California Coast Road Trip

Thinking about a California Coast road trip? Lori and I just got back from an absolutely fantastic, fun-filled ten straight days and 2,200 miles of fun in the sun in Central Coast and Southern California.

Dear readers: This post was originally written and published on February 18th after returning from our ten-day road trip from 2/4 to 2/14.

Last November, we started planning a trip to celebrate our transition to parenthood and the last few months of “just the two of us.” “Babymoon” seems to be the word of the moment, so I guess that’s what this road trip became.

We made a trip to Portland’s Powell’s Books on one particularly wet and nasty Saturday (we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time, as you might imagine, in their mammoth Travel section over the past year) to research our upcoming trip.

This might seem a bit unorthodox in the internet age, but the tradition dates back to before our first big trip together (Peru and Ecuador) in 2010. Online is good for the finer details of a trip, but nothing beats a good bookstore for deciding where to go in the first place.

We walked into Powell’s with our list narrowed down to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico (around Puerto Vallarta), and for old times sake, a two week backpacking trip from Panama City to Mexico City.

Two to three hours later, we walked out having decided on…a California Coast road trip!

I’ll spare you the finer details of the decision process. Let’s just say that we realized we really wanted to do a road trip, and while Mexico was enticing, California seemed to make the most sense.

California Coast Road Trip :: Click the image above to explore the interactive map to learn more about our route and stops (including lodging, eating, beaches and sights)

Lori and I have both spent a fair amount of time in California (my parents are from Monterey and most of my extended family lives there, and Lori had passed through on a road trip or two), so we knew we weren’t necessarily going to cover a lot of new territory on this trip.

However, we hadn’t been south of San Francisco in six years, which really seems like a crime to be honest, and certainly had not done a road trip down the Pacific Coast together.

Given the especially soggy winter we’ve been having here in the Pacific Northwest (and our adoration of all things warm, beachy and sunshiny), we decided it made the most sense to bee-line it to Monterey, take our time heading along the coast to San Diego, then beeline it back along I-5.

Uncharacteristic for us, we decided to splurge a little bit on this one. One can only slum it so much, and well, the whole point of this trip was to take it easy and enjoy our time together.

We figured since we were staying with family half of the time, it might be nice to treat ourselves to some 3 and 4 star digs.

The great thing about doing a trip like this in early February is the hotels are deeply discounted, so we felt pretty good about that.

It almost felt like…a vacation!

Lori and I joke a lot that even though we “travel” a lot, we don’t ever go on a “vacation,” at least in the traditional sense.

I’m not sure many people would consider carrying a 20-30 lb. pack on your back in tropical heat, riding crowded chicken buses through underdeveloped countries, and staying in hostels a “vacation,” but maybe I’m wrong on that one.

Honestly though, we were a bit worried about the temperatures. We had been following the weather forecast in the weeks leading up to our trip and all looked pretty typical for the time of year all the way down to San Diego — highs in the 60s…maybe low 70s one day, dropping to the high forties at night.


Glimpsing the headline of a Monterey area newspaper on the first morning of our trip, however, it looked like we might be in for a very warm treat.

Click on the links below in our itinerary to read about each leg of our 10-day trip.

California Coast Road Trip

Our California Coast Road Trip Itinerary

Thu 2/4Portland to RoseburgFamily / Roseburg, OR
Fri 2/5Roseburg to Monterey BayFamily / Pacific Grove, CA
Fri 2/5 – Sun 2/7Monterey Bay / Carmel MissionFamily / Pacific Grove, CA
Sun 2/7Monterey Bay to San Simeon / San Simeon to Pismo BeachSandcastle Inn / Pismo Beach, CA
Mon 2/8Pismo to Lompoc / La Purisima / Lompoc to Santa BarbaraHyatt / Santa Barbara, CA
Tue 2/9 Santa Barbara to Santa MonicaFamily / Santa Monica, CA
Wed 2/10Santa Monica to San Diego / Mission San Juan CapistranoThe Beach Cottages / San Diego, CA
Wed 2/10 – Fri 2/12San DiegoThe Beach Cottages / San Diego, CA
Fri 2/12San Diego / La Jolla to GormanStudio 6 / Gorman, CA
Sat 2/13Gorman to ReddingFamily / Redding, CA
Sun 2/14Redding to PortlandHome

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