California State Route 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, has earned the title of the “most beautiful road in the world.” Meandering along the Pacific Ocean, this all-American road offers spectacular coastal views, quirky fishing and surfing villages, old pioneer outposts, bootleggers’ saloons, roadside kitsch, and that classic California vibe. Many motorcyclists choose to ride the Pacific Coast Highway from North to South so that they ride on the side of the ocean starting at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and ending the trip in Los Angeles, but this world-famous road is equally spectacular in either direction.
Motorcycle riding the Pacific Coast Highway
Half Moon Bay
This is the first stop after leaving San Francisco and heading south. A small surfing village famous for giant waves and an annual pumpkin festival, Half Moon Bay has some spectacular white sand beaches and dramatic cliff edges making for excellent photo opportunities. Half Moon Bay is perfect for a leisurely beach stroll to stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat at one of the town’s delis or diners.
Santa Cruz feels like it’s stuck in the sixties. The town’s famous Beach Boardwalk is all about the old school Americana feel with its 60’s inspired signs and buildings, so if you’re after some classic souvenirs, this is the place to be. Santa Cruz also boasts a quirky, bohemian wharf with plenty of restaurants and shops to browse.
Big Sur is the most stunning section of the Pacific Coast Highway where the redwood-covered mountain slopes and sheer cliffs drop into the ocean, creating wild, dramatic scenery. Be sure to stop and take in the views at Bixby Bridge, the most photographed landmark in Big Sur, and McWay Falls, a stunning little cove on the beach with an 80-foot waterfall plunging down into the sea. Take your time riding Big Sur as there are numerous scenic lookouts and artsy communities to explore.
San Luis Obispo
This coastal town, located roughly mid-way on the Highway, is a wonderful mix of the wild, the modern, and the bohemian. San Luis Obispo is a mellow college town surrounded by beautiful beaches and vineyards. While in town, check out Bubblegum Alley, a narrow little street covered in…bubblegum from passers-by. If you love seafood, stop for some clam chowder in the nearby Pismo Beach.
Although the Pacific Coast Highway officially ends (or starts, depending on which direction you’re traveling from) at San Clemente near San Diego, many riders choose Los Angeles as their final stop southbound on the route. Los Angeles offers plenty of great riding in Malibu (just North of LA), Decker Canyon, and Griffith Park, as well as some leisurely cruising down the Sunset Boulevard and walking down Rodeo Drive or Santa Monica Pier. A motorcycle-friendly city, Los Angeles is a great destination to wrap up your Pacific Coast Highway ride.