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Want to take go on one of the most amazing motorcycle rides ever? Today I’m going to show you (more than) 22 Pacific Coast Highway stops that you can check out along one of America’s most scenic highways and give you some tips to prepare for the ride.
Our Pacific Coast Motorcycle Trip
A few years ago, we had the awesome experience of riding our motorcycle down the coastal highway of almost the entire western seaboard starting in Seattle, Washington, primarily on U.S. route 101.
Among the many things that we planned for this motorcycle trip was to ride as much of Pacific Coast Highway as possible and check out as many sites along the way.
As much fun as the ride was, I had no idea for what was in store!
The ride was a lot of fun but it was also work as well and there were a few things I wish I’d known before going.
Where does Pacific Coast Highway Start?
Pacific Coast Highway 1 or PCH starts officially in northern California at the junction of U.S. route 101 at the town of Leggett, CA.
The town is located close to the Redwoods National Forrest towards the end of the avenue of the giants.
If you’re making this trip and coming down from the north on highway 101 and you’ve been on the road for a while, my suggestion is to take a break before you get started heading into the mountains.
As your coming down 101 and make the right to get on to pacific coast highway 1, you should see a nice dirt area off to the right side of the road. This is a good area to take your break, maybe have some water or a sandwich before starting. This is a good place to stop for a break if you don’t need fuel.
You should consider going into Leggett and topping off your tank and taking your break there. You’re not going to be able to get fuel until you reach the coastal town of Westport, CA which about an hour away.
A fellow motorcycle rider buddy once told me “Remember, you not in a car… Never miss a chance to get gas if you think you might need it”.
Pacific Coast Highway Stops
If you have the time to ride Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 1 and you have some time, there’s almost no limit to amount of sweeping views, food, breweries and other activities you can check out on your trip.
Here’s a list of great places you can stop at on your PCH ride to get you started with some ideas for places to check out. This is meant to be more of a guide for you, because you’ll discover that as you ride, there are just tons of side trips and things to see that aren’t even mentioned here.
From simple flower sniffin’ along the coast to planning wine and brewery tours, there are plenty of great places to get off your motorcycle for a bit and enjoy.
Getting Started on Pacific Coast Highway
Your PCH journey is about to start with winding roads and steep travel through mountains and forest. Before you actually get to the coastline, you’ll be going up and down a series of mountains and hills, winding your way though them in hairpin turns.
Most of these turns will be blind, meaning you can’t see traffic that’s coming towards you. During our trip there seemed to always be traffic on the road with vehicles appearing anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes apart.
The mountains through here overall are steep, and you’ll also want to keep your eyes peeled for loose rocks and dirt in the middle of turns.
As any experienced motorcyclist knows, loose dirt and gravel – not your friends.
It’s a beautiful mountain ride but remember to use caution.
Let the ride begin and check out as many of these cool stops as you can.
I’ve listed these stops along Pacific Coast Highway in descending. order from northern California to Southern Cali.
Glass Beach, Fort Bragg
The area now known as Glass Beach began as a third dumping area from other two other local area dump sites where trash had been relocated from.
All of these dump sites were closed by 1967 to any further dumping and the state of California sought to clean the area and reverse the damage through a variety of cleanup programs.
To get down to Glass Beach, stay on PCH (also known as shoreline highway) to Elm Street. Follow Elm street down to where it turns into Glass Beach Drive.
There is a nice parking area on Glass Beach drive to park your motorcycle, then you’ll just have a bit of a walk down the trail (Glass Beach trail) to the water’s edge. It’s a nice path that leads to several areas you can check out.
Most of the actual Glass beach site is located close to MacKerricher State Park which does offer camping amenities if your so inclined to camp.
Not that adventurous and didn’t bring camping gear on your motorcycle? No worries there are a couple of hotels located nearby if you need to stop for the night.
So what’s the attraction here?
Tons of people every year visit Glass Beach to check out what the years of pounding seas have done to the remains of glass that had been dumped there years ago.
There also a number of trails in the area to explore and tidepools to check out as well as the sweeping ocean vistas. Once you get close to the beach area, there are a number of trails that you can check out, one of which is a paved trail that leads to Pudding Creek Beach to the north.
The sea glass is cool to look at which causes a lot of people to try to take some with them. Keep in mind that this is all a protected area and removing any of the glass is illegal.
Other Cool places near Glass Beach
While you’re in the area you check places that are just off of shoreline highway or highway 1 PCH located a few miles south:
- Soldier Point
- Noyo Headlands Park, Noyo Bay
- Pomo Bluffs Park and Todd’s Point (parking available)
These locations are great scenic overlooks to the Pacific Ocean just off PCH that won’t take you too far off of the beaten path.
Point Arena Lighthouse And Museum
Constructed in 1870 and perched on top of the bluffs overlooking the rocky coastline is Point Arena Lighthouse.
Not just another lighthouse, Point Arena is one of the tallest lighthouses on California’s coastline at 115’ tall. If your willing to put in the sweat equity, you can hike to the top of the tower and walk on the balcony there for a 360 degree awesome views.
The property not only has the lighthouse tower, but there is a nice little maritime museum on site to take a look at if you have the time.
On a clear day at Point Arena Lighthouse, not only can you get a great view of the Pacific Ocean, but when the season is right you can spot whales going up the coast.
Need a place to stay?
If you’re interested in staying the night, they offer luxury lodging on site in a variety of keeper’s quarters.
Getting there from Pacific Coast Highway
As you’re traveling, follow PCH and turn west on to Lighthouse road. Doesn’t matter if your going north or south.
Once you are on lighthouse road follow keep your eyes open for signs. Lighthouse road ends at the lighthouse itself.
A quick word of caution for motorcyclists –
The road is paved all the way to the lighthouse, but the parking lot is dirt. Plenty of opportunity for you to slip and drop your motorcycle. You don’t want this to turn into an impromptu lesson on how to lift a motorcycle off the ground.
Once you arrive on site you’ll need to head to the ticket booth to purchase tickets for the museum and access to the lighthouse tower itself. Money well spent, as it support the organization that maintains the lighthouse and you get to see the sites and take in some history. Everybody wins!
Fort Ross Historic Russian compound and museum
Fort Ross was established by a Russian-American company in the 1800’s as settlement for the Russians produce need agriculture and livestock for their Alaskan settlements.
Russian colonists in Alaska were having a difficult time producing their own food due to the short growing season, which prompted Russia to seek out alternatives to feed its colonies.
What remains is the old historic compound, cemetery, orchard and general recreation area.
There are several historic buildings, armory, barracks and an old windmill that also available to look at.
In addition, If you have the time to spend you can walk the surrounding bluffs and look for whales, sea lions and other marine mammals.
A quick walk north of the parking lot and you can check out sea lion rocks. Aside from that, you’ve got access to some areas where you can get right down to the water.
There is a fee to access the park ($8.00/car at the time of this writing) but it’s a great place to see some history and take a nice relaxing break from riding.
Morning and afternoon are the best times to visit.
How to get to Fort Ross Historic Park
As riding down U.S. 1 (either north or south) you’ll want to turn west on to Fort Ross Road. Follow the road as is winds and you find the Fort Ross visitors center on the right side.
Point Bonita Lighthouse
Before you cross Golden Gate Bridge, take a quick side trip to check out Point Bonita Lighthouse.
The lighthouse is located at the end of a rocky point on the north side entrance of San Francisco bay.
The lighthouse is one of the few still actively used navigational aids used to warn approaching ships, but during daylight hours people go right up to the building itself and walk around the outside area.
Although you can go right up to the buildings, no entry is permitted.
Getting to the lighthouse itself is most of the fun and worth the walk;
Hiking out to the lighthouse requires about a half-mile hike on both paved and dirt path that’s has a steep grade in certain areas. The hiking path also follows the edge in places where there are steep cliffs – If your prone to vertigo, be careful!
The path passes through a tunnel that’s been cut into the rock that connects to a metal bridge that spans across the final gap to the lighthouse.
Finding Point Bonita
Stay on PCH until it reconnects to highway 101, and get on highway 101. You’ll stay on highway 101 for a few miles, then exit on to Alexander ave (you’ll be getting close to the Golden gate Bridge).
After a short distance on Alexander ave, you’ll make a right on to Conzelman road and follow it south and west for a few miles as it winds through the countryside.
Conzelman road will eventually intersect with field road, take a right and head south for a bit and you’ll see signs for parking for the Point Bonita Lighthouse.
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
It was a bridge that many though would never be built, but the Golden Gate Bridge is considered on of the ‘seven wonders of the world’.
The bridge utilizes two towers that are 746 feet tall that hold two cables that are over 7,000 feet in length. These cables are then anchored in concrete on shore.
This well-known bridge spans the straight of the Golden Gate from San Francisco to Marin County and is about 1.7 miles in length and was originally opened in 1937.
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge
As your coming from northern California, Pacific Coast highway you’ll need to pay attention to signs for highway 101 south. You’ll be taking the 101 freeway south to cross the bridge.
After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll need to exit on to Veterans boulevard which will turn into Park Presidio boulevard. You’ll be passing through the Presidio area.
Just stay on Park Presidio which to 19th ave (for a short distance) which will turn back into PCH.
A quick safety note:
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge is a fun experience, but beware high winds coming in off of the ocean side that can push you around.
Golden Gate Bridge Toll
There is a toll plaza located on the south end of the bridge as you enter the San Francisco side (going from north to south).
Back in the day this was a manned plaza where you would stop just like any other toll road. In fact, I remember as a kid taking a family trip across the bridge when you had to stop and pay.
You pay your toll and then head out.
In this day of modern technology, (not to mention limited manpower) the toll booths are no longer used, and you won’t be stopped to pay a toll.
What will happen as you cross the toll area (either going north or south) is that a lovely picture of you and your motorcycle license plate will be taken. You will receive a toll bill in the mail about 2 weeks later. At least that’s about how long it took to get mine.
Half moon Bay
Once you you’ve navigated through San Francisco and you’re back on the road another great stop with great views, food and drinks is Half Moon Bay.
Once you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, Half Moon Bay is about 30 miles south of San Francisco.
There are a ton of eateries and distilleries and other trendy places that you can check out if you choose to stop here for the night.
Everything’s a bit trendy and spendy (as we like to say). If you hangout in the area, be prepared to pay more for hotels and food.
Quick list of things to check out in Half Moon Bay:
- Half Moon Bay Distillery
- Ghost Town of Purissima
- Pillar Point Harbor
- Dinosaurs of Spanish Town
- Beaches, Tidepools and surf!
Greyhound rock beach
If your legs will allow, this is good place to trek down to the beach area, but keep in mind it is steep and wet.
Greyhound rock is a huge rock that’s just offshore that’s part of the Santa Cruz managed beach facility. When the tide is right you can walk out to rock and climb it.
Surfers and coastal fisherman alike frequent this area because once they arrive, the wave are good and they can spread out north and south as far they want.
Getting to Greyhound Rock
Getting to Greyhound Rock is easy, it just right off of the road on the west side of Pacific Coast Highway. There’s a good parking area and trails to walk to the beach.
Santa Cruz is coastal city that sits on the north side of Monterey bay and got its start as a Spanish settlement around 1791.
There are other sites that you can check out in the area (we’ll list some below), but Santa Cruz is probably best know for its beach boardwalk. If you’ve ever seen the movie ‘The Lost Boys’, The Santa Cruz boardwalk is the amusement park that appears in the film.
Other things to check out in Santa Cruz:
- Natural Bridges State Park – Great scenic overlooks. There is rock with a natural hole carved in the center that you can walk to if the tide is low.
- Santa Cruz Wharf – Little bit of everything here… Food, drinks, street musicians and of course watching the sunset.
- Santa Cruz Surfing Museum
- Santa Cruz Breakwater Light – If you still want to continue to check out yet another lighthouse. Always a nice walk.
Santa Cruz was an overnight stay on our trip. We arrived late in the day having ridden through San Francisco found it difficult to find a decent hotel due to the amount people arriving to go to the boardwalk.
Just down the road (or shall we say around the bay?) south of Santa Cruz is Monterey.
Monterey has a colorful history; It was founded originally by native Americans, then later discovered by the Spanish.
After Mexico proclaimed its independence from Spain, Monterey belonged to Mexico until the Mexican – American war.
If you have the opportunity during your ride, it’s worth taking a bit of time and riding down to Cannery Row, the downtown area of Monterey.
There are a lot of shops that you can wander in and out of to grab a souvenir (if you have space on your bike!) and of course plenty of places to eat and of course local breweries!
Also, in the Cannery Row area you’ll find the Monterey Bay Aquarium, that I would recommend checking out.
Parking in the Cannery Row area is going to be limited and tight. As word of caution, the downtown area is narrow and tends to be very congested with vehicles. This means an abundance of drivers so busy worrying about themselves, they’re not watching for motorcycles!
Chances are, you’ll have to ride through the area a time or two, do some scouting and park a block or two away and then walk.
Getting to the Cannery Row Area from PCH
From Pacific Coast Highway, exit the Del Monte interchange and follow it west. It will eventually become Lighthouse Avenue and you can follow it all the way down to the Cannery area.
Along the way to Cannery Row Shortly after Del Monte connects with Lighthouse Avenue, you’ll pass by the Monterey wharf area which some great sea places and pubs.
There are two pier areas you can check out and other local sites to see that are within a reasonable walking distance.
Parking is close and plentiful depending whether it’s a weekend or week day and more motorcycle friendly than the downtown Cannery area. You can park you bike then walk around up and down the wharf area as much as you want.
Bixby Creek Bridge
Bixby Creek Bridge is a concrete span bridge built in 1932 that it 260 feet high above the water carved canyons of Bixby Creek.
A lot of people (us included) usually pull off of the west side of the roadway on the north side of the bridge to take their vacation pics.
If you missed that spot, no worries.
Once you get south of the bridge there are numerous places where you can pull off and check out cliff side coastal views. A lot of great places in the area for photo ops for your motorcycle travel albums!
Big Sur isn’t so much as specific town, but an area that has hotels and restaurants and other attractions.
It’s best known for having some of the best camping around. Taking the opportunity to actually take the twisty mountain trek all the way to the mountain can yield some absolutely stunning views. Specially in the morning, when the fog has rolled into the coast line.
That being said, you can enjoy Big Sur in a day without spending top dollar for the boutique hotels in the area. Although the area is beautiful it’s a bit of a tourist trap, watch your wallet so you don’t spend too much!
The best time to check out the Big Sur area is the prime motorcycle riding season from spring to fall, but keep in mind you may be dealing with fog issues in the morning hours up until early afternoon.
If you just want to pass through and check out some day activities, here are some that are worthwhile:
- Big Sur Lighthouse – Let’s face it; Lighthouses are cool!
- Pfeiffer Beach – This beach can be easy to miss and is known for its purple sand.
- Nepenthe Restaurant (Big Sur) – Good food, and stunning coastal views. You’ll want to sit on the patio near the rail if you can.
- Henry Miller Memorial Library
There’s plenty to check out an explore off of the beaten path. Be careful of the awful tourist driving as you wind your way through mountains. I would suggest not making the trip back down to Pacific Coast Highway once it’s dark.
Hearst Castle is located near San Simeon (just about halfway between LA and San Francisco) and was built 1947 by William Randolph Hearst that covers about 8 acres estate and grounds.
There is enough to keep you busy for an entire day touring the castle and grounds seeing how the half lived back in the day.
The first place you’ll want to stop is the visitor center that’s located just off of the highway at the bottom of what’s referred to as “The Enchanted Hill”.
The visitor center has several things you can check and has plenty of parking for your bike as well as a picnic area if you’d like to do your own roadside lunch there.
At the visitor center you can check out:
- Food Services (incase you don’t have lunch with you)
- Gift shop (watch your wallet!)
- R. Hearst exhibit
- Hearst Castle Theatre
- Tour Check in/tickets
Hearst Castle Tours
There are 3 different tours of places on the property you can take that last about an hour. You’ll have to catch a bus at the visitor’s center for a 15 minute ride up the hilltop to the castle.
The castle really is an amazing feat of architecture to see and well worth the side trip off of highway 1 to check out.
Monarch Butterfly Grove, Pismo Beach CA
This grove is a seasonal habitat and breeding ground for Monarch butterflies that seek shelter from wintertime in the northern areas.
The prime season for checking out the butterflies is from October through February. During the season you’ll see a massive number of Monarchs that live in colonies in the trees.
Have a question? There are usually volunteers in the area that can answer questions for that are quite knowledgeable about the Monarchs and the area.
There are a lot of great walking paths through the grove, plus access down to the shoreline for another jaunt down to beach.
Finding the Monarch Grove
No need to go off of the beaten path for this one.
The Monarch Butterfly Grove is located in Pismo Beach on the west side of PCH. There’s a dirt parking lot for vehicles right next to the roadway. Be careful with your motorcycle when parking.
Carpinteria Harbor Seal Preserve
The Carpinteria CA shoreline is home to more than 100 adult seals that give birth and raise their cubs.
You can see the rookery right from highway 1, but there are plenty places to park and walk down to the coastline area to check out the nature preserve.
If you want to find a quick parking spot and don’t mind the walk, you’ll need to exit PCH at the Bailard Avenue interchange and go south on Bailard Avenue. Keep going straight and follow the signs for the Carpinteria Bluff Trail head.
Walking is not your thing?
Follow all the instructions mentioned above, but when you get to Carpenteria Avenue take a right (or north) to Dump Road. Follow Dump Road cross the railroad tracks and you should see a parking area almost right on the coastline.
From there you can check out the cliffs and coast and walk out onto Pier
A couple things to keep in mind at the seal watching area:
- From December to May the beach is close 750 on either side of the seal rookery for their birthing season.
- You can see seals all year long, but getting to see the seal pups in the spring will be hit and miss
- Remember this is a protected area, don’t mess with the wildlife!
Other Things you can see in Carpinteria CA:
- California State Beach
- Tar Pit Park
- Island Brewery
- Seaside Gardens
Checking out the seal rookery is a fun quick stop to take a break and get a photo op.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is a historic amusement park location just off of highway 1 (PCH) when you get into the Los Angeles area. Tons of tv shows and films have been filmed at this pier.
If you’re planning a route 66 trip, Santa Monica pier will be you’re starting or ending location, depending on where you start. You can get yourself a route 66 completion certificate here if you’ve made that trip!
Santa Monica Pier is great place to stop along the way to get off of the motorcycle, walk around a bit. You can hit the amusement park, grab some food or people watch.
Here’s the short list of things you can check out:
- Go to the Playland Arcade
- Pacific Park Amusement Park
- Get your route 66 completion certificate
- Wooden Horse Carosel
- Eat at the restaurants
- Walk out to the end of the pier – Great place to check out the city views and shoreline
Getting to Santa Monica Pier
The pier is just off of Pacific Coast highway and pretty easy to find. As you’re riding keep your eyes peeled for the signs, and also Colorado ave/Santa Monica Pier.
Colorado ave goes right to the pier. There’s plenty of parking just north of Colorado avenue but keep in mind the weekends get very busy.
Long Beach CA
It’ll take some navigation through LA and you’ll have to Leave Highway 1 for a bit, but it’s worth the ride to head down to the Long Beach area where you’ll of interesting attractions and things to do, most of which you can walk to once you find a parking spot.
If you plan on spending some time (a day or so) I would recommend getting your hotel somewhere on Pacific Coast Highway itself, and then riding to the Long Beach waterfront area.
It’s congested, but there are plenty of parking places depending on the attractions you decide check.
The Queen Mary
The Queen Mary is a British passenger ship that was retired and purchased by the City of Long Beach where has been since 1967. The ship has a very storied history of service both before and after the second world war.
If you have the time, you can do tours and of course eat lunch on board (which isn’t too bad). They offer paid tours as well as a pretty extensive self-guided tour.
It’s rumored that the ships haunted, so of course they do offer a haunted tour in the evening. The haunted tour is only interesting to check out parts of the ship that aren’t included on the other tours. Of course, along the way you get the history of why the ship is supposed to haunted.
An example would be ships below decks first class swimming pool. Creepy area, but I didn’t see any ghosts.
Hotel – Feel free to stay over. A bit creepy for my taste.
Dining and Bars
Plenty of parking in the area. I recommend just going on board, having lunch and doing the self-guided tour, you can spend a large portion of your day just doing that.
Fun Fact: The Queen Mary is longer than the Titanic.
Queen Mary: 1,019.8 feet
Titanic: 882.9 feet
Your heart will go on.
Long Beach Aquarium Of The Pacific
If your checking out the Queen Mary, take the time and go to the Long Island Aquarium of the Pacific that’s back across the LA river.
When you and visit one attraction or the other, you may be able to purchase tickets for both attractions at the same time and save a bit of cash.
Here is a quick list of Galleries that you can check out:
North Pacific Gallery – Focuses on animals from the Bearing Sea, plus other habitats
Southern California Gallery – Includes the Baja and display of the regional wildlife.
Tropical Pacific – Exabits for animals from pacific island areas like sea turtles and reefs habitats.
Outdoor Area – There’s a nice outdoor area where you can look rainforest birds and the shark lagoon.
For parking there’s a multi-tiered parking garage nearby that I would suggest parking your bike in to keep it out of the sun. Don’t want to burn your buns!
Shoreline Village In Long Beach
While you’re in the area of the aquarium, it’s a short walk around the harbor area where find the big-name chain restaurants and other shopping places.
Pirate Tower, Laguna Beach
The Pirate Tower is one of those hidden gem places that’s just fun to try and find, and of course more photo ops and the potential to see marine mammals.
Plus, it’s another cool thing your can see for free!
The Pirate Tower itself was not actually built by Pirates or even to look for pirates. It’s a 60 foot castle inspired tower built in 1926 that encloses a spiral staircase so that the property owner would be able to get to the beach from the top of the cliffs.
Just like everything else in Hollywood it’s fake! But the tower is cool to check out and half the fun is the adventure trying to find it.
Just to the south of the tower (in fact, you’ll come across this structure first) is what looks to be an old seawall, but is the left overs of an old poor.
Finding the Pirate Tower
To find the tower will be quite a bit of a walk and will take some persistence to get to the location.
Take Pacific Coast Highway (north or south) until you reach Nyes Place, that forks off of PCH to the east (northeast technically).
This whole area is a screwy interchange where you’ll have to take Nyes Place and make an immediate left on to Victoria Drive. Victoria drive then crosses under PCH and goes into a private neighborhood.
Remember that you’ll still have to do all of that even on foot. There is a nice pedestrian walkway along Victoria to keep you out of traffic.
Be prepared to walk
Your going to be going through a neighborhood so keep that in mind. As you progress on Victoria drive, it’s going to start get steep.
As you’re walking down Victoria drive you should see a public access staircase that will take you down to the beach. Be careful it’s steep!
When you get to the bottom of the staircase turn to the right (north) and start working your way over the rocky shoreline.
Your going to have to watch your step and pick your way across quite a bit of the rocky coastline, with a lot of the rocks your walking being wet or have moss on them. This makes for slick conditions and if you’re not watching what your doing you can fall hurt yourself.
If your motorcycle boots have a smooth bottom with no real traction be careful.
It’s going to take a bit of a hike to get to it. Just keep going, you’ll know it when you see it!
Dana Point, Ca
The Dana Point Harbor Area is a nice place to stop and take break and grab a bite to eat and check out the local sites.
From Highway 1 (PCH) turn down Golden Lantern street and head to Dana Point Harbor drive.
This takes you down into the harbor area where there are a couple of good restaurants that you can stop and check out.
We stopped and ate at Waterman’s Harbor Seafood Restaurant, which has a nice patio area to sit and watch the world go by.
Other things to check out in Dana Point:
- Doheny State Beach – there’s a Blue Festival there every year. Ridiculous traffic if that event is happening, mind your riding! If your into the blues however, it’s a great festival to check out.
- Bone yard Beach Café
- Ocean institute – There are a couple of tall ships moored here you can check out. The Pilgrim which was used in the movie “Two Years Before The Mast” and The Spirit of Dana Point.
- Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area – Good place to watch the sunset, whale watch or check out sea caves.
- Whale watching charter boats. If you want to whale watch, and get on the water there’s plenty of opportunity here!
San Diego, CA
The San Diego area has so much to offer to keep you busy, it’s really just going to boil down to how much time you’re going to spend in the area.
Are you just passing through to the next stop on your ride or are you going to spend a day or two? You can spend a weekend in San Diego and not see everything.
San Diego is of course a military city and if you like military history and ships it’s a great place to check out both in addition to the other great things you can see in the area.
Because there’s so much, I’m just going to give you a list. I’m going to start with the free stuff that you can see pretty quick, and then work my way down to things like amusement parks.
I’m including amusement parks, because even as an adult, I still love’em!
Free Things to do:
- Check out La Jolla – It’s just north of San Diego but a lot of great beaches and sea caves to check out.
- Sea Port Village – It’s down in the bay/waterfront area. Free to go to (except parking of course) and consists of shopping and restaurants. Great place for souvenirs if you have room.
- Waterfront Area – Getting to the waterfront area is free, but if you decide to check out attractions in the area (like the U.S.S. Midway) that will cost a few bucks. There’s a lot to see in the waterfront area and you can walk to the Sea Port Village.
- Gas Lamp Quarter, downtown – Fun area to check, lot’s of food and breweries. It’s very congested in the downtown area and parking is at a premium, even for motorcycles. The Gas Lamp Quarter is the place to go for the nightlife and hipster lifestyle.
- Coronado Beach – Take the bridge over the beach and head to Coronado island. The downtown area is nice if you want to walk around a bit and not as many people. Overall, the beach and downtown area not as crowded as other places around. Excellent beach area to relax.
- Mission Beach/Pacific Beach – It can be busy in this area, but it’s free to check out. There’s a boardwalk to check out if you have time.
Paid things to do
- Cabrillo National Monument – Located in Point Loma, This monument area is considered to be the best coastal view in the San Diego Area.
- San Diego Zoo – If you have the day to spend and enjoy zoo’s this is the one. Although the zoo has a lot of great exhibits, be prepared to walk A LOT. The zoon sits on a hillside, so you’ll be walking up and down hills pretty much all day.
- Sea World – Yep, it’s gotten a back wrap. But there are noticeable changes to their shows, and the park generally is enjoyable. Be sure to check out the tower, you’ll get great views of the whole area.
If your limited on time in the area and just want to get a quick flavor for the area, I would recommend the Sea Port Village Waterfront area. Plenty of food and drink in walking distance, cool things to see.
If you still have time, take the ride across Coronado bridge to the island. A fun little ride across the bay with great views.
Pacific Coast Highway Motorcycle Travel Tips
Highway 1 or Pacific Coast Highway really is one of the most scenic motorcycle rides you can take on the west coast of the U.S.
But there are a few things I wish I knew before I left on the trip that could’ve helped me prepare for the kind of riding I was going to do.
Bring your motorcycle riding ‘A’ Game
As scenic and awesome as riding pacific coast highway is, it’s also very tiring and a bit stressful.
Here’s something that’s going to sound silly;
You’re going to have to ride your motorcycle. I don’t mean the casual riding you do on weekends where you get on it and let it carry you from point A to point B.
I mean the physical kind of riding where you will constantly be maneuvering the motorcycle from one side to the other, leaning, counter balancing and paying close attention to your speed the whole nine yards.
Lots of twists and turns that generally, motorcyclists love to do.
Sounds fun right? It is, but remember, you’ll be doing it for nearly the entire trip along the coast through California!
Pacific Coast Highway is a nearly constant barrage of twists and turns most of which will be at low speed due to the tightness of turns, blind spots and traffic.
In addition to all the twists and turns, keep this in mind;
The shoulder areas along much of pacific coast highway (in northern California) are mere inches wide with 800 to 1000 foot drops off of the roadway with no guardrails.
This means there’s no room for error taking a turn too fast and going wide while you’re in the turn.
Tiring but rewarding!
At the end of the days ride, you may be a little more tired than usual, especially if you have a passenger with you because of their weight (and safety) that you have to deal with. The ride is work, but you’ll be rewarded with some of the most scenic vistas and cool places to visit all along the California coast.
There were several places along the way where we stopped for a burger, say outside and watched whales heading north up the coast – fantastic!
Like I said before – You have RIDE your motorcycle.
A Few Things To Know Before You Go:
Brush up on low speed turn skills – During the trip you’re going to be doing A LOT of low speed cornering on hairpin turns. By low speed, I mean 15mph (24kph) or lower, in very tight turns with oncoming traffic on a grade (uphill and downhill).
Don’t forget all the gear you’re likely to have plus (more than likely) having a passenger.
If you haven’t done much of this type of riding or haven’t done it awhile, I would suggest practicing by loading your motorcycle with some weight and practicing in an empty parking lot.
Don’t be in a hurry – Thankfully, we had plenty of time on our trip to really enjoy it and not have a care in the world.
But, if your going to ride the entire length of Pacific Coast Highway, plan on it taking about a week. Not only do you want to enjoy the ride, but if your pressed by time and other concerns you might make riding errors because you’re feeling pressured and worried.
Talk with your passenger – Communicate with your passenger and remind them to be a good passenger and give them the ‘lean with me’ talk again (even if they know it already). Lots of twists and turn on this trip, you can’t have your passenger working against you.
Your passenger is going to have the vantage point to see down 1,000 foot cliff side drops on hairpin turns that could freak them out.
If your passenger is brand new to riding, I would suggest more experience for them before they go on this trip with you.
Pack Your Motorcycle as Lite As You Can – You probably do it anyway, but as a reminder I thought I would throw this in. You’re on a motorcycle, pack lite.
Aside from the obvious, watching how much gear and clothing you take helps to keep the weight down and keep the motorcycle balanced.
Keep food and drinks on your motorcycle – Make sure to have snacks and drinks with you. There will be a lot of times where you may just want stop in the middle of nowhere and take a break. In addition, a lot of places along the coast are what I call ‘trendy and spendy’. Meaning, it’s a trendy area so they up their prices.