Where to sleep between Los Angeles and San Francisco: recommended stops along Highway 1

Who I am
Lluis Enric Mayans

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Item Feedback:

content warning

One of the most common on the road routes in California is undoubtedly the one that goes from Los Angeles to San Francisco, a city that, together with Las Vegas, usually constitute the arrival or departure point of West Coast tours. It is not only the numerous points of interest present in these 2 cities that make this itinerary recurrent, but also the splendid panoramic road Pacific coast highway, which unifies Los Angeles and San Francisco allowing you to skirt the ocean and admire incredibly suggestive panoramic views (in our dedicated article you will find all the attractions along Highway 1).

While the scenic coastal route isn't the only possible route from Los Angeles to San Francisco, it is undoubtedly the most beautiful one to take, but at the same time it is also the longest ... so you will need to plan at least one stop (if not 2) for enjoy it fully and dedicate the right time to the many things to see along the way. How to plan stops along Highway 1? Where to stop a sleeping between Los Angeles and San Francisco?

In my experience the best choices are 2:

  1. break the journey into two sections by making a stop to sleep halfway through the journey, in the Central Coast area
  2. plan 2 stops: one closer to San Francisco and the other closer to Los Angeles

Let's see the 2 solutions in more detail:


  • Sleep halfway on the Central Coast
  • Sleeping close to Los Angeles and San Francisco
    • First stop: Santa Barbara County
    • Second stop: Monterey County
  • Map of stages along Highway 1

Sleep halfway on the Central Coast

San Luis Obispo County

From the logistical point of view, the ideal is to stop more or less halfway, in the San Luis Obispo County, which does not coincide with the city of the same name, but circumscribes a much wider region, characterized by verdant valleys and undulating wine regions, kilometer-long beaches and rugged coasts more suitable for the observation of sea lions and whales than for bathers. The region is often considered a mere point of passage, but dedicating a few hours of exploration to it will give you many surprises ...

Where to stop and sleep? If you are looking for great beaches and long wooden piers to stroll and relax after many hours of driving, you may want to consider Avila Beach, with its flamboyant waterfront downtown that looks like Key West, or the placid Pismo Beach.

A Cambria the coast becomes jagged and full of coves, an area suitable for those looking for a solitary relationship with a primordial nature to be admired (especially at sunset!). Morro bayinstead, it is known for the rock hill, the huge boulder of volcanic origin that stands out in a spectacular way on the ocean (read our guide on what to see in Morro Bay). Of all these destinations, in the area of The Bears, is what many consider the Central Coast's natural jewel, the Montana de Oro State Park, which offers the most impressive stretch of cliff in the area (if you don't believe it, take the path that leads to Point Buchon to admire the Stonehenge-style rock formations a few meters from the coast).

Point Buchon
Avila Beach

Also San Simeon overlooks the coast, but it's certainly not its beaches and its long wooden pier that attract tourists, but Hearst Castle, the most eccentric residence on the entire California coast and also the nearby Cayucos, a seaside destination with a vague old town style from a frontier town, has in its own way some surprising features to offer.

Moving inland, the town of San Luis Obispo, with its historical mission and the beautiful surrounding hills, is a good option for those who want to disconnect from the "sea view", while those who love wine can seek refuge 50 km away at Paso robles, a deviation from the route that is actually quite challenging, especially suitable for those who decide to take the 101 rather than Highway 1.

Alternatively you can do a few kilometers less and stop at Santa Maria, in Santa Barbara County, 20 minutes from Pismo Beach. The destination does not have much to offer but it is easier to find cheap accommodation than other nearby destinations.

So which destination to choose to sleep in this area? As they are all quite close, you can easily base yourself on the area with the best value for money and then easily explore the surroundings. At the link below you will find a list with all the facilities available in the area, which also includes some unknown villages in the area where it is easier to find some good opportunities.

All Central Coast accommodations

Sleeping close to Los Angeles and San Francisco

The alternative, that of planning 2 stops, allows you to enjoy the beauty of the coast with a little more calm and between natural beauties and fascinating towns I assure you that there are things to see and how!

First stop: Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County Courthouse

If we consider our itinerary coming from Los Angeles (but it can also be applied the other way around without problems), the first stop where to stop and sleep is in the county of Santa Barbara and the town of the same name is certainly the first choice both for the numerous historic buildings and for the pleasant waterfront (you can find out more with my article on what to see in Santa Barbara).

Along the ocean from downtown Los Angeles through Santa Monica and Malibu, you will arrive at your destination in about 2 hours by car, but if you prefer to break the journey a little further here are 2 alternatives:

Rancho Sisquoc Winery a Santa Maria
What to see in Solvang: a corner of Denmark in California
  • Solvang: unusual Danish-style town just over 50 km from Santa Barbara (requires a detour from the coast). It is home to a beautiful Spanish mission and a significant amount of windmills. For more info on the place take a look at our guide on what to see in Solvang
  • Santa Maria: a town that has nothing special but has 2 significant logistical advantages:
    1. often the price of the accommodation is a little lower than the most popular destinations in the surrounding area
    2. allows us to break the journey almost in half, since we are on the border with San Luis Obispo County Second stop: Monterey County

Second stop: Monterey County

Big Sur

In any of these destinations you stop be prepared: now the most beautiful part of the journey awaits you, that of Big Sur. The best place to look for accommodation is the area between Big Sur and the Monterey Peninsula. Staying here has the following advantages:

  1. be 2:30 / 3 hours away from San Francisco
  2. being able to move easily in the surroundings, which offer various places of interest, including the fairy-tale village of Carmel, the scenic route 17 Mile Drive, the beautiful views of Point lobos, the coast dotted with pink flowers of Pacific grove and much more (to find out more, read our article dedicated to the Monterey Peninsula and the general overview published here).
Let's discover this California natural park

To find accommodation in this area I suggest you check first all the facilities available at Big Sur, which are few, and then, if you don't find anything you like, check the ones available in the Monterey area, find the complete list at the link below:

Hotels available in the Earl of Monterey and Big Sur

Map of stages along Highway 1

add a comment of Where to sleep between Los Angeles and San Francisco: recommended stops along Highway 1
Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.