There’s much to see in the US; this is a given. But tourists will (arguably) almost always focus on what they (regularly) see in Hollywood flicks – e.g. Times Square in New York, Rockefeller Center (still in NY), those steps in Philly/Philadelphia where fictional character Rocky supposedly did his exercising, Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, Griffith Observatory (still in Los Angeles), The Strip in Las Vegas, and so on…
And though there’s this place that may already be well-documented (perhaps particularly by non-Filipinos), I’d argue that – particularly for those who aren’t exactly tourist-y – there’s this place in the US that’s worth checking out because it isn’t necessarily as well-trodden. Yes, it’s also been used for location by films like Point Break, Inception, The Usual Suspects, The Craft and The Karate Kid; but even in these films, the place wasn’t really sold as a standalone “product”. This makes this area… less “abused”, if you will.
So we head to the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).
WHERE’S IT AT
PCH starts in Southern California at Interstate 5 south of San Juan Capistrano; ending at US 101 in Leggett in Mendocino County.
If coming from San Francisco and then heading to Los Angeles, the coastal drive is via Highway 1 to San Luis Obispo; and then via 101 to Los Angeles. Visitors can take the PCH/Highway 1 and go to Malibu and Santa Monica.
The coastal drive is around 500 miles. It can take 10-12 hours without stops.
But – as it is one of the most scenic drives in the world – you may want to drive slow. And if you want to really, really enjoy the trip, spend a night or two along the way.
There are lots of places worth a stopover.
Start at the fringe of SF, where – just beyond the city – lies a a forest almost reminiscent of the woods of Lothlórien (yes, where Galadriel resided; in The Lord of the Rings). Here, you can find Redwood trees that are over 500 years old. So – can’t afford to fly to Middle Earth (i.e. New Zealand) but keen to experience something… ethereal? This is a good place to start.
Half Moon Bay
Heading out of SF (I’s say about 30 minutes south of the city) is Half Moon Bay/Spanishtown, one of the oldest settlements in San Mateo County. If you’re fond of small town appeal, this one’s worth a visit, indeed, as the aim here is to preserve its past (beautifully), giving you that rustic sense.
Here you can check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Old Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row, or Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Considered a destination in itself. Big Sur is a designated American National Scenic Byway. When you see it, you’d understand why – e.g. wildlife-watching (say, whales and elephant seals), cliffside waterfall (in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park), and so on.
To reach Big Sur, travel over the Bixby Bridge, one of the tallest single span concrete bridges in the world. Measuring 714 feet long and 280 feet high, it is one of the most photographed bridges on the West Coast (and even the world).
If you think everything here is… just views of the coast, fear not. We have the likes of Santa Barbara, too, where visitors can shop, wine and dine, and so on. If you happen to be in town when there’s a wine fest, you’re in luck; otherwise, you need not worry, as there are a number of award-winning wineries you can check out here.
Considered as the “Whale Watching Capital of the West”, you’d get your chance to see the marine mammals in their natural habitat here. So even if you don’t intend to swim in Doheny State Beach, the Salt Creek Beach or Baby Beach, this is worth considering.
Heading closer to LA, you’d see Venice Beach, a somewhat… quirky location if ever there is one. Start the walk there from Santa Monica Pier and then discover this… area full of, well, Bohemian people. Yes, people watching is a must here – e.g. check out the people working out in Muscle Beach, birthplace of the physical fitness boom in the US, and where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to train out in the open; the skater boys; the artists selling their crafts; the abundant recreative drug users; the health buffs; the surfers braving the cold waters; and so on…
This one’s truly a must-visit.
To fully enjoy this trip, remember that it is not a race. So… take it slow, and you’re certain to be rewarded.
WHY HEAD HERE
It is unlikely you will get lost on this trip; there are just two roads all the way down: 1 and 101.
But you may lose network signal in some areas.
But who cares, really, when you can put that gadget down and just enjoy what nature has to offer. And in the end, this is why you ought to head to these parts of the US – to see nature, experience small town living, and basically take it slow before getting swallowed again by the hustle and bustle of city living and, yes, life for that matter.