5 Day California Coast Itinerary | Alyssa J Cori: 5 Day California Coast Itinerary

February 7, 2017

5 Day California Coast Itinerary

I have been really looking forward to writing this post! After tons and tons of research and working on creating the perfect spreadsheet itinerary, my best friend Ally and I set off on a grand adventure of the California coast. I've shared a post detailing how to plan a big trip, which you can check out here, as well as advice for what to pack and how to successfully travel with friends. Today I will be sharing our itinerary (both what I had HOPED would happen and what ACTUALLY happened)!
Click to read now or pin to save for later! Here is a complete 5 day itinerary for the California coast! From San Francisco, to Highway 1, to Monterey, Carmel by the Sea, Pebble Beach, and Big Sur, we've got you covered

Day 1: San Francisco

We had an early flight from Newark that would have us arriving in San Fran at 11am. After getting our car (which turned out to be a Mustang convertible!!!) we made the 25 minute drive from the airport to the city. 

After stopping at the hotel we visited Lombard Street and took a street car to Chinatown where we got lunch. 
We visited the City Light bookstore, which I absolutely loved! Being surrounded by books is one of my favorite things and I could have spent hours there. We stopped in little Italy for some gelato and then made our way to Fisherman's Wharf. My original plan was for us to eat at Boudin Bakery, and while we did stop in, we were full from lunch.

We checked out the sea lions and then decided that with the rain we were experiencing and my not feeling well (I had a severe sore throat the entire trip and even lost my voice!), it was time for us to Uber back to the hotel (Days Inn Lombard) and have an early night in.

Day 2: Highway 1 

Unfortunately the rain continued to get us as we made our way down Highway 1, but we were not to be deterred! We stopped at Garrapata State Park and got to touch the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Oh, and I also got to slide down a hill in the mud. No, it wasn't on purpose.
The beauty of Highway 1 is that you can stop off nearly anywhere and experience great views, so not as much planning is necessary. After quite a few hours of driving and stopping off (as well as lunch at Sam's Chowder House in Half Moon Bay...their fryers were broken so the meal did not live up to expectations for me), we arrived in Monterey where we would be staying at the Monterey Tides for the next three nights. Since we were there during the off season we were upgraded to an ocean view room with two queen beds and it was simply luxurious. 

We went to the Cannery Row Antique Mall, which was a good rainy day activity, and got to explore all of the vintage items it contained. For more entertainment in the rain we went to the Monterey Mirror Maze on Cannery Row where we got to play glow in the dark mini golf, do the coolest mirror maze, plus play in a laser challenge where you get to act like a secret agent. Make sure to go on their website to get coupons.   

Day 3: Big Sur

The day started out with promising weather as we headed out for breakfast at Crepes of Brittany (FAVORITE meal of the trip without question). Our goal was to drive down more of Highway 1 and to see the sights in Big Sur. Well, there was a mudslide so the road to Big Sur was closed. This meant we got to really take our time on the rest of the drive but it was a disappointment because this was the part of the trip we were most looking forward to. 

As you can tell, the views were still pretty spectacular and we enjoyed stopping off at Swanton Berry Farm where we got to sample a ton of jams (and I got to pretend to be a strawberry). 
We saw Bixby Bridge and enjoyed the open road.
We also ended up going to the Monarch Grove Butterfly Sanctuary. We had high hopes for this place but when we arrived we discovered there was only one cluster of butterflies that were not moving at all. After looking at them for about 2.7 minutes we were ready to move on. 

Lover's Point was another one of our stops in Pacific Grover where we got to play on rocks with the cutest kids!

Day 4: Big Sur/Carmel-by-the-Sea

Although we were supposed to have finished Big Sur the previous day, we decided to go back because more of the road had been opened. We first stopped at Point Lobos and briefly enjoyed the offerings of that park before getting back on our hour long drive towards Big Sur.

Our next stop on the road to Big Sur was the Big Sur Bakery. We didn't have enough time to get a meal here, but we did view a lovely rainbow (the one good thing to come from all of the rain). We also went to the Arthur Miller Memorial Library which I loved So. Much. Tucked away from the road, the grounds were covered in old pianos and typewriters and the store itself was amazing with twinkle lights and complimentary pastries and the nicest owners. 

We made our way back to Monterey because we were supposed to have a horseback ride that day. In fact, our itinerary got all moved around because of the weather and our ride was postponed due to trees having fallen along the trail. We did the 17 mile drive where you pay to get in at one point and then can check out the road and sights. It's incredibly scenic, but I wish they had included more historical information at each stop. For someone like me who loves to read and learn when vacationing, I could have spent about an hour tops on the drive, but my darling, nature loving Ally was having a blast so we hung out for longer. 
To get in some history for me, we went to the Carmel Mission, founded in 1771 (so before the US was even a thing!). This place was absolutely beautiful and a treasure trove of information about how the early Catholics came and established themselves in California. I felt like I was transported to another time and this was a highlight for me.   

We had dinner in Carmel-by-the-Sea at a place called Dametra Cafe, a Mediterranean restaurant. We sat next to the sweetest elderly couple and discovered that the wife was from the same town as Ally! There was also live music and we were pulled up to dance as the whole restaurant watched. The performer in me was so, so happy :)

Day 5: Pebble Beach/Carmel-by-the-Sea/San Francisco

By the time our fifth day arrived we had far too much left to do, but finally some good weather. We began the day with our long awaited horse ride on Pebble Beach and got to see the 17 mile drive from a different perspective. What I liked most was that our guide shared history and fun facts with us along the way so I got to know more about the area.
We then got to spend a short amount of time in my favorite place, Carmel-by-the-Sea. The architecture of the shops, not to mention the unique items and shop owners I got to speak to, served to make this a highlight of the trip for me. The must sees are The White Rabbit, Cottage of Sweets, and the cafe we went in to but I can't remember the name of...you'll see it on the main road though! There was also a Turkish shop and the owner and I spent a ton of time talking about how he and my mother were born in the same city in Turkey in the same year!

We drove back up Highway 1 to San Francisco and let me tell you I needed FAR more time here. We went to see the Palace of Fine Arts (I LOVED this) and did a little photo shoot by the Golden Gate Bridge down at Crissy Field.

We got to spend a few hours in the mission district, but there is so much more we could have explored. The vibe of the area was very cool, and the shops were some of the most extravagant I've ever seen. I didn't buy anything (you know me and how I'm all about spending on experiences rather than things), but it all was a marvel to look at.

Some places we stopped in include: No Shop, Digital Fix, Paxton Gate (go here!), Voyager, and Dog Eared Books. We had dinner at Regalito and sat at the community table, which was fun.

Day 6: Back Home

We had an early flight out the next morning after we stayed at the Cartwright Hotel (this was my favorite hotel of the trip, with hardwood floors and a gorgeous bathroom I was ready to move in). It was a unique place and we got to climb out on to the fire escape for our first time! I got all of our hotels through Priceline and cannot recommend that route highly enough if you really want to get the most bang for your buck. 

So there you have it! Our itinerary from 5 days on the California coast. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below :) And take a look at the video from our trip (start at 1:38 if you don't want to see my family at Christmas before hand lol).

Have you done a coastal trip? What was your favorite part?


Photos a combination of Ally's and mine...if they're really good, assume Ally took them.

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