Pacific Coast Highway Driving Tips

Pacific Coast Highway driving tips for this great American road trip include finding cheap gas, watching the speed limits, and allowing plenty of travel time.

A Stretch of the Pacific Coast HighwayA Stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway

Here are ten very simple Pacific Coast Highway driving tips that might help to make that road trip a better drive. They're only simple tips, but sometimes that's all you need.

If you prefer your information in video format, these tips are all available in our YouTube video:

Pacific Coast Highway Driving Tips

Here are ten very simple Pacific Coast Highway driving tips that might help to make that road trip a better drive. They're only simple tips, but sometimes that's all you need.

1. Drive north to south if you're able to choose. That way you're on the coast side of the highway, which means better views, and it's much easier to pull off into the best viewpoints.

2. Find the cheapest gas. If you have internet access, use the excellent GasBuddy.com website to find the cheapest gas wherever you are. There are some other apps too, so get one on your phone.

3. Check gas prices ahead. You can use Gas Buddy for this too, or just ask around, to find out if gas is cheaper where you are, or in the next town along. There can be big differences for all kinds of reasons – crossing a county line, crossing a state line, more competition in bigger towns, or just a general trend. If you're filling a big tank, you can save the cost of a meal by filling up in the right place, and at the right gas station.

4. Always have snacks and water in the car, and a cool-bag to put them in. It can get pretty hot in places in the summer, and water's essential. Snacks too. It's like gas – just when you assume there's got to be somewhere to buy something before too long, that's when there isn't.

5. The Pacific Coast Highway is a state of mind. Don't get hung up on where it starts and where it ends. It's just a name given to a part of the coast road by legislators. Whether it's called the Cabrillo Highway or the Coast Highway, whether it goes from San Francisco to Los Angeles or from San Diego to Seattle – it's one of the most beautiful road trip drives in the United States, so do as much of it as you can in the time you've got available.

Red sports car parked on the Pacific Coast HighwayPull Over and Enjoy the Views!

6. Allow plenty of time. There are lots of viewpoints, official and unofficial. Nature also has a habit of sucking you in, whether it's a sighting of a whale, a family of otters, or walking among the giant redwoods – give yourself time to enjoy the experience. And if nothing happens – so, you get to your destination early and can hang out and enjoy it.

7. Get off the Highway. There are some great beaches and seaside towns that require you to get off the highway and explore them. Likewise, there are some state parks and gorgeous areas like Paso Robles wine country for which you need to head inland a little. Don't feel chained to the Pacific Coast Highway – veer off, explore, and come back to it.

8. Watch those speed limits. You're not cruising an Interstate. You can be zipping along the Highway one minute and then bam, you're in a town center. It's the joy of the Highway, the way it passes right through lots of towns along the way. So respect the folk that live there, and keep to the speed limit.

9. Take a break. 10 in 2 is a good motto. Every two hours, take a ten-minute break, even if you don't feel you need one. It stretches the muscles and freshens the mind a little.

10. Don't run out of gas. What? Well, if you set off in Southern California it's easy to assume there are gas stations every few miles, but they tend to get less frequent the further north you go. Even in one of the most famous and most beautiful stretches of the road, Big Sur, gas stations are pretty spread out. Don't take chances.

Other driving pages

  • When to Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

    When to Drive the Pacific Coast Highway depends on whether you want to drive in Oregon and Washington as well as California, and on the weather.

  • 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.

  • Ways to Go

    Here are links to the different ways you can go along the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the most popular drives in the world but you can also cycle it.

  • San Francisco to San Diego

    Driving from San Francisco to San Diego has two main options, the fast way on I-5 or the scenic route along the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • The 17-Mile Drive between Carmel, Pacific Grove, and Monterey

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel takes the 17-Mile Drive from Carmel to Pacific Grove and Monterey, stopping to see the Lone Cypress and beautiful coastline views.

  • Route 66 Meets the Pacific Coast Highway

    Historic Route 66 winds from Chicago to LA, going through Los Angeles, meeting the Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica, California, at the Santa Monica Pier.

  • Pacific Coast Highway Stops

    Pacific Coast Highway stops include big city vacation destinations like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and smaller places like Monterey.

  • 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 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 Drive Times and Distances

    Drive times and distances on the Pacific Coast Highway or the quickest routes from Seattle to San Francisco to Los Angeles to San Diego.

  • Maps of the Pacific Coast Highway: Free Driving Maps of the PCH

    Road maps of the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH are essential for anyone planning to drive the trip, and detailed routes are available for free.

  • LA to Hearst Castle

    Pacific Coast Highway travel offers advice on driving from LA to Hearst Castle, including distance, journey time, and route.

  • Epic Drives of the World

    Epic Drives of the World from Lonely Planet describes 50 of the world's most exciting road trips, including, of course, the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • Driving the Pacific Coast Highway

    Driving the Pacific Coast Highway is made easier with Road Trip USA by Jamie Jensen, a good handbook for the west coast drive.

  • Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Two Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in two days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

  • Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Three Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in three days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

  • Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Four Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in four days, including the best places to stay, and the best things to do and see.

  • Driving the Pacific Coast Highway in Five Days

    Pacific Coast Highway Travel's advice on driving the Pacific Coast Highway in five days, including the best places to stay over, and the best things to do and see.

  • Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

    Here are the basic facts if you plan to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, including which is the best direction and when is the best time to go driving.

  • Coastal California Guidebook

    Lonely Planet's Coastal California guidebook is the ideal travel guide for driving or cycling the Pacific Coast Highway from the Oregon border to Mexico.

  • California Driving Laws

    If visiting California and planning to drive the Pacific Coast Highway it's important to know California driving laws in case they differ from your own state.



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