Two roads diverge between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and both are well traveled: California State Route 1, curving its way along the dramatic California coastline, and Interstate 5, a four-lane straightaway through the state’s agricultural heartland. Whether you choose the more scenic Highway 1, as it’s often called, or try to set a new land speed record on I-5, these are some favorite pit stops on and off the beaten path, listed from north to south. (You can also split the difference somewhat, taking Highway 101 from San Jose to San Luis Obispo, where it joins Route 1).
If you’re leaving from San Francisco and driving down the coast, you might start early and make a long day of it. In that case, your first stop should be coffee and baked goods in the Santa Cruz area. For lunch, seafood is the obvious choice on this coastal stretch, though it’s not your only option. And if you time things just right, you could treat yourself to a Michelin-starred dinner outside Los Angeles as a reward for taking the long way.