Stretching 655 serpentine miles along California's coast, Highway 1 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway), is one of the most famous roads in the US, and one of the most picturesque. The best bits, arguably, are located south of San Francisco, along the state's Central Coast. Here's how to plan the ultimate honeymoon road trip in this beautiful region.
Take Your Time
While the drive from San Francisco to Big Sur only takes about three hours if you're hustling, you could easily spend a week or more along this stretch of coastline. With dozens of small towns to explore, nearly endless miles of hiking trails, beautiful beaches, and activities like horseback riding, whale watching, and wine tasting, why rush? For a pace that's leisurely but still efficient, plan for a minimum of five days.
Splurge on an Ocean View
With stunning ocean and cliff views at nearly every turn, it's no surprise that many hotels count epic views among their amenities. Just 30 minutes south of San Francisco, make an overnight pitstop in Half Moon Bay, where the Ritz-Carlton overlooks a seaside bluff and the expansive adjacent lawn is the perfect place to watch the sunset to the tune of the hotel's bagpiper who plays each evening as the sun dips into the sea.
Close to the charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Hyatt Carmel Highlands offers Pacific views from each of the 48 rooms, which also feature full kitchens, balconies, and fireplaces. Farther south, the Post Ranch Inn and Ventana Big Sur vie for the title of most romantic. While the Post Ranch has a prime position on the cliffs, the Ventana boasts balcony hammocks, sexy Japanese baths and plenty of surrounding wilderness to explore.
Indulge in the Local Bounty
The California coast is a foodie paradise and you won't have to go more than a few miles between meals. Stop for a heaping lobster roll at oceanfront Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay, try the freshly baked artichoke bread at Arcangelli Bakery in Pescadero, or go casual in Big Sur with wood-fired pizzas from Big Sur Bakery. For wine lovers, Carmel-by-the-Sea boasts more than 14 wine-tasting rooms, with even more a few miles away in the Carmel Valley.
While this may be a road trip, there's so much to do outside the car, too. Big Sur is known for its great hiking trails; in Half Moon Bay or Monterey, biking is a popular way to get around and many companies (and hotels) offer bike rentals for guests; several outfitters offer horseback riding along the coast; and offshore, whale watching is possible year-round. Even if you don't want to stray too far from the road, there are several easy hikes (such as the short walk to gorgeous McWay Falls, which plunges into the sea in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park) that won't eat up more than an hour of your drive time.
Make Time for Romance
It is a honeymoon, after all, so don't get so caught up in the road trip that you forget to slow down and enjoy it. Relax in a hot tub under the stars, indulge in a spa treatment at the Ventana Inn and Spa, have a candlelit dinner overlooking the ocean at the Post Ranch Inn, have your hotel pack a picnic basket for a romantic lunch under the redwoods, and toast the sunset on a secluded beach.