California’s Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles stands out as one of the country’s most beautiful drives.
What’s more, it’s studded with exceptional restaurants and cafes, many with waterfront views, making this a can’t-miss journey for foodies and sunset-seekers alike. Here are some great places to refuel and refresh, from north to south:
Bay Area Views and Chews
Enjoy celebrity chef Michael Chiarello’s fresh take on Spanish-style tapas at Coqueta on the San Francisco waterfront. The restaurant also boasts a creative cocktail menu and an extensive, well-curated wine list.
Aerial view of the Ferry Building overlook the Bay Bridge in San Francisco
Fresh Food in Santa Cruz
On a lush hillside in Santa Cruz, Shadowbrook Restaurant is serviced by its own picturesque cable car. Once inside this establishment, which opened in 1947, diners are treated to fresh fish, seafood and char-grilled filet mignon.
Dusk settling in over the Mediterranean-style beach houses in Capitola near Santa Cruz
French Flair, Beach Style
In the mood for French bistro fare? Get a table at La Bicyclette in Carmel-By-The-Sea. The restaurant is known for using local, seasonal ingredients to create fresh salads, pizzas, burgers and more. The dishes here are as beautiful as they are tasty.
La Bicyclette sits on a charming street in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Big Flavors in Big Sur
Go rustic with a wood-fired pizza at Big Sur Bakery in Big Sur. The restaurant is much more than a traditional bakery, serving grilled meats and fresh, locally grown vegetables. The restaurant serves family-style meals in a 1930s ranch house.
The dramatic coastline of Big Sur, ideal for taking in over a leisurely meal
Burgers and Wine
Heading south toward San Simeon, don’t miss Sebastian’s General Store and Cafe. Sip wine from the tasting room while dining on a grass-fed beef burger. The cafe is popular with tourists visiting Hearst Castle.
Dining Right on the Bay
Seafood lovers won’t want to miss the Galley Seafood Grill & Bar on beautiful Morro Bay. The waterfront restaurant features seasonal ingredients treated with minimal preparation, like the selection of “naked” fish served simply with light sauces on the side.
Sailboats make up part of the stunning Morro Bay vista
Casual Coastal Treats
As you continue your drive south, sample Mexican flavors at Shoreline Beach Cafe in Santa Barbara. The beachfront eatery will have you sampling fresh fish and seafood with your toes in the sand. Bring the family – the extensive kids’ menu has something for all appetites.
An idyllic beach scene at sunset including Santa Barbara’s promenade and mountains
Laid-back Vibe, World-class Views
End your culinary road trip with a stop at Shutters on the Beach, an upscale hotel in Santa Monica. The casual beachfront cafe and bar is a travelers’ oasis. Stop in for a glass of rosé or for breakfast, lunch or dinner for farm-to-table plates like roasted rainbow cauliflower or handmade ricotta ravioli. Catch a view of the sunset from the patio for an incredible end to your day.
The exterior of Santa Monica’s Shutters on the Beach, home to three restaurants with ocean views
Rent a car at San Francisco International (SFO) or Los Angeles International (LAX) airports and experience all that Highway 1 has to offer on your own schedule. Always select a designated driver when you’re driving and dining.