A road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway is enchanting and thrilling.
To make the best of this road trip on California Coast, you need to spend at least a couple of days on the road, preferably a week, and make time for activities like hiking, beach-combing, and wildlife viewing.
Fortunately, there are many exceptional hotels and places to stay along Hwy 1 where you can enjoy the views and your surroundings.
Figuring out where to stay is the most essential part of planning your Pacific Coast Highway road trip.
Along with beautiful hotels, there are a variety of resorts, inns, bed & breakfasts, and motels along the routes for all kinds of travelers.
Most major cities along the coast including San Francisco, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles have the presence of most hotel chains and it is easy to find a place to stay for all budgets.
However, for stretches of Big Sur, most accommodations while beautiful are few and expensive.
Hence, if you want to do the Pacific Coast Highway road trip on a budget we would recommend not staying in Big Sur or looking at campgrounds and RV parks.
We also recommend finalizing your Pacific Coast Highway itinerary before booking accommodations for your trip.
To find the best PCH stops, read our post now.
To finalize your itinerary, check out our section on Suggested Itineraries.
To plan your road trip down or up the coast, refer to our Ultimate Pacific Coast Highway road trip planner.
In this post, we recommend cities and towns along the Californian coast which make great places to stay from North to south.
We also provide suggestions for exactly where to stay for all budgets along with useful links to book the hotels.
We hope that our recommendations will be useful in planning your PCH road trip.
Here are some of the great places to stay along the Pacific Coast Highway:
Mendocino makes a great first stop for starting or ending your Hwy 1 road trip.
This charming, coastal town reminds us of New England. We love Mendocino for its coastal bluffs.
The town has many quaint inns and B&Bs and is perfect for couples on a romantic getaway.
Click here to help explore the best places to stay in Mendocino.
San Francisco is the ultimate city break on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip.
If you are visiting San Francisco for the first time, then we would recommend spending at least 2 to 3 days to explore the City’s attractions including the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39, Mission District, etc.
Click here to explore the best places to stay in San Francisco.
Half Moon Bay
If you’re looking for a stunning natural oasis to explore, Half Moon Bay is the place for you.
Just south of San Francisco, this rocky coastline and fertile valley is a favorite destination for locals and visitors alike.
With its beautiful beaches, quiet coves, rolling hills, and good accommodation options, Half Moon Bay is a great place to stay for the night.
Santa Cruz is a beautiful town located on the Central Coast of California.
The town is full of natural beauty, with stunning beaches and redwood forests nearby.
Santa Cruz is also home to a lively downtown area, with excellent restaurants and shopping options.
If you are planning your PCH road trip from San Francisco, then Monterey makes the perfect first stop.
See the famous aquarium, explore Cannery Row, and enjoy the seafood.
Go for a whale-watching cruise and visit Monterey State Historic Park.
Take a day or two to enjoy everything that Monterey has to offer including the 17 Mile Scenic Drive.
Your best beachside pick is the luxurious Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa.
Click here to explore the best places to stay in Monterey.
Carmel by the sea
If you’re looking for a little slice of heaven along the Pacific ocean, you’ll find it in Carmel by the Sea.
This picturesque town is situated on the California’s Central Coast.
With its breathtaking ocean views and charming small-town atmosphere, its a favorite stop for many to stay and explore.
While you are in town be sure to spend some time at Carmel Beach.
While it is not one of the budget places to stay along the Pacific Coast Highway, Big Sur is definitely the most scenic.
Staying in Big Sur means you can get to the most popular attractions of Pfeiffer Beach and McWay Falls earlier than most people.
You don’t have to deal with full parking lots and can enjoy the attractions at your own pace.
You can hike to hidden coves and Sandy beaches and experience Big Sur’s gorgeous sunsets without the stress of driving in the dark.
Your lodging options vary from log cabins to luxe resorts; Big Sur also has many campgrounds but they tend to fill up fast.
Click here to explore the best places to stay in Big Sur.
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo is a vibrant college town that is ranked among the best college towns in America.
But SLO, as it’s popularly called, is much more than a college town – attractions like historic downtown, the mission, the SLO Museum of Art and Bubblegum Alley make it perfect for spending a day or two in the city.
SLO is also almost halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco – making it easy to reach from both cities.
SLO has a wide variety of accommodation ranging from motels and budget inns to luxury hotels and family-friendly lodgings.
The most famous is off course the Madonna Inn with its kitschy decor!
Click here to explore the best places to stay in San Luis Obispo.
If you are driving the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles then Santa Barbara makes the perfect penultimate stop.
The city is also popular with those looking for a weekend getaway from Los Angeles.
Santa Barbara is quite different than SLO – it is more classy and dignified compared to San Luis Obispo’s hip vibe.
In Santa Barbara, you will find beautiful whitewashed buildings, boutiques, designer stores, and art galleries along with lots of cultural attractions.
The most popular neighborhoods to stay in Santa Barbara include West Beach, East Beach, and Upper East which is the area around the Santa Barbara mission.
One of our favorite hotels here is Hotel Californian – a luxury hotel located in downtown.
Click here to explore the best places to stay in Santa Barbara.
Los Angeles might be the end of the road but not the end of your journey.
Los Angeles has a variety of things to do and popular attractions for travelers and begs to be explored at a leisurely pace.
LA has plenty of luxurious and elegant Pacific Coast Highway hotels for your stay.
To get the most of your trip, consider staying in Hollywood or West Hollywood – you will be close to everything including the Walk of Fame, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, and the movie studios.
To be near the Museum Mile, stay in Downtown.Santa Monica is another good area to base yourself – the boutique Hotel Erwin in Venice beach is a top spot for visitors.
Click here to explore the best places to stay in Los Angeles.
If you are ending your Pacific Coast Highway road trip at Disney, then Anaheim will be your last stop.
The best way to maximize your time at Disney is to stay inside the theme parks in Anaheim.
However, the Disney Resorts are quite expensive and if you are looking for something within a smaller budget, consider staying a little further from the parks in Anaheim.
To explore the best places to stay in Anaheim, click here.
San Diego is world-renowned for its pleasant climate, stunning coastal setting, and diverse cultural attractions.
If you are looking for a central location from which you can explore all that San Diego has to offer, then the downtown area is the best place to stay.
The downtown district is packed with restaurants, bars, and shops, and its proximity to the harbor and airport make it convenient to stay.
Did you like our list of best hotels along the Pacific Coast Highway? Let us know in comments!
We hope that our recommendations are useful in planning your Pacific Coast Highway road trip.
To ask us any questions, join our free Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Facebook Group now or leave us a comment below.