Welcome to our most tedious and longest day of the trip. We were unaware it we such a challenge as we have had a reasonably smooth and relaxing trip so far. While planning for the trip, it was technically possible to travel from Monterey to Los Angeles in about 8 hours… Needless to say, that was an understatement. The whole journey took us more than 13 hours, with all kinds of road hazards and conditions thrown at us, the unprepared roadtrippers. Read on!
The day started out amazingly and deceptively good though. In fact, it was so fantastic it kept us in a great mood even though we had numerous challenges at the end of the day.
After we had a great breakfast in Cannery Row Inn, we checked out from our hotel. We set off at about 9:30am as we didn’t want to miss the chance to visit the Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. Monarch Butterflies fly thousands of kilometres and over continents and countries in their annual migration and will settle around the USA west coast around November -March. It was pretty chilly when we arrived and we really didn’t know where to look as who knows where these butterflies would choose to settle each year. Thankfully we ran into a guide who was already there really early (apparently he visits the butterflies every day) and he brought us to the tree where the butterflies were resting. It was something a sight that you get only once in a lifetime.
After ogling at the butterflies and talking to the guide for a bit, we left for the highway.
(Cue the song “Highway to Hell”)
Driving the Pacific Coast Highway To Anaheim, CA
Also known as the California State Highway 1, this drive will technically take up to 9 hours to get to LA with multiple stops along the way. We opt to turn out at the town of Cambria to save time. Not sure if that was our best decision. Read on, read on!
Here is our original itinerary to help you plan your own trip, and what we actually got to see below:
PCH Stops for photos and hikes (weather-permitting)
Tip: Try to stop at all the turnouts along the way!
- Carmel-by-the-sea: [Shop] Sweet little town with old-fashioned charm. (40 mins)
- Bixby bridge: [Photo] One of the most famous bridges in California. (15 mins)
- Pfeiffer State Beach: [Hike] The most beautiful purple-sand beach from and a famous rock with a hole. 2 mile, approx. 20 mins drive on unpaved road, parking $5-10. (40 mins)
[Food] Big Sur Bakery 47540 california 1, big sur, ca 93920
- Partington Cove: [Hike] A secret short 1-mile hike to a secret location. (20 mins)
- McWay Falls: [Photo] A waterfall that falls right into the ocean. (10 mins)
- Elephant Seals of San Simeon: [Photo] Very near the town of San Simeon. Keep an eye out! (10 mins)
- San Simeon Hearst Castle: [Photo] Tours require a couple of hours here so we should skip it if we lack time. $25/pax (10 mins)
- Moonstone Beach: [Hike] Look for precious rocks on the beach. (20 mins)
- Cambria: [Shop] Gifts shopping and cafes, beads, cheeses, souvenirs. (40 mins)
[Food] Linns Bakery in Cambria – 4251 Bridge St. Cambria, CA 93428 Must try the Olallieberry pie.— Total est. time with drive time: 6hrs — TURN OUT here if we do not have the time, or if the weather is not good, or if it starts getting dark. It takes about 4.5 hrs to reach Anaheim from here.—
- Cayucos: [Food] Tiny fishing village. don’t miss Ruddell’s Smokehouse (101 D St., 805/995-5028), just off the beach, where the no-frills menu features smoked salmon and tuna sandwiches, plus fish, pork, and chicken tacos. (20 mins)
- Morro Rock: [Photo] Beautiful landmark. It is a 581-ft volcanic plug. (10 mins)
- Pismo Beach: [Photo] Monarch butterflies gather here in their thousands during winter. usually found roosting at the North Beach Campground of Pismo State Beach, along Hwy-1 off Dolliver Street. [Food] Splash Cafe 197 Pomeroy Ave, Pismo Beach, CA 93449-2639 – Nationwide Famous, award-winning clam chowder. Get with Crab topping $1. (40 mins)
— Total est. time with drive time: 2hrs — It takes about 4 hours to reach Anaheim from here. —
Sights on the Pacific Coast Highway
After finding all excuses not to leave Carmel, we finally left of the actual coastal highway. The sights are breath-taking and jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Pardon me for sharing way too many photos of the ocean, ocean and more ocean:
We literally turned out at every single turnout to take photos. The wind was strong and the sun was out so the weather was cooperative, at least.
We kept looking out for the Bixby Bridge and it didn’t disappoint.
A little ways away and after our quick lunch, we arrived at McWay Falls near to the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. We didn’t have time to hike to the beach and the wind was tremendous at this spot.
The highway drops off the coast for a bit and moved into the forest, where we came across a campground and decided to take a toilet break!
After our short break, we were back on the coast and the views just gets more amazing and we started to see more beaches and farmlands.
Near to San Simeon (Hearts Castle), we went to the watch the wild elephants seals at the Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery.
If you’d lived on the coast, you’d be totally soft like tofu too.
We didn’t had enough time to actually visit many of the places we want to go as daylight, as we found out, is short in the winter months. It was starting to get dark at around 4pm so we decided the next stop was Cambria and we would grab a bite and take the highway which goes through the country instead of via the coast.
At Cambria, we read that we should try their Ollalieberry Pie at Linn’s Fruit Bin, so we decided to find the restaurant and eat there.
Easy as Pie Café: 4251 Bridge Street, Cambria, California
Open daily from 10am – 7pm weekdays, 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, (805) 924-3050.
So far so good! So what do I have to complain about? Honestly, at this time, it really seemed that we would arrive to our hotel in Anaheim on time, probably at about 9 pm. Oh we sure learnt a good lesson in road trips and complacency.
So after dinner, we started off for the highway from Cambria to LA and then onwards to Anaheim. It was slow as the daylight was disappearing fast, the temperature was dropping to almost zero degrees celcius and it was drizzling. After about 3 hours of slow progress, we needed a quick fuel stop and something to get us out of the boring scenery. The highway is certainly not as awesome as the pacific coast and anyway we would not be able to see anything in the pitch black.
The weather did not improve and after while, we ran into our first fog.
The fog delayed us further and it became clear that we will not reach the hotel by even 12 midnight. We were utterly exhausted as we entered Los Angeles at about 10pm and thought finally the ordeal was over. However we ran into the famous LA Santa Ana highway jam. Which lasted for two hours… And to make matters worse, the car tyre had a puncture and we had to stop along the highway and fix it.
So it was at 3am, with a dummy spare tire and broken bodies, where we dragged ourselves into the hotel and collapsed into the bed after the quickest wash up in the history of mankind. Jonathan, in fact, did not even bother getting up to wash up until about 7am.
Tomorrow we will start an early day, meet my brother and attend church in Anaheim.