Embarking on a road trip along California's iconic Highway 1 promises an unforgettable journey—and nowhere is this more true than in Monterey County, where this stretch of Highway 1 is a treasure trove of charming coastal towns and awe-inspiring natural wonders. To help you plan the ultimate road trip, here are some of the must-see stops, eateries and places to stay in Monterey County.  

Must-See Stops

As you drive south along Highway 1, be sure to stop at these top attractions, where you’ll find local wildlife, history and fun. 

Moss Landing State Beach

Located in north Monterey County, this beach is home to various wildlife, including sea lions, otters and water birds like egrets and pelicans. It’s ideal for enjoying a picnic lunch or taking a quick walk along the pier.

Monterey State Beach

This popular beach hosts all sorts of sea activities, from surfing and kayaking to lounging and sea glass hunting. It’s also a popular place for paragliding and kite flying. Whether you partake in the various water and air sports or just watch the action, this beach is a must-stop on your Monterey road trip. 

Old Fisherman's Wharf 

A Monterey Bay road trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to this popular spot, which offers the best clam chowder in California, fun shops and restaurants and an unforgettable view of sea otters playing in the Pacific Ocean. While you’re there, you’ll want to check out Monterey State Historic Park featuring a collection of historic houses and buildings. 


This legendary artists' colony off Highway 1 is one of California’s top road trip destinations, and home to charming restaurants, art galleries and boutiques. This is a great place for walking around and exploring, whether you’re interested in shopping, wine tasting or feeling the vibe of the local arts scene.

Point Lobos State Reserve

Frequently called "the crown jewel of the State Park system," Point Lobos is home to a rich marine habitat and numerous hiking trails. The Point Lobos loop trail will take you along the coast, where you’ll spot numerous birds and sea lions, while the Cypress Grove Trail takes you inland where you might find deer grazing. Please remember to help us preserve the beauty of our destination by respecting the local flora and fauna and by staying on marked trails at all times. 

Big Sur Photo Opps

There are a couple of must-photograph stops in the Big Sur portion along Highway 1: The Point Sur, a large volcanic rock with a lighthouse at the top, and McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which is just a short hike from the parking lot. If you can, take your time to take in these iconic sights. 

IMPORTANT TO NOTE—Use caution and safely use the proper parking pullouts on Highway 1. If a parking pullout is full, simply continue on to the next one and ensure that your vehicle is parked completely off the roadway.

Enjoy Responsibly 

As you journey along the Highway 1 coast, there’s nothing better than simply enjoying the epic scenery as you pass by. If you must stop, use designated pullouts on Highway 1, ensuring your vehicle is off the roadway and you are doing so legally. There is a designated parking lot for McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, it’s just a short walk to a view of the falls. If a pull-out or parking lot  is full, move on to the next and keep our roads safe. 

Where to Eat

The Haute Enchilada Cafe 

This Moss Landing favorite serves an eclectic mix of authentic Mexican cuisine and regional seafood dishes. It’s also home to an art gallery and a pet-friendly garden patio, a perfect setting for sipping a homemade cocktail.  

Domenico’s on the Wharf

For fresh seafood with a view, dine at this top-rated restaurant known for its famous clam chowder served in a bread bowl and for having some of the best oysters in Monterey. 

California Market at Pacific's Edge

This restaurant at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands features floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the ocean’s fullscale beauty while dining in a cozy setting. 


This restaurant blends great food with extraordinary views. There’s also a cafe and a boutique on-site, so you can get your coffee fix and browse for unique souvenirs. 

COAST Big Sur 

COAST Big Sur is a unique destination offering fine art, handcrafted gifts, and a rooftop cafe with stunning ocean views. Their cafe serves elevated casual cuisine prepared with organic, local, and ethically-sourced ingredients.

Where to Stay

Cannery Row Inn

Nestled in the heart of Cannery Row, this hotel is within walking distance of shops and restaurants and near top attractions, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Old Fisherman's Wharf. 

Carmel Mission Inn

This trendy hotel has a boutique ambiance and offers a heated pool, hot tub and charming outdoor courtyard. It’s also pet-friendly if you’re planning on bridging your furry friend along for your road trip. 

Treebones Resort 

Located south of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, this eco-friendly resort is famous for its yurt-style rooms, farm-to-table food and unique setting that blends luxury with nature. 

Additional Tips & Info

Navigate Highway 1's twisting mountain roads with confidence. Opt for a reliable car and consider a pre-trip checkup and fresh tires. Remember, narrow shoulders mean extra caution–maintain safe distances and avoid sudden maneuvers.

February and early March offer a magical off-season escape. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery without the traffic jams of peak tourist season. And remember, beauty sometimes comes with a twist. Monitor weather forecasts to avoid mudslides and road closures that could throw your road trip itinerary off track. Stay up to date on weather and road conditions by checking our Travel Alerts page

And always remember to travel responsibly. Help preserve the magic of Big Sur by following all guidelines, leaving no trace and treating the community with care. View more tips on how to travel responsibly in Big Sur.

Each twist and turn of Highway 1 reveals breathtaking landscapes and captivating attractions.  Now that you have an idea of what this famous route has to offer, you can start planning your own Monterey road trip.