Travelzoo Experience: Road Trip on California's Route 1
One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.
Recently my sister and I set off for a roadtrip adventure embarking from San Francisco and hitting the road on California's Route 1 to Monterey. On one of the country's most-scenic roads, we learned quickly the best ways to enjoy the adventure.
Tips for driving down Highway 1:
- Don’t leave too early in the morning. The fog will not be on your side and you’ll be left thinking, “I bet there’s a great view behind that fog right now.” The sun will do some work to evaporate the shroud, but mostly you’re at the mercy of the mighty fog river living over the ocean. It rolls in and out throughout the day. The fog was in our favor hitting Highway 1 just south of Daly City, Calif., at about 10 a.m.
- I think “dress in layers” should be the unofficial motto of Northern California. The coast is a windy place, but when that sun comes out and you’re a 20-minute hike from your car, you’ll want to start taking it off. Dress comfortably and be ready for an active day.
- Long stops: Public parks are a good place to get out and stretch your legs. They charge a parking fee, so find a ranger and ask for a one-day pass for all the state parks. We were able to get one for our dash for $10. My sister’s charming smile may have had something to do with it, but it’s worth asking and being friendly. Don’t assume you can get away without paying. We almost got a ticket that way.
- Pay attention to the road. It can be hard with breath-taking, once-in-a-lifetime views happening in all directions, but take it slow and take shifts at the wheel so everyone can enjoy. Most people on Highway 1 are there to see the views. There aren’t people speeding around cliff edges, but try to prepare mentally if you’re not used to driving on winding roads.
- Short stops: There are little pull-over stops along the side of the road. They are unofficial, but there are always people pulling off to snap a quick pic there. Pull over as far as you can and leave room for the driver behind you. Make your time at these stops snappy to keep these cliff-side areas from becoming congested.
- Your camera phone is not going to do these views justice, leave it in the car. If there’s one trip to bring your nice DSLR camera -- it’s this one.
- Explore off the beaten paths. We walked five minutes off the main beach at Pomponio State Park and stumbled upon some really amazing caverns carved into a cliff rising out of the sand. Instagram went nuts.
- If you’re looking for a good stopping point mid-way to rest your bones, 25 minutes north of Santa Cruz is a low-key local joint that’s got it all -- Whale City Bakery Bar & Grill. If there’s not a single car in the lot with a surfboard strapped to it, you’re in the wrong place.