My recent trip to California Highway 1 had given me some insights about how to travel the California Coast. When you read stories or see photos about this famous west coast highway, they never tell or warn you about the possible hiccups you may encounter on this road. The articles and photographs only show you the good things about California Highway 1 – the great views of the Pacific Ocean, but never what you need to be cautious about when traveling through here.
In September, I drove through CA Highway 1 from Carmel to San Simeon. This small segment of this road gave me a number of insights and I thought I’d share them with you. For this drive, I originated from San Jose driving south at Highway 101, then through Highway 156 West then hitting Highway 1 from Castroville. But the coastal part of California Highway 1 started just a few miles south of Carmel. Before this trip, I have never been beyond Carmel so I was a little nervous. This is my first trip driving to San Simeon. On the way to San Simeon, here are the insights I discover on the way there that might help you on your trip to this famous highway:
Start with a full tank of gas – Since this part of Highway 1 is on the coast seating on the edge of the mountainside, there won’t be any gas station for miles if you need to fill up. Be sure to fill you tank before leaving home you may not be able to do this past Big Sur.
There is no Wi-Fi on California Highway 1 – I lost my Wi-Fi connection after driving through Bixby Bridge. I had plans to make stops to various places on the way but my GPS app couldn’t pick up any signals. For this trip, I was solely depending on my GPS app to lead the way. I had to depend on my AAA map to figure out where I was. Bring a printed map with turn by turn instructions if you want to make stops on the way.
The road is curvy – California Highway 1 was built to conform to the shape of the mountainside in California. But the mountainside is not created in a straight line. So there will be sections of the highway that will lead to a zigzag parts of the road. It is best to be careful when driving on these roads especially if you are not used to it.
The fog rolls in from the sea – On photos, videos and advertisements of California Highway 1, you will see clear skies showcasing the beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. However, this part of California is also known for its fog. The fog in California is unpredictable. It will rolls in from the Pacific whenever it wants. Make sure to stay alert when driving California Highway 1 on a foggy day. Keep your eyes on the road, slow down a bit and turn on the fog lights on your car if you have to.
There are no rest stops at this highway – Unlike some major highways in California, this part of Highway 1 has no rest stops. So be sure to go before you go.
Beware of road work – during my drive to San Simeon, Caltrains was paving two sections of the highway which only allowed for one lane open for vehicles to pass at one time. Be sure to be mindful of road construction when driving in a two-lane highway like this.
There are no street lights or lamp post on this part of the highway – It is often not advisable to drive Highway 1 at night especially if you have little to no experience driving this edgy and winding road. This is because there are no lamp posts on these parts of the highway and the only light you’ll see at night is the headlights from another vehicle. Driving this part of the road at night may not be advisable.
Watch for signs on the road – On the way to San Simeon, I missed one of the my stop because I was not looking at the signs. Since I have no GPS by that time, I was practically driving blind. Important landmarks have well-marked signs giving you some directions on how to get to your stops.
But one good thing about California Highway 1 are the Vista Points – Look out for Vista Points, these are designated stops where you can quickly take photographs of the splendors of the Pacific Coast. This will be a great opportunity to look at the great views without causing any traffic. One of the best vista point in the Elephant Seal Vista Point, just minutes north of San Simeon. FYI – some of these Vista Points have limited parking.
Taking a long drive can be a calming maybe even therapeutic for some. But I urge you to be very careful as some roads may not be agreeable to drive in certain condition. Travelers must always be cautious at all time when traveling somewhere new. Don’t forget to open your eyes when you hit the road.
**All the photos that you see in this blog are shot by me unless noted. Please contact me if you wish to used them. The photos here are copyrighted.**