Los Angeles to Big Sur Road Trip
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- Los Angeles, CA
- Ventura, CA
- Solvang, CA
- Pismo Beach, CA
- San Simeon, CA
- Big Sur, CA
- Roadside assistance
- Quick way back
- Scenic way back
- Cheap insurance
Escape to the coast on this dreamy six-hour road trip from Los Angeles to Big Sur. The fastest—and most scenic option—is the coastal route, but you can also take the highway (I-5) for an inland route.
Complete the journey in one day, or take three days to explore what is arguably California’s most dramatic coastline.
But wait! Before you go, pack some sunscreen and enroll in roadside assistance with Jerry for only $6.99. Then, you’ll be ready for anything.
Remember, you don’t need to be a permanent meanderer like Jack Kerouac to have a satisfying adventure. Even weekend warriors can get a ton out of short-term excursions. Just be sure to look for savings on your car insurance with Jerry so you can embrace the mood swings of the road (and extra cash in your pocket) with confidence.
Here’s the Los Angeles to Big Sur road trip that you’ve been dreaming about.
Start in—Los Angeles, CA
Try playing tourist before you leave town. Catch an early-morning hike before spending the day in your car and make sure to fuel your adventure with a picnic box from a popular restaurant before taking off.
Eat here: For a grab-and-go picnic box, we like Blvd Kitchen, Clementine, or Food Lab in the Alley. Eat before you leave town or munch while you drive.
Look at this: The free Broad art museum is always worth exploring. If you’ve never paddled at Echo Park Lake, set aside an hour to rent a swan boat and get into the carefree spirit. Finally, say a prayer at the stunning Wayfarers Chapel for a safe journey.
Try this: Our favorite short hikes near L.A. are Bronson Canyon, Eaton Canyon Falls (there and back in under an hour), Coldwater Canyon Park, and Getty View Trail. You could also hike the urban Silver Lake Stairs.
Echo Park Lake, Los Angeles, CA
Key Takeaway Put on your adventurer’s hat before you leave town and see Los Angeles through fresh eyes.
Stop in—Ventura, CA
A classic surfer town, Ventura offers laid-back vibes and plenty of great food and shops if you want to break up your road trip with a quick seaside stroll.
Eat here: Spencer Makenzie’s is high-quality and beloved by locals. Rumfish y Vino has killer Central American food. If you need coffee (or tea and pastries), Palermo is situated in a beautiful neighborhood.
Look at this: The major attraction here is the Ventura pier, where you can watch the surfers and the waves in a beautiful duet. The shops and eateries make good window-shopping if you just want to browse.
Try this: Time to spare? Visit the Spanish Mission Basilica Buenaventura to explore a historic church, or lower your heart rate by visiting the relaxing Ventura Botanical Gardens.
Ventura Pier, Ventura, CA
Stop in—Solvang, CA
An hour from Ventura is something completely unexpected for a coastal California route. Solvang is a Danish-style town located slightly inland, and it boasts a satisfying combination of European architecture and local eats.
Eat here: Local produce takes the spotlight in Solvang. Fill your belly at Root 246, Succulent Cafe, or Solvang Restaurant.
Look at this: Head to Hans Christian Andersen park to enjoy northern European-style architecture (your Instagram pictures will look fresh out of Copenhagen). For a more traditional California attraction, visit the Old Mission Santa Ines.
Try this: Nojoqui Falls Park is slightly outside town but it’s well worth the detour. If you have time for a farm tour or tasting, there are tons of farms and vineyards near Solvang that are open to the public.
![The bronze Hans Christian Andersen Park statue in Solvang, California.(https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/jerry-uploads-prod/article/images/hans-christian-andersen-271451_1920.jpg “Hans Christian Andersen Park statue, Solvang, CA”) Hans Christian Andersen Park statue, Solvang, CA
Key Takeaway Is it Denmark or is it California? In Solvang, it’s the best of both worlds.
Stop in—Pismo Beach, CA
One more hour up the coast will take you to Pismo Beach. Another sleepy surfing town, Pismo offers some of the best waves on the Pacific Coast and lots of charming outdoor recreational opportunities.
Eat here: The Oyster Loft is pricey but offers local and delicious ingredients. For a classic oceanside meal, try the old-school, family-owned Pismo Fish and Chips. For a casual cup of coffee and a sandwich, head to 8575 Perfetto Cafe and enjoy their adorable patio.
Look at this: You can get a great vantage point of the sea along the shore, and it’s easy to walk on the main beach. Embrace the simplicity and commune with the magnificence of the ocean.
Try this: Kids (and kids at heart) will love the Monarch Butterfly Grove, which hosts beautiful butterflies between late October to February. The nearby Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes are majestic—and extensive. Of course, you can also take a surf class here and learn from the best.
Monarch Butterfly Grove, Pismo Beach, CA
MORE: Road trip essentials
Stop in—San Simeon, CA
Passing through Morro Bay, the route between Pismo Beach and San Simeon is an hour of raw natural beauty where sand meets sea. Stop here if you want to get up close and personal with Mother Nature.
Eat here: Hungry road trippers can satisfy their cravings in San Simeon at Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill or Madeline’s Restaurant & Wine Cellar. A more casual option is The Cafe on Bridge Street.
Look at this: The wild beaches of Ragged Point are just north of San Simeon and feel practically European. Elephant Seal Vista Point is a must. There is plenty of parking and you can often view elephant seals hanging out on the sand.
Try this: For a short walk, explore the trail around Piedras Blancas Light Station. Hearst Castle is a magnificent mansion outside of town that’s worth a drive-by just to marvel at the opulence. If you’re short on time, take a quick jaunt down the San Simeon Pier and fill your lungs with seaside air.
Piedras Blancas Light Station, San Simeon, CA
Key Takeaway There are plenty of free attractions along your route. San Simeon offers wildlife viewing and seaside trails all year-round.
Arrive in—Big Sur, CA
Nearly there! An hour and a half from San Simeon will drop you smack in the middle of Big Sur. There’s so much to do and see in this area that it’s impossible to cover everything. Here are the top hiking, camping, and eating spots in Big Sur.
Sleep here: Take your pick of campgrounds, like Pfeiffer Big Sur just off the highway. Car camping is always an option, too, and many campgrounds offer bathrooms and showers. Of course, you could opt for luxury and book a night at a resort like Fernwood or Treebones. Just be sure to make your reservations far in advance.
Eat here: Our best advice to Big Sur visitors is to pack plentiful snacks so you can stay and eat in scenic locations. This area is pretty remote and minimally populated, so the restaurants are fairly spread out. However, you can find amazing local and farm-to-table options.
Try Deetjen’s if you want a cozy lodge experience with hearty, flavorful American dishes. Nepenthe offers elevated American food with a gorgeous view from the cliffside—unless it’s obscured by mist. For a casual meal (and amazing artwork) go to the Big Sur Coast Gallery Cafe.
Look at this: If you have limited time, try to visit Sand Dollar Beach, Bixby Bridge, McWay Falls, and Pfeiffer Beach (it has purple sand!). These are generally lauded as the most beautiful spots in Big Sur.
Try this: Our two favorite hikes are Point Lobos and Garrapata State Park. If you’re ready for a challenge (and you have access to a shower afterward), try the Tan Bark Trail. On your way out of town, swing by the Big Sur Bakery to pick up treats for your friends and bid farewell to the hills.
McWay Falls, Big Sur, CA
Key Takeaway Big Sur is a bucket list item for many people. But don’t hesitate to come back time and time again, as there’s always more to discover in this stunning region.
Why you need roadside assistance
Planning your road trip is half the battle. But what happens when something doesn’t go according to plan?
The roadside assistance program with Jerry is your backup plan. It’s only $6.99 and it covers winching, lockouts, tire replacement, fuel delivery, and more.
For about the same cost as an overpriced iced coffee, it’s definitely worth investing in roadside assistance. Plus, your mom will be positively thrilled that she doesn’t have to worry about you getting stuck in a ditch somewhere! Win-win!
The fast way back
The fastest route between Big Sur and Los Angeles is via Highway 101 and 1, with a slight detour on 246 if you choose to visit Solvang. It should take about five and a half hours if you drive nonstop.
The scenic way back
In this case, the fastest route is also the most scenic: simply hug the coastline. If you want to see more inland landscapes, then take I-5 and swing by Bakersfield.
Finding cheap car insurance
If you’re shopping for car insurance, Jerry will generate competitive quotes from top providers in less than a minute. It can even find you savings from your current provider!
Jerry gathers your information from your past insurer, so you’re not responsible for any long forms or phone calls. If Jerry finds any discounts—or better prices elsewhere—it’s easy to make a change. Basically, you get all of the savings and coverage, with none of the hassle.
“I was amazed. Jerry is saving us $216 a month.”—Satisfied Jerry user
Can you camp for free at Big Sur?
There are some dispersed camping areas in Big Sur if you’re prepared to car camp or sleep rough. Keep in mind that these areas don’t offer bathrooms or running water.
Is Highway 1 dangerous to drive?
Highway 1 is a curvy but well-maintained road. You may occasionally experience mist clinging to the cliffside, which can obscure the lines on the pavement, but it typically burns off as the sun rises.
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