Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway has always been on my bucket list and I finally got to check it off! In 5 days, we drove a total of roughly 700 miles from San Francisco to San Diego, stopping overnight in Malibu and LA. We sight-saw, ate, shopped, laughed and surprisingly never got car sick! I highly recommend you add this trip to your own bucket list. Continue reading for my guide to the Cali-coast!
We landed at about 11am and headed straight to eat! We chose Jane for a week-day brunch. Our favorite was their gluten-free granola with berries, banana and almond milk, as well as their matcha lattes! There are a couple different locations throughout the city but we went to the one on Fillmore. You order and get a number and then they bring your food to you.
Next we went to the Conservatory of Flowers in the Golden Gate Park. It was so gorgeous inside and out! All of the plants and flowers made for great, tropical-looking photos! In the middle of the “jungle” you forgot where you were at times!
Next we went to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. We went to two spots to get different views. The first was Fort Point which was down on the right side of the bridge when leaving San Francisco. This was my favorite because there were unstructured views of the bridge and the sun came out just at the right time! After, we drove across the bridge to Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point which offered a different, more straight on view.
Then we drove through the famous Lombard Street on our way to get an afternoon pick me up! Our party was split between coffee and matcha drinkers so we took 2 stops, Stonehill Matcha then Four Barrel Coffee. Stonehill’s almond milk matcha latte was perfect paired with their matcha cream pie. We were still a little hungry, so decided to try some of their pork gyoza from their small-batch Japanese menu. You could tell they were handmade and they came with miso soup, rice, a side salad and an amazing dipping sauce! Four Barrel’s simple cappuccino was tasty as well and was served in a stone, pottery-like mug.
For dinner we went to the Slanted Door, a Vietnamese restaurant on the water. The spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce were amazing! We also loved the shrimp dumplings, papaya salad, ribs, and cellphone noodles! For dessert, ask for their specialty cotton candy (I believe they only bring it out for birthdays but I’d ask anyways)!
That night we stayed at the Four Seasons. It was nicely located right in Soma and was easily accessible from all of our stops!
The Big Drive
The drive from San Francisco to Malibu is roughly 420 miles if you take the same path we did. To achieve the quickest route while getting lots of coast time, we mapped it out starting at the Four Seasons San Francisco, to Pescadero, to Malibu. We started at 8am and arrived in Malibu at 5pm (so 9-ish hours). That way we started along the coast to Santa Cruz, then jogged straight down to Santa Maria and ended up back on the coast for the final stretch to Malibu. We took 5 stops along the way: 2 bathroom breaks, 2 scenic photo-ops and 1 snack/exploration in Santa Barbara. I highly recommend stopping at the Green Table in Santa Barbara for great matcha lattes with homemade almond milk and gluten&dairy free treats. We then walked around town a little to stretch out legs before completing the last hour of our scenic drive!
As we hoped, we got to Malibu just in time for the sunset. You can’t go to Malibu at not go to Nobu. This location is my all time favorite! The views are everything, so make sure to request an outside table. The food, ahh, is outstanding as always. My faves are the Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna, Yellowtail Jalepeno, Fluke Dry Miso, Wagyu Hot Rock, Lobster Tacos and the House Special Roll. End the perfect meal with their green tea mochi!
Our second night we stayed at the Surfrider. It was the cutest surf boutique hotel right by the Malibu pier. My favorite part was waking up and going up to the rooftop restaurant and sitting by the fire drinking my matcha. Very picturesque! Next we walked across the street to the pier and had breakfast at Malibu Farm Cafe, ok and by breakfast I mean a warm cinnamon roll (which was amazing)!
We planned on going on a hike as there are so many beautiful trails in Malibu, however they were all closed due to the forest fires while we were there. If they are open and it’s nice out, I highly recommend them! The two most popular options are Zuma Canyon and Solstice Canyon.
There is so much to do in LA that we ended up staying for 2 nights! Our days usually consisted of a matcha, morning hike, shopping, late lunch, another afternoon matcha and a yummy dinner. For an in-depth restaurant guide see my post LA Eats. A brief of restaurants list is as follows:
Caffeine: Alfred’s Tea Room/Coffee, Cha Cha Matcha, Verve Coffee Roasters, Urth Caffe
Breakfast: Fonuts, Go Greek, Beverly Hills Hotel Fountain Room, Lodge Bread Co, Squirl
Lunch: La Scala, Joans on Third, The Ivy, Polo Bar
Dinner: Matsuhisa, Jon&Vinnys, Craigs, Sugarfish, Catch
The hikes I often do are Runyon Canyon and Griffith Park. On Runyon Canyon I take the east path to Clouds Rest and back. The loop is roughly 1.5 miles and takes only about 45 minutes. For Griffith Park I take West Observatory Trail up to the observatory and back. The total distance is 2 miles and takes about 1 hour. Both of these trails are equal in difficulty, quite easy with some steep parts.
As for shopping I have multiple favorite spots. In Beverly Hills all the high end shops are in a row down Rodeo Dr: Saint Laurent, Dior, Gucci, Balenziaga, Channel, Celine, Louis Vuitton, etc. Just off Rodeo you’ll find Intermix, a luxurious boutique from New York. Rag&Bone, The RealReal, Glossier, Zimmerman, Chloe and Reformation are among many of the stores that line Melrose Ave in West Hollywood. Maxfields is my favorite LA high end boutique with few but great options, however everything is quite pricey.
The Small Drive
I call it “small” in comparison to the drive from San Francisco to Malibu, however it is still over 100 miles. It took us about 5 hours from our hotel in Beverly Hills to our hotel in San Diego, only about 3 hours in the car. We stopped in Santa Monica on our way our to the coast to observe the pier, Laguna Beach to pick up a snack from the famous Urth Caffe (my order is the blended matcha with almond milk and boba with the waffle) and In-N-Out along the way because we just had to. We also stopped in La Jolla, right above San Diego, to watch the sunset and go to a highly-recommended taco place, Oscars Mexican Seafood. The fish tacos are a must!
We didn’t get to San Diego until later so we went straight to our hotel and passed out. The next day we had breakfast at Snooze, “an AM Eatery” located in California, Texas, Colorado and Arizona. Their pancakes are out of this world and if you’re more savory I’d go for the Huevos Rancheros! After stuffing ourselves, we went to the harbor to look at the boats and the Bay to walk on the beach for a little. We were lucky enough to see seals! Before we headed to the airport to catch our plane back to New York we stopped at Holy Matcha for an afternoon pick-me-up. They have matcha everything: lattes, soft serve, pastries, etc.
This was one of my first long road trips, but I highly recommend grabbing some friends, seeing many sites, and making memories to last a lifetime!