Feb 26th, 2017, 05:00 PM

Driving The Pacific Coast Highway: A Road with Endless Possibilities

By Chanet Smith
Image Credit: Caio Errico
If you haven't done it already, you need to. If you have done it already, do it again.

The Pacific Coast Highway — a road of endless adventures and a drive of many changing natures, scenery, and cities. Whether you're into drinking wine, hiking, picturesque landscapes, cities, or just a good road trip, the PCH has it all. Driving down an open road offers endless opportunities. I've driven the PCH in its entirety twice, and both times I extended my trip - there was so much to do and see that I couldn't bear to miss just because of a time frame. My first recommendation would be to plan more time than you think you need and definitely plan to go during the warmer months. The worst feeling is leaving a spot you want to spend more time at because you're trying to stick to a schedule.

1. Wine

If you're a wine enthusiast like myself, you must have Napa Valley on your itinerary. Just an hour north of San Francisco, Napa Valley offers miles of rolling wine country hills and wine tasting opportunities. The region is known for its three dozen varieties of wine made by more than 430 wineries, which only leaves one big question: How do I make it out of here alive? Each winery offers different amenities and tours, like biking the vineyards, stepping on your own grapes and 'glamping' (glamorous camping). Spending a few days in Napa, will bring you ample wine, exquisite food, and a relaxing spa-like short vacation

Image Credit: Google Images/ Brocken Inaglory

2. Hiking

The Redwood National and State Park is the home of the largest single trees in the world and largest living thing by volume. Known as Giant Sequoia, these trees are so big you can literally drive your car through them. These trees have a reddish color to them, hence the name of the park. Whether you choose to take a casual drive down the "Avenue of the Giants" (a road with a main feature of sequoia trees), or get out and hike through them - you will not leave without your jaw dropping and gasping, "Oh my god. This is so amazing." There isn't anything much more impressive in nature than trees the size of houses towering over you making you feel like an ant.

Image Credit: Flickr/ Basheer Tome

Whether you're driving up or down the coast, stop for a hike that takes you up above the clouds. Soberanes Canyon Trailhead is located in Garrapata State Park, a bit north of Big Sur. It is 4.7 miles long and considered a moderate hike. Once you reach the peak, you'll get a panoramic view of the valley and if you're lucky, low clouds have already rolled in. This allows for an epic picturesque moment. Along the hike, you will see small animals and deer to add to the naturalistic feel of being one with the outdoors. 

Image Credit: Ciao Errico

Just off the coast of Ventura beach, California has a secret gem that resembles the Galápagos Islands. The Channel Islands National Park is a chain of five islands offering a variety of rare species and plants. To get to any of the islands, mainland California offers a short boat trip, or full boat tours. The other option is to kayak over, as it isn't too far. Once you arrive at the stunning chain of islands, you can swim off the exotic beaches, discover the many caves via kayak or paddle board and hike one of the many trails with spectacular views. This is an amazing opportunity to get up close and personal with the playful seals and sea lions inhabiting the area. 

Image Credit: Flickr/ David Wan

3. Picturesque

No matter what, you must include Big Sur on your Pacific Coast Highway travel itinerary. This part of the drive is famous for its two-lane, winding turn along the beautiful coastline. You can stop along the drive and walk down to the ocean, hike up the mountains or just stop along the small pull-outs along the road for that 'picture perfect moment'. A definite must-see along your drive is McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall that drops into the ocean. Its breathtaking to see water work its way back to the ocean. There is no other place in the world you can see this view other than Big Sur. 

Image Credit: Ciao Errico

The story of Glass Beach is actually quite ironic. In the early 20th century, residents of Fort Bragg threw their garbage over the cliffs. Over time, the pounding surf wore down the discarded glass, naturally turning it into a beach made out of smoothed-over colorful glass rocks. Glass Beach is a beautiful example of how nature can take something so unsightly and transform it into something so unique and beautiful. Located in Fort Bragg, Glass Beach is about three hours north of San Francisco. When you're there, you can feel the raw strength of the ocean just by walking on the thousands of smoothed-over glass pebbles. 

Image Credit: Taylor Dacquisto

4. Cities

The hustle and bustle of San Francisco may remind you of a little New York City. Located on the tip of a peninsula, Frisco is known for its steep hills, alternative culture, eclectic architecture and jaw-dropping landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge. There are countless activities to do in San Fran. If you're a history buff, you can take a ferry to Alcatraz Island to take a tour of a museum that was once a maximum-security federal prison that housed some of America's most infamous and dangerous felons. Other unique activities include taking a ride on one of the world's last manually operated cable car systems, eating dinner in Chinatown, watching the wild seals at pier 39 and driving down on Lombard Street, famously for its steep, twisting and turning road surrounded by intoxicating flower beds. 

Image Credit: Flickr/ Joan Campderrós-i-Canas

Just downtown of Los Angeles lies Santa Monica, a beach town famous for the Pacific Park amusement park along a boardwalk. During the day, enjoy the So-Cal vibes by swimming, tanning, playing beach volleyball or surfing. Take a nice bike ride along the beach or gawk at the hunks workout out at Muscle Beach. At night, head over to the boardwalk where you can go on rides and eat street vendor food. If you want something a little more personal, you can even have bonfire on the beach. All of this is known as traditional So-Cal culture, of course. 

Image Credit: Joan Jessiman

Head south down the Pacific Coast Highway to your next destination: San Diego. Only about a 45 minute drive from the Mexican border, I consider San Diego as America's next Mexican food hub. Not only are the tacos amazing, but the vibes are too. Here, the people are laid-back and friendly. If you want the perfect sunset, go to Sunset Cliffs, where you can catch an incredible view of the sunset while the waves break right along the cliffs. Sunset Cliffs is also a great place to paddle board and kayak with the friendly seals. My personal favorite spot is Dog Jetty, a beach where an over whelming amount of dogs are running along the beach, playing in the waves and asking for back scratches. 

Image Credit: Stephen Kruso

Every time you drive the Pacific Coast Highway, you can make it special for you. Whether you change your destinations every time or want to explore the same spots over and over, it will never cease to amaze you. No matter how many times you road-trip along this highway, there are always more places to discover.