The Pacific Coast Highway is just a small part of one of the most noted roads in America: California State Route 1. Beginning just south of Laguna Beach in Dana Point it wiggles its way up along the coast for 655 miles, eventually crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and ending in Mendocino County. We recently drove the 2013 Toyota Venza up the portion that runs from Los Angeles to Goleta, north of Santa Barbara. Two hours and many photos later, we've pinpointed our favorite beach pit stops along the way:
· Santa Monica Beach
This is your quintessential California beach, but don’t take that the wrong way. Since the beach has been famous for, like, ever, we expected it to be packed with tourists and families but because of the sheer size there was plenty of room for all to enjoy. It's also the home of the original Muscle Beach, so that's a bonus if you'd like to take a moment to get working on your fitness. The Pier is also a great place to find food and snacks, but expect your typical boardwalk-ish variety.
· Point Mogu State Park
The perfect stretch-your-legs stop, this beach is a world more secluded and quiet than the aforementioned Santa Monica Beach. You can expect to see families grilling hot dogs and wading into the surf here. There are also plenty of trails for hiking if you'd feel like really stretching your legs.
· Refugio State Beach
About a 15-minute drive north of Santa Barbara lies this beautiful beach with swimming opportunities as well as ocean kayaking and barbecues. We talked with a local who has been working in the area as a lifeguard for 35 years. He mentioned that Refugio State Beach has a history of illegal privateeringbasically, pirates and merchants landed here to avoid the authorities and unload their goods. So this beach is a perfect all-a-rounder with the bonus of a cool history.
Disclosure: We drove a Toyota Venza up the PCH thanks to Toyota, but all opinions and photos presented here are completely our own.
[Photos: Steve D/Jaunted]