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Central Coast Travel Times

Shell Beach...
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Central Coast Travel Times

Many people ask about California central coast travel times. I'm posting this thread here so it can go in the "Top Questions About Big Sur" section (upper right corner of the Trip Advisor Big Sur home page) for easy, permanent access.

Of course, these times are estimates, and will vary depending on traffic. You should also check the California Department of Transportation website before you go, as it contains detailed, updated information about road closures and construction.

http://www.dot.ca.gov/cgi-bin/roads.cgi

LAX to Santa Barbara: 2 hours. Get on the 405 north, then exit to the 101 north. The 405 is also confusingly signed as the "San Diego Freeway" but it goes there only if you head south.

Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo: 1.5 hours on the 101. An alternate route if you're interested in mountain scenery: exit to Hwy 154/San Marcos Pass Road. It rejoins the 101 just north of Solvang. The driving time is approxmiately the same.

San Luis Obispo to Cambria: 1 hour. Exit the 101 onto 1. San Simeon/Hearst Castle is less than 15 minutes further north after Cambria.

Cambria to Big Sur "village" (around Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park): 2 hours on Hwy 1, without stops, but plan on more time to park at the scenic turnouts and enjoy the views.

Big Sur village to Monterey: 1 hour. Travel on Hwy 1.

Monterey to San Francisco: 2-3 hours. There are several routes: Hwy 1, the slowest, but right on the ocean; Hwy 1 to 17 to 85 to 280, which goes through gorgeous mountain scenery; and Hwy 1 to 156 to 101, which may be faster but is less attractive than the other routes.

Berkeley, California
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1. Re: Central Coast Travel Times

Thanks for posting, scooterboss. Your drive time estimates should help many travelers.

I'd like to note that the drive time from LAX to Santa Barbara can very greatly due to traffic conditions along the 405 and at the 101/405 interchange. An alternative, more pleasant routing is to take Pacific Coast Highway and avoid the 405/101 area altogether.

Also, even if one takes the "fast" route from Monterey to San Francisco, always switch from 101 to 85 to 280 to reach the City and vice versa. Staying on 101 direct, while appearing to make sense, is not a good idea due to heavy traffic and lack of scenery. 280 is a designated scenic freeway north of the interchange with 85, and traffic is lighter, especially during off-peak hours.

Happy trails!

Los Angeles...
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2. Re: Central Coast Travel Times

Thanks Scooterboss,

I echo davdaven's comment about taking PCH through Malibu north to meet the 101 in Oxnard. I live quite near LAX and I'd never take the 405 to the 101 when I have such a beautiful alternative.

Pacific Grove...
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3. Re: Central Coast Travel Times

Thanks scooterboss and others. I'm going to bookmark this thread for easy access when these questions come up.

Shell Beach...
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4. Re: Central Coast Travel Times

Thanks, everyone for the comments; I'll keep these in mind for my next trip. Here are two more drive time estimates for San Luis Obispo County that may be useful:

San Luis Obispo to Paso Robles: 30 minutes, all on the 101.

Paso Robles to Cambria: 1 hour. Go south on the 101, then exit to Hwy 46 west, then 1 north. The western section of 46 is especially scenic, and there are several turnouts with sweeping views of the coast.

IN
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5. Re: Central Coast Travel Times

We are driving the coast from Monterey to San Diego with a few overnight stops, and want to take the scenic route. Is it worth our time to stay on Hwy 1 all the way? Scenic views are more important to us than time. Thanks

Shell Beach...
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6. Re: Central Coast Travel Times

Highway 1 between Pismo Beach and Gaviota can be skipped in favor of the 101, in my opinion. In this stretch, it meanders through drab industrial agriculture areas and Vandenberg Air Force Base; there's not much to see, and certainly no ocean views.

I don't have any experience with 1 between Oxnard and Dana Point, but there are some people on this site who report liking it.

IN
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7. Re: Central Coast Travel Times

Are the fires around LA affecting the coastline, or is the smoke and fire spreading east? Thanks for info!

las vegas
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8. Re: Central Coast Travel Times

Re: smoke from the fires, we seem to have received more than our fair share of the smoke here in Las Vegas. The sky has been brown for days, and soot is covering everything. My guess is that the coastline has remained clear, since the prevailing winds typically come from the west along the coast, and blow inland toward Nevada.

Berkeley, California
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9. Re: Central Coast Travel Times

Highway 1 indeed can be skipped between Pismo Beach and Gaviota. It is inland in this area and offers very similar scenery to Highway 101. If you do wish to take at least part of this route, the stretch of Highway 1 from Lompoc to Gaviota is preferred. One could argue the stretch of Highway 1 between Lompoc and Pismo Beach is less scenic than Highway 101 save for a couple vista points. Drive time on 101 is faster than 1 in this area, but the difference is less pronounced than it is elsewhere.

Highway 1 is scenic for several stretches between Oxnard and Dana Point, but within Los Angeles one should use city streets to stay along the coastline. (Highway 1 is inland through LA.) Be sure to allow extra time to take the proper coastal route through LA. For specific directions, conduct a forum search or ask in a separate topic. This topic is intended to offer drive times.

Also, inquiries regarding smoke and fires are not related to this topic and should be asked as a new question. Thanks!

10. Re: Central Coast Travel Times

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