A leisurely cruise up the PCH.
August 8, 2008 11:31 AM   Subscribe

Please help me plan a Pacific Coast Highway honeymoon for October (starting in LA).

My betrothed and I have decided that me love our new home of California so much that we're going to explore the state on our honeymoon in the middle of October. We want to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, with either San Francisco or possibly Napa as our farthest point north (contemplating a meal at the French Laundry). I'm looking for suggestions of places to stay and great places to eat along the way. We'll probably spend around a week doing this.

When it comes to lodging, I'm not a huge fan of B&Bs. For food, we're opening everything from fish shacks to fine dining. Other things to do/see are also welcome. (This thread has already been read).

posted by Bookhouse to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I don't remember exactly where it was but I really liked staying at Ragged Point (fyi page link has music). Nice views of the ocean, great walking paths, a nice restaurant, and the rooms were pleasent - kinda motor inn mid century mod.

We also liked camping on the beach in San Luis Obispo. We alternated cheep nights of camping with more expensive places - best of both worlds.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this thread goes - I've been thinking of a similar trip again.
posted by dog food sugar at 12:05 PM on August 8, 2008

Oops! That 2nd link above ("Nice") should go here. Sorry about that!
posted by dog food sugar at 12:07 PM on August 8, 2008

posted by hortense at 12:07 PM on August 8, 2008

If you decide to stop in Monterey, I highly recommend the Hotel Pacific. It's quiet and romantic and right near the plaza.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:15 PM on August 8, 2008

Best answer: Santa Barbara has the best taqueria I've ever eaten at, La Super-Rica. (It was also Julia Childs' favorite, when she lived in the area, and rightfully so.) There's some backlash and snippy reviews from the inevitable contrarians who hate anything that's popular, but ignore them. Great tortillas and salsas, the BEST rajas I've ever had, wonderful beans, chorizo, everything. The only thing I've had there that wasn't amazing were the gorditas which were only "pretty good." The line gets really long by noon, though, and they're closed Wednesdays. El Bajio down the street is a decent alternative (expecially the sope), but it's definitely not quite as good.

For fine dining in the Santa Barbara area, especially for a romantic honeymoon, I'd suggest eating at the San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito (but don't stay there unless a rich uncle just left you a fortune; their rooms start at something around $795 / night). The food is excellent (though not anywhere near French Laundry), but what really makes it worth the price is how nice it looks and feels there. It's beautiful. If you can, try to get seated on the patio of the downstairs "pub," the Plow and Angel. You can order off either the less-exhorbitantly-priced pub menu (not cheap in itself) or the truly indulgent menu of the main restaurant, Stonehouse.

Between Santa Barbara and Lompoc, take the 14-mile side trip (each way, through beautiful ranch and mountain country) to Jalama Beach. It's one of the last unspoiled stretches of beach south of the Lost Coast [self-link to moribund blog] (which is too far north for you, but worth a trip some day). There's nowhere to stay there, but you can get a truly excellent burger (legendary, even!) at the Jalama Beach Store.

The steaks at the wonderfully old-school Far Western Tavern in Guadalupe are great, and if you've never had Santa Maria-style "BBQ" (steak grilled over a wood fire and served with pinquito beans and toasted French bread) it's a good introduction to the style.

You should also at least consider staying at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. It's overpriced and cheesy, but it's truly unique. Don't eat dinner in the restaurant, but at least take a look at it (and the men's room downstairs, which is... well... just go. I promise. you won't be disappointed).

If you've never been there, Hearst Castle really is worth the $24 tour. I mean, imagine the kind of house that could have been built by a man who once owned FIFTY FUCKING MILES OF COASTLINE. Start with the "Experience Tour."

In Big Sur (assuming there's anything left of it after this summer's fire season) , if you want to stay away from the super-overpriced resort / spa places, the cottages at Big Sur Lodge in Pfeiffer Big Sur state park are reasonably priced, nice, and tucked away in relaxing isolation. I've heard good things about Deetjens as well, but have never been there.
posted by dersins at 12:27 PM on August 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: You do realize this solo act will be crazy difficult to pull off without a lot of advance planning and luck?

Absolutely. That's why I'm not certain it's part of the plan.
posted by Bookhouse at 12:31 PM on August 8, 2008

Oh, and fwiw, the1 technically stops being the PCH when it hooks back up with the 101 in Oxnard. North of there I think it's mostly called the Cabrillo HWY or some such nonsense.
posted by dersins at 2:09 PM on August 8, 2008

posted by dersins at 2:10 PM on August 8, 2008

The best part of our honeymoon trip (which was pretty much the same, except we went up clear to OR) was horseback riding. This place inside Andrew Molera State Park takes you through a redwood forest and out onto a gorgeous beach. Be prepared for chilly weather. We went in the middle of October last year, and were lucky to be the only ones on that particular ride. Just the two of us, and a phenomenal guide who took great pictures and had so much information about the flora and fauna of the area.
Try not to miss it.
posted by purpletangerine at 2:19 PM on August 8, 2008

My mom has great things to say about the Whale Watch Inn up in Mendicino. Kinda north for you but if you want the PCH experience this part of the PCH can't be beat.
posted by yort at 3:21 PM on August 8, 2008

Oddly enough, on my honeymoon we spent a few nights in Pacifica at Best Western Lighthouse Inn. It wasn't the greatest hotel in the world, but it was clean and on a cool little beach. Plus no parking issues, the rates are decent, helpful staff, and had a good restaurant attached (the one across the street is hit or miss).

The nice thing is getting to the San Bruno BART station at 10:00, grabbing a parking space, then wandering around San Francisco all day. That avoids having to deal with parking in the city. Getting around on the MUNI within the city is easy.

We had a great day going to beaches one of the days - got sandwiches at Columbo's (sammich shop next to a Safeway in Pacifica), then just drove down the coast and spent time stopping at a lot of the state beaches. Ate a picnic lunch, wandered the beaches...

There's a significant advantage to having a car available but not trying to stay at a hotel in the city of SF itself.

Anyway, I used to live in SF and then Pacifica - e-mail is in my profile if you want any more info on stuff we did during the honeymoon or info about the area.
posted by krisak at 7:00 PM on August 8, 2008


You could kick off the whole thing with breakfast at Patrick's Roadhouse.

I'll strongly second dersins on La Super-Rica (ignore the haters) and um, the men's room. When I was a little girl we once stopped for lunch at The Madonna Inn and my dad actually brought me in to see that very bathroom (I'm sure it was 'safe' first!). That was probably 35 years ago and I bet it's exactly the same.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:13 PM on August 8, 2008

Make sure you stop at the Big Sur River Inn during daytime and, if it's warm, take a rest by sitting in their wooden armchairs in the river. It's quite romantic!
posted by skylar at 11:46 PM on August 8, 2008

We stayed at the Ritz Half-Moon Bay two years ago, and The Quail Lodge last year. I highly recommend them, even though they're both a bit off of PCH.
posted by Salient at 2:01 PM on August 9, 2008

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