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Tessa Pesicka / Her Campus

6 Must-See Stops for a Pacific Coast Highway Roadtrip

Pacific Coast Highway is an iconic drive whether you’re just visiting California or have lived here all of your life. San Luis Obispo is positioned near the middle of the famous coastline road, making this an ideal road trip for you to take this summer. Here are 3 places North and 3 places South of SLO to check out along the way. 

Big Sur

One of the most picturesque locations along this road trip is Big Sur, CA. Just driving through you can see gorgeous seaside cliffs and the Pacific ocean, but for even more scenery, spend the afternoon at Big Sur state park

Carmel by the Sea

Carmel by the Sea is a unique town where you can find both stunning beaches and a cute shopping area. Explore adorable cottages or hike to Point Lobos Natural Reserve to spot marine life and tidepools. 

Santa Cruz

Even further North, check out Santa Cruz, home to both rocky coastline and rugged redwoods. The boardwalk and wharf are also popular tourist destinations, where you can board a carnival ride or get a bite to eat. 


Malibu is one of the most famous beach cities in California, so naturally it had to make this list. Although it is the focal point, there’s lots to do away from the shore too; you can visit the Getty Villa Museum, go mountain biking, or walk the pier. 

Laguna Beach

Laguna offers so many ways to get out in nature, from scenic hiking trails to beaches and protected tidepools. If you’re bored with the beach by this point in your trip, Laguna Beach is also rich with art galleries, classes, and shops to explore. 

Santa Barbara

Stop by Santa Barbara to relax by the beach, tour the Cold Spring Tavern, or walk through the SB Museum of Natural History. There’s also tons of shopping and dining locations along the iconic State Street. 

If you’re traveling this summer, be sure to stay safe and follow local COVID guidelines wherever you go. These scenic spots are only a small bit of the beauty the California coast has to offer, but they are a good place to start when planning this summer’s road trip. 

Emi Nishida

Cal Poly '24

Emi Nishida is a third year English major with Linguistics and Child Development minors from Irvine, California. She serves as Editor in Chief and editorial writer for Cal Poly’s chapter of Her Campus. Other than writing, her passions include concerts, romcoms, anything arts & crafts, and exploring the outdoors.
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