The first time I followed the squiggly, salt-sprayed curves of California’s Pacific Coast Highway, or Highway 1, I was squeezed in a car with two friends and a mountain of luggage. The lack of space didn’t bother us, though. We were, all three, entranced by every bend in the ribbon-like road, every moment the bluffs dropped back to reveal craggily framed pockets of misty, cornflower blue ocean and endless stretches of creamy sand.
We sipped Pinot Noir and Syrah in the wineries around Santa Barbara, walked around an eerily quiet theme park in Santa Cruz, and discovered a still-burning love for San Francisco’s steep streets, seafood, and sometimes surreal character.
I’ve retraced those tracks several times since–sometimes portions of the route, sometimes the entire length from San Diego up to California’s rugged northern coast. It’s the quintessential California road trip, one to take with the roof down, shades on and a warm breeze ruffling your hair. Perhaps one reason it never gets old is that it knows how to roll (just enough) with the times.
This is most evident in its hotels, from enduring classics to newer resorts that blend beautifully with the landscape, fully exploiting those glorious views. Plan your own Pacific Coast Highway road trip and check out these eight hotels off Highway 1 along the way.