When you move to LA, people eagerly start asking you, “Have you done the coast drive?”and now I know why. The Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is one of the most scenic drives in the world, extending from San Diego to San Francisco. It winds precariously along a cliff – mountains on one side, ocean on the other. In light of my recent car accident, I’ve been focusing on gratitude. In terms of the car, I’m grateful that it protected me in the accident, and for all the experiences it allowed us to have in California. So, as a tribute to our beloved Kia Soul, here is a post about the epic PCH road trip Greg and I took this past July. Kia Soul – thank you.
P.S. Greg’s band conveniently wrote a song called “PCH” that you can listen to while reading this post! (Click here!)
Day 1 , July 2:
- Morning: We left from LA around 9am and drove along Highway 1.
- Afternoon: We stopped in Cayucos and ate at Ducky’s Chowder House. Delicious! We drove for awhile longer, and then stopped to look at the adorable elephant seals at Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery.
- Evening: We arrived to Big Sur. We stayed in a storybook cottage located at the end of a private road lined with redwood trees. It was located just off Palo Colorado Road, 20 miles from Big Sur and 20 miles from Carmel. We rented it with a few friends and it was magical (we booked all of our accommodations through AirBnB). We made a fire and stayed up late playing games and talking.
Day 2, July 3:
- Morning: We hiked the Andrew Molera Beach Trail – 8.8 miles. What beautiful views!
- Afternoon: For lunch, we had delicious burritos at the Big Sur River Inn. We drove to Refuge Hot Springs in Carmel Valley to unwind in their circuit of hot pools, plunge pools, steam rooms and saunas ($44/per person).
- Evening: We ate dinner at “Mediterranean Restaurant” in Carmel. We were really happy with the meal (plus there was live entertainment and dancing!), but we had to wait for awhile and many of the nearby places were fully booked. I would recommend making reservations if you plan to eat dinner in Carmel.
Day 3, July 4:
- Morning: We had pastries and coffee at Big Sur Bakery for breakfast. I would definitely recommend stopping here. Our friends headed back to LA at this point, and Greg and I continued on. We decided to check out the Julia Pfeiffer Waterfall (this is a short 1 mile walk). Then we drove to Santa Cruz which took about an hour.
- Afternoon: We had lunch at the Gratitude Cafe, a vegan chain we are familiar with from LA – this place is great, especially if you are in need of some vegetables.
- Evening: We were feeling tired so we decided to have a quiet movie night and went to watch The Lobster at the Nickelodeon Theatre.
Day 4, July 5:
- Morning: The drive to San Francisco via the coast took about 2 hours. We LOVED our AirBnB so much that I’m going to share the link here. The people were so kind and the place was spotless – they even helped us find a parking spot! The place isn’t really set up to cook, but if you plan on enjoying the SF food scene, it is perfect. P.S. It is COLD in SF in July! Like you need socks, sweaters, jackets, and full-length pants… I saw people wearing scarves and hats!
- Afternoon: We walked around the city for about 2 hours. We stopped at Gracias Madras and Ritual Coffee in the Mission District.
- Evening: We took the subway to Oakland so we could enjoy a delicious ramen dinner with our friends Hannah and Andrew.
Day 5, July 6:
- Morning: Our AirBnB was located in Bernal Heights so we went to Precita Park Cafe for breakfast (walking distance from our AirBnB). Then we got very affordable Thai massages, and took an Uber to the waterfront to rent bikes. It took us about 1.5 hrs to bike to Sausalito across the the Golden Gate Bridge (it was windy but fun!)
- Afternoon: In order to take the ferry back to SF, we had to spend the afternoon in Sausalito which was only kind of fun… we had lunch at Napa Valley Burger (this is an overpriced tourist trap and if you can, look into the return ferry schedule so you don’t get stuck here an extra 3 hours like we did).
- Evening: We took an Uber from the waterfront to Noe Valley to meet up with one of Greg’s childhood friends who now works for Apple (so cool and so SF! Go Canada!). We had unreal sushi with him at a restaurant called Saru. Then he walked back to his house (which involved climbing a million hills), but we were rewarded by being invited onto his roof for a nighttime panoramic view of the city. (*No photos because I thought I might die on the roof and my hands did not leave the shingles).
Day 6, July 7:
- Morning: We loved our breakfast from the previous day so much that we decided to go back to Precita Park Cafe. Then we drove 4 hours to the Evergreen Lodge, the campsite we had booked near Yosemite.
- Afternoon: We got settled in our new accommodations. We rented a “Couple’s Tent” which is basically a comfortable tent for people who would like to experience camping, but don’t have any of the stuff you need, or knowledge of how to actually do that. We relaxed by the pool for the afternoon.
- Evening: We ate the overpriced “Poolside BBQ” the Evergreen Lodge offers. If we were to return here, we would be much wiser about packing picnic foods because the lodge food is astronomically priced. I woke up in the night terrified – convinced a bear was sitting outside our tent. Greg assured me that it was more likely a raccoon given the sound of tiny feet scampering about. I started to question my suitability as a “camper.”
Day 7, July 8:
- Morning/Afternoon: We bought some coffee and oatmeal from the campground store and then drove to Yosemite. We hiked the Mist Trail, up Vernal Falls and then almost all the way up Nevada Falls. We turned back and eventually took John Muir Trail back to the base (4.5 hours, strenuous, we think it was about 10 miles? We aren’t really sure because we got lost…get a map). We packed granola bars, bananas and sandwiches for the hike.
- Evening: We headed back to the campsite, exhausted but exhilarated by the beautiful views we took in all day, and ate dinner at the tavern. We slept VERY soundly. Camping was growing on us.
Day 8, July 9:
- Morning: Another morning of campground store coffee and oatmeal. Then we drove to Toulumne Grove to see the sequoia trees. They took my breath away. This was probably the most beautiful natural sight I’ve ever seen. People were remarkably quiet walking through these woods – as if the trees were so majestic, they warranted silence.
- Afternoon: We decided to explore the nearby tiny town of Groveland. We ate a delightful late lunch at Dori’s Tea Cottage & Cafe.
- Evening: Not wanting to be suckers (again…) for the lodge’s overpriced meal options, we ate a ramshackle picnic dinner of leftover snacks we had collected, and then filled up on free s’mores. Another sound sleep, leading us to now consider ourselves as ‘outdoorsy-adjacent’ people.
Day 9, July 10:
- Morning: We drove back to LA. The trip home took about 4 hours.
I would definitely recommend doing this coast drive. I have never seen nature like we saw in Big Sur and Yosemite and the pictures really don’t do it justice. If you have any questions about the specifics of our trip, please let me know – I am happy to share what I can!
P.S. Thank you Kia Soul – we will never forget this trip. ❤ ❤ ❤