Romantic Road Trips

Hit the open road for your honeymoon.

Santa Monica to San Francisco

Any way you cruise it, California’s Pacific Coast Highway (a.k.a. Highway 1) is a modern motorist’s Mecca. A stunning drive that stretches from south of L.A. to north of San Francisco, the legendary route winds past missions, mansions, and beaches galore. And when it’s time to park it for the night, honeymooners won’t have any trouble finding a soft bed to sink into. The region has almost as many dreamy inns and swank resorts as it has jaw-dropping vistas. Start out at Santa Monica’s Viceroy hotel, where you can chart your course in one of the natty striped cabanas by the pool, then catch some Zs in your sleek, high-design room. Doubles from $259, year-round; 800-622-8711, viceroysantamonica.com.

Next, head north—keep the ocean on your left—for about two hours and you’ll come to Santa Barbara, famous for its Spanish architecture. Soak in the ambience while you shop on State Street for Talavera ceramics and antiques and dine on battered cod and Paul Prudhomme–inspired sweet-potato fries at Go Fish & Chips. Walk it off with a stroll down Cabrillo Boulevard, fronting the harbor and Stearns Wharf. When you’re ready for some alone time, follow in the footsteps of camera-shy celebs and check into the Four Seasons Resort Santa Barbara. Tucked away in an enclave seemingly all its own, the resort lavishes every guest with attention—and privacy. Doubles from $500, May through September; 800-332-3442, fourseasons.com.

Celebs also appreciate the kitsch appeal of your next destination: the Madonna Inn, not far from the Mission in San Luis Obispo. Besides a rococo dance floor and a steak house that the Sugar Plum Fairy could have created, theme rooms with names like "Caveman," "Bridal Falls," and "Old-Fashioned Honeymoon" are the draw here. Next up: Hearst Castle, in the town of San Simeon (a few miles north), where princely publisher William Randolph wined and dined Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and Clark Gable. Doubles from $147, year-round; 800-543-9666, madonnainn.com.

Driving north from San Simeon, you enter the surreally beautiful territory of Big Sur, where ancient redwood trees tower over art galleries and restaurants. The Monterey Peninsula, a few miles up the coast, also boasts the same brand of Pacific splendor—but with a well-heeled twist. (The region is home to quaint Carmel and the world-class hotels of Pebble Beach.) Most couples will want to unpack and stay a while, so book a suite at the area’s most famous retreat, the Lodge at Pebble Beach, where views of the golf greens is surpassed only by that of the crashing surf beyond. Doubles from $555, year-round; 800-654-9300, pebblebeach.com.

When you’re ready to tear yourselves away from the pounding waves and dramatic bluffs, ease your separation anxiety with a stop in San Francisco. Take trolley rides along the gingerbread-house-trimmed streets, satisfy your inner foodie at the city’s renowned restaurants, and immerse yourselves in its rich literary tradition. The lobby at Hotel Rex, for instance, is lined with books and the rooms are outfitted with writing desks, making it the ideal spot to mark a happy ending. Doubles from $129, June through October; 800-433-4434, thehotelrex.com.

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