Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips

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.

Lonely Planet Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips travel guide coverLonely Planet Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips

The Pacific Coast Highway is in the new Road Trips series of guides from Lonely Planet, which also include Route 66 (natch), The Chateaux of the Loire Valley, and Provence and Southeast France.

Highway or Highways?

What's the name of the book we're reviewing, though? On the cover of our review copy the title is Pacific Coast Highways, in the plural. That's also the title used throughout the book, as in Pacific Coast Highways Highlights. It's an odd choice as the road is known as the Pacific Coast Highway.

But on Amazon, the book cover shows Pacific Coast Highway, in the singular, even though the written description says Pacific Coast Highways. From what it says inside the book, it seems the plan was to range 'From backcountry lanes to beachside highways'. But apart from veering inland to include Disneyland, which is hardly a backcountry lane, and a few small detours, the book sticks to the coast. Very strange.

Lonely Planet Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips travel guide contentsLonely Planet Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips Contents

The PCH Driving Guide

The book covers the entire California coast, from near the Oregon border down to San Diego, just short of the Mexico border.

It's very oddly organized, and gives the impression of having been put together in a cut-and-paste job from other Lonely Planet guides. There's an initial Plan Your Trip section, which is then followed by four Road Trips. The first is the entire coast, and this is then followed by three more trip ideas, each of which is part of the main drive but the three together don't join up to make the first drive. The other three are:

  • Northern Redwood Coast, from the Redwoods State Parks to the Samoa Peninsula.
  • Big Sur, from Bixby Bridge to Ragged Point.
  • Disneyland and Orange County Beaches, from Disneyland to Dana Point.

For some reason the first two drives are described south to north and the second two are north to south. 

Lonely Planet Pacific Coast Highway Road Trips travel guide sample map

It gets more confusing. The Road Trips are then followed by a Destinations section, which describes in more detail the stops on the way. This is also done north to south although it starts with San Francisco, then jumps north to the Northern Coast and the Redwoods, and then works its way south to San Diego. So Mendocino, for example, appears on page 26 as part of the main Pacific Coast Highways drive, but if you want to read about Mendocino in more detail you have to turn to page 66 to find the Activities, Eating, Sleeping, and Drinking & Nightlife recommendations.

California Driving Guide

One very useful section of the book is right at the back: A California Driving Guide. This 5-page spread covers everything you'll need to know about driving in California. This includes road rules, parking, the border crossing and possibility of an agricultural inspection (better eat those apples before you enter California!), and a host of other good practical information. There's even a California coast playlist – headed by The Beach Boys, of course.

The Verdict

We had hoped this would be the guide to the PCH that we could really recommend, and while there is a lot of information in its 128 pages, it's confusing to use. Also, it seems to be put together from other guides, which is what a lot of guidebook publishers do in order to repackage existing material.

At a cover price of $12.99 (£7.99 in the UK) it won't break the bank and is probably the most up-to-date guide you'll find, but a bigger guide to the whole of California would probably serve you better. 

Other book 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Greetings from California

    Greetings from California is a beautiful coffee-table book which describes the legends, landmarks and lore of California, including the Pacific Coast Highway.



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