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- Key trip details
- Los Angeles, CA
- Los Angeles to Solvang, CA
- Solvang to Pismo Beach, CA
- Pismo Beach to San Simeon, CA
- San Simeon to Big Sur, CA
- Why you need roadside assistance
- The fast way back
- The scenic way back
- Finding cheap car insurance
Load full table of contents
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.
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Key trip details
Distance: 302 miles
Driving time: 5 hours and 45 minutes
Suggested length of trip: 1 to 3 days
- Los Angeles, CA
- Solvang, CA
- Pismo Beach, CA
- San Simeon, CA
- Big Sur, CA
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.
Where to eat in Los Angeles
- Clementine ($$): For a grab-and-go picnic box, we like Clementine for salads, sandwiches, and pastries.
- Food Lab in the Alley ($$): Another great spot for seasonal specialties and organic meals is Food Lab in the Alley. Eat before you leave town or munch while you drive.
What to do in Los Angeles
- The Broad Museum: The Broad art museum is always worth exploring to see some cool contemporary art. What’s even better about this museum is its free admission!
- Echo Park Lake by paddle boat: If you’ve never paddled at Echo Park Lake, set aside an hour to rent a swan boat and get into the carefree spirit.
Key Takeaway Put on your adventurer’s hat before you leave town and see Los Angeles through fresh eyes.
Los Angeles to Solvang, CA
128 miles, 2 hours 24 minutes
Two hours from L.A. 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.
Take US-101 N from L.A. for Solvang.
What to eat in Solvang
- Succulent Cafe ($$): Local produce takes the spotlight in Solvang. Fill your belly at Succulent Cafe for locally sourced dishes, quality wines, and charcuterie boards.
- Solvang Restaurant ($$): This is pretty much the Little Denmark of California, right? Might as well stop by Solvang Restaurant for Danish dishes.
What to do in Solvang
- Hans Christian Andersen Park: Head to Hans Christian Andersen park to enjoy northern European-style architecture (your Instagram pictures will look fresh out of Copenhagen).
- Old Mission Santa Ines: For a more traditional California attraction, visit the Old Mission Santa Ines.
- Tour Solvang: 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. This guide will get you started.
Key Takeaway Is it Denmark or is it California? In Solvang, it’s the best of both worlds.
Solvang to Pismo Beach, CA
54 miles, 53 minutes
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.
Hit US-101 N out of Solvang for Pismo Beach.
Where to eat in Pismo Beach
- The Oyster Loft ($$$): The Oyster Loft is pricey but offers local and delicious ingredients for a great dinner.
- Pismo Fish and Chips ($$): For a classic oceanside meal, try the old-school, family-owned Pismo Fish and Chips.
- 8575 Perfetto Cafe ($): For a casual cup of coffee and a sandwich, head to 8575 Perfetto Cafe and enjoy their adorable patio.
What to do in Pismo Beach
- Stroll beachside: 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.
- Monarch Butterfly Grove: Kids (and kids at heart) will love the Monarch Butterfly Grove, which hosts beautiful butterflies between late October to February.
- Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes: The nearby Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes are majestic—and extensive. Of course, you can also take a surf class here and learn from the best.
MORE: Road trip essentials
Pismo Beach to San Simeon, CA
55 miles, 1 hour
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.
CA-1 N is how you’ll get to San Simeon.
Where to eat in San Simeon
- Madeline’s Restaurant & Wine Cellar ($$$): Hungry road trippers can satisfy their cravings in San Simeon at Madeline’s Restaurant & Wine Cellar for upper-scale eats inspired by American and French cuisine.
- The Cafe on Bridge Street ($): A more casual option is The Cafe on Bridge Street, which happens to be in a historic house.
What to do in San Simeon
- Elephant Seal Vista Point: Elephant Seal Vista Point is a must. There is plenty of parking and you can often view elephant seals hanging out on the sand.
- Piedras Blancas Light Station: For a short walk, explore the trail around Piedras Blancas Light Station.
- Hearst Castle: Hearst Castle is a magnificent mansion outside of town that’s worth a drive-by just to marvel at the opulence.
- San Simeon Pier: If you’re short on time, take a quick jaunt down the San Simeon Pier and fill your lungs with seaside air.
Key Takeaway There are plenty of free attractions along your route. San Simeon offers wildlife viewing and seaside trails all year-round.
San Simeon to Big Sur, CA
65 miles, 1 hour 36 minutes
Nearly there! An hour and a half from San Simeon will drop you smack in the middle of Big Sur. There’s so much to do and see in this area that it’s impossible to cover everything. Here are the top hiking, camping, and eating spots in Big Sur.
Follow CA-1 N to get to Big Sur!
Where to stay in Big Sur
- Fernwood: Not in the mood to camp? You can opt for a luxury resort-like Fernwood for a comfortable stay after driving all day. Cost per night: from $205
- Treebones Resort: Another non-camping, fancier option is Treebones. You’ll be sure to remember sleeping in a yurt after a long drive! Just be sure to make your reservations far in advance. Cost per night: from $340
Where to eat in Big Sur
- Deetjen’s ($$): 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. Stop by here if you want a cozy lodge experience with hearty, flavorful American dishes.
- Nepenthe ($$$): This restaurant offers elevated American food with a gorgeous view from the cliffside—unless it’s obscured by mist.
- Coast Gallery Cafe ($$): For a casual meal (and amazing artwork) go to the Big Sur Coast Gallery Cafe.
What to do at Big Sur
- Pfeiffer Beach: If you see only one beach on your trip, make sure it’s this one — it has purple sand!
- Bixby Bridge: For the best views of the ocean and nearby cliffs, you need to stop by Bixby Bridge. Take in the view and remind yourself that you’ve made it to Big Sur!
- McWay Falls: Be sure to see this 80-foot waterfall right on the coast of Big Sur. Certainly an unforgettable photo op spot!
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 hassles.
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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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