old Mission Santa Barbara. It bears witness to Franciscan tradition and history since 1786. During a visit to Old Mission Santa Barbara, you can walk through and learn more about its history in the museum. There is also a gift shop, cemetery, mausoleum and historic gardens to walk around in. It is also the home to Franciscan Friars.

Old Mission Santa Barbara

Visiting Old Mission Santa Barbara will bring you straight to Cusco, Peru, which features similar architecture in its plaza mayors.

Santa Barbara Courthouse:
A woman admiring the beautiful Santa Barbara Courthouse during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

One of the most gorgeous spots in Santa Barbara, California is the Santa Barbara Courthouse. It is designed in Spanish-Colonial style and it has a four-faced clock tower, red tile roofs, elegant arches and pretty gardens. The Courthouse, which is still fully operational, was completed in 1929.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

The Santa Barbara Courthouse’s grounds are the perfect spot to enjoy a lovely picnic and the building makes for wonderful photos. It is the perfect location for a courthouse wedding as well!

Paseo Neuvo:

A wonderful spot to dine and shop in Santa Barbara is Paseo Neuvo. It is an open-air, Spanish-style shopping mall that features high-end to boutique stores as well as great restaurants to enjoy a lovely lunch at.

Solvang, California:

A woman enjoying Solvang during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

After exploring Santa Barbara, Ashley and I continued north to the charming Danish-style village of Solvang, California. (It takes around 45 minutes to drive from Santa Barbara to Solvang.)

Solvang is in the Santa Ynez Valley, which is also where Los Alamos is! That is why Skyview makes for the perfect overnight spot on a Santa Barbara to San Francisco coastal road trip!

This quaint village was founded in 1911 by Danish-American educators. In fact, Solvang welcomed Danish Royalty in 1939, 1960 and 1976. It is a great town to stop in during a California road trip.

A woman exploring Solvang during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

Overall, Solvang is home to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which celebrates the Danish author who wrote Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”. The village also boasts four wooden windmills, Danish bakeries and restaurants and it is filled with adorable buildings featuring Northern European architecture.

During our time in Solvang, Ashley and I visited Solvang Brewing Company where we enjoyed delicious craft beer. For dinner, I got the brick-oven Margherita pizza and Ashley enjoyed the chicken fingers.

Craft beer from Solvang Brewery
Pizza from Solvang Brewery

After spending time at the brewery, we walked around Solvang and admired all of the pretty architecture. Overall, Solvang is a very small town, but there are a lot of places to eat at. Some other great foodie spots are Copenhagen Sausage Garden; Mortensen’s, Olsen’s or Birkholm’s Danish Bakeries; Paula’s Pancake House and more!

Los Alamos, California:

A woman walking through a rosé vineyard at Skyview Los Alamos

After enjoying a nice evening in Solvang, Ashley and I drove 20 minutes northeast to Los Alamos where we spent the night at Skyview Motel, which I talk about above.

Pacific Coast Highway from San Luis Obispo to Monterey:

The Pacific Coast Highway in California

On the next day, after spending the night at Skyview Los Alamos, Ashley and I drove north and started our adventure along the scenic Route 1 in San Luis Obispo.

There is a reason why Highway 1 is considered a scenic road trip route. In fact, it is considered one of the top bucket list excursions in the world! Throughout this scenic coastal road trip in California, you can see amazing wildlife, admire breathtaking coastal and scenic views, taste wines influenced by the ocean, eat at renowned restaurants, go on amazing hikes and so much more.

San Simeon, California:
The seals in San Simeon on the Pacific Coast Highway

The first stop that Ashley and I visited along Highway 1 was to the Piedras Blancas Rookery in San Simeon, which is the only elephant seal rookery in the world that is completely free and open to the public.

Overall, there are so many elephant seals that you can see at this spot. I love how cute and funny they are! Please note that Piedras Blancas Rookery does draw a lot of tourists, so it will be crowded when you are there.

Los Padres National Forest:
A woman enjoying the views along the Pacific Coast Highway on a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

A coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco would not be complete without enjoying the beauty in Los Padres National Forest along Highway 1.

Not only are there a plethora of hiking trails in Los Padres National Forest, there are also scenic lookouts, picnic spots and beach areas for you to enjoy.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park:
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Another breathtaking spot along Highway 1 in Big Sur, California is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It is 12 miles and it includes hiking trails; scenic overlooks; the beautiful McWay Falls, which is a waterfall that drops over a cliff of 80 feet into the Pacific Ocean and it is home to over 300-foot redwood trees.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park also includes campsites and picnic areas for all to enjoy in Big Sur!

Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur:
A woman enjoying the views of the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

One of the most iconic and jaw dropping spots along Highway 1 on a coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco is the Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, California.

The Bixby Bridge on Route 1 was completed in 1932 and it is one of the highest bridges of its kind in the world. It is located above a steep canyon that holds the Bixby Creek. It is a popular photo spot and there are so many wonderful viewpoints surrounding this famous bridge.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve:
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

The last stop along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway 1 that you must stop at before enjoying an evening in Carmel-by-the-Sea is Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

This scenic coastal spot boasts incredible sea life and biodiversity, epic hiking trails and so much more. If you have ample time, check out the whaling museum there as well.

Carmel-by-the-Sea:
Carme-by-the-Sea

Our last stop on our coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco was Carmel-by-the-Sea where we enjoyed a lovely evening.

Not only does Carmel-by-the-Seal have a beautiful beach, there is also a lovely downtown area that boasts incredible restaurants, wineries/tasting rooms, boutique shops, souvenir stores, art galleries and so much more.

An Italian seafood dinner with red wine
Bruschetta

During our evening in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Ashley and I enjoyed a lovely Italian dinner at Il Fornaio Carmel, which has a lovely terrace for those looking to enjoy their meal outside. We both savored the bruschetta as an appetizer and enjoyed a bottle of local red wine. For our meal, I had the linguine mare chiaro, which is a seafood pasta dish in a red sauce. Ashley had linguine and clams in a white sauce. Everything was delicious!

After spending some time in the beautiful town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, we made our way to San Francisco. Overall, it takes around two hours to drive from the Carmel/Monterey area to the heart of San Francisco where we spent the following two nights.


A woman enjoying an evening in Solvang during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

I hope you all enjoyed discovering the best spots to stop at along a coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco and reading about our overnight stay at Skyview Los Alamos. If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

Basic Facts of the United States:

Currency: United States Dollar, Capital: Washington D.C., CA State Capital: Sacramento, Time Zone: Pacific Standard Time

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*Anything could happen during your travels. Always make sure you are insured in case there are unforeseen circumstances such as lost luggage/theft, natural disasters, personal liabilities and more. Click here to get insured for your next trip.

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8 Comments

  1. Kim Deer on July 19, 2021 at 9:38 pm

    Love your blog on the stunning towns along the Scenic Pacific coast highway ~ California has such beautiful landscapes and your photography brought it all to life. I felt like I was at all the places mentioned in your blog because of the fabulous photos ~ this was a great informative blog and the Motel you stayed at looked so beautiful ~ love, love, love amazing California ~ I need to get back there again soon ~ you and Ashley look stunning in all these awesome photos ~ love you, mom xoxo 👩♥️

    • Taylor Deer on July 19, 2021 at 9:44 pm

      Thank you so much mom! I love California so much. It is such a beautiful state! Love you too! <3

      • Cosette on July 20, 2021 at 5:27 am

        California is such a beautiful state, and highway 1 along the coast is truly epic. We’ve driven highway 1, but we didn’t visit Los Alamos or Solvang, so will do that the next time we’re in the area.

        • Taylor Deer on July 21, 2021 at 9:06 am

          It really is Cosette! I loved how beautiful everything was. The entire state is so fascinating! 🙂

  2. Francesca on July 20, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    I’m so glad you enjoyed your California coast trip! It really is so beautiful. I love wine tasting on the central coast too. I need to do Los Alamos! Solvang is always such a fun stop too.

    • Taylor Deer on July 21, 2021 at 9:11 am

      Thank you Francesca! I really loved it and all the wine I tried was delicious! 🙂

  3. Maria on July 21, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    Wow Taylor these locations look amazing!! The views from the Pacific Coast are a dream. I did this trip in the other direction, but I took a Flixbus from Santa Barbara to San Francisco so I didn’t have the chance to stop anywhere 🙁
    If I ever go back I will definitely rent a car to do a road trip!

    • Taylor Deer on July 22, 2021 at 2:13 pm

      Yes, it was absolutely beautiful Maria! I really loved that whole entire area! You definitely need a rental car to see all of the best spots when you’re there. 🙂

Leave a Comment





Taylor-Big-Sur2

A woman enjoying a California road trip

Driving along the Pacific Coast in California is special, but doing a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip is absolutely breathtaking and it is where you will see the Golden State’s true gems! Between the Spanish Colonial architecture in Santa Barbara to the charming Danish ambiance around Solvang and the breathtaking coastal cliffs of Big Sur to the lovely seashore village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, there is so much to adore on a California coastal road trip!

A woman enjoying a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

During late June 2021, I did a dream California road trip for my 30th birthday. I first started my road trip with Ashley from World to Wander where we spent two days exploring Palm Springs and the surrounding areas. From there, we proceeded with a stunning coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco.

A woman exploring Solvang, California

Along the way, we stopped in the beautiful cities of Santa Barbara, Solvang, Los Alamos (where we spent the night) and various stops along the Pacific Coast Highway such as Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur and Carmel-by-the-Sea. Everywhere we visited was incredible!

After spending two days in San Francisco for the first time, I met my mom on my actual birthday and we spent five days experiencing California’s Wine Country. In this article, read all about what to do at the best road trip spots along a California coastal adventure.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like. During my time on the Central Pacific Coast, Skyview Los Alamos hosted me for one night.


Pin the Below Image to Keep Handy

Best Spots on a Santa Barbara to San Francisco Road Trip

Traveling to the Central Pacific Coast:

Big Sur in California during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

Since I started my California road trip in Palm Springs, I personally flew from Newark Airport in New Jersey to Palm Springs International Airport with a layover in Phoenix. If you aren’t starting your road trip in Palm Springs and want to specifically go up the coast, I recommend either flying into San Diego International Airport and starting there or LAX. You can find affordable flights through Skyscanner.

Here is a great guide to a road trip around Southern California.

(Coming home, my mom and I flew from Sacramento International Airport back to Newark with a layover in Seattle.)

The Santa Barbara Courthouse in California

To do a Santa Barbara to San Francisco coastal road trip, you will need to have your own vehicle. Unless you have your own personal car that you’re traveling with, you will need to rent one.

(Click here if you are planning to road trip around the United States and want to rent an RV.)

Staying at Skyview Los Alamos:

A woman enjoying her time at Skyview Los Alamos during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

During our coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, Ashley and I stayed at a luxury, roadside motel called Skyview in Los Alamos. I am not kidding when I tell you that Skyview is the most beautiful, fun and “Instagrammable” motel you will ever stay at during a USA road trip! It even has a rosé vineyard on the property! How cool is that?!

The Rooms at Skyview Motel:
The deluxe room at Skyview Los Alamos

Skyview Los Alamos features stunning rooms that only boutique accommodations offer. Both Ashley and I got our own rooms at Skyview and we both stayed in the Deluxe room that included a king-sized bed, in-room fireplace, en-suite bathroom and a patio that included a fire pit, lounge seating, peach trees and views of the nearby mountains and onsite vineyard. It was amazing and I LOVED everything about it.

The patios outside of Skyview Los Alamos' rooms

The beds at Skyview Los Alamos were cozy and the room also came with high-speed WiFi, a Nespresso machine, Bluetooth-speaker alarm clock radio, mini bar, TV and so much more. In the bathroom were also face masks and makeup remover wipes!

The lobby at Skyview Los Alamos

The other rooms at Skyview Motel were the Cozy room that came with a queen-sized bed; Classic room that had a king-sized bed; the Superior room that had a king-sized bed as well as an in-room fireplace and a private patio overlooking the historic US-101 highway and a Junior Suite that included everything mine and Ashley’s room did, but also offered a living space in the room.

The beautiful Skyview Los Alamos in California

Not only were the rooms at Skyview Motel beautiful and decorated so lovely! I also adored how stunning the grounds were. Located in Santa Ynez Valley, or otherwise known as the Santa Barbara wine country, Skyview Los Alamos features admirable Southwestern plant life all throughout the property and you can find lounge seating and fire pits all around to enjoy.

Skyview Los Alamos Amenities:
Two women walking through the rosé vineyards at Skyview Los Alamos in California during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

When you first check in, the front desk will give you a token that allows you to enjoy a free glass of rosé straight from the motel’s vineyard. Once you pick up your glass of rosé from the hotel’s bar, you can walk around the stunning property and sip your wine, enjoy it by the fire pits or even at Skyview’s pool. Overall, the rosé was delicious!

The pool at Skyview Motel in Los Alamos

Speaking of the pool, it is such a fun spot to hang out at and cool off to in Los Alamos. I also love how adorable the pool area was at Skyview Motel! It is the perfect spot to celebrate a milestone birthday as well as a bachelorette party since there is a pool bar. Plus, there are so many great photo spots all around.

Staying at Skyview Los Alamos during a road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco

Even though Ashley and I unfortunately didn’t have enough time to make our way into Los Alamos, Skyview provides guests with Linus Bikes to rent for a few hours so they can take a fun adventure into town. Los Alamos is filled with interesting history, renowned restaurants and bars, shops, wineries and so much more. There are also great hiking and nature trails all around.

Eating at Skyview in Los Alamos:
Norman Restaurant at Skyview Los Alamos

In addition to all the amazing amenities, Skyview Los Alamos also boasts a wonderful restaurant that features locally sourced food and drinks called Norman.

The outdoor restaurant area at Skyview Motel

Both the indoor and outdoor space at Norman is eclectic, airy and modern. Breakfast at Norman is served every day from 7am to 10:30am and there is also a great lunch, “in-between” snack and dinner menu that features everything from light salads to meat dishes and pasta meals to wonderful dessert items.

Avocado toast with rosé from Skyview Los Alamos

Ashley and I ate at Norman for breakfast during our morning at Skyview and everything was delicious! We both enjoyed our glass of rosé with some coffee and orange juice.

For my meal, I had the avocado toast with 9-grain whole wheat bread, tomato and pesto sauce and Ashley enjoyed the croissant sandwich that included scrambled eggs, spinach, bacon, aioli and white cheddar.

Best Spots on a Santa Barbara to San Francisco Road Trip:

The charming Danish village of Solvang, California

Santa Barbara, California:

After Ashley and I drove across the state from Palm Springs, our first stop was to Santa Barbara. (It took us over three and a half hours to drive from Palm Springs to Santa Barbara.)

A woman at the Santa Barbara Courthouse on a road trip to San Francisco

Santa Barbara is a beautiful and upscale city situated on the Central California coast. The entire town is stunning as it features Spanish-Colonial architecture. In fact, it has the only mission continuously operated by the Franciscans since its founding in 1786. Also, the only restored California Presidio is in downtown Santa Barbara.

The Beach in Santa Barbara:
East Beach in Santa Barbara, California

Overall, Santa Barbara is totally worth a stop along a coastal road trip to San Francisco! Even though we didn’t have a lot of time to experience there, I was cool to see a lot of hot spots that are part of history.

Since it is located on the coast, you can enjoy the beach in Santa Barbara, but one thing to know about the Pacific coast versus the Atlantic is that it is much cooler in the summer in terms of the temperature outside as well as the ocean for swimming. However, the beach is a great spot to enjoy a picnic or a nice bike ride!

The Chromatic Gate:
A woman at the Chromatic Gate in Santa Barbara

Located at East Beach in Santa Barbara is the famous Chromatic Gate in Arco Circle. Created by local artist Herbert Bayer, who unfortunately passed away in 1985, the Chromatic Gate was built as a gateway of the primary colors of the rainbow pallet.

Old Mission Santa Barbara:
A woman at Old Mission Santa Barbara during a coastal road trip to San Francisco

Next, since Santa Barbara is known for its beautiful Mediterranean architecture, make your way into the town and check out the Old Mission Santa Barbara.

One of the most beautiful buildings in this lovely coastal city is most definitely Old Mission Santa Barbara. It bears witness to Franciscan tradition and history since 1786. During a visit to Old Mission Santa Barbara, you can walk through and learn more about its history in the museum. There is also a gift shop, cemetery, mausoleum and historic gardens to walk around in. It is also the home to Franciscan Friars.

Old Mission Santa Barbara

Visiting Old Mission Santa Barbara will bring you straight to Cusco, Peru, which features similar architecture in its plaza mayors.

Santa Barbara Courthouse:
A woman admiring the beautiful Santa Barbara Courthouse during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

One of the most gorgeous spots in Santa Barbara, California is the Santa Barbara Courthouse. It is designed in Spanish-Colonial style and it has a four-faced clock tower, red tile roofs, elegant arches and pretty gardens. The Courthouse, which is still fully operational, was completed in 1929.

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

The Santa Barbara Courthouse’s grounds are the perfect spot to enjoy a lovely picnic and the building makes for wonderful photos. It is the perfect location for a courthouse wedding as well!

Paseo Neuvo:

A wonderful spot to dine and shop in Santa Barbara is Paseo Neuvo. It is an open-air, Spanish-style shopping mall that features high-end to boutique stores as well as great restaurants to enjoy a lovely lunch at.

Solvang, California:

A woman enjoying Solvang during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

After exploring Santa Barbara, Ashley and I continued north to the charming Danish-style village of Solvang, California. (It takes around 45 minutes to drive from Santa Barbara to Solvang.)

Solvang is in the Santa Ynez Valley, which is also where Los Alamos is! That is why Skyview makes for the perfect overnight spot on a Santa Barbara to San Francisco coastal road trip!

This quaint village was founded in 1911 by Danish-American educators. In fact, Solvang welcomed Danish Royalty in 1939, 1960 and 1976. It is a great town to stop in during a California road trip.

A woman exploring Solvang during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

Overall, Solvang is home to the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, which celebrates the Danish author who wrote Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”. The village also boasts four wooden windmills, Danish bakeries and restaurants and it is filled with adorable buildings featuring Northern European architecture.

During our time in Solvang, Ashley and I visited Solvang Brewing Company where we enjoyed delicious craft beer. For dinner, I got the brick-oven Margherita pizza and Ashley enjoyed the chicken fingers.

Craft beer from Solvang Brewery
Pizza from Solvang Brewery

After spending time at the brewery, we walked around Solvang and admired all of the pretty architecture. Overall, Solvang is a very small town, but there are a lot of places to eat at. Some other great foodie spots are Copenhagen Sausage Garden; Mortensen’s, Olsen’s or Birkholm’s Danish Bakeries; Paula’s Pancake House and more!

Los Alamos, California:

A woman walking through a rosé vineyard at Skyview Los Alamos

After enjoying a nice evening in Solvang, Ashley and I drove 20 minutes northeast to Los Alamos where we spent the night at Skyview Motel, which I talk about above.

Pacific Coast Highway from San Luis Obispo to Monterey:

The Pacific Coast Highway in California

On the next day, after spending the night at Skyview Los Alamos, Ashley and I drove north and started our adventure along the scenic Route 1 in San Luis Obispo.

There is a reason why Highway 1 is considered a scenic road trip route. In fact, it is considered one of the top bucket list excursions in the world! Throughout this scenic coastal road trip in California, you can see amazing wildlife, admire breathtaking coastal and scenic views, taste wines influenced by the ocean, eat at renowned restaurants, go on amazing hikes and so much more.

San Simeon, California:
The seals in San Simeon on the Pacific Coast Highway

The first stop that Ashley and I visited along Highway 1 was to the Piedras Blancas Rookery in San Simeon, which is the only elephant seal rookery in the world that is completely free and open to the public.

Overall, there are so many elephant seals that you can see at this spot. I love how cute and funny they are! Please note that Piedras Blancas Rookery does draw a lot of tourists, so it will be crowded when you are there.

Los Padres National Forest:
A woman enjoying the views along the Pacific Coast Highway on a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

A coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco would not be complete without enjoying the beauty in Los Padres National Forest along Highway 1.

Not only are there a plethora of hiking trails in Los Padres National Forest, there are also scenic lookouts, picnic spots and beach areas for you to enjoy.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park:
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Another breathtaking spot along Highway 1 in Big Sur, California is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It is 12 miles and it includes hiking trails; scenic overlooks; the beautiful McWay Falls, which is a waterfall that drops over a cliff of 80 feet into the Pacific Ocean and it is home to over 300-foot redwood trees.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park also includes campsites and picnic areas for all to enjoy in Big Sur!

Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur:
A woman enjoying the views of the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

One of the most iconic and jaw dropping spots along Highway 1 on a coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco is the Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur, California.

The Bixby Bridge on Route 1 was completed in 1932 and it is one of the highest bridges of its kind in the world. It is located above a steep canyon that holds the Bixby Creek. It is a popular photo spot and there are so many wonderful viewpoints surrounding this famous bridge.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve:
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

The last stop along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway 1 that you must stop at before enjoying an evening in Carmel-by-the-Sea is Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

This scenic coastal spot boasts incredible sea life and biodiversity, epic hiking trails and so much more. If you have ample time, check out the whaling museum there as well.

Carmel-by-the-Sea:
Carme-by-the-Sea

Our last stop on our coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco was Carmel-by-the-Sea where we enjoyed a lovely evening.

Not only does Carmel-by-the-Seal have a beautiful beach, there is also a lovely downtown area that boasts incredible restaurants, wineries/tasting rooms, boutique shops, souvenir stores, art galleries and so much more.

An Italian seafood dinner with red wine
Bruschetta

During our evening in Carmel-by-the-Sea, Ashley and I enjoyed a lovely Italian dinner at Il Fornaio Carmel, which has a lovely terrace for those looking to enjoy their meal outside. We both savored the bruschetta as an appetizer and enjoyed a bottle of local red wine. For our meal, I had the linguine mare chiaro, which is a seafood pasta dish in a red sauce. Ashley had linguine and clams in a white sauce. Everything was delicious!

After spending some time in the beautiful town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, we made our way to San Francisco. Overall, it takes around two hours to drive from the Carmel/Monterey area to the heart of San Francisco where we spent the following two nights.


A woman enjoying an evening in Solvang during a Santa Barbara to San Francisco road trip

I hope you all enjoyed discovering the best spots to stop at along a coastal road trip from Santa Barbara to San Francisco and reading about our overnight stay at Skyview Los Alamos. If you have any questions, please email me at [email protected]

Basic Facts of the United States:

Currency: United States Dollar, Capital: Washington D.C., CA State Capital: Sacramento, Time Zone: Pacific Standard Time

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8 Comments

  1. Kim Deer on July 19, 2021 at 9:38 pm

    Love your blog on the stunning towns along the Scenic Pacific coast highway ~ California has such beautiful landscapes and your photography brought it all to life. I felt like I was at all the places mentioned in your blog because of the fabulous photos ~ this was a great informative blog and the Motel you stayed at looked so beautiful ~ love, love, love amazing California ~ I need to get back there again soon ~ you and Ashley look stunning in all these awesome photos ~ love you, mom xoxo 👩♥️

    • Taylor Deer on July 19, 2021 at 9:44 pm

      Thank you so much mom! I love California so much. It is such a beautiful state! Love you too! <3

      • Cosette on July 20, 2021 at 5:27 am

        California is such a beautiful state, and highway 1 along the coast is truly epic. We’ve driven highway 1, but we didn’t visit Los Alamos or Solvang, so will do that the next time we’re in the area.

        • Taylor Deer on July 21, 2021 at 9:06 am

          It really is Cosette! I loved how beautiful everything was. The entire state is so fascinating! 🙂

  2. Francesca on July 20, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    I’m so glad you enjoyed your California coast trip! It really is so beautiful. I love wine tasting on the central coast too. I need to do Los Alamos! Solvang is always such a fun stop too.

    • Taylor Deer on July 21, 2021 at 9:11 am

      Thank you Francesca! I really loved it and all the wine I tried was delicious! 🙂

  3. Maria on July 21, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    Wow Taylor these locations look amazing!! The views from the Pacific Coast are a dream. I did this trip in the other direction, but I took a Flixbus from Santa Barbara to San Francisco so I didn’t have the chance to stop anywhere 🙁
    If I ever go back I will definitely rent a car to do a road trip!

    • Taylor Deer on July 22, 2021 at 2:13 pm

      Yes, it was absolutely beautiful Maria! I really loved that whole entire area! You definitely need a rental car to see all of the best spots when you’re there. 🙂

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