Michelin Green Guide:
California

The Michelin Green Guide to California covers the whole state and is good on maps, the sights, major cities and towns, less good on hotels and restaurants.

Pismo Beach SunsetPismo Beach Sunset

This Michelin Green Guide California didn’t get off to the best of starts for me. Naturally the first thing I did was look in the index for ‘Pacific Coast Highway’. It doesn’t appear. Can you possibly write a guide to California without at least one mention of the PCH? Even casting our bias aside – I don’t think so.

Next I looked up a place we’ve been to recently: Cambria. Now Cambria’s a small place, so it doesn’t surprise me that it only warrants one sentence. But that sentence describes Cambria as a ‘languid beach town’.

To call Cambria a beach town is misleading. The main part of town is inland, and while it does have some beaches on the outskirts, like at Moonstone Beach Drive, Cambria is not a beach town. Pismo Beach is a beach town.

Looking at somewhere else we’ve been to recently, I turned to the section on La Jolla. ‘La Jolla,’ the guide says, ‘is famed for its boutiques, museums…’ Boutiques, yes, but it only has one museum: the Museum of Contemporary Art. The write-up for the museum says that it puts on temporary exhibitions drawn from its own collection. This is inaccurate too. They draw on more than just their own collection to produce their exhibitions.

Museum of Contemporary Art, La JollaMuseum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla

Photo (c) Donna Dailey

Michelin Green Guide California: Maps

What should be made clear is that the Green in the title merely refers to the color and series of the guide, not to it having any green or eco agenda to it. Having got the nit-picking out of the way, what’s to like? Well, it does have lots of good, clear maps.

Michelin has a wealth of experience in map-making, squeezing and cross-referencing lots of hotels and restaurants onto city maps for their infamous Red Guides. In the Green Guides they work just as well, and if you’re planning on driving the Pacific Coast Highway you’ll find maps to places and areas like Downtown Santa Barbara, the Spanish Missions of California, Historic Monterey, the Monterey Peninsula (including the 17-Mile Drive), and several maps for each of the major cities of San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Hotels and Restaurants

Given how good the Michelin Red Guides are for hotels and restaurants, this Green Guide is surprisingly poor. In the Central Coast area, for example, there’s only one hotel recommendation for Monterey, and two for Santa Barbara.

Restaurants? One in Monterey, one in Santa Barbara, two in Carmel, one in Pacific Grove, and the inevitable Nepenthe for Big Sur. And that’s it – six restaurants listed for almost 250 miles of coast.

Hearst Castle Outdoor PoolHearst Castle Outdoor Pool

Hearst Castle, photo (c) Donna Dailey

Cities, Towns, Sights

The book does do a good job of covering the major cities, towns, and the sights of California, from Disneyland to Hearst Castle, from the National Parks to the State Parks and State Beaches.

With these, the guide seems to give a pretty comprehensive coverage. Hearst Castle gets two pages – just don’t expect any suggestions as to where you might stay when you visit. Disneyland gets seven pages and a good two-page color map. Death Valley National Park has about four pages and a map.

Is the Book Worth Buying?

If you’re planning on driving the Pacific Coast Highway and only stopping at major places like Santa Barbara, Monterey, Carmel, or Big Sur, alongside the main cities, then the book will be a useful companion. If you want to visit smaller places such as Cambria, Half Moon Bay, or Dana Point, then it won’t – they’re hardly mentioned, if mentioned at all.

The guidebook will also be worth considering if you’re also going exploring inland, maybe to wine country, Palm Springs, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, or Death Valley. It’s good on sights and maps, less good on hotels, restaurants, and smaller towns and villages.

Other books pages

  • Your Insider's Guide to San Francisco

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's book review of Insider's Guide to San Francisco guidebook by Jill Loeffler, publisher of the San Francisco Tourism Tips website.

  • West Coast RV Parks

    One of the best guides to West Coast RV Parks, covering campgrounds in California, Oregon, and Washington, is West Coast RV Camping from Moon Guides.

  • Washington State Travel Guide

    The Washington State travel guide from Frommer's covers hotels in Seattle, driving the Pacific Coast Highway, Olympic National Park, where to eat and more.

  • Vintage Hollywood

    Vintage Hollywood in Los Angeles is an extract from the Lonely Planets book Culture Trails.

  • Cycling the USA West Coast

    Lonely Planet's Guide to Cycling the USA West Coast is a bicycling guidebook for anyone touring California, Oregon and Washington by bike.

  • California Camping Book Review

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's California Camping book review rates the 20th anniversary edition of Moon's complete guide to over 1400 tent and RV campgrounds.

  • The Best Coast Book Review

    The Best Coast is a west coast travel guide, sub-titled A Road Trip Atlas it doesn't use photos but instead has hundreds of beautiful illustrations.

  • Soul of Los Angeles

    Soul of Los Angeles from French publishers Jonglez is a travel guide to 30 Exceptional Experiences in California's largest city.

  • Santa Barbara Guidebook

    The Santa Barbara Guidebook from Moon Handbooks also covers California’s Central Coast with Ventura, San Luis Obispo, wine country, and Hearst Castle.

  • Road Food Guide

    West Coast Road Eats is a road food guide covering the Pacific Coast from California through Oregon to Washington, giving the best road trip food stops.

  • Books About the Pacific Coast Highway

    Books About the Pacific Coast Highway in California, Oregon and Washington including travel guidebooks, route guides, restaurant guides, and many more.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips: Lonely Planet Guidebook Review

    Review of the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips book from Lonely Planet, which includes a California Driving Guide, by the Pacific Coast Highway Travel website.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Guide book covering the drive from Vancouver to San Diego.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Moon Guide

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews the Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip guide from Moon covering California, Oregon and Washington

  • Pacific Coast Highway in California

    The Pacific Coast Highway in California book shows in historic photos the building of the Pacific Coast Highway from its earliest beginnings in 1911.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Guides. Book and ebook hotel guides to PCH

    Pacific Coast Highway guides include our own printed book and ebook guides to the best hotels along the PCH, available in paperback, PDF and Kindle formats.

  • Olympic Peninsula Travel Guide

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel reviews an Olympic Peninsula Travel Guide published by the Beautiful Pacific Northwest website.

  • Northwest Wine Country

    Northwest Wine Country is a food and wine lover's guide to vineyards, fine dining, accommodation, restaurants in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia.

  • Napa and Sonoma Guidebook

    The Napa and Sonoma Guidebook to California Wine Country is from the Moon Handbooks’ travel guide series with reviews of wineries,vineyards, and wine tastings.

  • Michelin Guide to California

    The Michelin Guide to California is a gourmet's guide to the best restaurants along the Pacific Coast Highway and elsewhere in California.

  • Los Angeles Travel Guide

    The Los Angeles travel guide book from Lonely Planet also covers San Diego and Southern California, including Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, and Disneyland.

  • Lighthouses of the Pacific Coast

    Lighthouses of the Pacific Coast, published by Voyageur Press, is a guide in words and pictures to historic lighthouses along the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • John Steinbeck California Guide

    This John Steinbeck California Guide, A Journey into Steinbeck's California, shows readers how towns like Monterey, Carmel and Salinas influenced the author.

  • Guide to the Olympic Peninsula

    Moon's Spotlight Guide to the Olympic Peninsula covers hotels, restaurants, and sights, including Forks, the Olympic National Park and other places.



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