HOME > Chowhound > California >


Trip up the coast-Looking for suggestions

I am from Tennessee and on Feb.13 my girlfriend meets me in San Diego at a work conference. We are vacationing until the 19th when we fly out of San Francisco. Basically I have to get to San Fran from San Diego in 6 days. I want to do the drive up the PCH to San Fran. I am looking for good food and lodging suggestions. I have done the drive once before along PCH from LA to SF but didn't stop along the way. Here is the itinerary that i have in my head. Feel free to add, subtract, or shoot it down entirely. Restaraunt options are a must. Something nice for Valentine's Day.

13-San Diego
14-Santa Barabara
15-Big Sur/Carmel/Monterey
16-18-San Fran


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hi, for San Francisco Bay Area specific recommendations, please post a query on the S.F. board. Santa Barbara north through the Monterey Area are covered on this board.

    1. I think your itenerary looks good!

      Hoppe's Bistro in Cayucos is good. It's about 2 hours North of Santa Barbara, closer to San Luis Obispo. Good wine list, good food, nice ambiance. Upscale but not too fancy.

      In SF I like Foreign Cinema if you want a unique, fun, romantic vibe. For the best food experience in SF, I would recommend posting a more specific question on the SF Bay board. Include price range, food preferences and those types of things as there is so much to choose from.

      Eat a lot of Mexican food.

      1. The Cliff House Hotel and Shoals Restaurant is a bit of a sleeper for a romantic stop on 101 between Santa Barbara and Ventura, right on the ocean - you feel you are a world apart yet you are right there on the freeway:


        The rooms are tired and the building is old - keep that in mind, but the setting and the restaurant make it a special place for consideration if you want to stay close to the highway. Apparently the breakfast buffet is good and the views from Room 24 are spectacular.

        Staying in Santa Barbara is expensive so maybe stopping outside of town and then going in for meals in Santa Barbara the next day could work.?

        Hard question to answer: what is your budget and what are your interests? -easy access restuarants - time enough to explore and figure out the hidden charms of Santa Barbara or quick and convenient but still special.

        2 Replies
        1. re: glbtrtr

          Sycamore Mineral Springs in Avila (near Shell beach and the Cliff House) is also a cool place to stay and they have a good restaurant, Gardens of Avila, on the premises.

          1. re: Bcakes

            Second this rec. for Sycamore Mineral Springs. Stayed there and loved it!! I think each room has its own hot springs tub, and they also have tubs on the premises for you to enjoy. Wonderful place. Did not try the restaurant at the hotel, but I've heard great things about it. Definitely a wonderful hotel!!

        2. I am not particularly on a budget but 6 nighjts of tasting menus would break me. Lodging between $125 to $200 a night and meals in the $100-$150 range for two with wine. Might like a suggestion for one really good splurge dinner. Maybe a tasting menu if it's really worth it.

          1. If you need to stop for lunch between SB and Big Sur you could do worse than Noi's Little Thai Takeout in Baywood Park (nr Morro Bay). Stayed at the Backbay Inn back in December and had the best food there. Little means Little, there are two tables inside and that's it but there is plenty of outdoor seating. Call them to make sure they are open: 805-528-6647

            1 Reply
            1. re: jweg

              Second the detour into Baywood Park - I am always surprised when I revisit this charming, low-key place. Glad to hear about the restaurant recommendation as that is always the hit and miss part of this sojourn. This is a California Surprise destination in my book.

            2. For your night in San Diego I have links to a lot of local places on my blog: www.aliceqfoodie.com If you post a little more about your price range and location I can also give you more specific recommendations.

              Here's a thread with info about Big Sur - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/364997
              there are also some threads on Santa Barbara you might want to check out. Definitely make reservations ASAP if you're looking for a fancy meal on Valentine's Day!

              You might also want to check out Cambria and the SLO area. I definitely recommend stopping at Hearst Castle on your way up, but it's kind of a long drive from SB to Big Sur - you might want to do one night in between. Also definitely do a search on the SF Board, or post an inquiry on there for more specific info!

              We're doing a similar trip in October, driving up to Big Sur and back down, so I'd be curious as to where you wind up. Have fun!

              1. this is a classic drive, maybe the best in north america. in the monterey area (pacific grove), consider the martine inn as a base of operations. rooms are stuffed with antiques, the silver is noteworthy (yeah, silver) and breakfasts are the best in the peninsula. here's a link: http://www.bbonline.com/ca/martine/in...

                1. Breakfast at Ramos House Cafe in San Juan Capistrano, next morning at Tupulo Junction in Santa Barbara. Lunches are also good at both.
                  Taco Temple (inexpensive and looks it) in Morro Bay for creative Mexican

                  1. In the Monterey area, a lot of hounds like Passionfish (but of course some disagree). It has a wonderful, reasonably priced wine list, innovative sustainable seafood preps, and reasonable prices all things considered. It is not a fancy place, but not a dive either. You might want to do a search and read about it and see if you would like. It is a must for me on every trip to the peninsula. It is located on Lighthouse in Pacific Grove.


                    1. I highly recommend trying some traditional Santa Maria style BBQ while you're in the Central Coast area. Jocko's in Nipomo off the 101 would be a great stop - but you have to go there hungry because the servings are huge and plentiful. There's usually a wait so if you can call ahead to make a reservation it might help.
                      Here' more info on Santa Maria style BBQ:

                      1. Logistics for SB to Monterey leg: 5 to 6 hours drive time between SB and Carmel. Half way puts you near San Luis Obispo and environs for lunch. Then it's pretty barren, chow-wise, till you get to the pricier restaurants of Big Sur. Too bad because there are some very nice dinner houses near SLO and along the south end of the Sur.

                        Jocko's in Nipomo is about 1 1/2 hours north of SB, so too early for a meal. (open lunch and dinner only) You could dawdle instead, taking off on Highway 1 as it departs from 101 just north of Gaviota Pass, where 101 swings inland. Pastoral countryside and vineyards surrond the highway till you come to the small ag town of Guadalupe, home of the Far Western Tavern and assorted taquerias. Another half-hour north puts you in Oceano, home to packing houses and cooling sheds. CFL trucks ship Arroyo Grande Valley produce all over the country, running the nation's highways 24/7.

                        Next town north on 1 is Pismo Beach, where clam chowder is abundant. Splash Cafe has some of the best. Also in town is Thai Talay restaurant, beautiful decor and great food made with local produce and seafood. Great local wine list. Aunty is in the kitchen.

                        In Pismo Beach Highway 1 rejoins 101 for the run to San Luis, (LOO-iss) another 1/2 hour north. In San Luis I'd rec lunch at Jaffa Cafe on upper Higuera St for Middle-Eastern/Mediterranean food, or go "downtown" to Big Sky or Novo. Great coffee at Uptown Coffee Co on Higuera St at Santa Rosa St, or Linnea's downtown on Garden St.

                        For lunch or picnic supplies, search CH California board for San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Cayucos, Cambria. Not to fear, lots of decent chow to be had from SLO to Cambria.

                        In Morro Bay I'd recommend lunch at Taco Temple, or Thai Boat on the Embarcadero on the water , a tiny place with just a few in- and outside tables. Pretty spartan, but Mama's in the kitchen. Delicious. I've never eaten at Noye's which does mostly take-out business. Very popular with locals.

                        Cambria is 40 min. north of there.(Precious little chow-worthy food north of Cambria except in Big Sur--at Nepenthe, Deetjen's, Post House, Big Sur Bakery-- 2+ hours north of Cambria.

                        In Cambria, you can get take-out salads, dessert, etc. for a picnic at Shamel Park across Highway 1, or any number of spectacular turnouts along the Big Sur coast. The French Corner Bakery just at the corner of Burton Dr and Main in downtown (east village) Cambria has tortas (Mexican sandwiches) and Euro style pastries as well as killer Tres Leche cake.

                        Robin's, Courtyard Deli, and the Tea Room (proper English tea room) are fun for lunch.

                        Instead of pressing on to Monterey, maybe end your day at Deejten's in Big Sur, very good food at a wonderfully quirky inn. Breakfast there or at Big Sur Bakery.


                        Weather should be dry but cold.

                        Please let us know what delights you and what you'd recommend to us!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: toodie jane

                          One minor correction, Jocko's in Nipomo does serve breakfast on the weekends. And what a breakfast it is! They have a huge steak and egg breakfast that would probably last you all the way up the coast. However, that could be a drawback if you are trying to sample as much of the coast as possible.

                          1. re: glazebrookgirl

                            Since poster was not going to be in town on the weekend, that's why I mentioned no b'fast. Sorry I wasn't clear about weekend b'fast service.

                            Just talked with a local friend and they recently has a poor bfast at Jocko's. Sausage patties like hockey pucks, etc. She's eaten there many times and was amazed at how bad the food was at b'fast. Hubby ate there last fall at a retirement dinner and said the steaks were great. My Jocko's fave is their corned beef sandwich at lunch.

                        2. The Cliff House in Mussel Shoals is fun and slightly hidden. The restaurant is mediocre, but the hotel is ON the beach. Take your own wine and cheese and soak in the perfection.

                          In Santa Barbara, you absolutely MUST eat Mexican food at La Super Rica. It's this shack, practically the size of a matchbox. The food is addicting.

                          I think someone on the board mentioned Hoppe's. I ate a lovely dinner there about 7 years ago. Unfortunately I have not been back since, but I do remember the food and service were solid.

                          Oh! One more, if you are inclined to go for a loud, raucous, microbrew, and bucket of mussels kind if time, then try Brophy Brothers in Santa Barbara and or Mother's in San Luis Obispo.


                          1. Hoppe's is still vey good. We ate at their their fabulous Sunday brunch a couple of months ago and it was excellent. A very good deal
                            Also,Chef Ricks in Santa Maria is a good place to eat and its right off the freeway (101).