Home Amanda Road Trip from Malibu to San Francisco, California

Road Trip from Malibu to San Francisco, California

by Amanda La Gringa
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Pacific Coastal Highway

Talk about an amazing road trip! Recently, we traveled to Malibu, California for a friends wedding and decided to take advantage of our cross-country trip to do some major West Coast sightseeing! During the planning process, my head was spinning with all the different options of where to stop, where to stay the night, where to eat…it really can be overwhelming. In our case, we only had 1 day to make the trip, think of it like an Express pass up the Pacific Coast Highway that highlights the best of this historic route.

If you are short on time or are just looking for some additional stops to add to your list, here are 5 tips when planning a road trip from Malibu to San Francisco.


1. Get started early so you can stop for breakfast 

This seems like a no-brainer, but during road trips I’ve always been tempted to get on the road and eat in the car in the morning so we can make good progress. In this case, I would suggest you use every meal as an excuse to stop and explore your surroundings. During our trip, we had a quick coffee in the hotel leaving Malibu, drove a bit and stopped for a quaint breakfast in the city center of Santa Barbara. This is a great way to break up the trip!

2. Awe at the Hearst Castle

My favorite stop during the trip had to be the Hearst Castle near San Simeon. This is a must-see for anyone driving this route and it will definitely not disappoint. The guided tour was a great escape from being in your car…not only educating but also impressing with the ornate and inspiring castle. 

The Roman Bath at the #hearstcastle #california #visitcalifornia #ca #travel #travelblog #travelblogger

A photo posted by Las Travel Blogueras (@travelblogueras) on

  Even those unimpressed by viewing a castle (not sure who wouldn’t like that!), the views from the top of the mountain where the castle is situated are breathtaking. The drive, the cost of the ticket, any stress you might feel from the logistics of your tip …everything fades away when you partake in the spectacular scenery.

Quite the view from the #HearstCastle! #travel #trAvelblogger #trAvelblog #ca #california #visitcalifornia A photo posted by Las Travel Blogueras (@travelblogueras) on

3. Snaps some selfies with the seals

Just up the road from Hearst Castle is the perfect location for some quality time with the elephants seals. The Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery is a great spot to stop and admire this powerful, yet seemingly lazy creatures. When we visited in June, there was a large number of seals chilling on the beach…but I hear the numbers fluctuate. Little tip: Search for Piedras Blancas on Instagram or Twitter to see photos posted that day so you know if its worth stopping or not. No photos posted = no seals.

4. Go all out with an amazing car

This road trip is definitely one where the car can make or break the adventure. We were lucky enough to drive the Kia Soul for the week and we absolutely fell in love with our little Solecito (our nickname for him). The Soul defies categorization to some degree. While it is a small hatchback, it doesn’t share the same swept-back profile that most small five-doors do.  The boxy look allows for a better usage of space and more room for your cargo. Swerving along the coast line on the PCH, we definitely needed a compact car that would be easy to handle and would take all the curves smoothly. While it handled like a compact, the Soul feels so much bigger from the inside that you would expect…it could have fit 4 comfortably on this road trip, with tons of room to wiggle around.

  Our favorite feature, by far, was the extended sunroof which was perfect for the amazing views of the coast. We felt like we were gliding along the cliffs has we pretty much had a 360 view of our surroundings. On top of that, the navigation system kept our journey in check and ensured that we didn’t stray too far from the path and that we stayed on schedule.

Love the extended sun roof on this #kiaSoul! Perfect for a road trip 🙂 #drivesti #kia A photo posted by Las Travel Blogueras (@travelblogueras) on


All of that to say, the Kia Soul was the perfect pick for our road trip. I never realized before how much more enjoyable these car rides can be when you are loving the actual “driving” part of the journey. I only imagine this would also be a pleasure to drive on a daily basis…great mileage and maneuverability for the day to day, but also tons of rooms on the inside for all your friends and familia.

5. Plan a relaxing dinner where you can reflect

At the end of a long road trip, it is always good to schedule a relaxing dinner where you can sit and reflect on the day’s journey. We made it all the way to Pebble Beach before we were ready to stop for our dinner and gather up some strength to make the final journey into San Fran. We searched Yelp for the most relaxing location with the most amazing view and found The Bench. The pristine views overlooking the golf course and the toasty fire pits were the perfect opportunity to absorb everything we had seen and done during the day.

While we were very excited to arrive to San Francisco, this road trip was more about enjoying every minute of our drive and living in the moment…rather than focusing on our arrival to our destination. It is so easy sometimes to get caught up in where we are headed, that we don’t take the time to stop and enjoy our surroundings.

A PCH road trip provides the perfect opportunity to learn that important life lesson and I hope you can all experience it for yourself soon!


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Edith Rodriguez February 5, 2015 - 2:43 am

I’m new to California and this is one of roadtrips I want to do with my hubby. Thanks for sharing your pictures! Also, just started following your blog. Though I haven’t traveled to too many places yet, I absolutely love traveling and have some plans in the future to travel most of Europe and other places with my husband. I’m sure I’ll find ideas here on your blog!

Andrea February 5, 2015 - 10:11 am

Hi Edith and thanks so much for stopping by! We hope you fall in love with California as we have had. 🙂 And if you ever want to write an article for us, please let us know. We would love to have you as a contributor! All the best.

Edith Rodriguez February 7, 2015 - 12:29 pm

Thank you 🙂 I’m sure I will fall in love with it. Thank you very much! I’m learning so much about eating healthy lately, so I’m definitely open to that in the future. Have a great weekend.

Practical Honeymoon Destination Ideas - Las Travel Blogueras October 8, 2016 - 9:53 pm

[…] Drive up the Pacific Coastal Highway: Does driving count as planning? For those who find cruising in a car a relaxing way to spend their time, this is a great option! I would recommend starting in LA and working your way up to San Francisco. The only coordinating you would need to do would be deciding which lovely Bed and Breakfast to stay in on the way. I recently did this with my fiancee and we are counting down the days until we can return! […]


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