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

  • 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 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.

  • 101 free San Francisco attractions and things to do are in the Kindle guide, 101 Free Things to Do in San Francisco, in the Travel Free eGuidebooks series.

    Free San Francisco Kindle Guide to Free Attractions

    101 free San Francisco attractions and things to do are in the Kindle guide, 101 Free Things to Do in San Francisco, in the Travel Free eGuidebooks series.

  • 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.

    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.

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

    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.

  • The Green Guide to the USA West from Michelin covers California, the Pacific North West, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, New Mexico, and even Kansas and Alaska.

    Green Guide USA West

    The Green Guide to the USA West from Michelin covers California, the Pacific North West, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, New Mexico, and even Kansas and Alaska.

  • Plant lovers can visit hundreds of gardens along or near the Pacific Coast Highway,ranging from lush gardens in the Pacific North-West to southern California.

    Gardens Of the Pacific Coast Highway

    Plant lovers can visit hundreds of gardens along or near the Pacific Coast Highway,ranging from lush gardens in the Pacific North-West to southern California.

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

    Vintage Hollywood

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

  • The guide to California Bed and Breakfast Inns lists over 250 boutique hotels, wine country cottages and more.

    California Bed and Breakfast Inns

    The guide to California Bed and Breakfast Inns lists over 250 boutique hotels, wine country cottages and more.

  • 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.

    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.

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

    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.

  • Some of the best California Backroads are included in Backroads of the California Coast, with 24 highly recommended driving tours off the Pacific Coast Highway.

    California Backroads

    Some of the best California Backroads are included in Backroads of the California Coast, with 24 highly recommended driving tours off the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • 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.

    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.

  • Brewpubs and good beer are at the heart of the Good Beer Guide to the West Coast USA which lists the best bars and breweries from Seattle to San Diego.

    Brewpubs and Good Beer on the West Coast USA

    Brewpubs and good beer are at the heart of the Good Beer Guide to the West Coast USA which lists the best bars and breweries from Seattle to San Diego.

  • 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.

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    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.

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

    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.

  • To John Steinbeck Monterey's Cannery Row was a place of sardine canneries, bums and honky tonks, but today the Monterey Aquarium attracts visitors.

    Cannery Row in Monterey

    To John Steinbeck Monterey's Cannery Row was a place of sardine canneries, bums and honky tonks, but today the Monterey Aquarium attracts visitors.

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

    Olympic Peninsula Travel Guide

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

  • 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.

    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.

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

    Pacific Coast Highway Moon Guide

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

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

    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.

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

    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.

  • California Living and Eating by Eleanor Maidment is a handsome coffee table book celebrating the food and lifestyle of the Golden State with 80 tasty recipes.

    California Living and Eating

    California Living and Eating by Eleanor Maidment is a handsome coffee table book celebrating the food and lifestyle of the Golden State with 80 tasty recipes.

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

    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.



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