Scenic Drives in Los Angeles: the Coast

West Coast is the Best Coast

Conduire sur PCH
Panoramic views along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH)  |  Photo:  Yuri Hasegawa

Driving up the coast of California is an amazing experience and the L.A Coast boasts some of the most stunning views. When a cliff is the only thing separating the road and that beautiful mass of Pacific blue, it's tough not to crank up the stereo and sing L.A.'s praises. These scenic California coastal drives are a sports car's dream - winding roads, tight turns, beautiful beaches and clear skies. These West Coast drives take you through beach towns and past palm trees, while offering plenty of stops to take it all in. Don't forget to put the top down - after all, you'll want people to know how much fun you're having.

 Getty Villa Courtyard   |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa
Getty Villa Courtyard  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Pacific Coast Highway Drive from Santa Monica to Malibu's Zuma Beach in Malibu (20 miles)


The Vehicle: A Porsche 911 Carrera convertible. Ray-Bans should be worn; plastic visors shouldn’t.

The Story: The Pacific Coast Highway drive (aka PCH to locals) is a sun-drenched road that hugs the coastline and one of L.A.’s quintessential California scenic drives, featured in countless car commercials, TV shows and movies. Look to one side and you’ll see beaches full of pickup volleyball games, sun worshippers and surfers waiting for the next set. Turn to the other side and you’ll see multimillion dollar homes from the pages of People magazine set atop rugged mountains. This is one drive that’s beautiful any time of day, from sunrise to sunset. You don’t need a map to navigate; just head north from Santa Monica and then head back the way you came.

Reasons to Pull Over: Watch longboarders catch rolling waves at Surfrider Beach; immerse yourself in classical Mediterranean art at the Getty Villa; or wander near the cliffs of Point Dume in search of seashells and inner zen.

The Strand
Bike route along The Strand  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

North Sepulveda Boulevard from Redondo Beach to Manhattan Beach (4 miles)


The Vehicle: 1969 Dodge Charger (a.k.a. “The General”) — a little vintage shine will fit right in with this stretch of beach cities.

The Story: This stretch of Highway 1 is North Sepulveda Boulevard, which runs through the aptly named South Bay, the area between the Palos Verdes Peninsula and El Segundo. The prime real estate for visitors include three of the coast’s best beach cities: Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo. While the drive passes through these prime beach destinations, several offshoots take you straight to the sand. Enjoy the neighborhood atmosphere of these beaches at local bars, restaurants and piers.

Reasons to Pull Over: bike along The Strand, L.A.'s famed coastal path; reenact Ryan Gosling's "City of Stars" number from La La Land at the Hermosa Beach Pier; get pancakes at a local favorite, Uncle Bill’s Pancake House.

View from the Korean Bell of Friendship
View from the Korean Bell of Friendship  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa
The Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro
The Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Palos Verdes Drive from Palos Verdes Estates to San Pedro (14 miles)


The Vehicle: An Alfa Romeo 8C — high-end, curvy and beautiful.

The Story: The California scenery can be so beautiful, and the Palos Verdes drive is one of the nicest in Southern California. Think Pirates of the Caribbean — several scenes in the Disney films were filmed on and off the coast of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Expect winding roads, craggy Palos Verdes cliffs, miles of coastline, sandy beaches and breathtaking vistas around most every turn. If you’re lucky, you might spot a Palos Verdes Blue, an endangered butterfly resident to the peninsula. This drive is so pretty — and so geographically interesting — you’ll definitely have a hard time keeping your eyes on the road. Never fear — rest stops along the way provide plenty of opportunities to pull over and snap some pictures. A few directional notes: as you head into San Pedro, take W. 25th St. as Palos Verdes Drive South ends. Head north on South Pacific Avenue toward one of San Pedro's distinctive landmarks, Vincent Thomas Bridge.

Reasons to Pull Over: During the season, keep an eye out for migrating gray whales at the Point Vicente Lighthouse; check out the stunning, Lloyd Wright-designed Wayfarers Chapel; hike down to the shoreline and look for the remains of the SS Dominator, a freighter that ran aground in 1961; take in the views and step into a scene from The Usual Suspects at the Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro.