Travel Guide: US Coastal Drive on Highway 1

December 29, 2016

coastal-view Standing off the coast of Carmel, the sweeping views of the ocean and the crisp air tell me the long drive is all worth it. If you’re looking for one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world, California will be one of the best you’ll have. Hop in the car and take a ride up the coast on highway 1 – you’ll get to stop into some great cities and catch some fantastic landscape views along the way. There’s so much to see, one might not know where to start, but don’t worry – I’ve got you covered. Consider this your destination for travelling up the coast as I take you up the coast.

Day 1: San Diego

The beginning of the coastal drive often starts in the beautiful city of San Diego. If you have some time to spend the day here, I recommend visiting Coronado Island for the beach and heading to the renowned Coronado Hotel for brunch. Afterwards spend an hour walking along Sea Port Village and grabbing a snack or drink and relax on a bench or at one of the restaurants by the pier. Make sure to head to Balboa Park by early afternoon to see it in daylight. You can see a few images of the Spanish influence architecture from Balboa Park from my previous post here.  For dinner or night life, head to Gas Lamp District. There are numerous dining options. The best happy hour for food and drinks was Bali Hai along the Port. The Crispy Calamari, Island Beef Skewers and Firecraker Ribs were really good, the views of the water are great, there’s free parking and if you drink, the Mai Tai’s are strong. If you don’t have time, Balboa Park has an outdoor cafe with a good burger and bratt.

Day 2: Santa Monica Pier

The drive from San Diego to Los Angeles is about 2.5 hours depending on traffic and where you stop. Santa Monica Pier is a really popular spot amongst locals and tourists. Grab your sunglasses, take a walk along the beach and pier. Catch the sunset on the beach or at the upper level of The Huntley Hotel – it has one of my favourite views in Santa Monica and is down the street from one of my favourite dining spots there, Fig – go there for happy hour food and drinks during between 5PM to 6PM. When you’re done, walk along the Third Street Promenade there, grab a ice cream made with smoking nitrogen at Creams and Dreams (it’s not cheap, but it’s so creamy and delicious) and watch the street performers before calling it a night. If you want to see Beverly Hills, The Griffith Observatory, LACMA and Getty Villa, Malibu and Laguna Beach. I recommend staying an extra couple of days. If you want to go to Disneyland or Universal, add another day or two.

Day 3: Santa Barbara & Big Sur

The Spanish influence downtown reminds me a little of Spain. Brunch at Tupelo Junction Cafe located in downtown Santa Barbara is delicious. Ask the staff for their specialties – they’re spot on. If you need a coffee afterwards, head to The French Press Dune Coffee Roasters in the area before seeing The Mission for some photos.  For overnight stays, check out the local wineries. Otherwise, make sure to leave Santa Barbara early because the coast along Big Sur should be seen in daylight. Approximately 2.5 hours north of Santa Barbara is Montana de Oro State Park. It’s one of the best parks off the Highway 1 Coast with beaches, cliffs, plains and canyons. For all the people who enjoy hiking, you can also choose to drive over to Valencia Peak Trail. I love to hike because I’m a tomboy at heart, but I also love glamorous destinations, so if you’re done hiking and want to walk around a gorgeous mediterranean style home, head to Hearst Castle. There is an entry fee. Visit the website for more information.

beautiful-green-dress-style-bloggreen-dress-fashion-bloggreen-dressmikialamode-green-dressgreen-dress-carmelbeautiful-green-dress-styleblogvalentino-garavani-beltcarmel-us-coastal-highway-1bakerycarmel-bakerycarmel-dessertsgreen-dress-driving-on-us-coastal-highway-1green-dress-style-bloggreen-peacock-feather-dresscoastal-viewsunset-viewDay 4: Carmel & Monterey Bay 

We decided to stop into Carmel overnight and spend a few hours here. A wonderful break for those looking forward to visiting a quaint little village full of little restaurants and bakeries. this town is ranked highly as one of the top cities to visit in the US. The coast is pretty, the town is cute and the vibe is bustling and friendly. This is where I did the shoot for my outfit. I love wearing dresses on road trips since they’re so comfortable. I paired them with over the knee boots since it’s Fall. Unless I’m at the beach, I’m always moving, so I like to photograph as I’m exploring to cover as much ground as possible when travelling. While you’re there, take a stroll around the area and pop into some shops. The Carmel bakery is a popular spot for dessert and the beach has a beautiful view.

After Carmel, drive through Monterey Bay and stop into The Spanish Inn to walk along the resort and take in the views by the fire pits. It’s a beautiful resort to relax and grab a small bite and beverage at. I didn’t plan on taking a long walk this day, but you absolutely can. Most people are wearing running shoes along the path. It’s worth stopping at for a few hours.

Day 5 to 6: Santa Cruz to San Francisco

Continue onto Santa Cruz Boardwalk, which is a little over an hour from Monterey Bay. My husband had great memories as a child here, so I really enjoyed revisiting some of the spots along the boardwalk.  Similar to Santa Monica Pier, you’ll find a mini theme park. For dining with a view of the pier, stop into Crow’s Nest, and call in advance to make a reservation. While driving to San Francisco in the afternoon, hit The Mystery Spot where the laws of gravity don’t completely work the same as everywhere else because of a slight change in the magnetic field. I heard this spot is fun. I didn’t get to try it myself but heard of it from a friend back when I worked at a marketing agency.

Day 6 to 8: San Francisco

End your trip in San Francisco where you’ll find amazing views and pretty homes everywhere you turn.  See my post on 10 Instagrammable Spots in San Francisco for some fantastic spots. 

Start the day with a latte from Blue Bottle Coffee in The Ferry Building and grab some bites or desserts from the marketplace. Drive 10 minutes down to visit the Fisherman’s Wharf. No one really wants to go to jail, but people make an exception when visiting the island of Alcatraz – once a place for exiled criminals. Afterwards, drive over to Dragon’s Gate – the entrance to the largest Chinatown in North America. End the night in Union Square where you’ll find lots of great shopping and food. It’s always bustling with locals and visitors. The View is one of my favourite bars with a skyline view. It’s not the most inexpensive, but worth sitting at for an hour during sunset. If you’re on a tight budget, you can always go up to steal a glimpse of the view. 

Tartine Bakery and Cafe has a long line, but it moves fast. They have great desserts, coffee and dessert here. Afterwards, drive up to the Twin Peaks for an incredible 360 view of San Francisco. Afterwards, spend half a day at Golden Gate Park walking through the Botanical Garden and the Japanese garden before stopping by the Presidio for photos and views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Start the day with some dim sum at one of the most delicious and authentic places I’ve eaten outside of Hong Kong, Lai Hong Lounge. Take a walk in Ghirardelli Square. If you’re not overly stuffed, grab some ice cream and chocolates at Ghirardelli itself.   Afterwards, take some photos on the windiest road in the city for a photo along Lombard Street. I did an outfit shoot here. Head over to the Palace of Fine Arts for a beautiful walk and photos, as I did in this post. If you were a fan of The Full House, Painted Ladies is famous for being in the opening credits, so you can stop by for photos and sit in the park. This is also where I took photos for 10 Most Instagrammable Spots. Shop in the luxury district of Union Square, grab a drink at sunset at Top of the Mark, again in an upper level hotel. Finish off the dine dining at Bouche

That’s my comprehensive coastal drive itinerary. I hope you enjoyed this post. If you plan on taking the drive for the first time, or again, let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear of your big trip and how you enjoy it.

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Photo credit to my one and only, Rise Again BJJ.

Shop the Outfit: Dress by Dezzal. Boots (old) by BCBG. Handbag by Rebecca Minkoff.

Thank you Dezzal for sponsoring this post


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  • emily December 29, 2016 at 7:11 am

    This is such a detailed post, it really makes me want to tick ‘road trip in the US’ off my bucket list very soon!
    x Emily

    • miki February 1, 2017 at 6:17 am

      Thanks Emily! I hope you get some time to enjoy a nice long road trip. It’s really pretty along the coast.

  • Vanessa December 29, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Miki, you look SO GORGEOUS! I love Dezzal too! And you should totally be their model! These pics belong in a magazine!

    Happy New Year, babe!
    xoxo, Vanessa

    • miki February 1, 2017 at 6:18 am

      Dezzal is great, aren’t they? You’re so sweet. Thanks!

  • Sharon Wu December 29, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Love that dress on you babe! Looks like you had a wonderful time traveling this holiday 🙂 Wishing you a wonderful 2017 ahead! xoxo, sharon

    • miki February 1, 2017 at 6:22 am

      Thanks Sharon!

  • Mariann yip December 30, 2016 at 5:06 am

    Wow I am so jealous of your trip! I’ve never been to the west coast but it seems like you had a blast. Your pictures are gorgeous and so glad you had a great time love!

    • miki February 1, 2017 at 6:22 am

      When you visit, the coastal drive is worth doing! So pretty. Thanks!

  • Jessi Malay December 30, 2016 at 6:17 am

    Sounds like you’ve really had an amazing and eventful trip these past few days girl! Love that emerald dress you’re wearing in your pictures… absolutely gorgeous! Hope you have a lovely NYE celebration hun <3

    XO Jessi,

    • miki February 1, 2017 at 7:27 am

      Thanks. It was fun. I hope your 2017 is amazing! Have a great week Jessi!

  • Samantha Mariko December 30, 2016 at 6:47 am

    The Ferry Building in SF is a must for me whenever I visit!! The sweets at the Carmel bakery look sooo good too! I really enjoyed looking through this travel photo diary 🙂 have a great new year!

    • miki February 1, 2017 at 7:30 am

      I love the Ferry Building! I had such good coffee there. 🙂 Hope you are having a fantastic 2017!

  • Emilia December 30, 2016 at 8:42 am

    Amazing photos, your dress is gorgeous 🙂

  • Chris December 30, 2016 at 9:47 am

    I think this is one of my favorite posts! Having lived in California and made the drive up the coat myself, I could envision your trip myself, especially because you were so descriptive about places you experienced. A. Now I definitely want to make the coastal drive again.

  • Stephanie December 30, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Ahhh you’re giving me a serious case of wanderlust. I swear, 2017 will be the year I finally go to the West Coast and explore everything Cali has to offer. I gotta make sure it’s like a 2-3 week stay though because I have so many place I’m dying to visit. All your photos are filled with such life and color! I love it! Can’t wait to see where you go next!

    Stephanie //

  • Deddeh Howard December 30, 2016 at 10:04 am

    You make me want to travel so bad, what a beautiful outfit and place. Thanks for sharing girl. You’re so beautiful as always ?

  • Jordan December 30, 2016 at 11:27 am

    Ah you started off in SD, but this entire trip looks like a dream! I love and miss California and when I go back, you’re really making me want to do this trip! Definitely inspiring the wanderlust in me to head back to California! Glad you enjoyed the trip!
    Jordan xx

  • Gabrielle December 30, 2016 at 11:38 am

    Such a beautiful travel diary! This has to be the most brilliant way to spend a week; gorgeous scenery, food and outfits. Speaking of which, the peacock feather print on this teal dress is stunning – you look lovely!

  • Beckerman Girls December 30, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    SOOO SOOO INCREDIBLE! Lovin’ that dress! SOOO chic and gorgeous babe!
    Happy Happpy NEW YEAR BABE!!!
    xoBeckerman Girls

  • Mahi December 30, 2016 at 3:00 pm

    lovely dress

  • Yasmin December 30, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Broken up, these sound like fabulous weekend trip ideas. Love all the places you stopped along the way, like Balboa Park for the Spanish architecture (which I adore). And the Hearst Castle. I love looking at residential homes. Such a great way to imagine your life elsewhere.

    xx Yasmin

  • yuka December 30, 2016 at 7:38 pm

    what a gorgeous dress! and that seriously sounds like the most wonderful roadtrip!

  • Jo December 30, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    Sounds like such a fun trip and something I would so want to do one day! I’ve been to some of those places before on separate occasions, i.e. Santa Monica Pier, Carmel, and San Francisco, but visiting as part of a road trip sounds amazing! You look so gorgeous in that dress by the way 🙂 Happy New Year!

    xo, Jo

  • gracie December 30, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    What a wonderful post. Driving the California coast is one of the best trips in the world. So much to do and so beautiful. You did a great job of detailing your experience, loved reading it ! Happy New Year !

  • Len Parent December 30, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    You look absolutely AMAZING, Darling. Love your dress. SO GORGEOUS on you!
    Thanks for sharing this! Great post!
    HAPPY NEW YEARRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Much love, Len

  • Bernice December 31, 2016 at 1:28 am

    Sounds like a fun filled adventure! That bakery seems packed with delicious treats for everyone xx

  • Marianne Sophia December 31, 2016 at 8:24 am

    Such gorgeous photographs! You found the most beautiful steps! I love your dress too, that green looks beautiful on you. Happy new year!

    Much love,
    Marianne x

  • Yuena December 31, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    Oh Miki you and your location looks beautiful!!

    HAPPY NEW YEARS EVE DEAR!! 😀 With love, Yuena

  • Candace December 31, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Sounds like a great roadtrip to me! Your descriptions made me feel like I was right there with you. Hopefully one day I’m able to take a road trip through Cali and see the beautiful nature. Your dress is so lovely on you too!

  • Dolce Nina January 1, 2017 at 6:33 am

    Beautiful dress!
    Happy new year! xoxo

  • Susanne - Bag at you January 1, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    This looks amazing!!! I love each of these trips and only have to do the one from San Diego to LA! The dress looks also gorgeous on you! I hope you had the best New Years Party and I wish you all the best for 2017!! Big Kiss, Susanne –

  • Thomas January 1, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Highway 1 actually has been a dream of mine for a long time and to get such a detailed itinerary really makes me want to go there RIGHT NOW. But know I know who to get in touch with for even more in depth details. Thank you for a wonderful post sweetie! 🙂

  • sonia // daring coco January 1, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    I’ve always wanted to head north up the coast, especially up to Big Sur. I didn’t get a chance last year and worst yet I didn’t really get to explore the Santa Monica coast or boardwalk. Next time, always next time!

    Happy New Year!

  • camille January 1, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    I’ve done this drive more times in my life than I can count (being from San Francisco). It’s definitely one for the books and you got all the best places to stop spot on!!

  • Tiffany January 1, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    The view is really amazing !
    I love your dress, it’s so pretty <3

  • Linh Dao January 2, 2017 at 3:53 am

    Wow thanks for this detailed post! I loveeee San Diego and all the places you’ve listed! Sounds so amazing and it looks amazing too! I love your outfit by the way! Lovely color on you!


  • Josie January 2, 2017 at 6:34 am

    This is a road trip I would so love to do too! The last time I was in San Francisco we did not have time to take a road trip unfortunately. We did managed to drive up to Santa Cruz beach and had so much fun!
    Love your dress in this post and that RM bag! Love the colour!

    Bisous, Josie

  • The Fashion Folks January 2, 2017 at 7:16 am

    What a lovely guide, it looks and sounds like you had a lovely time! The last pic is just gorgeous. Also love your dress, such a chic pattern and I love the idea of pairing it with high boots. So stylish love! And have a lovely 2017! Xx

  • Remi Sabbah January 2, 2017 at 3:55 pm

    Everything is fantastic about this post doll! You and the tips alike!
    Check out the latest post on the blog:
    Follow @remisabbah on Instagram for more wanderlust

  • Amy Arnold January 2, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    We made this drive over the summer and absolutely loved it! I wish we had taken a couple more days and been able to stop more. You look amazing!!

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

  • Denise Kokinis January 2, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Looks like such an amazing drive an trip! I love all these photos and you look so gorgeous in this dress!

    Denise | Fashion Love Letters

  • rin handika January 2, 2017 at 8:43 pm

    Really love your outfit and such a great places to visit!

  • Jessica January 3, 2017 at 1:27 am

    These pictures are all so stunning! I love your dress x

    Jessica — NinetyCo 

  • Gitta January 4, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Have done a similar trip myself and would love to re-do it 🙂 Such a nice trip !!! Hope you had a great time.

    x Gitta //

  • JOY January 4, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Looks amazing, hope you enjoyed your trip, happy new year

  • Atsuna Matsui January 4, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    These photos are stunning babe and that must’ve been quite a trip to hit three locations in three days! I know all three places have a stunning view and I hope you had an amazing trip.

  • Kelsey Bang January 4, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    what a great schedule! looks like so much fun!

  • Face to Curls January 6, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Sounds like you had an amazing trip Miki! These pictures are all so stunning! Love that dress on you ? Happy New Year and wishing you a wonderful 2017! xo

    Ann-Marie |

  • Roseanna January 8, 2017 at 4:41 am

    I love your blog, your photos always look amazing – beautiful! This looks like such a brilliant trip! Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Roseanna – Pepe and Co
    i’d love for you to stop by on my blog sometime! xx

  • Amanda Sorenson January 8, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Ah!! I am obsessed with the Highway 1 drive! Such amazing views the whole trek.
    It’s been forever since I’ve done it though, need to do a repeat in the coming years! Love the dress you featured here as well.


  • Marcy January 9, 2017 at 11:36 am

    Love your green dress babe!! Looks like you have a great time and the pics are beautiful.


  • Amy January 9, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Gorgeous photos!! The drive from SoCal to SF on the 101 is my absolute favorite. You really can’t beat the views – California is the best place to live 😉 hope you had fun! Love the dress as well.

    xx, Amy

  • Layla January 10, 2017 at 11:34 am

    This is absolutely gorgeous – you look stunning! Love all the photos – gorgeous!!!

    Wishing you a wonderful 2017 and looking forward to more of your posts!

    Layla xx