Road tripping along San Diego’s scenic Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is a great way to spend the day. There are miles of ocean-view trails to hike, endless sandy beaches to discover and ample opportunity to stop, shop and dine along the way. From the southern starting point of La Jolla to northernmost Oceanside, here are some of the highlights:
Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve
Running parallel to the PCH, this stunning seaside park boasts an abundance of excellent hiking paths. For a relatively easy trek, try the 2/3-mile Guy Fleming Trail and loop through vastly diverse scenery of sandstone formations, blooming wildflowers and lush pine forests. Slightly more challenging, the 100-yard High Point Trail boasts jaw-dropping panoramas of the ocean, a lagoon, the reserve and the inland city.
Del Mar Village
The PCH runs through the heart of Del Mar Village, a quaint seaside community dating back to the 1880s. With several ocean-view dining venues to choose from, it’s the perfect place to eat lunch. Grab some sandwiches to go from Board & Brew and picnic at Powerhouse Park or head north to local favorite Jake’s Del Mar for fresh seafood in a spectacular oceanfront setting.
Cedros Design District
Just off the PCH in artsy Solana Beach, the Cedros Avenue Design District is shopping heaven. Here, you will discover two and a half blocks of eclectic boutiques, spas, cafés and art galleries housed in a collection of vintage homes and old metal barracks converted into fun and funky storefronts. Shop for one-of-a kind hand-crafted décor at Colibri Custom Furniture, a hip new outfit at Tucci Boutique or just stroll the street for some great people-watching. You might even spot a celebrity.
Self-Realization Meditation Gardens
As the PCH winds through Encinitas, look for the towering golden lotus flowers that mark the Self Realization Fellowship. This peaceful retreat sits atop a bluff overlooking the ocean and houses a wonderfully serene meditation garden, which is open to the public, gratis. Meander the garden paths and chill to the sound of waves as you discover koi ponds, trickling waterfalls and gorgeous flora against a backdrop of sparkling sea. It’s the best hidden-gem view in the surf town.
The cruise into Carlsbad is particularly scenic. The ocean views from this section of the PCH are mostly unobstructed and include some nice stretches of sand. Park the car and savor the vista with a walk along the Carlsbad Seawall. Watch for dolphins frolicking among surfers and be sure to visit the grassy patch at Robert C Frazee Beach for free hula-hoop lessons or a complimentary laughing yoga session.
Spanning 1,942 feet, the historic Oceanside Pier is one of the longest wooden piers on the West Coast and your final stop on the PCH. Walk to the pier’s end for amazing views south to La Jolla and north to Catalina Island. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the spout of a passing whale. Return to the palm-fringed beaches for sunset dinner at 333 Pacific and enjoy signature dishes such as seared sea scallops or crab, shrimp and lobster mac-n-cheese as the beautiful pier lights up the night.
Photos Courtesy of Joanne DiBona/SanDiego.org