The golden coast of California is an enviable stretch of roadway with many idyllic stops along the way. Regardless of where you start the journey as you travel the California coastline, it’s likely your final destination will be by the beach. Pack some designer swimwear and put on your shades for one unforgettable drive. Driving up (or down) the coast is considered a rite of passage for most West Coasters, so why not make the trip in style?
Map out a few points along the way and plan your packing accordingly. There’ll be ample beach time in San Diego, a wine stop in Santa Barbara, a ride on the Ferris wheel in Santa Monica, and a day of sightseeing in Monterey. The number of California coastline attractions are endless. Even if you’ve already made the drive along the Pacific before, there’s likely something you didn’t see or experience the first time around. Make the most of your next travel adventure by being open to the spontaneous nature only a road trip can bring.
San Diego, CA - America’s Finest City
If you’re working your way up the coast, your starting point has to be picture-perfect, sunny San Diego. As America’s Finest City, it lives up to its name with nothing but blue skies and warm temperatures year-round. The city is perfect for a girls getaway, solo adventure, or time spent with the family. With over 100 beaches to choose from, it’s safe to say you’ll never be far from the sand.
A place like this requires a few different options when it comes to trendy swimwear. Think about where you’ll be spending the most time. Will you be in the water paddle boarding or surfing? Or, is sunbathing and people watching more your style? Since San Diego has easy access to the ocean, desert, mountains, and city, there’s a lineup of activities to choose from that will fill up the day. It’s best to have a selection of designer bikinis available.
Dress-wise, fitting in with the locals is easy, as San Diego is arguably one of the most laid-back spots in California, if not the entire country. A comfortable triangle bikini works well for both beachcombing and hitting the boardwalk. Go for a colorful hue like the Sprite Scales Ripple or the Sunkisses Julie Triangle Bikini for your first stop. Leave it casual with a pair of summer flip flops for the beach and a cute cover up for a shoreside lunch anywhere along the stretch of Pacific Beach or across the bridge in Coronado.
Make your steps count with a hike through the scenic trails at Torrey Pines, take a whale watching tour from San Diego Bay, or join in on a sandcastle competition down at Imperial Beach. Just slip on your sneakers, a t-shirt, and a pair of cutoffs and you’ll be all set. Enjoy the playful vibes that make this place one of the best California beach towns. Then, slowly make your way up the coast to the next stop.
Santa Monica, CA - Stay and Play West of L.A.
When people normally think of L.A., Beverly Hills or West Hollywood tend to come to mind, but if you keep west and stay closer to the shore, you’ll find yourself in Santa Monica. The famous pier is a must stop for any coastline drive. You can feel like a kid again riding on the Ferris wheel or eating a funnel cake for lunch at one of the most famous California coastline attractions. The feeling is a bit calmer than the city limits of Los Angeles, so take your time to soak it all up.
One of the best things about this area is that fashion can be found everywhere - even the beach. You’ll see styles of all kinds, which means you can wear whatever feels good to you and still fit right in. A trendy t back bikini with unique details is the epitome of Southern California cool, a good bet for beach activity. Stick to classic white swimwear or go for a flirty print like the rosy-hued Eva T Back Bikini. In addition to time spent on the pier, rent a bike to pedal down the boardwalk or join in a game of sand volleyball.
Further down the from the pier, you’ll come across the famed Muscle Beach, a full gym set up right on the sand. If you wander into the downtown area, throughout the Third Street Promenade, there are several art galleries, boutiques, and trendy restaurants to discover. Also, be on the lookout for day festivals and farmers markets that frequent this area. You may stumble upon the next great musical talent or pop-up food tastings from local restaurants. Be ready for anything when you make it to Santa Monica, you never know what you may uncover.
Santa Barbara, CA - Wine Country with a Coastal Setting
Napa isn’t the only region known for its wine country in this state. If you’re visiting the California coast, Santa Barbara is considered a destination for all things art, culture, food, and wine. The streets are bursting with charm and activities to ignite all the senses. Here you can visit the beach, walk along the pier, or set sail out into the ocean. After you’ve spent time on the water, take a self-guided urban wine tour through the different tasting rooms that make up the city.
There’s an elegant touch to everything in Santa Barbara, but the mood is relaxed. Since it’s likely you’ll be splitting your time between being on the beach and back on land, a designer one piece bikini can easily adapt to both environments. The sophisticated Tamarindo Rosie One Piece is perfectly suited for a leisurely afternoon spent in this coastal town. Worn alone, it’s the ideal coverage for the beach or on a boat, where you’ll find less of a crowd than in San Diego. Pair it with an effortless sarong and beautiful designer flip flops for a pulled-together look.
A Brazilian one piece also works well as a bodysuit if you want to slide on a pair of flowy, linen pants or skirt to wear during the day. Add on a few classic pieces of jewelry to complete the outfit and you’ll be ready for your first of many wine tastings. If wine tasting isn’t on the itinerary, schedule a relaxing treatment at one of Santa Barbara’s day spas. After several hours of exploring the area, an indulgent wind down might be exactly what’s needed.
Santa Barbara is a spot that shouldn’t be missed whenever you’re traveling along the California coastline. This beach town offers an atmosphere that’s classy without being stuffy, quaint without being dull. And with it being one of the top beaches in California, you’ve got to visit! Cheers to the beauty found here and a swimsuit that will carry you throughout the day.
Monterey, CA - California’s Historic Central Coast
Once you’ve made it past Santa Barbara and are well on your way up Highway 1, you’ll eventually come across Cannery Row, a popular waterfront destination in Monterey that used to be home to several sardine canning factories. The scenery looks and feels like you’ve stepped into a postcard. It’s common to see local painters set up easels right by the wharf capturing the moments as they happen. Paddleboarding, bicycling, and even horseback riding are all popular here. There’s an endless stream of excursions, making this stop worthwhile.
A one-shoulder bandeau bikini, such as the Dragon Georgia Bikini, is an optimal choice. The chic design adds intrigue to the standard bandeau bikini swimsuit style and works well whether you’re strolling on Old Fisherman’s Wharf, biking along the golden sands, or canoeing out in the open water. Not too far from Monterey, you’ll begin to wind through the highway of Big Sur, one of the best scenic drives anywhere in the world.
There are different hiking spots that will lead you down to the water or you can immerse yourself in nature at Andrew Molera State Park, or stop for snacks at Big Sur Bakery. Like with the rest of California’s coastal destinations, there’s an unrushed pace when visiting here. Take in all the beauty that it offers and don’t forget to snap a few photos of the ocean views along the way.
Make Time for a Coastal Cruise
Beyond Big Sur, as you continue up the North coast, you’ll reach other popular destinations like Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, and San Francisco. Each place has its own unique allure and secret spots to seek out. Plus, you can never go wrong when there’s a beach nearby. Go see how expansive the state truly is and be ready to make frequent stops to take in all the sights. Now’s the time to experience all the things you’ve been waiting to do.
Embarking on a California road trip is a quintessential bucket list item. When you travel the California coast, you’ll likely check a few other things off your list along the way. There are reasons there have been books written and songs recorded about these coastal stops. They are as inspiring as they are beautiful and definitely worth the ride. As long as you have your favorite bikini ready and a playlist of favorite tunes cued up, you don’t need much more than that. There are memories to be made no matter which way you decide to go for your beach getaway.