Taking any kind of road trip can be quite the adventure. But when you’re taking a roadtrip in California, well that’s just next level babes. When it comes to sheer grandeur none can outshine the legendary California State Route 1. It’s the longest state route in California and the highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of the U.S. state of California. So buckle up boo because we’re about to give you all the deets to plan out a 5 day romantic roadtrip along the pacific coast and we’re showing you all the coziest and most enchanting spots tailor-made for you and your special someone. Get ready for a journey that’s not just scenic but downright swoon-worthy.
Day 1: Malibu Hills
Begin your romantic California road trip from LA’s Malibu Hills. The first stop will magically transport you back to the days of the wild wild west. True, Malibu is famous for its “boujee” celebrity homes and beaches, but if you haven’t explored the surrounding foothills, you’re in for an unexpected treat. First, book a stay overnight at Calamigos Guest Ranch. This is such a luxe and sexy spot. Calamigos Guest Ranch is a 250 acre private ranch in the heart of Malibu’s wine country that exudes romance. Their cottages are so intimate and some have their own tubs right on the patio surrounded by the lush tress and greenery. In fact, you may recognize it from the hit show Love is Blind. Their gorgeous onsite restaurant, The Malibu Cafe, where chandeliers and twinkle lights hang from the trees, is also a pretty romantic dinner date night.
To flashback in time, visit The Old Place. Nestled in the mountains about 45 minutes outside of Los Angeles, you’ll find this ex-general store turned eatery that dates back to the 1800’s. We love the authentic western saloon interior and rustic food that’s cooked in cast iron skillets over the fire. Don’t miss the house-made cinnamon rolls if you go for brunch. The Old Place is only open Thursday to Sunday (Saturday and Sunday for brunch), so plan accordingly. The eatery is very small and you may encounter a wait, but Cornell Wine Co. is conveniently located next door and offers wine tastings …don’t mind if we do!
If you need more things to do in Malibu, check some of our other top spots here.
Day 2: Santa Barbara
Up next on your California State Route 1 road trip is the charming city of Santa Barbara, where Spanish-inspired architecture meets palm-lined beaches. Dive into its rich history and soak in the coastal allure that makes Santa Barbara a must-visit on your journey up the coast. Stop by Cold Springs Tavern (another one of our favorite hidden gems). This rustic spot began operating as a stagecoach stop in 1868. Today, it’s a cozy restaurant featuring game meat, steaks, and ribs. The tavern is lit by gas lanterns, creating a super romantic and cozy ambiance. Be sure to request a table by one of the warm, glowing fires.
To wind down in style, nook a stay at the Simpson House Inn where romantic hot tubs, gourmet breakfast, and a central location create the perfect couple’s retreat. This historical Victorian bed and breakfast includes afternoon refreshments, an evening wine and hors d’Oeuvres reception, and a gourmet breakfast served in their award-winning garden.
If you need an extra day in SB before heading out, we also stumbled across The Steward hotel which sits next to the historic Sexton house, and is a refreshing farmhouse style and sustainable escape.
Day 3: Cambria
Next, we’re heading to Cambria, a coastal town famous for its artistic community, scenic beauty, and iconic Moonstone Beach. The vibes here are ultra chill and laid back, so take a deep breathe of fresh sea air and enjoy the slower pace. We’re not in L.A. anymore, Toto! Dine at the Sea Chest Oyster Bar, a unique dining experience that delivers in spades. This kitschy, nautical-themed eatery serves incredibly fresh seafood just a stone’s throw from the beach. While the dining experience and cuisine are fantastic, it’s what happens before dinner that makes the Sea Chest our go-to spot in Cambria. Since the restaurant seats diners on a first-come, first-served basis, a line begins forming outside around 4pm, and you won’t want to miss it. Patrons bring beach chairs, bottles of wine, charcuterie boards, and games and form an impromptu tailgate party in the parking lot (a nightly tradition dating back to the 70’s). The restaurant opens at 5:30pm (closed Tuesdays), so plan to arrive at least an hour early.
Then Stay at the Sea Otter Inn. This inn is conveniently located across from Moonstone Beach and offers an intimate and romantic detour from the larger chain hotels in Cambria. Breakfast in bed, anyone? Breakfast burritos, fresh-baked muffins and pastries, yogurt parfaits, coffee, juice and mimosas are delivered to your seaside room each morning!
Day 4: Big Sur
Next up, the winding roads of Highway 1 will lead you to idyllic Big Sur, where each curve unveils a breathtaking panorama. Big Sur is a must on your romantic road trip, offering secluded beaches, towering redwood forests, and an intimate connection with nature. Have a meal at Nepenthe, an iconic California restaurant that’s been serving up cool since the 1940’s. Perched on the cliffs, this legendary spot offers Instagram-worthy views of the Pacific. If you’re into shopping ( right here!), we’re obsessed with their gift store, The Phoenix Shop, which sells gorgeous art, clothing, jewelry, and more.
Instead of booking a hotel, glamp at the Alila Ventana Big Sur. The cabins” come equipped with heated marble bathroom floors, plush beds, fires that start with the push of a button, and an Airstream trailer that serves craft cocktails. Yup, this is a wilderness experience we can definitely get behind. This spot takes the whole camping experience to a whole new level with luxurious tents that’ll have you questioning if you’re even in the wild. Be sure to reserve well in advance, as their tent cabins book up quickly.
Day 5: Carmel
Ah, magical Carmel-by-the-Sea! Located just south of Monterey, this quaint town feels like it’s straight out of a Disney movie. Storybook cottages, cobblestone streets, art galleries, and charming restaurants make this one of our favorite spots to visit in all of California. We love dining at Folktake Winery & Vineyard where you can channel your inner Meredith Blake at this romantic winery and restaurant located just 15 minutes outside of downtown Carmel. Spend an afternoon in their stunning wine garden sipping on delicious California wines. Our favorite is The White Witch.
OK, so we’ve saved the best for last love birds. Be sure to spend the night at Tickle Pink Inn which is serious hotel goals. Perched on a hillside overlooking the Big Sur coastline, this laid-back luxury hotel will immediately captivate you. Could be due to the fact that it has fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and gentle classical music playing in the lobby, but who knows? Each room is different but you can’t go wrong booking any of the rooms. Your stay includes chilled champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, a daily wine and charcuterie reception on the ocean view terrace, and en-suite hot tubs.
Looking to have an adventure close to the city? Here are some LA day trips to check out.