Driving California's Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles

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    Dana Point to Santa Monica on California Highway One

    Laguna Beach
    ••• Laguna Beach. ©2016 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    It's 75 miles from Dana Point in south Orange County to Santa Monica on the western edge of Los Angeles. In this part of California, the Pacific Coast Highway is made up of city streets and it will take you 2 to 3 hours to make the drive, depending on traffic and how often you stop.

    In Orange County and most of Los Angeles County between Dana Point and Malibu, California Highway One is usually called Pacific Coast Highway or just Coast Highway. Locals will just say "PCH."

    That's a misleading name if you have visions of an oceanside highway winding above crashing Pacific Ocean surf. Don't get me wrong; it's a fun drive to take, but if all you want is oceanside scenery,  skip on up to the Malibu Coast, where the real Pacific Coast Highway views start.

    If you want to travel California Highway One from end to end, or if you're the type who goes down a street just to see what's there, there's plenty to explore along the Pacific Coast Highway in the LA Metro...MORE area.

    Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County

    Pacific Coast Highway's south end is at I-5 in Dana Point. It runs 40 miles between there and the Los Angeles County line just north of Seal Beach.

    Going north, Highway One is called simply Coast Highway through Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. The name changes back to Pacific Coast Highway through Huntington Beach and Seal Beach.

    Traveling north from Dana Point, the first glimpses of the Pacific Ocean start in south Laguna Beach. People in Newport Beach seem to think it's better to live on the beach than to see it while driving by. Houses and businesses between the road and the shore will block your view much of the time. Once you reach Huntington Beach, you can see the oceanfront all the way to the Los Angeles County border.

    For a fun detour along the way in Newport Beach, take Balboa Blvd (if you are going south) or Jamboree Rd (if you are going north) to the Balboa Peninsula and Balboa Island, taking the charming little three-car ferry boat between them. After a quick drive to the end of the Balboa Peninsula, return to Pacific Coast Highway to continue.

    Continue to 2 of 3 below.
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    Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles County

    USA, California, Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica
    ••• Westend61 / Getty Images

    North of Seal Beach, PCH crosses the Los Angeles County line. This part of our guide ends at Santa Monica, 35 miles north of there.

    Through Long Beach and Torrance, Pacific Coast Highway runs inland going west, then turns north through the "South Bay" cities of Redondo, Hermosa and Manhattan Beach, where California Highway One is called Sepulveda Blvd.

    North of LAX, the highway becomes Lincoln Blvd. through Marina Del Rey, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica. However, it seldom gives even a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean. What it does give is a peek at a cross section of Southern California life as it passes used car lots, car washes, apartment buildings, and strip malls. On the west side of Long Beach, it will even take you past an oil refinery.

    For a better ocean view and a more scenic glimpse of Southern California beach life, take a detour in South Redondo Beach. Go west on I Street from Pacific Coast Highway, then turn north and stay as close to the water as you can.

    Connecting to...MORE Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu

    Where Lincoln crosses I-10, follow the signs for California Highway One north and continue along the Malibu Coast, where the Pacific Coast Highway scenery you may have been looking for actually starts.

    Primary Needs

    Food is easy to find along this stretch of highway, as is gasoline (and anything else you might need).

    Driving the Coast on Highway One

    If you're going north, Continue driving on the Pacific Coast through Malibu.

    If you're going south, you're done. Highway One ends in Dana Point.

    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
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    Map of Pacific Coast Highway from Dana Point to Santa Monica

    Highway One from Dana Point to Santa Monica
    ••• Highway One from Dana Point to Santa Monica. Map Data ©2015 Google

    This map shows the route of the Pacific Coast Highway from Orange County to Santa Monica. It's easy to see the sections of it where it goes inland away from the coast. If what you really want to do is follow the coastline, a good map will help you do that.

    If you're on a longer road trip to follow Highway One all the way to San Francisco, use this guide to find out everything you need to see and do.