The Pacific Coast Highway is one of America’s most beloved road trips, providing an endless stream of of exciting destinations and views, not to mention stellar hiking opportunities and delicious restaurants along the way. And for families traveling together, it’s an unrivaled chance to form life-lasting memories.
Beginning near Los Angeles in beachy Santa Monica, and continuing northwards through Santa Barbara to Monterey, here are the best places to go with kids along the Pacific Coast Highway.
The Santa Monica Pier
After checking into (or out of) The Ambrose, the first coastal sight you have to bring the family to is the Santa Monica Pier. The giant ferris wheel, and carnival atmosphere of the pier will paint a picture your kids will remember forever. Also, you have the beach and Venice within walking distance if you have the time.
Malibu Creek State Park
Moving north towards Santa Barbara, we recommend stopping off at the beautiful Malibu Creek State Park. Tons of safe hiking and bouldering opportunities await, as well as some pretty creeks and waterfalls. Come by for a day trek, or consider camping out for a night. Bring materials for s’mores!
Parker Mesa Overlook
The Parker Mesa Overlooks is another hiking destination, but this one offers incredible panoramic views of the Santa Monica Bay and the Pacific Ocean that will make travelers of all ages smile. It also gives a brilliant view of the surrounding Topanga State Park, and Los Angeles beyond.
Malibu Bluffs Park
Another outdoor hangout to stop by on your way from Santa Monica up north to Santa Barbara, Malibu Bluffs Park is also on the ocean. It offers high-up coastal lookouts, sport fields and a playground for the little ones, and a unique whale watching station.
When you get up to Santa Barbara, be sure to visit Stearns Wharf, right across the way from Hotel Milo.This oceanfront pier is a staple of Santa Barbara with a number of seafood restaurants and candy shops (and wine-tasting stalls for the grown-ups).
Shopping with the kids in Santa Barbara
Shopping enthusiasts taking a road trip on the Pacific Coast Highway can stop off and take their kids to a number of choice boutiques in Santa Barbara. For recommendations on toy stores, baby shops, and more, check out these children’s shops in town.
The Santa Barbara Art Walk
If you’re in town on a Sunday, check out the half-mile stretch of artists and vendors who put their work out for the weekly Santa Barbara Art Walk. Near Hotel Milo and the beach and the Wharf, it’s a great place to walk around and enjoy a sunny Southern California day, while introducing your children to the local culture scene.
Goleta Beach Park
Moving a bit north, Goleta Beach is a beautiful Santa Barbara County beach that offers a great stop off after a long day in the park. Lay out in the sun, go for a hike, or bring some binoculars to see some of the seasonal shorebirds who frequent this favorite destination for outdoorsy families driving the Pacific Coast Highway.
Another fun kid-friendly attraction in the area is the city of Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley. Known for being a “Little Denmark” of sorts, it’s home to a colorful variety of Danish architecture, restaurants, and local wineries. It’s a unique place that the kids will get a kick out of.
Heading up in the direction of Monterey, the Pacific Coast Highway will take you right through Big Sur—one of the best place to take your kids, not just along the PCH, but anywhere in the world. Magnificent coastal cliffs, and a large park filled with hiking trails and camping opportunities make this one of the most sought after natural destinations globally. Even the most hard-to-please teenagers will enjoy this famously photogenic spot.
Further up in Monterey County near The Sanctuary Beach Resort, Carmel-By-The-Sea is a cute little beach town with great museums and hiking. Take the kids here for a daytrip to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve when staying at The Sanctuary Beach Resort.
Whale Watching in Monterey
One of the coolest things you can do with the kids in Monterey is take them on an exciting whale watching trips. This is home to the biggest and most breathtaking whales in the world. Check out this post to learn more about whale watching in Monterey.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium
Known as one of the best in the world, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is home to a brilliant collection of animals and exhibits. To learn more, check out The Sanctuary Beach Resort’s Aquarium Package.