One of the premiere destinations in the United States, if not the world, is the coast of California. Universally known as one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, the California oceanfront border stretches from the arid desert of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula to the lush green mountains of Oregon. Running along this gorgeous and diverse border is the aptly named Pacific Coast Highway that winds through the biggest cities and most wonderful areas of California.
One of the nicest areas is known as California’s Central Coast, which is geographically the section of the state between the northern suburbs of Los Angeles and the southern suburbs of San Francisco. Here you will find the natural beauty of California perfectly combined with the cosmopolitan sensibilities of their smaller coastal cities. And, of course, there’s a lot of wine.
As with many tourist destinations, road tripping in these particularly desirable and beautiful areas of California can be expensive. So the first thing you should consider doing for your Central Coast vacation is an RV or camper vehicle, so you won’t be throwing money away every day on hotels in between road trips along the coast line.
Having an RV may seem like it would burn a lot of fuel, which in turn would drain your vacation budget — not true. You will save an immense amount of money by not staying in hotels. This will free up a huge chunk of the budget, which can then be used to hit more destinations along your way. The Pacific Coast Highway is beautiful but is also a little desolate, so you'll want to have extra money for gas because the distances may be far between gas stations.
You should begin your trip in Santa Barbara, which is an expensive town nestled between the ocean and mountains with a number of top-notch vineyards. While you could drive from vineyard to vineyard in the area and try wonderful wines, it may be safer for you and everyone else on the road to buy a seat on a wine tour bus and let them do the driving for you. They will take you to four or five different wineries off the beaten path, as well as feed you along the way.
Stop in Solvang along the way. This small, charming town not only has some incredible wines within it, there are also some great restaurants that won’t be outrageously expensive, like the finer restaurants in Santa Barbara. It will also be familiar to movie lovers as the place where much of the film “Sideways” took place. North of that is Los Olivos, which offers even more vineyards and a fine prime rib dinner at Mattei’s Tavern. You can get lost for many days just in this small section of the Central Coast.
When you finally move on from there, head to San Luis Obispo. The land will transform around you into even more natural beauty and you will begin to enter one of the more magical coastlines you have ever seen. San Luis Obispo is similar to Santa Barbara in coastal charm, but less expensive and a bit more removed from the big city. You can visit a number of great wineries in this area as well as smaller towns like Cayucos and Paso Robles.
By now you will have eaten and drank like royalty, so you should save some room for your arrival in San Francisco. Before you head to the final stop on your Central Coast tour, take some time to check out the Hearst Castle, built by media titan William Randolph Hearst. Just north of here you will encounter Big Sur, one of the most beautiful swaths of beaches in the world. It’s so stunning that you may never want to leave. So be forewarned.